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Road to the Misty Mountains

Road to the Misty Mountains
Road to the Misty Mountains

Road to the Misty Mountains

The Journey we are on is varied in the paths we take. Many roads traveled and many not. Some choices were made to get where we are. Many were correct in the decision. Others might have been best remembered as a detour along the way.

As travelers, often we must choose between two bad choices others times the choice seems clear. I’m my journey, I have seen the best laid plans fail, and the least anticipated outcomes prevail against all logic. I’ve learned not to swim upstream. I try to float with the current that tows us all along with it’s inexorable pull.

Time and space occupy my thoughts some of the time. Oh not outer space but inner space. For I feel our understanding of what is “without” will be found from “within”. Much of what I observe externally conforms to my beliefs on how the mechanics of the universe I learned from my teachers. Their thoughts gathered from their professors and handed down thusly. The understanding of generations of observers of the natural world painstakingly and sometimes erroneously recited. There is a loss of information in the game of telephone.

The one truism I have learned during my many steps. Things are the way they are, not the way you are told or what you think. I always re-evaluate and modify my path to conform to the values that I have accepted over those miles. Just like taking a path down an untraveled snowy two track off into the distance. One must choose ones’ path carefully.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming

Title: Road to the Misty Mountains

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MesoCyclone with Moon at Night

MesoCyclone with Moon at Night
MesoCyclone with Moon at Night

MesoCyclone with Moon at Night

This MesoCyclone was Veiling the full Moon. Enough to catch the stars visible to my naked eye. Using a 20 second time exposure, some lightning flashed during the interval. Details in the clouds that are seldom to a camera pointing at the full moon. Most you see are fakes or composites. Time exposures over a second tend to overexpose the full moon badly. Even a moon that was unveiled. Limitation of the technology.

Straddling South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, this rotating storm was around 100 miles across. Containing the energy of an atom bomb expended over it’s life.

The view I had of this storm was perfect enabling me to photographed it. I was up in the higher backcountry for almost 2 hours with 6 different camera lens combinations from before sunset to well into Astronomic twilight under the full moon. Being backcountry means any light on the terrain is ambient from the flash and the moon/stars. No other man made light sources in view from the highest mountain top around kind of backcountry.

Various colors are way saturated which is what time exposures do. I actually really dampened down the purples that were native in the camera’s software in this image. 20mm lens, cropped in a bit. I wouldn’t go over 20 seconds with a 20mm as longer would have blurred the starts. That time varies with the focal length of the lens so look it up on google lol.

This ranks as one of my personal favorite images of the year. There are a few others….🤔 Taken Mid Summer 2019. 2×3 aspect.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: MesoCyclone with Moon at Night

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Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges

Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges
Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges

Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges

This sunburst coming just over the edge of the far ridge is one of the most prodigious I’ve had come out of this camera. Part of it was there was a LOT of fog in the air for this. Primarily these sun star are diffraction artifacts inside the lens of the camera. They are either attractive to you or not I have found. I personally like them.

Are these rays there in the real world? Yes they are a result of light passing through a very small aperture. Light diffracts off the edge of the opening which you are seeing here. The same thing probably happens to your own eye but you’d be blinded if you tried so you turn away lolol. No one can look into a scene like this for very long twice. No human eye could do more than glance past this. Then you’d still be seeing spots. When the diffractions stars are BIG, it’s really bright. Also the F-stop is turned up to give me a small aperture. Cuts off light too … Wide focal fields with high F-stops lets me properly focus the grass at my feet AND the hillside.

This was taken a day before we got a pretty good snow. IT’s a LOT harder to get around up on the high ridges now. We’ve been in the deep freeze for a while with mid-February weather spitting a few inches every other day at us. No huge storms YET this winter, I hope we get snow spread out in smaller dumps rather than huge punctuated events with named winter storms.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Sunburst Winter Backcountry Ridges

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Tired of Snowy Sunrises

Tired of Snowy Sunrises
Tired of Snowy Sunrises

Tired of Snowy Sunrises

As I am variously locked out of the backcountry by snow amounts and drifting, I tend to drive the backroads on mornings that are likely to light up. I saw the perspective, skidded to a stop, reversed and set up. I was trying to get that sunpillar centered within the visual tunnel created by the tractor tire. That tire is a “marker” as in, “drive 2 miles past the tractor tire” kind of directions. Some rancher planted this because it was easier than burying it completely. Fill up the inside with dirt and you stop the mosquito trap. It turned into a handy marker.

