Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Prepare for the Unexpected

On a recent Sunday afternoon the partners of J & L were heading home from their cabin in Big Bear, a small mountain community about a hundred miles east of Los Angeles, driving north on Highway 18 toward Lucerne Valley when they were surprised by an extremely rare event. Right in the middle of the road less than fifty yards from the Toyota FJ stood a large animal which at first appeared to be a deer but within seconds we realized we were looking at a Bighorn Sheep.

There was not only one Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) but a herd of eight slowly coming off the steep mountain to our right and boldly crossing the two lane black highway. It was amazing as we watched these animals; two must have been well over three hundred pounds, packed with muscle and long thick curling horns, making their way down the steep rocky hillside without any problem.

Pulling the FJ over safely to the side of the road and putting on the hazard lights, we got out of the vehicle to start snapping photographs. Being prepared with a camera for moments like this is a must and as one explorer to another it was truly an unexpected and exciting sight. Living and exploring Southern California for decades there has always been this certain mystique with these elusive and famous sheep which roam the hinterlands of the dry desert mountains. One of the more famous areas to view these animals, if you actually can, is in the Borrego Desert west of the Salton Sea. It is here where many have reported seeing these great mammals but the chance of really seeing them in the wild is generally pure luck. Many a remote camping trips in the unforgiving deserts and mountains of Southern California have always ended as they had begun: not a sight of these beautiful and rare sheep.

The sure footedness of these animals simply amazed the observers as they bounced up and over boulders and then landed on some ledges only a couple of inches wide (the sheep not the observers). It was a real treat to watch these Big Horn Sheep for minutes and understand that we were being treated to a vision few will ever see in the wild.

If the reader ever sees a person stopped on the side of the road in a wilderness area furiously taking photographs of a mountainside, slow down and take a moment to wonder if that may be a good time to stop and investigate. And, as always, be prepared for the unexpected.

Want to learn more about Bighorn Sheep? Try one of these websites:

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