Monday, January 28, 2013

Southfork Trip - Part 2

I love the above picture for the same reason that I loved the pasture/fence/mountain picture in the last blog post.
The ubiquitous relationship between ruggedness and beauty, the muted tones of grey and green and beige, the contrast of light and dark.
The picture was taken in the national forest just beyond the bridge and canyon, that led to the final few miles of our drive yesterday.
The picture below is one of many times we passed by small herds of black tail deer grazing in brown pastures.................
As I was standing in the continuing snow along a fence line I heard an unexpected sound.
It was stunning to hear because up until that moment we had spent a long time adventuring through grey silence. I searched for the source of the noise and quickly found it.
A young calf was running across the field, trying hard to catch up with a long line of cows that were slowly lumbering their way back to the barn.
I smiled as I watched him catch up, and then looked to my left again at the sound of yet one more cow.
Standing by herself half way into the pasture she was obviously upset, and I guessed that it was her young one who had bolted from her side.
She began to run towards the herd and still standing in the falling snow, I watched her until she also caught up with the herd.
A quiet and unexpected and sweet sight.
I photographed the cows as they wandered slowly back towards their barn, and then turned back towards the truck.................
We made it to the end of the road, and parked the truck in the large and now snow-covered parking lot, and I reached into the back of the truck to gather up my pup.
We could climb in and out of the truck 30 times during one trip and Jame would still excitedly be waiting for time number 31................
As LC grabbed for Jamie and answered his cell phone, I began to wander and snap pictures.
This section of the river was rocky, mud filled and bone dry the last time we were at this place, and it was dry again yesterday.
One of these days we might make it up here when the river is full and fast flowing.............
The far end of the Southfork is notorious for grizzly bear sightings.
Ranch hands and ranch owners during the summer always carry bear spray and firearms with them whenever they venture outside (even when they are simply stepping outside their front door) and bear sightings are frequent.
It is winter in Wyoming right now.  Some days have been absolutely freezing.  Some days have been cold and windy.  But surprisingly we have also had many days where temperatures have been in the 40s and even 50s.
As a consequence of such fluctuating temperatures I heard recently about bears waking from their hibernation at Yellowstone.
As I inspected the sign I turned to look back at LC and James.  Predictably my guy was reaching into the truck for his 454.
I smiled at LC as I continued to wander...............
The mountains at the end of the Southfork were quickly becoming covered with snow and we were a long way from civilization (although we were both surprised to learn that we still could get cell reception out there).
It was time to start making our way back the way we had come.
We had passed this small herd of horses on the way out, and on the way home I asked LC to stop briefly so I could take a picture of them.
They were totally engaged in eating.  Beautiful.  Healthy looking.  Made even more beautiful by the snow...............
Somebody quietly watching my every move from the safety of a fence rail................
To the left of the staring cow and the grazing horses was a beautiful pasture.
In the snow and the greyness of the day I didn't notice them at first.
An old wooden windmill to the left of the small pond and a tee pee to the right.
After spending hours looking out over mountains and trees and deer, the sights of these two objects were completely unexpected...............
As LCs cell phone rang again we pulled into a small snow-covered campground.
We had noticed one hardy couple camping in a tent on the way out the Southfork but had not stopped.
As LC pulled into a picnic area I climbed out, happy to be able to take beautiful pictures of this beautiful place.
And happy that I receive almost no phone calls anymore...............
Many hours after we left the house we finally made it home again.
The snow had not made it to Cody yet, but by yesterday evening it was snowing heavily..................

Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished..............Dean Koontz

Southfork Trip - Part 1

The writers block continues.  I am beginning to wonder if it will be a permanent condition.
Of course, I suppose only writers get writers block.  Not hackers on a blog.  But finding words is becoming a chore that takes more energy than I have sometimes............

