Monday, October 29, 2012

Long Walk On BLM - Part 1

As I was making coffee this morning I looked out of the kitchen window as I always do, curious to see what the temperature was outside.
It has been very cold recently, so I was surprised to see the temperature gauge already reading 52 degrees.
Looking at the sky as I poured the water into the coffee maker I realized that it was going to be a lovely day.
It was a day to finally go for a long walk on BLM land - up into the hills - and I knew a four-legged fur ball who I was certain would want to go with me.
Jamie watched me closely as I read emails and drank coffee, and I wondered for the millionth time how she knew.
Walk-drive-go are her favorite things (next to sleeping and mooching people-food from LC while he eats) and  I had not said any of those three magical words to her, but somehow she knew.
She always knows.
After drinking some more coffee with LC after he woke up, I got geared up and ready to set out.
Jamie knew she was going on an adventure, and she watched me closely with those bright, hopeful, puppy eyes as I wandered around the house getting dressed.  She was eager to be out, eager to walk, eager to explore.
With 357 on hip and two extra speed loaders (which I thought was overkill but it made LC feel better that I was carrying them) I pulled on a fleece sweater, grabbed a water bowl for James and a couple of bottles of water, and we headed out.
I have not been for a long walk in almost seven months.  It is the longest I have not worked out since I was 12 years old when I began judo training.
And then judo and karate training.
Which many years later morphed into a love of long distance running and weight lifting and swimming.
Which eventually morphed into years training for adventure races.
After all this time I was not entirely certain how far we would get.  I was out of shape.  My aging dog was beginning to show the earliest signs of hip problems.
A few days ago LC, Jamie and I took a drive up on BLM land.
We did not get far before I asked my Mountain Boy to stop the truck for a moment so that I could take a picture of the snow on Carter Mountain.
I snapped the little camera button and.........nothing.
And that is when I realized that my camera battery was still sitting in the charger that was still plugged into the wall in the kitchen.  Damn!
We ended up exploring all new territory that day - driving a long distance and then four wheeling on rutted out and very steep hills until we reached the top of the highest one we could find.
Me all the while sorry that I could not take pictures of the beautiful place that was in front of us.
I doubted that Jamie and I would get that far on this day.  In truth if I had wanted to go that far I would not have taken Jamie because she really is beginning to slowly but surely show signs of getting older.  It would be a really long walk back with a sore and tired pup.
No matter.  We would get as far as we got.  And that would be good enough.
Jamie and I turning off the gravel road that we live on, and beginning our hike on BLM land...............
And a look back towards our home, the small community where we live only four miles outside of town, and Heart Mountain in the background................
By the time we reached this third trail we began to climb.
The trail was wide open, dusty, dry, hard packed and although it was late in the year it was again very warm, and so I was again watchful for rattlesnakes.
This trail climbed gradually but consistently and it eventually led to a major trail intersection.
It felt very good to be walking.  To be walking with my dog.  To be walking away from civilization and up into the hills that I loved so much when we were here last year..............
My sweet girl and I stopped for a few minutes at this trail intersection.
I had walked out of the house wearing lined nylon pants, a long sleeved t-shirt and a grey fleece sweater.
Within five minutes of beginning our slow and gradual walk uphill I knew that I was wearing too many clothes.
It was warm.  I was warm.  My puppy was warm.
I quickly pulled off my fleece and threw it into my pack, and then pulled out Jamie's water bowl. 
She watched me intently, knowing exactly what I was doing.
After pouring water for her I put the bowl down on the ground, kissed my sweet dog on the top of her furry head and we both drank.
Standing at the intersection while Jamie drank, I looked around me.
The trail we had been on continued straight, and headed up into the hills that I had walked many times in the past.
It quickly comes to a box canyon where a gun range has been set up, and if you walk up one of the hills beyond the canyon you eventually reach what you think is the top of the hill.
Only it's not.  There's another hill beyond that and then one more before you finally reach the very top and can finally look out over the flat and seemingly endless Oregon Basin.
I considered heading straight and quickly discounted it.
I looked down the rutted out dirt road to my left, and knew that it ends at another gravel road that leads away from BLM.
Or you can turn onto trails before the gravel road that either lead back towards the house or up into the hills near the BLM Killing Fields I found last year.
Nope.  Been there and done both many times.
We turned right and continued to move further away from home.
Jamie walked Point, as she always does, and I smiled as I watched my dog greatly enjoying the walk......................
Trail to the left................
One last look back the way we had just come............
The trail we picked up...............
Carter Mountain 30 or so miles away from us...............
The trail we were on was fairly flat and I enjoyed the brief reprieve from climbing.
I had decided where we were headed.
There would be a lot of steep climbing coming up in our future............
A zoomed in picture of one section of Carter Mountain.
Heart Mountain dominates the terrain in the north, but Carter Mountain owns the south.
The base of the mountain is located at the very end of the highway that takes you through the gorgeous Southfork - aptly named because it follows the south fork of the Shoshone River.
This mountain range is beautiful, rugged, sometimes foreboding, always covered with deer and big horn sheep and black bear and grizzly bear.
I have heard that there is a trail through the mountains that continues all the way to Jackson Hole..............
By the time we reached this point Jamie and I had been walking for about 90 minutes and we were very warm.
With the exception of two short sections of flat ground, my dog and I had been climbing steadily since we began our walk.
I knew from exploring in the past that the trail to the left close to the power lines led to a trail that eventually dropped down into Oregon Basin.
After another brief moment of indecision, I decided that we would pick up the trail on the right.
I had never been to the top of it before, and today seemed like a good day to climb to the top of a new hill.
First one more drink for both dog and woman.................
Starting to climb..................
I looked at these pictures after I had downloaded them and fully realized for the first time just how quickly everything has turned brown again.
In truth there was not a lot of green on BLM land this summer.
This summer was very hot and very dry, even by typical hot and dry Cody standards.
There are times when I miss water.  The constant water of Alaska and the easily accessible water of Tennessee.
Part way up the hill that we were climbing I pulled off the trail and stood looking out over the endless solitary acres that make up this one section of BLM land.
I could see Heart, Rattlesnake, Cedar, Carter Mountains, as well as portions of many other mountain ranges that surrounded me.
I could see the 1300 acres of scorched earth that burned too close to the house not long ago, and that was started by lightning.
There were no animals or birds, and certainly and wonderfully no people.
Me - and my dog - had the world to ourselves  At least for a while.  And that was good............
Still climbing.....................

People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.............Jim Butcher

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Horse Country

I never really liked western movies very much, but when I begrudgingly watched them in black and white as I was growing up, I found myself focused more on the horses and the rugged terrain than on the "Cowboys and Indians".
One of the first things that struck me about the area surrounding Cody when we first found our way here last March, was that it looked just like the terrain I had seen in those old cowboy movies that I had only half-watched as a kid.
Of course many western movies were actually filmed in such places as Arizona and New Mexico and California - but at the end of the day they all looked just like the terrain around me.
Now when I (still begrudgingly) (still half-watch) western movies I see the terrain around me mirrored perfectly on the screen.
I see Wyoming.
And it is easy to wander through the hills on BLM land and the mountains surrounding Cody, and imagine the cowboys and wagon trains and cattle rustlers and mountain men of old.
Wyoming - and Cody - is cowboy country.  Horse country.
Many hard working ranches and many hard work ranchers.
Many full time and many seasonal ranch hands.
And horses everywhere.
It is not surprising that there are so many horses in Cody Wyoming.
What is surprising to me is just how many people have horses who never ride them.
They are beautiful, curious, friendly animals but horses (to me) always seem like expensive choices for pets.