If I see an old “No Hunting” sign, I’ll stop just for that. Add a Tractor tire to that scene and you definitely got my attention. They on cue a sun pillar lined up precisely with the row of telephone poles running off in the distance. I don’t make this stuff up, I just capture the photons from it. Mother nature and ranchers got together here conspiring to make this composition. Neither party knew what they were ultimately up to I would speculate 😜😜👀📸

Sun Pillars are the result of falling hexagonal plates of ice all oriented flat as that is how they free fall. Like little parachutes they orient and reflect light off the gathering sunrise. The cumulative effect reflects light while the surrounding moisture absorbs it. Sun pillars can form above or below the sun itself. Here the sun is JUST below/behind the horizon. I don’t see a genuine purple sky too much but this one was real. Note no Purple snow.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Tired of Snowy Sunrises

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Crimson Alpenglow Sunrise

Crimson Alpenglow Sunrise
Crimson Alpenglow Sunrise

Crimson Alpenglow Sunrise

Alpenglow such as this occurs when there is a LOT of ice in the atmosphere mostly during winter. . I’ve also seen smoke do this kind of scene in the summer. Here on the high ridges of the borderlands, I get to look at parallel ridge tops like this 40 miles away to the east.

After passing through a gauntlet of filters in the atmosphere, crimson/orange/yellow are the survivor hues. Absorbed/blocked/refracted away are the shorter wavelengths of color. Can’t trap them in my photon capture boxes (cameras) if they don’t make it to me. Passing that gauntlet to blues/greens and indigos consists not only of hundreds of miles of low angle atmosphere plus all the dust and the dirt suspended within.

The sun isn’t actually occupying the line of site where it appears to be here. Because of atmospheric “lensing”, the sun is actually still completely below your eye to the horizons line of sight. It just looks like it’s up. This accounts for several minutes of differences from rise/set charts versus the observed sunrise with the day always being longer due to lensing. The atmosphere literally bends it’s light around the curvature of the earth thus the “lens” part of atmospheric lens. This courtesy of inversions and thermal-clines. The path this light took was at least 300 miles of low angle air. The higher I go topographically, the longer the light I gets path. The redder the alpenglow.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Crimson Alpenglow Sunrise

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Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant

Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant
Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant

Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant

I’m estimating this young developing Mesocyclone is 70 miles distant/ 50 miles wide. Relatively small for a Rotating mesocyclone. It was growing at the time. The sunset for that day is ongoing exactly behind me in about 15 minutes from this capture. There are just plain intense downpours under these storms sometimes. Depending on how fast they are moving makes you lucky or flooded locally lol. These only rain on a few percent of the ground area up here. Spotty! The ground under them becomes totally soaked if the storm doesn’t move.

We had a summer Mesocyclone years back that sat over us and dumped 4.5 inches of rain in 45 minutes. Water was sheet washing down the hill behind my home and skirting around the house. Almost nothing got in but that slope was angle deep in sheet wash. I have since re-landscapes using mounds to redirect any potential sheet wash off the long hill to our back. It’s only been a problem once in 20 years.

That was a rough storm. Tragically a local cowboy from a nearby ranch was killed in that storm. A truck full of locals went out to see what the 100 year water dump did, drove to one of their herds to check them, road was fine. Drove back the road had washed out. That cowboy was a passenger in that truck. County Emergency Management called me to close the road off from my side of the washout. The runoff went through a major country road that literal gully washer did. It was a major culvert to replace and a big job. We couldn’t get to the highway from that road for a while.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant

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Both Sides of the Sunset

Both Sides of the Sunset
Both Sides of the Sunset

Both Sides of the Sunset

A mere 6 months ago, middle of a warm summers evening, a sky show broke out…. THe evening was fairly calm with a light breeze. The air contained some grass pollen, some cottonwood pollen so my nose was a little stuffy. You could feel the relative humidity climbing as the air cooled down. Traveling up and down topography, you could feed obvious temperature changes as you moved from falling and rising air.

Every Once in a while, I like to do one of these vehicle mirrored images showing both sides of the sunset (in this case). It’s a commonality that all of us share. Most of us anyway have occupied the driver seat of a vehicle or two.

The Corriente’ Long Horns were out in the middle of a big grassy I sold this vehicle December 31,2019 . I loved my 15 year companion a 2005 Jeep Gran Cherokee. It worked very well for photography of the backcountry. It would pretty much go anywhere my ATV would which is saying something. The king is “dead” long live the king.

