As the days get shorter and colder; as the wind picks up and it starts to snow, we know that it is time to move the horses to town from the ranch. Before Wyoming Highway 296, or the Chief Joseph Highway, was paved, the ranch used to run a two day horse drive, all the way from the ranch to our winter pasture just east of the airport. Now that the highway is paved and there is much more traffic, even through the winter months, we must haul all of the horses in our trailers. This takes about eight trips to move the nearly 80 animals we keep through the winter (the other twenty or so that are part of the herd in the summer have other owners and winter homes). The idea is to leave the horses up in Sunlight Basin as long as possible in order to use those pastures and save on feeding costs in town. That means we have to gamble with when the bad weather come the end of November. We try to haul the horses before the top of the pass is covered in snow and ice. As you can imagine, that makes driving a 26-foot long horse trailer loaded with eight or ten horses a bit more stressful than it is even with good road conditions. Luckily, with four-wheel drive and the knowledge that we have all day to get to town, we can do this safely. This year, with an impending storm and the threat of days of below zero temperatures, we managed to get the last load of horses to town just before Thanksgiving.
A lot of guests ask us how the roads get in the winter and how difficult it is to travel to and from the ranch during those months. I thought people would find it interesting to hear about the horses, too. As for us humans, Sunlight road (the gravel road) has some spots that develop large snow drifts, which can affect our travel.