The majesty of the Nevada landscape |

The majesty of the Nevada landscape

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal staff writer

I got to go on what I considered the story of the year Monday. I was invited to join a Nevada Department of Agriculture veterinarian and a veteran wild horse advocate on a helicopter horse count.

I’ve flown in small planes, but never a helicopter and I was excited, though a little nervous. As I got closer to the whirlybird, the nervousness melted into cold fear.

The helicopter had no doors.

I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe Marine One that the President tools around in. Doors, windows, steps, lots of room.

No, this was exactly two people wide, and I don’t mean large people. To my left sat horse counter Dr. Keith Forbes of the state Department of Ag. He was sitting a bit closer than I normally allow a man who is not my husband. But to my right was nothing but God’s own clean air.

There was a seatbelt, and it was in good shape and cinched tight, so I probably was in no danger, but there was not much to hold on to, just the back of the seat, if I put my hands behind the cushions.

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When the pilot turned to the right, he tilted the helicopter, and my heart left me.

Fortunately it didn’t fall out, but I can’t say it was in my chest the whole way. And when the wind picked up and the helicopter swayed, I might have lost something else, but I didn’t eat lunch that day.

I did calm down, after about an hour and a half, and began to enjoy the ride. It was like nothing I had ever seen before in real life. Maybe a few Imax movies, but not real life.

We covered north and central Lyon County and all of Storey, looking for horses. We found 1,448 of them, most in good shape, running, grazing, sunning themselves, playing, doing what horses do. They were incredible.

But just as incredible was the breathtaking Nevada landscape, not to mention the golden eagle that took off nearby and was right beside me for one brief, awesome moment.

Lots of pinion pine and sage, more green than I ever expected, with a smell that was as sweet as the view. Much better than being on the ground, so long as we didn’t go too high.

The most incredible places were the south-center of Tahoe Reno Industrial Park, as yet undeveloped and not likely to be developed much, since it was dotted with spiky mountain peaks, steep ridges and deep ravines, all covered in trees and brush, with tiny springs dotting the landscape.

Much of the most amazing areas had few, if any horses, the mountains north of Dayton, Mark Twain and Stagecoach. Perhaps the terrain was too steep for some; the ones that were there were perched precariously on the sides of mountains.

The helicopter went deep into canyons and up over ridges, so close you think you could step right out and sit down. But I decided to stay where I was.

– Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or call 881-7351.