The 2020 Ford Raptor I am breaking in as a photographic platform is performing stellar in helping me find light. (so far) Already it has gone on paths I wouldn’t have taken the jeep on in mid-winter. It is stable, allows some movement inside of long lenses. It has WAY bigger mirrors plus they move out of the way with a button’s push. I will see what I get when the light is worth trapping. So far it gets me there…

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title : Both Sides of the Sunset

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Who is Watching Who

Who is Watching Who
Who is Watching Who

Who is Watching Who

Seeing faces in clouds or other natural scenes is termed: Pareidolia. Historically this tendency diagnosed one with psychotic symptoms/ “abnormal”. Now we are teaching computers to do it. It’s not just clouds of course. Any pattern the human mind creates out of literally random data is symptomatic. Of course the state of medical/psychological science has improved a tad from those early days.

I’m thinking this is a cloud version of Mount Rushmore. Looking behind me to the eastern back show a bit after sunset on summers evening is a good habit. Many photographers get tunnel vision and forget to glance around. The back shows are often better than the main sunset if your chasing light like I do. Usually associated with a disruption in airflow, called Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds, aka billow clouds or shear-gravity clouds, and they look like breaking ocean waves. Taking many forms, these clouds can be impressive.

Typically by topography such as mountains causes the “ripples. . The interface between two layers of atmosphere with different temperature / density properties causes the phenomena. A series of waves with crests and troughs are created at the two air masses boundaries. The shapes are random but usually fairly consistent in one way or another.

I swear on a stack of geology books that I didn’t alter this image in the digital darkroom. It’s a totally natural scene. If you look enough at clouds, you see some very odd things :). The hard part is being there with a camera (Rule 1 of Photography).

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Who is Watching Who

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Burning Bush Ridge

Burning Bush Ridge
Burning Bush Ridge

Burning Bush Ridge (Cellulose Filter/Tree and all that)

As I’m walking along a parallel ridge waiting for little areas of zen to pop up, I sometimes am satiated. A vision is not an actual manifestation but something that occurs in the mind. An apparition is a physical manifestation of the spiritual object. I’m not sure that the difference is important in the scheme of things eh?

This scene would have given Moses second thought and pause. No human eye could have peered into this lone pine tree filtered glare. You would be blinded very quickly if you tried so don’t.

Lone Tree:

Only a few of it’s pine cones have yielded children. Little pines have started up along this ridge to start the forest back again in 100 years. Most of this country is open due to a big forest fire back in the 1930’s that burned till the snows came. There are treasures here.

Geology Under the tree.

I’ve left this spot untouched paleontologically intentionally. There are copious chunky dinosaurian fossil remains in the rocks in and around this particular tree. It’s on my ground so I own them. The fossils I’m seeing don’t demand my attention as I have a more more efficient/better bone bed to work elsewhere. That tree shelters this bone site.

This site has donated a croc tooth along with some Triceratops teeth off the surface. Teeth and large chunky bone are way different sized/density. Fossil precursors are sorted by cross sectional density. Rivers sort debris like gold pans based on current velocity. I know for a fact there is a tail vertebra about the size of your palm under a rock up there. In my world, I’m not excited by it. As they ran across them. I believe fossil sites had Native American Visitors not and then. Finding huge bird like bones on the surface would have messed with them.

I left it there as a matter of respect for the site. There are many of that particular vertebra in the ranch collection. It’s not scientifically valuable and I can show it the rare visitor that makes it up there as an untouched site letting them find it on their own as a matter of their education. There have been a few. This is near one of our rifle courses so there is relatively easy access to the site. Maybe a dozen folks have been there besides me.

The rocks there are of course Hell Creek/Lance formation. A 700 foot thickness of terrestrial river sands/gravels/siltstones/mudstones etc. All riverine based fossils, fish, turtles, crocs, amphibians, freshwater stingrays, dinosaurs, mammals, snakes, avian dinosaurs, This region has some of the best uppermost Cretaceous rocks exposed in the world. Our ranch has rock containing dinosaurian remains from the end of the dinosaurs reign. Then a meteor came crashing into Yucatan Mexico and changed everything.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/ Montana borderlands.

Title: Burning Bush Ridge

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Nested Curves: Wheels and Rainbows

Nested Curves: Wheels and Rainbows
Nested Curves: Wheels and Rainbows

Arcs within arcs, an antique Deering Seeder under the Umbrella of a backcountry double arc of spectral refractions. There are 4 arcs here in this image but that second wheel was hard to work into this lol. I’m always on the look out for smooth curves and geometric shapes in an image and this one has a few 👀📸

IT was obviously raining at the time which is hazardous duty for me. I don’t go out in the backcountry too much in the rain. I don’t like to squish around in the mud wrecking the trails and causing ruts. The difference here is I was already deep in the backcountry when this storm came up on me. In transit to base I was until this idea popped into my head lolol.

