Tag Archives: Great Western Divide




The day unfolds in the black:

another circle of hay and water,
cows and bulls, a dusty track
on worn terrain now dreaming

on a cool, downcanyon draft
of bluster and damp—of drinking
dark clouds until the dust is mud.

Out of the shadows, the wild steps
lightly, all sharing the same dream
rising from the dry, dry earth.






Grazing the haze between
the Great Divide—
over and over again.



Weekly Photo Challenge (3) “Between”




Above the mountains, one
last brew rises to hold the day,
make night rain.



High Mountains


We haven’t seen the high mountains in over a week of clouds. Our snow level has retreated from 4,500 to 7,500 feet with recent temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s. Roads were dry enough to feed at the Paregien Ranch this morning, offering a temporary glimpse of the Great Western Divide, including the Kaweah Peaks, Sawtooth and Castle Rocks.

At 2,500 feet, as shows in the photo, the green is coming nicely in the granite, but the cows and calves are still interested in hay. A few more warm days and a 50% chance of rain on Thursday may change their minds. We have our eye on a Pineapple Express aiming 100+ miles north of us, hoping the high pressure will weaken to allow more much needed rain. Meanwhile, Dry Creek has come to a near standstill across from the house.

A Little Snow

February 12, 2014

February 12, 2014

First real accumulation of snow in the Kaweah watershed this season. It is light, temperatures here in the 70s, it may not last long unless we get another, colder storm soon. The grass is struggling on the south and west slopes where there is no cover of old feed, but overall doing better in the granite (higher elevations) than in the clay.

Not out of the woods by a long shot, we’re still feeding hay at all locations.

January 17, 2014: ‘No Snow’


                               We were following a long river into the mountains.
                                                  – Gary Snyder (“Journeys”)

On the outskirts of the backcountry,
the foothill hem of the Great
                                                            Western Divide
we head upstream, drifting closer to
                                                            the Kaweahs
where the Big Arroyo falls to the other side.

Ko said, “Now we have come to where we die.”

                    How many aged, hip shot horses finally look up
                    from dreams, asleep on their feet, not wanting
                    to wake into our fenced realities, recalled
                    to mountain meadows fed by Sierra lakes
                    and snowmelt? We saved her once, fallen
                    off the High Sierra Trail, but Jane escaped
                    and stayed the winter on the Big Arroyo
                    with only scattered bones to show.

We become the animals that have taught us
how to forage and gather for the future,
the fang and claw of predator and prey—
we relearn the language and how to think.
We hold no fear of death.

Two young black cows, calves trailing
a long steep bluff of trees and rock
to the sound of my Kubota with alfalfa,
a flat spot in a short canyon cove I own
where I’ve never fed before. Here
I am the interloper without a history.
A gray Prairie Falcon glides low
overhead, treads air to inspect me
in his territory, falls to perch on a clod
for another perspective as the cows eat,
then returns to the top of his oak tree.

When I was a boy, I might have shot him
for a closer look, like Audubon inspecting
the feathers of his handlebar moustache.

                    But now he is my totem,
                    both on journeys upstream—
                    “This is the way
                    to the backcountry.”

                                                  For Sylvia and Matthew

Greasy Loop

Kaweah Watershed - January 10, 2011

The gray fog and low clouds clinging to these saturated foothills finally gave way to a little sunshine yesterday. This shot of the snowpack in the Kaweahs was taken from a ridge below Sulphur Peak. I attempted the loop in Greasy to check the cows and calves and to make certain that our bulls were still home working, and to assess the condition of our roads. It’s WET, water running, dribbling, oozing everywhere. With an accumulation since December 15th, our rain gauge overflowed, holding 12 inches when completely full – a lot of rain for this country in a little over two weeks.

Creek in the Road

I ran into the creek at the bottom of Sulphur, a part of the flow diverted into the road up the draw by limbs, leaves and debris that I was able to remove with a shovel and chainsaw. Remarkable runoff when one considers that the last significant rain occurred a week ago.

All the stock ponds are full and running out their spillways. I couldn’t complete my loop because the pond at Grapevine was going over the dam/road, and I had to backtrack through Sulphur to get off the mountain. Despite the cold on the Kubota, it was exhilarating to see some sun and cattle.

Slick - calves unbranded

(click photos to enlarge)