Sunday, April 8, 2018

Early Spring In The North Fork - Part 2

We all three sat watching this lone bison as he slowly crossed over the road, slowly walked along the edge of the road, and then eventually grazed his way up a short hill and settled into the cedar trees.
He was the only buffalo we saw on this trip.
A lone Neanderthal - walking slowly and methodically in that calm and deceptive way that buffalo have.
Those who don't know better get lulled into a false sense of security every year in the park.
These animals appear calm, deliberate, lumbering when you see them alone and in herds, but they are strong, determined, and capable of moving astonishingly quickly when they unexpectedly decide to turn it on.
And at least once each year a tourist (armed with a camera and who has gotten too close) is injured by one of these prehistoric throwbacks.
They are wonderful creatures to watch.
But we always get a little nervous when they wander too close to our truck.
You just never know..............
Going further and seeing more.
Pictures snapped through the windshield while on the move..............
We drove as far as Wayfarers Church before turning back.
We had planned on pulling off the winding two lane highway, turning onto the gravel road and climbing the steep hill leading to the parking area close to the outdoor chapel, but there was too much snow.
The snow leading up to the parking turn around was surprisingly deep and was mixed with ice, and we were reminded yet again that the North Fork is a whole different world.
On this day there was no snow at all in Cody.
But the park and the mountains surrounding us in Shoshone National Forest make their own weather.
This part of the world still had a whole lot of winter remaining.
Instead of pulling up to the chapel, LC did a U turn and pulled the truck as far off the road as he could so that we could all climb out and explore close to the river..............
This is why we came to Cody.
The river and the mountains.
Even after seven months LC and I still look around us in awe and appreciation.
This morning we stood on a hill out on BLM land just outside of town while Kory happily roamed from bush to bush, and rock to rock, in search of hapless bunnies to chase.
We looked out across the vastness of open land and saw Carter Mountain, and Cedar Mountain, and Rattlesnake Mountain, and Heart Mountain, and McKullough Peaks that were all close by.
And we looked beyond these rises to snow covered mountain ranges in the distance.
It felt right....................
And as we stood in the snow in the North Fork on THIS day, looking around at endless mountains whose names we don't know and looking down at the snow lined Shoshone River we thought the exact same thing.
It felt right................
One last stop on the way home, so that I could snap a picture of the frozen waterfall................
Looking back towards the vehicle.
We were wandering in a frozen campground that was closed for the season.................
There are fewer animals in the North Fork than there was during the winter proper.
It has been a mild winter this year and the animals have fared well.
Although it is still only early spring in the Rockies, animals have already begun to return to the mountains.
Likely we will see fewer bison and big horn sheep during our trips from now on.
And that's OK.
Nature working the way it is supposed to be working..................
Although I deeply love oceans, deserts and other wild landscapes, it is only mountains that beckon me with that sort of painful magnetic pull to walk deeper and deeper into their beauty. They keep me continuously wanting to know more, feel more, see more.............Victoria Erickson

Monday, April 2, 2018

Early Spring In The North Fork - Part 1

As I write this it is snowing outside.
It has been snowing all day.
After many warm and dry days we have had at least 8 inches of snow so far today and it is supposed to snow all through the night tonight.
And then it will warm up again.
Pretty now but it will be a muddy mess after this is all done.
Such is spring in the west...............

A few days ago LC, Kory and I ventured out to one of our favorite places.
The North Fork.
The fifty mile trip through Wapiti and then the Shoshone National Forest that eventually leads to the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.
We only traveled 40 miles or so on this day but (as it always is) it was a wonderful trip.
A trip filled with those animals that still reside down in the "low lands" of the North Fork this late in the winter (or more accurately - this early in the spring).
Those that have not yet returned to the mountains, where they reside during the warmer and dryer months of the year.
Once through the canyon between Rattlesnake and Cedar Mountains, and once through the tunnels and beyond Buffalo Bill Reservoir, we quickly found a herd of elk.
They were all sitting quietly in an open field when we first caught sight of them, and LC did not wait for me to ask him to pull the truck over.
Just as I saw them, he was already slowing down and seeking out a wide shoulder to stop safely.
As I climbed out of the truck and slowly walked across the two lane highway, I was immediately freezing cold.
The wind was blowing strongly as it is apt to do this time of year and it was very cold.
No matter.
It had been a few weeks since we had last visited the North Fork and I was excited to see this herd.
They had all been sitting together when we first pulled the truck over.
 Even though I moved slowly in an attempt not to startle them, I startled them anyway.
 The entire elk herd all stood as one and turned to study me.
On alert and trying to decide whether or not I presented a danger to them.............
After power snapping a few quick pictures I turned to look in the direction of the truck.
LC was walking in the brown grass on the shoulder of the road with a puppy, who I realized was happily marking dirt mounds and sniffing random sage bushes.
Simple creatures are so easy to please.
Smiling inwardly I turned my attention back to the herd of 30-40 elk.
With disappointment I realized that they were slowly on the move.
I hadn't made any sudden or alarming moves, but it was obvious that the herd had decided in unison that this unexpected interloper was too close for comfort.
Turning back to LC and Kory, I headed for the truck.
We would "go further and see more".
All part of rhythm of exploring the North Fork...............
A freezing cold and fast flowing Shoshone River..............
The story of the rocks..............
At this time of year there is little color in the world when you live in Wyoming.
The sky was various shades of grey.
The vegetation was various shades of grey and beige.
Nothing is growing yet.
No bright green grass.
No bright green leaves.
No dusty green sage bushes.
No bright blue sky or bright blue water.
Just a monochromatic world.
At least..........it was on this day.
Now it is all covered in white again................
I have to laugh whenever I see this rock formation.
It always reminds me of Bart Simpson................
A few more miles down the winding two lane highway and we found our first herd of big horn sheep.
It was a small herd but as we watched them for a few minutes, both LC and I realized that they have weathered this past winter well.
We weren't here last winter, but I know that it was just as rough of a winter here in Wyoming as it was over in Idaho.
We all had SO much snow and SO much cold.
I can't begin to imagine how many animals perished in those harsh conditions.
These guys looked well fed and healthy, and it was good to see.................
The picture above is zoomed in.
The one below is real distance away from us.................
Still plenty of snow in the mountains................
There is always something to see around every bend in the road during this drive.
A river view, a mountain view, an animal view.........always something extraordinary to see.
A magical place.
As we rounded one more bend we saw him on the side of the road.
LC slowed the truck and then slowly eased over to the shoulder because this lone bison was slowly lumbering across the road.
Pictures taken through the windshield of the truck...............
As we watched him - in awe as we always were - LC and I instinctively talked quietly and excitedly.
I don't know how good the hearing of a buffalo is, but whenever we see wild animals in our travels we automatically drop down into a whisper.
Afraid to startle.
Afraid to antagonize.
Afraid that our too-loud conversation will startle animals into bolting for the woods and therefore cut short our sightings.
And so we excitedly whispered......................
Kory reached from the back seat of the truck, placed her two front paws on the console between the front seats and silently stared through the front window, obviously enthralled by this unknown creature.
As we all three continued to watch, I reached up to stroke the face of my dog and reassure her about the "woolly booger"............
The lone bison finally crossed over to our side of the road, and then slowly grazed his way up to the cedar trees.
He was obviously comfortable in this place.
He knew this place.
It had likely been his winter home for many months..............
ADVICE FROM A BUFFALO
Stand your ground
Have a tough hide
Keep moving on
Cherish wide open spaces
Have a strong spirit
Roam wild and free
Let the chips fall where they may............Unknown