Getting to a particular location like this requires a recognition of the opportunity of course. I was about a mile away from this spot when that rainbow lit up. The light bulb went off and yonder I went (after I got just the rainbow in the camera lol). Rule 2 of photography: “Get the photo somehow”

Science of this:

Here you can see a fainter secondary rainbow above and to the left of the primary rainbow. The primary rainbow is caused from one possible reflection inside the water droplet. The secondary rainbow is caused by a secondary reflection inside the droplet, and this “re-reflected” light exits the drop at a greater angle (50° instead of 42° for the red, deeper hued primary bow). This is why the secondary rainbow appears above the primary rainbow. The secondary rainbow also has the order of the colors reversed as well with red on the bottom and violet on the top. ROYGBIV to VIBGYOR 😜📷

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title Nested Curves: Wheels and Rainbows

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Mountain Blue Bird on a Wire

Mountain Blue Bird on a Wire
Mountain Blue Bird on a Wire

Mountain Blue Bird on a Wire (6 months out of season, remember these guys?)

These 6 inch long one ounce birds don’t make much noise in my experience but a little in the morning. Hard to describe. They are fairly small Thrushes with a round head outline and straight thin bills. Sky blue is how I describe the color but are a bit darker on the wings and tail but with a light patch under the tail and it’s stomach. These guys hoover while foraging for insects. I’ve seen it many times. This guy was jumping around this Yucca Flower frond as seen and zipping about and then back to this place.

He was putting on a considerably good show for me in my portable blind (my jeep at the time) while I had just crested a hilltop in the backcountry. He was flitting around this Yucca like it was a toddler on a sugar high. I just by happenstance had an 800mm camera set up with me that I grabbed off the seat for the fairly close encounter. Several other Males were in the area pretty much just watching the aerobatic display I think as I was … amazed at it’s abilities. They hoover to catch bugs so they have mastered their environment for sure.

We are actually a little low at 4000 feet in elevation for them as they are found to 11000 feet up in the hills. The do like our grasslands though. Lots of bugs out there for them to eat…. Good habitat for most insect eaters.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Mountain Blue Bird on a Wire

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Alfalfa Bloom Game Trail

Alfalfa Bloom Game Trail
Alfalfa Bloom Game Trail

Alfalfa Bloom Game Trail (Back to the Summer Farm in the Winter)

I’m easily distracted by a play of colors and shades in monocultural fields surrounded by less disturbed landscapes. The cultivated field in contrast to the sage and grass natural turf. This particular ground has had european man’s stock grazing it for over 120-130 years and probably longer. But before that this was all native prairie. Still some in the background.

Geologic Musings:

This particular alfalfa field is down low in the Little Powder River valley and tends to be flooded every now and then. It’s on a terrace not far from that small meandering river. The river rises (comes down in local vernacular), and the fields flood in the spring. Snow melt and big rains up stream are the biggest causes for floods in this country.

Meanders result from the river moving back and forth across the landscape over geologic time. A meandering river is one that is NOT cutting down into the sediment and the local geology. (River’s Base Level is a good google phrase). It only can expend it’s energy on the sides/banks as it moves across the valley back and forth. It takes a few years to work across a valley lol. There is SOME gradient to this river so the Little Powder seems to be to be slowly down cutting into the valley floor. Don’t expect the Grand Canyon to form in this Climate during our lifetime. One grain of sand bouncing down the bottom down hill at a time wears down mountains over long enough time. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Location: Near the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Alfalfa Bloom Game Trail

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American Eagle in Twilight

American Eagle in Twilight
American Eagle in Twilight

American Eagle in Twilight

I don’t see a lot of American Eagles up in this high/dry ridge line country. They tend to hang out around rivers where they are both predators and scavengers. The do overfly and eat road kill. (Good work if you can get it as a raptor). I do see them along the road side now and then eating a fresh road kill. Not many species but man hunts the American Eagle but they hunt a lot of species.

There is an urban legend that Benjamin Franklin lobbied Congress to make the Turkey our national symbol bird. There is of course no evidence of this occurring but his daughter did write a letter (1784) labeling the Bald Eagle as “a bird of bad moral character). The real story was the eagles link to history and how it came to be our national symbol.

Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of independance.Congress formed a small committee of three. Those characters Ben Franklin, John Adams with Thomas Jefferson were the committee. Given the job of designing an official seal would be their task. Those three failed to get a design to pass congress. Bunch of slackers those three probably eh? 😜

Another two committees tried to get a seal for the nation. They failed as the first one did in order. Finally the job/work from the three committees were handed to Charles Thomson. He was serving as the Secretary of the congress. The final result was an artistic attenuation to the best elements of the various submitted designs. By 1782 Congress adopted the design using the American Bald Eagle over other “entries” into this historic contest.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: American Eagle in Twilight

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Snowy “Red Hills” Twilight

Snowy "Red Hills" Twilight
Snowy "Red Hills" Twilight

Snowy “Red Hills” Twilight (dark environment low light image. )

I am up on one of the highest points around for this capture. It was quite windy at that moment. That shakes your camera… hardly helpful lolol. Ridgetops are terrible spots for exposure to the relentless wind.

Overlooking the Little Powder River Valley 40 miles to the Red Hills all the way to my lens. The hill is known on ranch as “RattleSnake Ridge” or just “Rattlesnake”. . Someone blew up a rattlesnake den up here in the 1970’s is the story for the name of where I’m standing. The ridge between the camera view to the far Range is part of the “Prairie Dog Hills”. This is a view almost directly west along the MT/WY border. Both State in the frame.

The Distant Red Hills earn their name. Because of the far ridges tendency to literally be red in the morning. The pink Belt of Venus often drops down from the sky to the hills themselves. That color band drops opposite the rising sun covering the peaks. The red color reflects off of the already red rocks making up the ridge line. (“Clinker Geology” is a good google phrase).

Here the sun had just set behind the distant ridge 5 minutes prior to me turning my lens to this scene. The other side of the ridge is quite red and still illuminated. I am sure of it lol. What I see on that ridge in the morning, is what someone on the other side sees in the evening. Highlights. Here I’m in it’s shadow. Position and topography are my masters.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands *Wyotana”. 3×2 aspect to 3 feet.

Title: Snowy “Red Hills” Twilight

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Blue Heron Stall Speed

Blue Heron Stall Speed
Blue Heron Stall Speed

Blue Heron Stall Speed

Early in the Spring of 2019, the Cotton Wood Trees were not even leafing. The trees flowers were out. The thinest branches at the crest of this 50 foot tall Cottonwood Tree are about to get tested. This bird is a 5 pound 5 foot tall fully grown Great Blue Heron. That’s a big bird coming in for a landing.

You can see the wind due to the flowers all blowing from right to left. A 15 – 20 mph gusty wind was blowing. The branches were moving left to right sometimes dramatically. 10 feet below this frame is this birds mate and nest with several eggs. This bird had just returned from it’s feeding mission around the area. They usually hunt within a few miles of their rookery. In this pretty high gusty winds, he had to land on a moving target. He nailed the landing as he was essentially levitating no moving and just dropping inches a second. These guys are AMAZING masters of the sky.

I’ve spent some time watching Heron’s over the years. Building your nest near the top of 50 foot high cottonwoods one stick at a time is a story of a lot of trips by the male. The male does the stick supply route over and over again but it’s the gals job to build the house. She will carefully weave and cajole all the loose sticks together. I’ve seen them land and take off in all situations. This shot shows one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever seen a bird make. Floating down like a single feather.

Location: The Heron Rookery in the wetlands at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Blue Heron Stall Speed

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Sunset Through the Wheel

Sunset Through the Wheel
Sunset Through the Wheel

Sunset Through the Wheel

Antique wagons each have their own tale to tell. Especially in this shape. With over 50 plus years of cattle rubbing, the wear has taken it’s toll. They have to itch on something I suppose. Needless to say, the cattle pressure on this old soldier has taken it’s toll. Not to say the weather, the freezing and thawing, haven’t had their effect. The fact that it is still even half way together speaks volumes for the quality of construction.

There are a lot of miles on those old wheels. 15 miles to the nearest general store. An all day round trip with a team. This vehicle was the ultimate convertible. You pay MORE for a convertible now lolol. How did that get switched around?? I’ve never owned a real convertible lolol. Imagine 12 hours in the wind, the rain, a storm that comes out of a blue sky out in the open.

All the metal work on this wagon is in serviceable shape. Plus it’s about all there. It would take quite a craftsman with a cause to rebuild this to new. We actually have a very nice newly built buck wagon on the ranch, in the barn, under a tarp. It’s not moving anytime soon lol. It belongs to my son’s fiancee. We don’t however had a working team of horses at the moment for it. I don’t have a photo of it (yet) even though it’s been out there for years lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Sunset Through the Wheel