Sunday, January 6, 2013

Elk Fork Campground - Part 2

Still searching for a way down to the river, LC and I stopped on trail for a few minutes to look out over the world.
In this silent, mountainous, incredibly beautiful place we stood in the sunshine and the freezing cold, greatly enjoying each other and this place.
We looked at each other and smiled.
Two people who spent a lifetime looking for each other.
My Mountain Boy is used to me, after all this time, telling him to stop for a minute so that I can take a picture of him.
He is more comfortable in front of a camera than I am.
He was carrying a 44, a 454 and a ka-bar.
I was carrying a 357, a 454, and a ka-bar that has been permanently attached to my pack since the time I walked often in Alaska..................
It was around this time in the walk that I looked closely at my sweet old pup and wondered for the first time how she was doing. 
Jamie loves loves loves to walk trails with us.
She walked with me (and with both of us) whenever and wherever we traveled in Alaska, and sometimes that was many miles.
I hadn't even thought about her hips (which have been bothering her more over the past six months) when we set out on this hike in the snowy mountains, and as we continued on the same trail I watched her, trying to monitor how my dog was holding up.
She was still eagerly playing the role of Point Dog.  Still leading the way as she always has and as she always does.  Still wagging her tail enthusiastically, sniffing the ground enthusiastically, marking every 50 yards enthusiastically.
She was fine.
Having as good a time as her humans were.............
And there it was.
Eventually we found what we had been looking for - a way to bushwhack down to the river so that we could check out animal prinst, cross over the river and then pick up a wide open trail we had been seeing consistently ever since we had left the snow-covered parking lot well over an hour before.
LC veered off trail and led the way, bushwhacking through snow covered sage bushes and knee deep soft snow.
Holding tighter to Jamie's leash I veered off trail right behind LC.
Just as I began the still-steep climb downhill I looked to my left and saw this pure white jet stream screaming across the picture-perfect blue sky.
Impulsively I snapped this picture and then watched as the jet disappeared behind the mountains before continuing on................
My sweet trooper part way down the hill.
She had a look on her face that told me "I dunno about this.........."
It took some cajoling but slowly she and I made our way through the snow.
She didn't like it, was unsure of it, but I stayed close to her and we continued down hill.............
As we found ourselves in a tight snow-filled draw, and as LC crawled under evergreen bushes, and as I threw the leash to LC and then cajoled my dog to crawl under evergreen bushes, and then as I crawled under evergreen bushes all I could think of was "This looked a whole lot easier from the top of the ridge".
Actually I was thinking "We're way too old for this shit".
Maybe not.
But in truth I was enjoying the whole adventure very much.
Finally we made it through the draw.
Only to find ourselves standing on a ledge still a good 50 feet above the river.
We weren't done yet...............
Walking on a very narrow and slippery ledge, and looking for a way down.
This was, hands down, the most beautiful place I had seen in Wyoming.
And I've seen a lot of beautiful places in Wyoming.
So beautiful it could make you cry.............
Eventually we found our way down.
After one last slippery, muddy, grabbing-for-hand-holds trek my Mountain Boy, my dog, and I were standing on Terra Firma again.
We were standing along the side of a small stream that fed directly into the mostly frozen river..............
LC has said it to me a few times over the past couple of years, and standing on the side of a river, with mountains 360 degrees around me, in beauty than could not possibly be captured with my camera, I knew that he was right.
Alaska's got nothing on this place.............
For a long while we three wanderers explored along what we thought was the shoreline of the river, and we kept ourselves amused by both looking at prints in the snow, and by watching for sections where the ice had given way and we could see and hear running water.
As I grabbed for a walking stick to help with balance on the uneven surface beneath me, it suddenly slid out from my grip.
Bending down to pick it up, and with the ground covered in snow, I began to wonder exactly where the shoreline ended and the river began.
A little investigating and it quickly became obvious that we were walking on snow-covered ice.
We were walking on the river.
That was no good.  Temperatures rise and fall too much in this region to depend on the integrity of the ice.  Besides - we could hear running water and see portions where the ice had already given way.
With that new realization LC and I started to more closely watch our footsteps and more closely look for a way to the other side of the river.
Long story short - we tried but failed to keep our feet dry and Jamie VERY begrudgingly crossed over the river in belly high cold and moving water.
Feet were cold and wet but not freezing and puppy was happy again (once she was back on firm ground), we bushwhacked a short distance through the woods and surprisingly found ourselves in a wide open field...............
Throughout this field there were prints everywhere you looked.
Elk.  Deer.  Big horn sheep.  Buffalo.  Wolf.  Rabbit.
For a few minutes my dog was in a print-sniffing-snow-digging-frenzy, and I smiled as I watched her enthusiastically dash from one clump of grass to the next, obviously on the scent of something.
Or many somethings.............
We found footprints and (large) bowel movements that told us a buffalo had passed this way.
Later we found where he had bedded down just off a trail and underneath a clump of low evergreens............
As all three of us climbed up the muddy and slippery hill that led to the wide open trail we knew was close, I looked down at my feet for the first time in a long time and was disappointed to realize that I had lost one of my Yak Trax.
There was no point in going back to look for it.  It could have been buried in the snow in the field.  Or along side the river.  Or in the river.  Or on the snowy bank we had spent so much energy bushwhacking down.
Ridiculously my first thought was "dammit - now I'll have to hop back".
I guess I will just have to keep the remaining Yak for the time when I lose another one from my other set, on some trail some place.
Then I'll have a pair again.
The beautiful, wide open, rolling hilled, mountain surrounded, sun kissed, snow filled, pine tree edged trail...........
It seemed like much longer, but we had only been in this place for 2 hours.
During that time we had seen nothing but an incredibly beautiful and wonderful place, that is only 30 minutes from Cody.
We had less than a mile to go..............

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