Our elderly neighbor lady bought 7 tons of hay at $135 a ton a couple of months ago (I know because LC and I stacked it in the barn for her).  
The irrigation canal is now shut down.  We have had temperatures around 10 degrees overnight for the past few nights (with day time temperatures not reaching freezing).  Although temperatures will rebound again over the next few days, the growing season is now done for the year.
Recently I saw a flier advertising hay for $300 a ton.
Now curious, I will follow hay prices over the winter, just to see how high they will go.
Between feed and hay and shoeing and shots and fencing and all of the other associated costs of horse ownership, my medium sized dog Jamie seems like a bargain in comparison.
Still..............I get to enjoy horses without the high price, since they are literally all around me.
The pictures immediately above and below are of Dixie, the horse owned by our neighbor.....................
I took these pictures a couple of months ago.
They are of the horses that reside two homes down from us to the right.
I was walking on property behind the house.  The land is flat where our home is, and then drops off steeply, down into a gully behind the house.  The property in this section contains water and is filled with greenery - grass, weeds, wild flowers.
As I was wandering around the property looking for abandoned horse shoes late in the day, I was also taking pictures of the sunset overlooking the mountains.
I looked to my right and realized that these horses were watching me closely, curious about me.
They don't know me so were wary, wondering who I was and what I was doing.
The evening was beautiful and so were they, and I greatly enjoyed the sight of them.............
After wandering for a long time, and after taking pictures of the horses, the sunset and the sunflowers, I sat on logs behind the horse barn for a long time simply looking out over the valley below me and the mountains around me.
LC found me sitting on the logs and walked over to sit with me, and together we sat for a long time enjoying the quiet summer evening.
I had just stashed my camera back into a side pocket of the shorts I was wearing when I looked to my left and saw this horse standing on the side of a hill at yet one more neighbors home.
I snapped this picture quickly hoping that this lone horse, standing on a hill side with part of Carter Mountain in the background would turn out OK.
It did.....................
A week or so after we first moved to Cody last year LC and I were downtown.
I was inside Wendy's restaurant, standing in line waiting to buy a Frosty and LC was waiting outside for me.
As he leaned against a post outside an old woman approached him.
She walked slowly and walked with a cane and she smiled at him and said hello.
Soon they were talking.
She asked him where he was from and LC replied "eastern Tennessee, up against the Tennessee-North Carolina border".
She smiled when he told her that and exclaimed "Why, you're a mountain man then!!"
He smiled back and replied "Yes ma'am, I reckon I am".
By the time I walked outside with my Frosty they were both standing together deep in conversation, and this friendly and lovely old woman was talking about her husband who had died years ago.
He was a ranch hand.  Had married her when she was a girl and dragged her off to first Montana and then back to Wyoming, and she told endless stories of all the things he had done and could do.
"That wormy little man could do anything".  And as she said that it was obvious that she had loved him.
She had had lunch with a friend on the day we met her, and was now slowly making her way home.
By the time she said goodbye and continued on her journey LC and I looked at each other and smiled.
We were both still trying to regroup after our experience in Juneau, were no longer used to unassuming and friendly and smiling people approaching us without agenda, and loved the interaction we had just had.
We still talk about that old woman fondly and smile when we think about her...................

Two curious horses who live at the top of the hill about 1/4 mile away from us, and who curiously watched me and Jamie as we walked by them this summer...................
Blackie was one of the horses that belonged to the owner of the property that we rent.
I don't remember why but he was brought back from summer pasture for a short period of time not long after we moved back to Wyoming.
A few weeks later he was gone again, and he has now been sold.
LC had spent a lot of time with this beautiful animal (who had once been one of the wild mustangs) and developed a real rapport with him before we went back to Tennessee.
When we came back, Blackie remembered LC and they picked up exactly where they had left off.
He was a beautiful and friendly horse....................
Dixie with a mouth full of..........I have no idea what.
Some kind of weed with purple flowers.
