LC, Jamie and I had spent a long time at the pull-off watching and photographing the big horn sheep nursery that we unexpectedly found (previous blog post).
Almost reluctantly, we pulled back onto the highway and continued our journey west.
We had headed out to Shoshone National Forest for many reasons on this day.
The forest is incredibly beautiful throughout the year.
Filled with greenery and fast moving river and melting snow and mountains and wild flowers in the spring.
Filled with greenery and rugged mountains in the summer.
Filled with a caleidoscope of yellows and oranges and browns in the fall.
And this............endless beauty and quiet in the winter.
As always, I love every season but winter is far and away my favorite time of year. This year even more than others..................
At this time of year this place reminds me of Juneau Alaska.
Specifically Out the Road in Juneau - the locals name for everything on the mainland that is beyond the commercial and high density residential community outside of Juneau, known as Mendenhall Valley.
We lived Out the Road.
In a stereotypically beautiful and rugged cabin in the woods, surrounded by pine trees and isolation.
Once I drove away from the craziness that was my job in downtown Juneau, and once I drove beyond the crazy people that I was compelled to work with and/or associate with in both Juneau and the Valley, I could immediately feel the stress begin to leave me.
Out the Road was a whole 'nother world separate and apart from the non-stop stress and crazy-making and I loved it out there.
The entire area was sparsely populated, and was filled with trails, pine trees, mountains and water.
This twenty or thirty mile section of Shoshone National Forest - at this time of year - reminds me very much of Out the Road.......................
Driving further away from Cody and still towards the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park we stopped briefly at a campground.
Filled with snow and now closed for the season, we have stopped at this bridge often during our travels.
The last time we were here was with LC's brother in September.
Everything was still green and we were still wearing shorts in the unseasonably warm weather.
On this day only two months later it was freezing cold, and now filled with ice and snow...................
Views from the bridge in both directions.................
Driving slowly through the abandoned campground......................
A view of the bridge we had just walked across, taken from the shore by the campground..............
Aside from the one herd of big horn sheep - young females who had all brought their offspring down off the mountains for the winter - we had seen no other sheep.
Disappointed, we realized that it must still be too early in the season for all of the other female and male herds (that we knew from our travels last year would eventually appear) to be moving down.
Even though the weekend of this adventure was incredibly cold, windy and snow-filled, we had had sunny and warm weather before this cold blast (and have had sunny and warm weather since that time).
It was still too early.
For both big horn sheep and for bison.
As we drove further into the forest we began to realize that we would have to wait for a while longer for multiple animal sightings.
And then we saw him.
The first time we saw this buffalo was also in September.
As we blew by him on the way out we saw him close to the shore of the river and wondered "why"?
Why was he down out of the mountains so early in the year?
Why was he alone?
Was he old? Sick? Pushed out of the herd?
We stopped at a pull-off along the highway on the way home, parked the truck, and all three of us (LC, Gary and I) slowly and carefully walked on the grass close to the guard rail, searching for this lone bison.
When we found him he looked young, healthy, uninjured.
We don't know why he was there, so early and alone, but we have seen him each and every time we have driven out to the forest since that first sighting................
Two months later (this time in the snow and cold) there he was again.
On the opposite side of the highway this time, he seemed content to sit alone in a clump of trees, almost unnoticed by us until we were right on top of him.
LC stopped the truck in the middle of the silent highway, back the truck up about 20 feet, and I poked my camera out of the window to snap a couple of quick pictures of this very wonderful and silently content animal..................
By this time in our trip the unendingly blue sky of Cody was replaced by variable sky.
Grey one moment and blue the next. And then grey again.
We had seen big horn sheep. We had seen our buffalo.
As we headed to a pull-off close to the Shoshone River not far from the East Gate I snapped this picture of the snow blowing wildly in the mountains..................
The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?...........JB (John Boynton) Priestly