My girlfriend had continued to tell me how connected she felt to mustangs, but that she had never seen one. I continued to tell her I knew where to find them, and I’d show at least one to her one day. That time came on the very first day of our cross-country road trip in the fall of 2016.
Day one brought us through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks where we had already seen about as much wildlife as the ecosystem could throw at us: bighorn sheep; elk; moose; pronghorn; bison; even Grizzly Bear #399 herself greeted us on our way out. With the sun getting low on our way into the deserts of north-central Wyoming, I didn’t expect to see anything that evening. Nevertheless, where the mustangs roamed was where we’d camp for the night, so we pulled in and began looking for a suitable spot to park.
On our way in, I noticed a few of the horses in the distance. Mere specks about a mile away in the endless open sagebrush deserts. We continued on, exploring two-track trails since it was fortunately dry. Had it been wet, we’d have most certainly gotten stuck. About a mile back, we found a commanding herd coming over a small rise. We parked, and got out our camera gear to enjoy the scene as many creative people would.
In the evening light, we shared the land with these animals. Part of the time, marveling at the majestic mustangs during a magical time of day. Part of the time, capturing photos like the one above. For someone who had never seen mustangs before, this was about as good as it could get. Then it was too dark to have the cameras out. Rather than leaving though, we put the cameras back in the car, then walked out toward the herd, still keeping more than the recommended distance.
The light faded. The inaudible noise that seems to accompany daylight faded with last colors in the sky. It was silent. Our night vision was beginning to adjust to the gradually increasing darkness. The only sounds were the horses in the distance feeding on grasses, occasionally brushing the sagebrush which would let out a quick crackle. It was meditative on a completely new level.
Silhouettes of horses shifted and moved in front of us almost like dark apparitions in the air, gradually moving closer toward us. We were so immersed in the experience we didn’t realize just how close they were getting. It was an amazing natural experience we weren’t ready to let go of, but I shifted my arm, the nylon from my down jacket subtly rubbing against the arm of hers. In the silence of the desert at twilight, it might as well have been through a megaphone. The herd jumped back, startled. Some walked back. Others stood their ground, defensively. It was time to go. And so we left them, eager to return again.