With the pitch darkness of the Death Valley Junction Saturday night pushed back only slightly by our lakeside campfire,  I adjourned from both its warmth and Susan for the camper to shed the sweats I was wearing and put on some clothes more presentable for dinner at the Amargosa Cafe followed by a film presentation at the Amargosa Opera House. Nothing fancy, just cleaner.

Emerging  a few minutes later Susan quickly pointed out that she’d heard something moving out there to the east and thought it was either a horse or a zombie, and as I urged my eyes to adjust quickly to the inky blackness from the interior lights of the van , indeed I eventually made out the large bulk of a dark horse facing us that seemed to be moving tentatively closer. My first thought was it was being ridden by someone, perhaps a ranger or a resident. But as I stared on the verge of hailing the rider I saw this was not so. My next thought was who in their right mind lets their steed wander around near an open highway, and almost immediately thereafter I recalled the bin I saw inside the lobby of the hotel with the sign requesting donations to help feed the wild horses in the area.

Then that single steed never took its eyes from us and stopped about 100 yards awa, becoming two as a lighter one who’d been positioned behind it, suddenly broke right asnd galloped up a berm and behind some trees to the lake. Retrieving our flashlights, Susan and I made our way to the water’s edge, but the beams  weren’t strong enough to do more than barely highlight what was either two or three other horses chuffing and taking drinks.

And then they were gone back into the night somewhere out on the vast plain that I’d biked out into near dusk. Where had they been, I wondered? And where do they go?

The latter question was answered after breakfast at the cafe and a stop in the lobby to add a few dollars to the donation bin the following morning. Wandering the grounds one last time, we peered through a gate leading to the back of the hotel and there they were.

wildhorses(click for the bigger picture)

That dark one on the right was the one who stood point scouting us the night before as the others quenched their thirsts. Again, it never took its gaze from us as we stood there in amazement at the encounter.