Jamie and I picked many hand fulls of these same weeds this past summer and fed them to Dixie............
On yet one more walk with Jamie close to the house this past summer, we stopped for a few minutes so that I could photograph these horses.
They graze in a large pasture at the bottom of our hill, and in the proverbial shadow of Heart Mountain....................
We were in the very small community of Frannie one weekend day this past summer, exploring and yard sailing our way through the countryside.
Following yard sale signs we wandered off the main highway and found our way to straight-up farm country.
One of those signs that we were blindly following took us to a tack shop in the middle of nowhere, and as LC explored the tack shop I walked to the back of the property and found this very beautiful horse.
She was absolutely gorgeous and I stood admiring her while she ate......................
When I finally pulled my eyes away from the beautiful leopard-spot horse I looked to my left and saw this little guy sitting quietly in the corner.
My son said it.  All baby mammals are cute (he was referring to human babies at the time, but the principle holds true for all mammals).  And this baby mammal WAS very cute.
As I quietly admired him and watched him sleep, he suddenly woke with a start.
When he saw me he immediately stood up, gave me a "who the hell are you?" stare, and quickly walked over to the security of his mother..................
My neighbor can no longer ride horses and so one day this summer she walked Dixie and I walked Jamie, and together we walked down to the far end of road, and to a home that ends right at BLM land.
The property owner has many horses and I took this photograph of them late in the day and while they ate.
The sky is filled (as it was many times this summer) with smoke coming over Carter Mountain.
The smoke from any one of handfuls of wild fires that affected this region throughout the entire summer.................
While my neighbor and I both visited with the horses, we tied Dixie and Jamie safely out of the way..................
A beautiful jet black horse, photographed in Bridger Montana...............
One of two miniature horses that lives at the opposite end of the road.
When I saw this little guy I pulled the truck over to the side of the road and climbed out, so that I could take a better look at him.
He has bright blue eyes. 
He is one of two miniatures that live at this place and as I watched him (and then saw the other little guy in the adjoining field) I wondered why they were separated.
This little black and white horse coughed a number of times as I watched him (his cough sounded like that of an old man).
I don't know if that has anything to do with separating the two miniatures, but if he had some kind of respiratory condition I wondered if it would affect the larger horse he was with.
I stood wondering what the deal was, but in truth did not wonder too long.
I already had enough questions that had no answers.  I didn't need any more.................
This little donkey's name is........Donkey.
He lives across the road from us and he shares the same pasture as three horses.
He is a part of the small herd but not really a part of it.  Always on the outskirts - accepted but not really belonging.
He is very cute.
This little fur ball is the same donkey that LC and I met up close and personally last year.
We had only been in the house for a short period of time and the weather was still very cold and windy.
Late one night LC was outside and he saw movement out of the corner of his eye close to one of the sheds.
A few minutes later, in the dark and the wind, he caught movement again.
LC unsnapped his holster and cautiously walked towards the shed.
When he got there, there was nothing.
More movement.  This time close to a pine tree near the shed.
As he slowly headed towards the tree LC caught movement again on the opposite side of the shed.
Finally he caught up with whatever was wandering around back there, and it was Donkey.
Apparently he had gotten through the fence, walked across the road, walked up our driveway and had walked to the back of the shed trying to find shelter from the strong and cold winds.
LC petted him, talked to him, and called his name, and then encouraged Donkey to follow him back to the house.
Donkey followed LC like a contented puppy.
When LC came back into the house looking for Jamie's leash and then related the story to me, I walked outside to see him.
LC had the leash tied around his donkey-nose and I stood in my pajamas in the freezing cold why LC tracked down the owners (who came to retrieve their wayward animal).
As with the old woman outside Wendy's restaurant, I always smile when I think about this little guy and that interaction with him last year..................
People have always cared me a bit, you see - they're so complicated. I suppose that's why I prefer horses........From the movie Separate Tables, 1958