Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lower Southfork

I downloaded these pictures well over a month ago and somehow (in the flurry of draft blog posts I was working on at the time) these pictures got lost in the shuffle.
As I was doing some blogger housekeeping last night I found these pictures again.
LC, James and I had spent the morning going to yard sales in the Southfork and as we drove through quiet, rural and picturesque neighborhoods in search of other people's junk I snapped some of these pictures.
You would never guess from these pictures but there are actually homes (albeit very expensive homes) dotting the landscape in this region, but it is so sparsely populated that it is very easy to look beyond them.
The picture above is an historical landmark.  It reaches 700 feet above the ground (which in real terms because of the elevation of Cody means that it is about 5800 feet above sea level).  It is known as Castle Rock, was named by famous mountain man Jim Bridger in the early 1800's, and is visible for many miles as you travel through this section of the country.
The region is known as the Southfork because it follows the south fork of the Shoshone River.
To confuse the issue just a little more there is the drive along the main two lane highway that takes you through the Southfork, but also a two lane secondary road that drops down into a bowl known as the Lower Southfork.
On this particular day we traveled the Lower Southfork...................
The back side of Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
The pictures I took of the reservoir and posted a few days ago were taken almost directly across the water from this place................
We were still less than 10 miles from Cody when I snapped these pictures.
As with much of the area, in the summer this place is a contrast in colors - irrigated pastures that are green with grass and hay and crops, surrounded by sandy and dusty and beige BLM land.
The mountains were very pretty but not jaw dropping, and I knew from experience and from our travels through the region that the further south we traveled down the Southfork the more rugged and beautiful the mountains would become.
We did not travel a long way on this particular drive but it was still a good day...................
With yard saling forgotten, LC and I pulled off the highway on the spur of the moment, suddenly curious to see what was down one particular road.
There are many sides roads that we have not taken to this point, and I have no idea why we took this particular one, but it seemed like a good idea.  As we slowed down and then dropped down into a small valley I was suddenly curious to know "what was down there".
Unexpectedly we found a bridge that spanned the Shoshone River.
I climbed out of the truck so that I could take pictures of the bridge and the water, really more interested in being alone for a few minutes than in snapping one more picture of the Shoshone.
As I stood on a dirt driveway in the middle of complete quiet I watched LC slowly drive the truck across the bridge, park the truck alongside the road, climb out of the truck and walk around to the passenger side so that he could unload our sweet dog.
I smiled to myself because I knew that Jamie would be frantically wagging her tail, and panting and dancing around in the back seat in excited anticipation of being released from automobile bondage.
She would have her chance to walk and mark and explore, and that was one of the very best things there is in her simple dog-world.
I slowly walked towards the bridge, loving my guy and my dog but in no big hurry to meet up with them again just yet ...................
When I first arrived in Cody last March I hated the brown and the beige.
After the lushness and greenness of Juneau Alaska, the beige moonscape that was Cody at that time of year was ugly and barren to me.
I quickly learned to love it last year though.  I explored BLM land extensively in the truck, on foot, on mountain bike, and found a unique world of animals and plant life and colored rock and hills and valleys and mountains. 
When I first arrived it just looked dead and flat and uninteresting to me.
Now I know better.
There are stories everywhere on BLM land. 
Wild horses.  Killing fields.  Rattlesnakes.  Jack rabbits.  Coyotes and antelope and cougars.  Irrigation canals.  Endless people-less views.  Sunsets.  Sturdy sage.  Cactuses.  Fragile looking wild flowers.  Domestic horses and domestic cattle.  Horse back riders.  Hunters.  Snow.  Sliding rock.  Cattle gates.  Oil rigs.  Colored rocks and wind sculpted rocks.  Gun ranges.  Barbed wire fences.  Mountain bikers.  More.......................
Eventually we three travelrs climbed back into the truck and drove further up the dusty dirt road, only to come to this sign.
The road continued across a cattle guard, and the sign on the fence told us that the remainder of the road was a private drive.
It was time to turn back................
Looking over to my right I was surprised to see Castle Rock again.
It dominates the landscape in the area much as Heart Mountain dominates in and around Cody...............
Looking back at the green valley we had just driven through.  
I snapped these pictures quickly before we turned the truck around and headed back in the direction we had just traveled..................  
There is a 10-15 mile stretch of the Southfork close to Cody that is irrigated farmland and pastureland.  Expensive homes owned by farmers and ranchers and well..........others who are just simply financially well off people.
There is then a long stretch of isolated BLM land and Shoshone National Forest lands.
Eventually there is one more very long stretch of huge ranches and farms that are owned by the uber rich.  The kind of rich who pay full time caretakers to live on the property and watch over their multi-million dollar properties.  The kind who visit their properties for only a few weeks each year.
On this particular day we traveled to a place right in the center of isolated and barren and so-very-beautiful BLM land.
By this point the mountains were huge and rugged.
The world felt huge and rugged, and LC and I were both pleased to be in the very center of it.................
My Mountain Boy had stopped at a gravel pull-off so that I could snap a few more pictures before we began our journey back to Cody.
I stood beside the truck looking out over the mountains and then began wandering around the truck snapping pictures rapid-fire.
As I got to the front of the truck I look further down the road and did a double take.
There was a rain storm heading straight down the highway and coming towards us.
It wasn't a tornado heading our way.  It was simply a rain storm.  Possibly even a rain shower.  Most likely (based on our experience with them here in Wyoming) it would blow directly over us and then beyond us very quickly, but I watched it for a few moments anyway.
I can never seem to get used to seeing such narrow bands of rain.  I could see both sides of the band, could see dry conditions on either side of the band, could watch it as it slowly but definitely traveled in our direction.  It was strange to watch it traveling down the highway and for a few moments I was mesmerized by it.
After snapping a couple of quick pictures I headed back towards the truck, thinking that this was as good a time as any to head for home................
Animal bones seen laying on the ground close to the highway where we stopped.
A very very common sight on BLM land..............
Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain..............Author Unknown

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