Even though the weather forecast surprisingly called for rain, my Mountain Boy, my dog and I decided to go for a drive out the Southfork.
The Southfork is an area about 48 miles long.  A winding two lane highway that heads south out of Cody, travels beyond the back side of Buffalo Bill Reservoir, wanders through first small subdivisions and then increasingly large rural properties.
l0 miles from Cody the homes end. 
You find yourself in one more section of the Shoshone National Forest, which doesn't feel like a forest at all because it has no trees.
Then huge and wildly expensive professional ranches that contain millionaire owners, full staffs (some seasonal and some full time), and hired help that makes weekly runs into town for supplies.
Once you pass all of that you again pass through a section of the Shoshone National Forest.
Only this time it contains trees and campgrounds and actually feels like the forests that both LC and I are used to.
48 miles from Cody the road simply dead-ends at the foot of the mountains.
The one and only time we have traveled to the end of the road was when we were in Wyoming last year.
It was in late winter or early spring, and on that day (just as on this day) we simply wanted to drive until we found nobody. 
We hoped to see big horn sheep this year because we had seen them last year and knew that this area was another one of their winter feeding areas.  The other is along the highway heading west towards Yellowstone National Park.
We didn't see sheep yesterday.  Not even one.
But we saw incredible beauty and had the quiet and peaceful trip that we both needed.
Stopping briefly at a pull-off along the way I stood looking out over a sky that was incredibly socked in.
We had left Cody in partially cloudy skies but it was obvious that rain or snow, whatever was heading our way was moving quickly.
I knew from previous trips out this way that there were endless mountains in view from this pull off.
Yesterday some were barely visible.  Some had just completely disappeared.
Lost in the greyness of the day.
Shoshone National Forest land.  No trees.  Plenty of hills.  Home to where "the deer and the antelope play".
Parts of Wyoming look so strange to me, even now and even after we have become accustomed to the terrain.
Sometimes I look out over wide swaths of bare Wyoming land and wonder if this is what Tennessee would look like without all the trees that it has.
I suppose that it would.  The land would look naked and unfinished, just as this always seems to look to me.
When I saw it for the first time I thought that it was the ugliest terrain I had ever seen.
After seeing the land up close on foot and on mountain bike, and after seeing it from a distance while standing on hill tops, I realize now that bad-land Wyoming has an unexpected beauty that grows on you...............
If you click on any of the pictures they will start a slide show of enlarged pictures.
Between the grey day we had yesterday, and the beige world that Wyoming is now, it is difficult to know what you are looking at without enlarging.
The water level is very low, but this is part of the south fork of the Shoshone River.
On the opposite side of the river is a small handful of isolated homes.
I would love to live just this far out of town.  Far too much money............
When I saw this herd of cattle I asked LC to pull the truck over to the side of the road so that I could take pictures of them.
It wasn't so much the cattle that caught my attention.
Rather, it was the fact that both deer and cows were grazing together.
I watched them for a few moments before snapping pictures of them, and smiled because I liked the peacefulness of them feeding so comfortably together.................
Less than five minutes further down what was now an almost completely empty highway I asked to stop again.
We had seen them at the same time, and LC was already looking for a place to pull over.
A large herd of elk..................
Just a week and a half ago we had so much snow in Cody.
Likely there was even more in the Southfork.
Now most of it was gone, with only remnants of our previous weather still visible in the crevices of the mountains behind the elk.
I had never seen an elk before moving to Wyoming.  They are very large, very healthy looking, almost (but not quite) as skittish as antelope and mule deer.  Always watchful.
One raised his head, and even though we were 100 yards or more away from each other and I made no sudden movements, he continued to suspiciously watch me while the remainder of the herd grazed.
The guardian of the herd................
I like this picture.
Something about the wildness of the mountains, the unkempt look of the dormant and leafless tress, the uniformity of the old wooden wall.
Even the grey and beige of the world.
Not a pretty sunshiny winter outdoor picture.
Just something........
The further south we drove the more the air temperature seemed to be dropping.
I had not checked the weather report before leaving the house but had checked it the day before.
It was supposed to rain on this day. The next two days it was supposed to snow.
The air was very heavy and it was getting colder, and as I stood taking this picture and looking deep into what would be beautiful mountains in the sunshine but were now ominous looking mountains in the fog, I wondered exactly what the weather was going to do.
The wondering was only superficial though. Just a random didn't-really-care-about-the-answer, superficial thought.
Ever since living in Juneau Alaska (where overcast days and rain and fog were the norm rather than the occasional) I have found beauty in this kind of weather.
I looked out at grey and ominous, and I thought it looked beautiful...............
If you feel like playing Where's Waldo, try to find the deer in this picture................
By this stage in our drive we were only five miles or so from the end of the road.
There were no more homes.  No other real signs of civilization.
We had seen deer and elk and cattle during our trip out, but were both consciously aware of the fact that the first few flakes of snow were beginning to fall.
We turned and smiled at each other.
My sweet and beautiful old dog, who I have had for 12 years now, had finally settled into the drive after taking a few brief walks and pee breaks along the way.  LC and I were content to be out there.
Even grey.  Even brown.  It was still a very special place to be and we were both glad to be there.
Paved road ended and gravel road began.  As we knew it would..............
Crossing over a narrow bridge that spans what is now an almost dry creek.
Views of the rugged canyon behind it...............
As the snow continued to fall and stick to the ground, we began our second drive through the Shoshone National Forest................
The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.........Terri Guillemets