Sylvan Dale’s Cow Camp Looks Beautiful!

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Dave and Art at the Cow Camp grill ⇱

One of my favorite spring rituals at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch is the first trip to Cow Camp—to make sure facilities are guest-ready. Until April we had about the driest winter on record, so the trail would have been passable about any time. When snow finally arrived—in what was officially spring!—we got a typical foothills winter’s worth of moisture in a couple of weeks. So the 4-wheel drive trail has been muddy and impassable. This is the first week I could get in without tearing up the trail or burying my pickup!

The wildflower show was spectacular, thanks to the recent moisture: pasque flower, chiming bells, sugarbowl, spring beauty, squaw current, chokecherry, wild onion, and the best display of flowering pincushion cactus I can recall.

I stopped four times to saw wind-thrown trees and clear them from the ‘road.’ The trail, like the creek itself, is an opening in the woods. Over time, the trees—quaking aspen, ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, narrow-leaf cottonwood—tend to grow toward the light over the opening. So when they fall, they mostly fall across the road or the creek.

The trail from Cedar Park down to Cow Camp fords Cedar Creek seven times. There’s good steady flow, but mostly less then hub deep! Wherever a tree falls across the creek there’s the possibility of a natural brush dam forming. That slows runoff and provides pools of late season water for wildlife and Sylvan Dale horses. It also irrigates the streamside meadows that make the horses’ trek to Cow Camp worthwhile.

So it’s shaping up as a great summer at Cow Camp. Looking forward to seeing you there. The "Swimmin’ Hole" upstream from the first-crossing should be brim-full. There will be good grass for the horses, and plenty of water. And, of course, for Heart-J Riders, the traditional steak-and-potato dinner…and don’t forget the Cow Camp Calico Beans!

Dave Armstrong
Resident Naturalist
Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch