Three Bighorn Sheep. Zion National Park, Utah. October 22, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Three bighorn sheep grazing in an area of sandstone slabs, Zion National Park
I have been fascinated by the bighorn sheep since an experience I had many years ago in the eastern Sierra Nevada. I was on my first solo backpacking trip – oddly enough, this first solo was a two-week trip! – and I was hiking up into a slightly more remote area not far from Rae Lakes. In typical climbing mode, I was trudging up a steep, rocky trail with my head mostly down, and not paying complete attention to my larger surroundings. All of a sudden I heard a tremendous clattering of rocks very close by, perhaps no more than a couple dozen feet away, and having no idea what would cause such a thing my response was mild panic. I quickly looked up and saw three bighorns very close to me, apparently as surprised by me as I was by them. I immediately began to drop my pack so that I could get to my camera, envisioning a photograph of these noble-looking creatures against the background of this rocky slope. I quickly removed the pack, grabbed my camera, and rose back up to make a photograph… only to see the rear ends of the departing critters perhaps a few hundred yards away on the steep talus slope.
The circumstances of this photograph were much less dramatic, I must admit. While driving along the Mount Carmel Highway over the high country of Zion National Park we simply looked up and saw a small herd or a dozen or more of the animals right above the roadway. I knew they were in the area since earlier I had heard rockfall far above the road, looked up, and seen two of them grazing very high on the slope. But to see such a large group this close was a bit of a surprise. Since I was traveling light on this trip I did not have my longest lens, so I worked with what I had and settled in to see what might develop. The larger group clustered around a bush a bit too far up the slope – and they were apparently not intrigued with the idea of posing, as they stood around with their butts pointing in my direction! One or two of them separated from the main group and soon this group of three made its way down across the sandstone to some brush a bit closer to me.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.