Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Out And Back To Idaho - Part 1

There were two major things that belonged to us, that remained in Idaho.
Our camper and a huge Native American picture.
We had put the picture on loan at the library in Challis ID when we had a mindset to do some major renovations to our house in Atomic City.
The picture was huge (about 3ft x 4ft) and surrounded by a very heavy wood frame, and after fretting for a few weeks about what to do with it, we came up with what seemed like a fine idea to keep it safe.
We would put it on loan at a library.
Challis Public Library (about 2 1/2 hours north of us) was the first to gratefully accept our offer and we proceeded to transport the picture up there the next week, content in the knowledge that our beautiful picture would be safe.
That was two years ago.
We did some things to the house over the first winter but not the major projects that we had envisioned.
The following spring we put a FSBO sign out front of the house, after reluctantly but inevitably coming to the realization that one family who had moved into town was intent on trashing the town and running roughshod over the population.
 We needed to get out before all the work we had done over the four years we had been there was for nothing.
The writing was on the wall and the continuing deterioration of the town would eventually mean that we would never be able to sell the house.
No decent people would ever want to move there.
A few months later we secured a real estate agent, put the house on the market, sold the house within a month and moved out a month later.
Through the entire manic pace that life had suddenly taken on, we never made it back up to Challis to get the picture.
Instead we left it, just as easily as we left the state of Idaho...............

Once we had been in Wyoming for six months we found ourselves in a rental home and made arrangements to retrieve our Suburban, our camper, our boat, our picture, and the 500 sq feet of stuff we had stored in 400 sq feet of storage units. 
The forecast had promised to be cold and dry.
Instead the entire region was cold and snow-filled, and we never made it to Challis to retrieve our picture as we had planned.
And the camper got left behind as well when the movers misjudged the size of truck needed and we ended up pulling a small Uhaul trailer behind one of the vehicles.
Again the picture was left behind.................

Fast forward six more months and my business was up and running, we had bought a home up the Southfork and we felt like we finally had our feet underneath us.
A little.
It was time to go get our camper.
Before winter hit.
We weren't going to Challis (which was a six hour round trip out of the way).  The picture wasn't going to enter the equation.
This was an out and back trip - through the park on Saturday, spend the night in Blackfoot, and return through the park on Sunday.................. 

The Saturday morning we left was socked it and very cold.
It has been cold for a couple of weeks straight now.
It seems early to be so consistently cold but it is what it is, and after a quick stop for gas and coffee on the outskirts of Cody, we began our journey.
Wary of how our new (to us) truck would do on its first big trip and eager to head into Yellowstone National Park.............

Pictures taken during a quick stop in the Northfork, on the way to the park.
We always tell ourselves that we will stop in a different place - and we DO stop at many of the pull-offs, picnic areas and campgrounds along the route between Wapiti and the East Gate of the park, but we always seem to gravitate to this one every single trip.
It overlooks the river, is surrounded by endless rugged mountains, and at this time of year also overlooks bright yellow trees................
I always call this Bart Simpson Rock..................
One last stop at Pahaska Campground before entering the park....................
We sold our beautiful white truck.
It had 109,000 miles on it.
Someone had backed into the drivers side door last summer and they did not want insurance companies involved in the incident (which was telling).
But they had plenty of money and were grateful to simply be able to pay cash for the repairs.
While we were getting THOSE repairs done, we paid to have a couple of other minor dings repaired and painted as well.
By the time we picked it up from the shop in Powell the truck looked perfect..........

Which was why we sold it................

We had bought a home on a gravel road.
I needed a truck to toss a kayak or mountain bike into the bed.
LC needed a truck to haul lumber and loads of gravel.
We both needed a truck to haul random pieces of furniture we picked up in our travels.
We both needed a truck that suited our fur-shedding mutt.
In short.........we needed a truck that suited our lifestyle. 
Not a show piece truck.
A few weeks after we sold our pretty white truck LC came home with this thing.
It has 144,000 miles on it.
It gets 13 miles per gallon, but is not our primary vehicle.
He paid $800 for it.  
We have put another $2000 into it for repairs, and another few hundred for two new front tires.
It's a one ton hoss of a truck, we both love it, and we both knew that neither one of us would break into tears if we got a scratch on it..............

