Yesterday my Mountain Boy, my pup and I drove out towards Yellowstone National Park and to the Shoshone National Forest.
The day was very cold and very windy, but the sky was mostly blue and it was a beautiful winter day in the west.
By the time we had traveled only ten miles from Cody and were standing at a pull-off looking out over Buffalo Bill Reservoir I realized that I was not wearing enough clothes to deal with the weather.
I should have known better.
My experience this winter is that it is always freezing around the reservoir and the wind always always blows strongly and coldly at this time of year.
And so I stood at the pull-off, looking out over the choppy water of the reservoir and the partially snow covered Carter Mountain that was located at the end of the Southfork (but which looked as though it were only a few miles away) and I was cold.
I was freezing cold and stood battling against the wind, looking out over a world that was very beautiful and was acutely aware of the fact that I was in no hurry to turn back towards the truck where my guy and my dog were patiently waiting for me..........
I had seen it as we were driving along the empty highway, and then stood in the wind watching this scene in amazement after LC had pulled the truck to a stop.
The reservoir in the summer is filled with clear blue water and in the past I have stood in this same place watching the fishing boats that dot the surface.
In the winter the reservoir is an interesting mix of surfaces.
Close to the dam and the Visitors Center the water is completely frozen.
The main portion of the reservoir is a choppy mixture of blue water and white waves.
At the far end of the reservoir and into the narrow channel that turns into the Shoshone River there is only dust and dried mud.
It was this dust and dried mud that I was now looking at because the wind was so relentless and so strong that it had created an isolated sand storm.
God it was cold..............
As we continued further down the highway I continued to watch the sandstorm, and on the spur of the moment asked LC to pull off one more time so that I could take pictures of the back side of the storm.
Turning left off the two lane highway he pulled into a large gravel parking area.
By this time Jamie - my spoiled rotten dog - was whining uncontrollably and desperately trying to communicate with her people that she wanted OUT and she wanted out RIGHT NOW.
Holding onto the door of the truck so that it wouldn't blow open I battled the wind one more time, struggling to hang onto the door and onto my insistent dog at the same time.
LC could barely hear me over the wind (that was not just strong but was actually becoming violently strong), as I handed our dog off to him so that I could concentrate of photo taking.
Man and pup wandered away from me and I reached into the side pocket of my pack for my little digital camera, which has steadfastly earned its keep over the past couple of years.................
I watched as LC reluctantly battled the wind and dust and as Jamie happily danced her way towards puppy-freedom..............
We were parked to the far left of the reservoir.............
When I first climbed out of the truck I had planned on taking pictures around me and then crossing over to the opposite side of the road so that I could photograph the now-empty campground and then the partially snow covered mountains that surrounded us.
After only a couple of minutes I abandoned that plan and yelled and then waved at LC, imploring him to come back.
The wind was ridiculously strong, outrageously cold, and this was a place to neither dilly nor dally.
It was freezing cold, and I hoped that as we continued further into the forest, the mountains on both sides of us would protect us from the wind.
If I was wrong we would be cutting our trip short.................
Instead of heading back towards the highway we continued driving on a secondary road that we both knew would circle back to the highway in a few miles.
As we crossed over the bridge near the parking lot I snapped this picture of the very low and partially frozen Shoshone River.
On the other side of the bridge was only the mud and dust that was feeding our wind-fed storm.............
Cody and the world leading up to the national forest is a world of beige almost all year round but especially in the winter.
On sunny days in the winter the world sometimes looks monochromatic, and sometimes it looks like a watery, diluted mix of muted colors.
My frame of reference (that has been built over a lifetime) tells me that this is not a beautiful place.
It is like nothing I have ever experienced before.
But I have found rugged beauty in this world though, and I find it pleasing.
Still, as we continued to drive this side road as it slowly circled back towards the highway, I was eager to get into the Shoshone National Forest.
Rugged, high plains desert has its own unique beauty but it does not - cannot ever - compare to the rivers, pine trees and snow covered peaks of the forest.....................
A small building located at the intersection of Stagecoach Trail (the side road we had been following) and the two lane highway that led to the forest and Yellowstone.
I quickly snapped a picture of the building and then walked to the corner so that I could snap pictures of the closed-for-the-season lodge and other small buildings that were located across the road....................
Once back on the highway we drove only a couple more miles before LC unexpectedly pulled off the highway again.
As usual, we were making slow progress during our drive.
But that didn't matter.
None of the lodges or outfitters along the route were open at this time of year, half of the campgrounds and picnic areas were closed for the season, the East Gate of the park was closed, and there was really only one reason to be on this highway.
That reason was to see and experience - the mountains, the river, whatever animals we were lucky enough to run into.
At this time of year the locals have the luxury of not being goal oriented and the highway belongs to them.
On this day the highway belonged to us.
Beyond the reservoir we did not pass one vehicle the entire time we were out yesterday, and so we pulled off the highway constantly, u-turned constantly, pulled onto the wrong side of the highway constantly, in our pursuit of animals and mountains and rivers.
And we liked that freedom very much..............
As all three of us travelers wandered close to the river I looked around me again.
The world was silent. No more wind. No traffic or air planes.
Only a few miles back there had been no snow, and SNAP - just like that - we were in the mountains and in the snow.
The snow was old. It was obvious that there had been no new snow in weeks.
We had taken our sweet time but we had made it to the forest..............
Every mile is two in winter.............George Herbert