Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Trip To The Moon

LC, his brother and I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon exploring the moon.
Actually we spent a good part of the afternoon driving on BLM land not far from the house, in an area that is home to the local wild mustangs.  An area that is known as McCullough Peaks.
Much of the thousands of acres of sand and sage on BLM land is flat.
Some of it has wonderful buttes and hills and valleys, with all of it surrounded by the mountains that make up part of the Big Horn Basin.
But there is one section of land that is truly amazing and that rises a couple of thousand feet above the desert below and that is where we explored yesterday.
LC and I drove this way only once before, when we were here in Cody last year.
With Gary here for either a short while or a long while (we are not certain at this point) we wanted to share this special place with him.
After packing a lunch we headed in that direction, all the while knowing that during most trips we are seeking out water and trees and alpine environment, but on this day we were reaching for the moon...............

After turning off the Greybull Highway and traveling gravel road on flat BLM land for a couple of miles, this road began to climb. 
The dirt road got steeper and then steeper still, climbing unrelentlessly into the mountains and peaks named McCullough.
BLM land is dry.  It is very dry and on this day (unlike our adventure last June) this trip was completely brown, without any visible source of water, and partially obscured by smoke from the wild fires that have torched the west this summer.................
After a whole lot of steep climbing, after being unsettlingly close to the edge of a steep drop-off the entire time, and after navigating a sharp and treacherous bend in the road (with more steep drop-offs) LC finally found a flat section of road and pulled the truck over.  
We all three explorers climbed out of the truck and walked over to the edge of the cliff to look out over the terrain that by this time was far below us....................
What we saw was beautiful.
There was a starkness to the view that was in sharp contrast to the green and the water and the pine-tree-filled mountains that we so often seek out when we wander.
I thought back to my old jokes about Cody in the winter, when we first arrived last March and when I said that the area looked like both a moonscape and the Afghan-Pakistani border region.
It looked exactly like both of those things, and yet where we were standing was only 15 miles or so from the house and over time I have learned to appreciate its beauty.
Even with the smoke partially obscuring the mountains located in the far distance, and even with all the traveling I have done all over the world, this is a view that I have never ever seen before.
It really is almost unearthly.
If you click on a picture they will all open up into a slide show of larger pictures...................
Greatly preferring to be behind the camera as opposed to being in front of the camera..............
I hadn't seen something like this since last summer.
Rocks faces covered with multi-colored fungi.
This one was colored orange, and blended with the the orange and brown shades of the terrain.
Some were blue, some were grey - they all looked as though small children had drawn random pictures with crayons on the rocks high in the hills...................
My Mountain Boy playing King Of The Castle............
Microwave towers on the highest peak of McCullough Peaks.................
The peaks were absolutely silent.
There was no noise what-so-ever.  No planes.  No people.  No birds or animals.  No wind.  Just complete silence, and for the hundredth time that day I realized that it was easy to find quiet in Wyoming.
My friend M&M back in Tennessee worried about me moving back to Wyoming.
She worried that the starkness and emptiness of the land would be too close a reflection of the starkness and emptiness I felt, and that the move would not be good for me.
Being in Wyoming does not make things worse.  Things are already as bad as they can get. But the silence and the starkness and the aloness are all welcome.
21 weeks today.................

After spending a long time at this same place, and after taking many pictures of the 360 views around me, I again focused on the "children's crayon drawings" in the rocks.
We were standing in an area filled with orange colored rocks but this one drew me in.
I stood looking at it for a moment, snapped this picture, and stood looking at it again.
The longer I looked at it the more it transformed into a living object in front of me.
I began to see an animal.  Began to see features - a mouth, a head, eyes, an expression - a lizard?
Seeing the inanimate rock turn into a lizard instantly reminded me of all the times my sleep-deprived brain had seen faces in inanimate objects during adventure races.
Always in the middle of the night, always when I had been moving for far too long without sleep.
Horses curled up sleeping on a rock in the middle of a river, rows of rocks along the riverbed that turned into rows of skulls, a giant and dead Mr Peanut laying along the side of the river, a log on a trail that I just KNEW was going to start talking like Daffy Duck at any moment, a giant rock face on the side of a trail that I just knew was going to start talking to me at any moment in some deep Harry Potter movie voice.
One of my team-mates once saw the face of Elvis Presley in every single leaf that lay on the ground on the trail.  It was in the fall and that was a lot of Elvis faces..................
Growing in a crack in the rocks...............
Found laying partially under a rock overhang.
It is almost impossible to travel on BLM land without finding the remnants of a dead animal............
After so much climbing we still has more to do before reaching the long and flat plateau that I knew from our trip last year was just up ahead.....................
The entire trip across McCullough Peaks is about 25 miles.
It begins with a couple of miles of flat land after first turning off the highway.
From there it is a long, steep and slow climb up to the peaks.
Once it finally levels off you travel the completely flat plateau for a few miles before gradually and consistently dropping back down to the 5100 feet that is Cody elevation.
Up on the plateau you can look down over small communities and the town of Powell is visible off in the distance.
On a clear day you can also see the Big Horn Mountains, the Absaroka Mountains, Cedar/Rattlesnake/Carter/Heart Mountains and so many others that I do not know the names of..................
Two brothers looking down over the world......................
The picture below was taken at sunset the night before the rest of these pictures.
LC, Gary and I had driven out to BLM land late in the day to try and find the wild horses.
It was too late in the day as it turned out, because we could not find the horses before the sun had almost dropped below the horizon.
The days are two hours shorter now than they were when we first arrived back to Wyoming, and the other night we somehow lost sight of that fact.
The evening got away from us and by the time we had unsuccessfully searched for the horses, realized that we were quickly losing daylight, and found our way back to the highway it was fully dark.
We resolved at that time, that we would come back the next day to find the horses.
After spending a few hours on McCullough Peaks and then dropping back down off the mountains, we did indeed go searching for horses again....................

So it always is: when you escape to a desert the silence shouts in your ear..........Graham Greene

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