A few days after we got this truck (and about three weeks before our trip over to Idaho) we took it down to the lake late in the evening.
We weren't there very long.
In fact, about 10 minutes after we arrived it began to thunder and our scaredy-dog immediately turned and ran for the safety of the truck.
By the time LC and I got back our fearful pup was in a state of blind, ballistic terror.
As LC unlocked the truck doors I bent down to stroke the head of our beautiful dog, knowing that she was terrified as always by the sound of regular claps of thunder.
The thunder struck again and she jumped.
One minute she was flat footed on the ground beside me.
The next minute she was up on the hood of the truck.
Startled, I reached for her, trying to hold her, trying to encourage her back down to the ground and into the truck.
Once Kory was secured inside the cab I looked at the hood.  Scratches.  Lots of new scratches.
Surface scratches that likely would buff out but..............
Yes..............this was a better truck for us...............
We had not been to Yellowstone at all this summer.
There were many things we didn't get to do this summer.
But we got a business off the ground, we bought a house and we went on endless small adventures, so it wasn't a total loss..............

We excitedly passed through the East Gate and almost immediately began to climb up into Sylvan Pass.
With the increase in elevation we again found ourselves in the frozen mist that we thought we had left behind back in Cody.
The trees above the fog were frozen, and the day suddenly looked ominous.
My brain was still in summer mode, but summer was disappearing rapidly in Wyoming................
Driving across the iconic Fishing Bridge..............
15 minutes after passing over Fishing Bridge we pulled off the road and into a crowded parking area.
LC and Kory stayed with the truck while I ventured across the road and began snapping quick pictures of the large bison herd that was quietly grazing in a field.
It was the end of September and already getting cold, and I was surprised just how many tourists were still in the park....................
I only snapped a few quick pictures, enjoying the site of these wonderful creatures but also mindful that we had to get to Blackfoot.
This wasn't a Park Trip.
This was a Going Through The Park trip.
We had business to attend to.
With a few more quick pictures and one last appreciative glance back at these prehistoric throw-backs, I quickly headed back to the truck...............
15 MORE minutes and we saw cars starting to suddenly brake.
Startled, I watched as the red lights in back of one vehicle after another suddenly lit up, and I felt the truck slow down to first a crawl and then a stop.
Why were we stopped?
We had no idea.
And then we saw the first buffalo walking down the center of the two-lane highway.
Followed by another.  And then another.
And then another.................

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Snow In August

There are warnings about rattlesnakes posted on the trails in town around Beck Lake.
All spring locals shared horror stories about dogs rushed to the vet with rattlesnake bites.
Stories of hikers side stepping rattlers on the trails, and expressions of generalized fear and disgust over the noisy and poisonous little beasts.
As she always does, Kory received her rattlesnake shots in May. 
By spring we were the proud owners of one pair of snake boots and two sets of snake chaps, and both LC and I were watchful every single time we ventured off pavement.
For all the wariness about snakes in this part of the world, this is one of only two snakes that we saw all summer.
Thankfully neither were rattlesnakes................

All of these pictures were taken over the span of one weekend sometime close to the end of August.
The Saturday was cold, foggy and still very smoky from all the wild fires that surrounded us in this and neighboring states.
We - as we did often this summer - ventured down to the lake.
A safe place for Kory to run and wander and explore, and both LC and I were still enamored by the water and the surrounding mountains, and our proximity to both...................
Difficult to see her, but Kory is sprinting towards us in this picture..................
Sunday morning I walked outside to let Kory do her Kory things.
Still half asleep it took me a few minutes to notice the world around me, but when I finally did I was completely stunned.
The sky was blue.
The air was clear.
There was snow in the mountains.
In August..................
Rushing back into the house to grab my camera I walked (still in pajamas) with puppy around the perimeter of the yard, snapping pictures as I went.
The sky hadn't been so blue in weeks.
The weekend before it had been a smoky and stifling 100 degrees but on this day the air was cool and clear and crisp and clean, and the world looked gorgeous.
Looking across the road from the house, with snow covered Carter Mountain in the background..................
Looking towards the North Fork.
After so many prolonged weeks of bad air quality, and smoggy conditions, the world suddenly and unexpectedly felt cleaner and freer.
As I walked around our huge yard with the dog I enjoyed the sight of the mountains again.
And at least some of the fires were now out.
Very good deal...................
LC and I had painted this metal elk and installed him in the yard just a couple of days earlier.
Still entirely embedded in summer, the last thing we had expected was to see snow in August.
A few days after snapping this picture we had to move our metal elk.
Strong wind gusts had bent his legs and when we found him he was completely folded in half.
After straightening his legs we attached him to the safety of a wooden wind break.
He will be safe there.
The snow disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
But it was nice while it lasted...................

Summer is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating, there is no such thing as bad weather only different kinds of weather..............John Ruskin.............

