Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Unbelievable Quiet And Beauty

A few days ago we took a drive out to Wapiti.
Wapiti is about 18 miles outside of Cody headed towards Yellowstone Park.
It is the same place we have seen deer and antelope in the past.
A place filled with mountains and the Buffalo Bill Dam and open fields and horse farms and cattle farms.
It is gorgeous and expensive to buy both land and a house.
It contains one small convenience store slash gas station slash limited food service store, a number of campgrounds that will be far too crowded during the summer and not much else.
It is close to Yellowstone and location is everything as they say........

When we left Cody the weather was warm, sunny and windy.
On the spur of the moment my Mountain Boy, who I am learning after four years does indeed possess the same lust for exploration that I do, turned off the highway and onto a dirt road that (according to the sign) led to Jim's Mountain.
I have no idea who Jim is.
But I guess he must be somebody because they named a mountain after him.........

The side road was an unimproved dirt road that immediately began to climb into the mountains.
The road was steep with sometimes alarmingly steep drop-offs, but LC's now-tried-and-tested 4 wheel drive held its own.
After climbing just a little the weather quickly began to deteriorate.
We were seriously climbing and I asked LC to stop frequently so that I could take pictures of the panoramic views.........
This is one of many homes that were located sporadically throughout the mountain ranges around us.
Since we were 18 miles from the nearest town, and since these residents were at such steep elevation in basically the middle of nowhere I can only imagine that the people who live in this terrain must be very hardy people who greatly enjoy their privacy............
The Shoshone River weaving its way through the landscape........
A zoomed in shot of Buffalo Bill Reservoir........
I don't really know how high up we were at this point.
The temperature was at least 10 degrees cooler here, the wind was much stronger than it had been down at the 5000 foot level we were at when we veered off the highway, and even though we had left sunshine and warmth not long before, it was now beginning to rain.
Views from the fence line of yet one more mountain home..........
As we continued to climb still higher I finally asked LC to pull the truck over so that I could take some pictures of not homes or reservoirs or fences but just.......the mountains.
I stood fighting the wind and looking around me, and for the first time since arriving in Cody Wyoming about 3 1/2 weeks ago really understood exactly what the terrain around me was all about.
I knew we now lived in a bowl. 
I knew that there were mountains in every direction. 
I knew that there were places close to the city that were "Afghan-Pakistani Border Region" desolate, and still other places close to the city that were accessible and beautiful alpine environments.
But standing on the side of a dirt road in rain and drizzle far up on "Jim's Mountain" I finally could see what this place really looked like.
A wide, far reaching flat area completely encircled by layer upon layer upon layer of rugged peaks.
I could see it all, and I stood in the rain looking and feeling and suddenly understanding where I was standing.
One of those proverbial light-bulb moments of realization.
The pictures do not even begin to do it justice.
I was in awe.  I was inspired..........
A view of the highway on the way back down the mountain.
Taking our time, slowly negotiating each of the multiple switchbacks..........
More pictures taken on the way up...........
We have no idea how much longer the road continued, but when we reached a point where snow was covering part of the road we decided to turn around.
The drop offs were unsettling, there were no shoulders on the roads, the sides were beginning to crumble.
Exhilarating, disconcerting, all at the same time.........
A sign at the end of a side road that we came across not long before we turned around.
I have to believe that the land-owners here must make infrequent trips to town and that they use snow mobiles and/or 4 wheelers more than trucks out this way during the winter.
I could be wrong, but living in that terrain is not for the weak of heart.........
Finally back down off the mountain I took this picture while still on the dirt road, not too far before returning to the highway and continuing on........
A few miles from our Jim-Mountain-Adventure we looked to our right and were very surprised to see this a large herd of elk resting and grazing in a wide open field.
Something is not right with predators in this region, and I am still getting a grip on the whole story.
I have not met one person in this area who likes the wolves that have become the center of a controversy that reaches to all surrounding states.
There are battles between those who want to have controlled hunts of, and those who want to protect at all costs, both the grizzly bear and wolf populations.
Locals are angry at legislators and national park officials because these animals are apparently becoming so abundant they are becoming a threat to people and livestock.
People here are angry but it is still a developing story.
One theory about the increasing numbers of deer and elk roaming the fields instead of the mountains is that they move lower not only to graze but to also move away from larger and larger numbers of grizzlies and wolves.
Regardless, this sighting the other day was a gift.
We see many many herds of black tail deer in town and out of town, and I have seen one large herd of elk with binoculars while they were feeding about 1000 yards up on a mountain side not long after we arrived in Cody.
But THIS.  This was completely unexpected and completely wonderful...........
The grassy field and mountains to the right of the herd.........
Continuing just another couple of miles we pulled into a small dirt and gravel parking lot and I took this picture of the Shonshone, a river that weaves in and out of canyons and fields throughout this region..........
As we backed the truck up to turn around and head back to the highway we were surprised and delighted to see this small herd of deer grazing..........
And more pictures taken as we were still working out way back to the main road..........
Taken from the highway just on the other side of Wapiti.
During the rutting season I will be walking and looking for a set to keep.
Antlers of all kinds are available to purchase in stores throughout Cody.
But when the time is right I will be walking and looking and hoping to find my own set - found on the ground during some walk out in the woods.........
Not long after we rented the house that we (finally) moved into a couple of days ago we saw an ad in the paper for a cabin to rent.
Out in Wapiti.  Early 1900's cabin.  Very reasonable rent.
We drove out to the house of the woman who owned the cabin on a VERY rough side road, drove far into a canyon, looked down at the cabin (which obviously still had tenants living there) and then continued on to the house of the woman who owns the property (which was only about 500 yards from the cabin).
We did not get to see the cabin.  Someone was vacating at the end of the month, but LC and I had already  reluctantly dismissed the idea.
The cabin was beautifully rustic and isolated and just too small, but we had a wonderful time meeting and talking with the colorful and very sweet woman who owned the property.  
A few weeks later we noticed that the cabin was still in the paper, and since we were in Wapiti anyway decided on the spur of the moment to drop by and see if we could see inside.
It was Wapiti for goodness sakes.  Half way between Cody and Yellowstone.
In isolated and so very beautiful quiet.
The cabin was actually not as bad inside as we thought that it might be.  Very rustic.  Bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside, and layed out pretty well.
But the cabin was just a little too rugged for comfort.  Maybe if I were single but life is different for two people and a dog.
So we decided to stick with the house we had found just a few miles from town.
While driving on her property though we saw two herds of deer.
This was the first.........
A view from the cabin.
If you click on the picture below you can see the herd walking and grazing along the ridge line.
The lady who owned the property and who was very nice is sitting on 100 acres and a house that is wildly too big for her.
But it has million dollar views and I can understand why she stays (even alone) in such outstanding beauty...........
Taken from the corner of the cabin.
Even looking at these pictures now as I write this, I am second guessing.
We have beautiful views where we are now as well.
But Wapiti is gorgeous............
Not long ago I posted a picture of a strange looking asian-inspired building located on a hilltop in Wapiti.
I cannot repost the picture because I am blogging this from the library, but I saw the building again the other day and was curious enough about this random, out-of-place structure found mysteriously in the midst of farm country.
From what a few locals have told me the man who built this was another eccentric.  Or was that eclectic?
Regardless, the story goes that he drank a fair amount and one day fell to his death from the top floor of the building while he was doing some more work on it.  
Here is the official website to the Smith Mansion.  Next time we are out that way I will take some more pictures......... 

One last picture taken from outside a small, old and beautifully rustic cabin in the middle of unbelievable quiet and beauty........

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