Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rattlesnake Mountain

 Not long after we arrived in Cody we veered off the highway when we saw a sign pointing us in the direction of a wide open dirt road that lead up to Rattlesnake Mountain.
On that particular day we did not get very far.
It was mid-late March and still winter on the mountain, and only three or four miles up this dirt road we were met with a gate that blocked us from continuing any further.
The other day we turned off the same highway, climbed the same three or four miles and were very pleased to find that the gate was now open, and that we could continue further.
Unlike the last local drive that we took up into the mountains on BLM land off the Greybull Highway earlier in June (which was beautiful but also typical of the dry and sandy and rocky semi-arid environment of all BLM land I have seen in this area) this drive surprisingly took us through a continually changing environment.
We expected only dirt and sage.
But we surprisingly found so much more.
For the first five miles we slowly followed a winding dirt road that gradually made its way further into the mountains.
On both sides of the road was private land filled with grassland, hills, and small ponds.
One of the things that I miss about Juneau is the abundance of tall, beautiful and multi-colored wildflowers that fill the meadows throughout the area.
There are increasing wildflowers here.
But with the elevation of Cody proper, and then the surrounding mountains and the consequent short growing season, flowers come later here.
That, and the addition of the semi-arid environment.  
In many places the soil is just not conducive to wild-flower growth.
So I was very pleased to see hill upon hill upon hill filled with these bright yellow flowers not long after we turned off the highway.
And then they were gone.............
We were only eight miles from town and it felt as though we were a million miles from civilization.
There are endless places to travel, to explore, to enjoy.
I was so exhausted when I left Juneau, and could not stand to be around people at all.
I could not stand the sight of them.  The sound of them.  The faces of them.  The presence of them.  The sheer number of them.
Was it karma that we found this wide open and predominantly isolated place?
When we were in Kalispell debating about where to go next why did I ask LC how far it was to Cody Wyoming?
I could have suggested Cheyenne or Sheridan or Jackson. 
Or another state.  We had talked about other states.
I have no idea quite honestly how we ended up here - exactly here - in this exact place - but over all these years I have definitely learned that you never know where life is going to take you.
So the other day I found myself standing alongside an isolated and winding dirt road contentedly looking out over endless miles of grassland and Heart Mountain............
 This was the first antelope we have seen this year with a baby..........
 Continuing to wander higher into the hills, climbing consistently and stopping consistently to look out over the world..
I have been running regularly.
Not every day as initially planned.  That was a dumb plan anyway.  
We take too many long drives and walks to fit runs in every day.
I bike a couple of days a week.
But I have been running about five days each week and am now out for almost 90 minutes at a time.
Running does not hate me anymore.  And I don't hate running anymore.
I still suck.
Still slow.  Still heavy.  Still lumbering.
There have been tightness issues with my lower right leg recently.  Not injury but tightness that takes about 20 minutes to work itself out.
I've tried slowing my already slow pace down until it works out.  I've tried a combination of walking and running.  I've tried stretching.  All to no avail.
I looked at my shoes today and realized that I have no idea how many miles I have on them.
I am wearing a pair of Montrails that I bought while still in Tennessee.  Heavier than the normal Salomons I wear.  But of the four pairs of Salomons I have I think my newest pair have even more miles on them than the Montrails.
Shoes may be part of the problem.
Regardless, the tightness does wear off after 20 minutes and then I can actually enjoy something that remotely looks and feels like running again.
It is amazing how much you can forget about running when you stop doing something that was almost second nature not so long ago.
Tightness in my jaw and neck and shoulders - poor posture for the first half of my run - pacing - all things I have to continually monitor if I will ever be able to run properly again.
I am beginning to like it.  
Beginning to really look forward to it.
Beginning to remember what it feels like to be a runner again.
I come home hot and red faced and out of breath and it feels good............

 The road at this point was still wide open with grassland on both sides..........
 When we first turned onto the Rattlesnake Mountain road the very first thing we saw was a posted sign along the side of the road that read "Rattlesnake Mountain Road - Use At Own Risk"
LC and I looked at each other as we began our ascent, wondering just how bad this road was going to get.
For the first thirty minutes we had been wandering gradually up user-friendly and welcoming dirt road.
But soon the terrain changed and so did the road.
I had dirt and rocky hills on my side of the road.
LC had only drop-off.
The road was gradually becoming more rocky, and then eventually rutted out, more steep with short inclines, more steep with long inclines.
Use at your own risk still seemed like an overstatement at this point but the flat and friendly road was a thing of the past.............
 My Mountain Boy and I decided that this is our very favorite drive that is close to home.
It was beautiful and becoming more beautiful with each passing mile...........
 Cody off in the distance.............
 Pine trees beginning to make their appearance...........
 I have stood looking out over scenes like this so many times in so many states.
When I first moved to Juneau I started looking up quotes that would describe more eloquently than I ever could, exactly how I feel when I see places like this.
That is how I learned about John Muir - his background, his work, his poetic descriptions of life in nature.
Eventually I stopped feeling that way in Juneau.  
Mired in stress and tired it became very difficult to even remember why I made the long trek to Juneau Alaska in the first place.
Every day I remember a little more to see and feel what is around me.
And every day I find my way back to who and what I am.
I took Jamie to the vet today and she is a happy and healthy older dog.  
We listened to Tool on the way into town........
 We were both loving this drive.
Eventually we surprisingly came to an intersection with three gates.
  The one to the left led to BLM land and the gate was closed and locked.
A sign on the gate told us that we could access this area once we received a permit to cut fire wood.
The gate to the right led to an entrance of the Shoshone National Forest and it was also closed.
The center dirt driveway indicated that it was an access road open to the public.
Since it was the only road we could travel it made our decision easy.............
 Red clay road and pine trees on both sides of us...........
 Remnants of snow even in mid-June..........
 This is where we finally had to stop.
A large wall of snow and ice lay across the incline in the road up ahead of us, and both above and below the snow the road was horribly rutted out.
We had successfully maneuvered through a number of deep ruts, but finally decided against going further.
No need to tear up a truck............
 We ditched the truck for a while and walked up the hill and then through a field filled with many tiny fragile wildflowers.
We walked over to the edge of the field and looked out over the world around us.
Pine trees and ponds and hills and mountains...........
 Before backing all the way up a steep dirt hill, turning around and heading back the way we had come we stopped briefly, while still on foot, at a creek so Jamie could drink.
Runoff from the melted snow made for small rapids in the creek, and LC and I laughed a lot while we watched Jamie snap and bite at the ripples.
After ten minutes of watching her do this I finally pulled her away.
She was having a great time, and we both laughed like fools at our old dog acting like a young dog..........
My always vigilant Mountain Boy watching James and I from the truck.........
 I didn't recognize these rocks at first.
And then I realized that we were looking at the very top of Heart Mountain.........
 More pictures on the trip back..........
 One last picture of my puppy.
Ready to attack the waves.............

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