Friday, September 28, 2018

World Filled With Smoke

Early in August LC, Kory and I took a drive out the South Fork.
It was hot and dry on this day, but the prevailing story was actually the smoke.
The entire region was enveloped in thick, heavy smoke.
The day we took this drive was an unseasonably cool day, but the day before it had been almost 100 degrees.
I am used to heavy smoke from regional wildfires.
Every summer it is the same thing - fires develop in every western state and smoke completely overwhelms the region as brave fire fighters battle seemingly non-stop in hot and dangerous conditions.
Mostly the smoke doesn't bother me physically.
It is simply a reminder of the dangerous conditions in which we live each summer.
But the day it was 100 degrees had been different.
I walked out of the house, looked up at the sky and could see only random and very small patches of blue struggling to take hold in a sky of smoke.
I looked around me - the hills to my left were barely visible.
Carter Mountain was gone.
The mountains to the west were gone.
Rattlesnake and Cedar Mountains were all gone.
The world was nothing but smoke.
I crossed over the gravel driveway and walked over to the large metal out-building.
As I unlocked the padlock that secured one of the doors and began to raise the heavy metal door I realized that I was feeling really dizzy and sick to my stomach.
I had only been outside for a couple of minutes.
But the combination of high heat and thick smoke almost immediately did me in.
I spent the remainder of the day indoors................

A day later it was still smoky but much cooler, and after being house bound the day before, all three of us had cabin fever.
And so we took a drive further down the South Fork.................
We drove past huge and fancy houses.
We drove past huge farms.
Eventually the homes and farms ended and the hills and empty BLM land began.
Miles and miles of wonderful and beautiful emptiness.
45 minutes after we left the house we pulled into a wide open area that we have stopped at many times before.
It is nothing more than a large paved area overlooking mountains in all directions, and contains a huge rock and wood sign informing visitors that they are entering the Shoshone National Forest.
The SNF extends in every direction - heading out the South Fork, out the North Fork, up on Dead Indian Pass - everywhere you travel in Park County you eventually find unexpected parts of the forest.
After 45 minutes we were all eager to stretch our legs and wander for a few minutes.
The world looked different.
Still beautiful, silent and majestic.
But now washed out and covered in the smoke that entirely overwhelmed the region.............
We stepped off the paved parking area and onto hilly BLM land, wandering slowly, surprised at how cool it was and how windy it was after being so hot the previous day.
On the back side of this hill was a view of the river far below us and off in the distance.
Normally it was clear and easy to see, but not on this day..............
The first of many times crossing the south fork of the Shoshone River.........
As we continued further into the South Fork I looked out over the mountains, mesmerized by how different the world looked.
Mountains that were normally so vivid were now wholly or partially hidden behind the smoke.
The typical blue sky of summer was now completely grey and smoke filled, and the colors of the world were washed out because so little light was filtering through the smoke..............
Many miles later we pulled over again.
This time alongside the river.
Walking slowly down the road we crossed over the bridge, spent some time watching the horses that were grazing in an adjoining field, and looked out over the tree filled mountains.
By this time hilly BLM land was a thing of the past and we were now surrounded by trees and water.
We had no specific agenda, time frame or destination in mind during this trip.
We just wanted some quiet time in beautiful quiet places, and even in this smoky world we were all having a really nice time...................
Going further and seeing more, we pulled off the winding two-lane South Fork highway and drove down a long driveway leading to the SF public school.
The school has always been empty whenever we have driven out this far, but LC and I have always both found this place interesting, because the school is completely surrounded by a high fence, that was built as protection against bears.
The South Fork is notorious for grizzly bears (one of many surrounding areas that are notorious for grizz).
Even where we live (only a few miles from town) there have been bear sightings.
But the further up the South Fork you travel, the more common it is to see bears.
We parked the Suburban down a short side trail (that lay adjacent to a small cabin and close to the school building) and I climbed out intending to wander down to the creek in back of the small cabin, and snap some quick pictures of the water.....................
Standing beside the Suburban I snapped pictures of smoky mountains and misshapen trees in all directions.
For a minute I enjoyed taking pictures and after taking three or four quick shots I lowered my camera and looked around.
And then I began to feel creeped out.
The place was completely and absolutely silent, but in the span of only a few seconds it had moved from beautiful to spooky.
This was prime bear country, and we were surrounded by thick bushes, trees and grasses.  And we were surrounded by thick smoke.
No.................I wasn't walking around here.............
High fence surrounding small school..................
After leaving the school we headed back the way we had come and (on the spur-of-the-moment) pulled off onto one last side road.
Just to see what we would find.
We found plenty more rugged beautiful............
I like the mountains because they make me feel small,' Jeff says. 'They help me sort out what's important in life............Mark Obmascik, Halfway to Heaven:  My White-knuckled and Knuckleheaded Quest for the Rocky Mountain High