Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Letting Kory Roam

We took a short drive two weekends ago.
Further out the South Fork.
By the time we arrived at this place we had traveled beyond homes (including OUR home) and beyond small and then sprawling ranches, and were now inside the Shoshone National Forest.
Sections of SNF can be found throughout Park County.
This particular section was filled with steep and mostly barren hills, and was surrounded by tree filled and snow covered mountains.................

These pictures were taken about 20 miles from the house, and when I look at them I am reminded again of how beautiful of a place it is that we now call home.
Snow has come and gone for many months.
We moved into our home in July of last year, and by August we already had snow on the ground.
It melted quickly of course but remained in the mountains, and the past seven months have repeated that same snow-melt-remain in the mountains trifecta ever since.
It snowed very often this past winter but never ever really amounted to very much.
If this disappointing winter could be summed up in one sentence it would be "Too much wind, too little snow".........................
A beige world...........................
Aside from enjoying the silence of a beautiful place, this particular trip was notable for one other reason, and that was related to our dog.
She's a great dog.
But a head strong dog.
Translation - she listens well until the moment she doesn't.
Kory has always been head strong, very inquisitive and adventurous, and very athletic.
Even now at the age of 10, she is still a very fast runner.
The combination of those variables, combined with endless open lands that surrounded our home in ID (and that surround our home in WY), as well as the potential to encounter predators, has always scared us.
That Kory would get lost.
People lose dogs every single day here.
Every day.
Some are found and reunited with their people.
But a scary-large number are not.  
What ever happened to those dogs?
Nobody knows. 
They are never seen nor heard from again.
We worried that she would be lost, scared, alone, or that she would encounter a mountain lion, wolf or bear.
When we have ventured out into the true wild - far away from civilization, far away from landmarks that were familiar to our pup - LC and I have always kept her on leash.
On this day we didn't.
It was wide open ground.
Unfamiliar to our dog.
Bear country.
We were "out there".
Close to the mountains.
In sections of open land that Kory did not know.
We took a leap of faith and let her roam.
Letting her roam and yet also watching her like scared parents letting their kid go to the park with their little friend (and without adult supervision) for the first time.
She did fine of course........................
Me and Kory looking back at LC.....................
It was wonderful indeed how I could have heart-to-heart talks with my dogs and they always seemed to understand. Each question I asked was answered in their own doggish way.
Although they couldn’t talk in my terms, they had a language of their own that was easy to understand. Sometimes I would see the answer in their eyes, and again it would be in the friendly wagging of their tails. Other times I could hear the answer in a low whine or feel it in the soft caress of a warm flickering tongue. In some way, they would always answer.............Wilson Rawls, Where The Red Fern Grows

Friday, March 22, 2019

Not Cocky Anymore

By the end of last year I was feeling pretty cocky about the small business I had opened in April of 2018. 
It had been open for 8 months, I had worked very hard getting it off the ground, it had been welcomed by the local community and the business was more than holding-its-own financially considering it hadn't been open long.
By November multiple locals were warning me "Karin - remember it gets quiet in the winter around here". 
But business was still strong and I thought "Yes............but so far there's no sign that business will slow down.  We're still going strong this late in the year.  We'll be fine...................." 
And we WERE fine. 
Right up until the new year.............

January was distressingly slow. 
February was even slower. 
There were signs in early March that business was starting to pick up again. 
And then there weren't. 
And then there were. 
And then there weren't again.
Over the past few months I have spoken with other small business owners in town.
I am not alone.  
Everyone is going through the same thing I have been experiencing (which is reassuring in a highly selfish and self-absorbed way) and everyone is simply hanging tough and waiting it out................

The locals were right.
I was wrong.
 And I'm not cocky anymore. 
Owning a small business in Cody is not for the faint hearted.
Cody has totally kicked my ass so far in 2019. 
 As a small business owner I am greatly looking forward to turning the page on winter....................

There are multiple public access areas in the Southfork that lead down to the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
We have visited all of them at one time or another, but we frequent this one most often because it is so convenient and only two miles from the house.
When you pull off the two lane Southfork highway you are immediately greeted by a gravel road filled with older residences.
They're not huge and not fancy, the way you would expect homes so close to a lake to be.
They are all homes that were built in the 40s or 50s.
In addition to the home designs the landscaping (with multiple bushes, shrubs and trees) is a recognizable sign of the age of the neighborhood.
Dogs run everywhere.  Deer run everywhere.  There are cows in pastures, an occasional horse, the ever present farm trucks, and multiple old outbuildings.
At the end of the road is a turn to the left, a park area, boat ramp, trail.
Turn to the right and there is a long dike, rocky beach, access in the winter (when the water is down) to the hills.
On this day we walked the long dike, and explored one small section of beach front that we had never seen before...................
No snow.
But a completely frozen Buffalo Bill Reservoir...............
Our happy dog happily crunching on the rib bones of a long dead deer that she found in the dried and brown grasses adjacent to the lake.
Five years ago when we first got Kory, she would have crunched them up, swallowed them, and then waited until we got home so that she could barf it all over the carpet in the living room or hallway.
Thankfully our delicate girl has grown a stronger stomach since then.
Nowadays it (mostly) stays down..................
It wasn't a long trip.
But it WAS a good trip.
The world is gradually beginning to warm up, but this early into spring (or this late into winter - depending on your perspective) we still had the lake to ourselves.
Enjoying that solitude for as long as we can....................

Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them...............Jodi Picoult, My Sisters' Keeper

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Chief Joseph Highway - Part 2

Entering the tiny town of Cooke City, MT.
There is little of note in Cooke City aside from its proximity to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
It was late in the year and a number of businesses were closed now that the tourists had left and winter was fast approaching.
There are few places to eat in Cooke City, and the food is always less than satisfactory.
After driving with few stops between Cody and Cooke City, we chose to drive straight through.
This summer we will take our time, explore the little town a little more, but this late in the year we wanted to drive a short ways into the park before turning around and heading back the way we had come......................
No vehicles, no tourists, no waiting...................
The few times that we had entered the park through the North East Gate we had always seen a grizzly bear within minutes of entering the park.
As we slowly drove the silent and empty two lane highway both LC and I expectantly looked to our right and left hoping for a sighting.
Not on this day.....................
But we did quickly find bison.................
Random picture of a random glove, sitting on a pole alongside the highway..............
There was plenty of beautiful on this quick trip to the North East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.
Endless beautiful.
Mountains.  Valleys.  Winding two lane highway.  Overlooks.
But surprisingly (and disappointingly) few animals.
Not the elk or bear or even abundant bison we had hoped for.
But this close to the end of fall and the start of winter we were just glad to be up in the mountains.
There was a silence to the world at this time of year, and we had hoped to experience that before winter arrived.
We did.
We were reminded yet again just how much we love living where we live...........

Back in Cody much later in the day, we made a quick pit stop at Wal-mart before heading towards the house up the South Fork.
Where else could you find a Storm Trooper guarding a car, but in a Wal-mart parking lot in Cody WY .................

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Chief Joseph Highway - Part 1

These pictures were all taken early last fall during a trip on the Chief Joseph Highway, to the top of Dead Indian Pass, and beyond to the North Gate of Yellowstone National Park just beyond Cook City.
It was a beautiful weekend day.
Endlessly sunny.
Very cold.
And both LC and I wanted to do the drive before winter hit.
We knew that this would likely be our last go around until spring, and so we loaded into the vehicle and on the spur of the moment decided to head up the mountain..................
I always think of Dead Indian Pass as being a long drive from Cody, but 45 minutes after we left town we were contentedly standing at the overlook.
At the top of the pass and looking out over an entire world that seemed completely devoid of people.
The wind was blowing wildly (as it always seems to up there at just over 8000 feet) and both LC and I pulled the collars of our jackets up higher in a mostly failed attempt to stay warm.
Kory (as is always the case) seemed impervious to both the wind and the cold.
She is a beautiful, wonderfully simple creature.
Whether she is sniffing and marking beside a dumpster in back of Albertsons grocery store in Cody, or beside a bush on an historic overlook in the mountains of wild and isolated Wyoming, she is a contented, focused, happily adventuresome dog.
We should all be so wonderfully simple.
And so contented, focused and happy.......................
We had been up to Dead Indian Pass just a few weeks earlier and on that trip I had taken multiple pictures of historic markers and numerous informational boards.
I didn't do that on this trip.
This trip was about simply being.
Being up in the mountains.  Being together.  In this beautiful space.  One last time before winter.  Relishing in the freedom and silence.......................
I haven't really looked at these pictures in a few months.
God.................it is beautiful in this place.
Endlessly wonderfully beautiful.
LC, me and Kory have now been in Wyoming since late September 2017.
17 months now.
Recently I was compiling paperwork for both of our taxes, and looking over paperwork was like looking over a road map of the craziness that we went through over the past year.
In 2018 we lived in three different places.
We made a trip back to Idaho in February to get our belongings out of storage, and made another trip back in the fall to get our camper.
We bought and sold three vehicles, moved our stuff in and out of storage units here a couple of times, bought a home and opened a business.
Almost seven months after moving into a house we bought, we have still not completely unpacked.
And neither one of us cares.
We're here.
We're in no rush...................
After loading back into the vehicle, we immediately dropped down the back side of Dead Indian Pass.
The plan (or lack there-of) was to drive for a while and take in the extraordinary beauty of the area.
We may make it to Cooke City.
We may make it to the west gate of the park.
We may go a short ways into the park.
Earlier in the year we would have been able to circle down into the park, and exit through the east gate, and get back to Cody without having to retrace our steps.
At this time of year the east gate was already closed, so no matter how far we traveled we were going to have to go back the way we had come.
We didn't know what the plan was, and it didn't really matter to any of us at the time.
What mattered was that we were there....................
Endless mountain peaks.
Endless wide open valleys.
It was all good...................
 The road sign tells the story of what the highway we were driving looked like.
With so many climbs, and so much winding road, there was no way to travel fast.
And that was OK...................

Sunlight Creek Bridge, the highest in Wyoming..............

You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you..............John Muir