Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pulling Back On The Leash

Beck Lake is a natural space located inside the Cody city limits.
The initial impression of the area is that it is small.  A place to walk or jog or exercise your dog without having to travel outside town to find a quiet place.
In reality the space is larger than it first appears.
It contains two bodies of water - Beck Lake closest to the highway and higher up, the Reservoir.
People use both of these bodies of water extensively for paddling kayaks and fishing.
There is a short paved trail that navigates one side of Beck Lake, and then circles around and back to the picnic area, the children's play park and then the parking lot.
Close to this area there is a new dog park - a large fenced area where dogs can wander and play freely.
The Reservoir also contains a paved trail and it circumnavigates the entire body of water.
And over the past couple of years a series of bike trails have been developed.
They are not the gnarly and rooty and rocky and technical, tree lined trails that I was so accustomed to back east.
But they have their own challenges.  Rocks.  A sandy surface that makes pedaling more work than it should really be.  Rolling hills.  Lack of shade.
I haven't biked these trails.  I haven't biked in almost a year now.  And actually I had never even walked the trails behind the lake and reservoir, until I did the other day with Jamie.
LC hurt his back almost two weeks ago while chain sawing more wood.
We have used wood as our primary and only heat source at the house for almost six months now.
We began lighting the fire the first couple of days into October, and with the exception of a couple of short trips out of state that we have taken recently, the fire has been burning non-stop for the past six months.
Running short of wood LC found some more, and as he greatly enjoyed the experience of chainsawing wood with his newly sharpened saw a couple of weeks ago, he tossed it to me and I stacked it.
We got a lot done that day a couple of weeks ago, but ever since then my Mountain Boy has been battling an injured back.
He should have known better and that'll teach him.
With LC out of commission I grabbed for my old puppy's leash early last week, and she and I loaded up into the truck to run errands in town before walking.
I had no particular plan in mind when we eventually made it to Beck Lake.
My sweet girl doesn't care if we walk the most beautiful trail in the mountains or whether we walk behind a restaurant that backs up to an alley.
Driven by her nose and her need to move, she is happy regardless.
I had been wondering for a while just what the bike trails looked like, and on the spur of the moment drove down to the end of the paved road and pulled the truck into the last parking spot.
Jamie knew (as she always knows) that whatever we were doing at this point involved her, and she impatiently pushed her nose against the back of the seat, eager to escape the bondage of the vehicle.
Smiling at her I talked reassuringly, encouraging patience as I threw her water bowl and a bottle of water into my pack, shrugged my pack onto my back, reached for her leash and finally pulled the seat forward so that she could jump down.
Eyes bright and tail already wagging, she was ready to go...............
As I locked the truck door I looked out over Beck Lake.
I was reminded immediately that this was a town park.
Hills and mountains in the background, but I could also see businesses along the Greybull Highway, the Yellowstone Airport and the airstrip, could hear traffic driving on the two lane highway.
Turning I looked towards Cedar and Rattlesnake Mountains.
It was a sunny and warm day.
There will be more cold days and likely more snow before it is all said and done, but spring is definitely in the air...............
Following a paved trail a short way before transitioning to dirt trail...............
The base of Heart Mountain is about 20 miles from Cody................
I wasn't hugely inspired by the terrain.
As James and I continued to randomly follow trails I looked around this barren land.
With the park's proximity to the lake and reservoir (as well as the irrigation canal that snakes its way throughout the entire Big Horn Basin) this place is much greener during the summer.
In March it is simply dry and beige desert.
But it was a quiet space and I needed both quiet and space.
There is something soothing about the routine that Jamie and I have established over so many years of hiking together.
I know when to stop for her.  She knows when to stop for me.  She knows when I bend down, reach into my pack and dig out her bowl that she will get water.  She drinks from her bowl while I drink from the same bottle of water.
I have lost track but I think my dog is now over 13 years old.
She loves walking and the sight of her doing what she loves pleases me................
We had been walking for about 30 minutes and unexpectedly came to a bridge that spanned the now-dry canal.
As uninspired as I was by the terrain, I was still enjoying exploring a new place.
On this beautiful spring day there were a good number of people fishing, walking, playing in the kids playground, letting dogs run at the dog park.
There was nobody back here.  Nobody except me and my dog and I liked that............
As I snapped this picture of the sign, I wondered briefly whether I should take a better look at the bridge before risking crossing over it.
At about the same time I realized that my pup was already half way across.  Well alright then...............
I had no specific goals in mind other than to just walk and be with my dog, and after roaming for over an hour decided that it was time to turn back.
One more drink for James, one more swig from the bottle for me, and I looked across open BLM land trying to decide a route back to the truck.
Even though I have done it many times, I have always been loathe to do out-and-backs.
If there is ever another option I would rather cover new terrain than cover the same territory I had just traveled.
I could see various trails breaking off in different directions, and eventually picked one that I thought would likely circle back towards the reservoir and eventually pick up the paved trail we had left early on................
You'll have to click on the pictures to enlarge them if you want to see the two antelope.
By the time I first noticed them they were already standing dead-still and watching me and Jamie closely, searching for any signs that we meant to cause them harm.
My dog was more interested in walking point and did not even see them, but I watched them for a long time as they stood motionless and blended seamlessly with the terrain.
Eventually they began to move again.  Take two steps.  Stop to check on me.  Take two more steps.  Stop to check on me.  They were walking in the same direction that Jamie and I were walking and we followed each other for a good while before these two strange and fleet little animals finally disappeared down into a gully............
As we continued our walk I began to shed layers, while at the same time also began to realize that the trail we were on was not going to cut back as I had expected.
With such wide open terrain we could have easily just cut across country, but in truth I was in no big rush to get back.
Besides, there were cacti off trail and one stray cactus needle in one stray puppy wasn't worth taking the risk.
By this time I realized that the trail was going to circle us around the reservoir, taking us beyond the truck.
It was going to be a longer walk than I had planned, and still not used to the idea of my dogs' increasing age I forgot at the time that she might be sore after our hike..............
One of the fishing piers at the reservoir............
We were out for about 2 1/2 hours during this walk.
My puppy slept all afternoon and was a slow moving girl for the rest of the evening.................

Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash?...........Robert Brault

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sounds Of Silence - Part 2

LC and I had never come this way before.
In reality we were only 30 minutes drive from the house at this point, and as we moved through the almost completely flat basin and began to climb steeply into high hills, I was amazed that I had no idea that this was all here.
"All" is a relative word on BLM land in Wyoming.
All the views of the Big Horn Mountains.  All the endless square miles of rocks and sand in varying shades of orange and brown.  All the buttes and hills and valleys and winding trails.  All the emptiness and silence that anyone could ever ask for.
All the promise of surprise, and of the expected and unexpected that always comes with a trip onto BLM land.
I liked it.
Not in the same way that I like rivers and lakes and pine tree filled mountains.
But I liked it anyway.
After climbing steadily for 15 minutes on a winding double track dirt road, LC pulled the truck off the road as we finally crested the top, turned right and drove a short way along a rutted dirt trail before parking.
Jamie and I eagerly climbed out of the truck and instantly I knew that this would be a quick stop.
The wind was blowing wildly, and it was absolutely freezing.
Handing the mutt over to LC, I dug my camera out of the side pocket of my pack and walked away from the pair, wanting to enjoy scenery alone.
God it was cold..............
The sight of them was totally unexpected and for a moment I looked at them stunned.
A long, very long, seemingly endless long, line of cows.
All standing in a straight line along the crest of the hill on the opposite side of the dirt road from where we had parked.
If you click on the picture it will enlarge.............
I tried to take some zoomed-in pictures of them, but my little camera could not handle the distance.
After taking a handful of fuzzy pictures of a line of cattle, I gave up on the task and turned my attention back to the valley below.
Not one tree.
Hills and valley and a landscape that looks completely barren and desolate from a distance, but I know from many walks and bike rides that it is not...............
It is rare to wander on BLM land and not find bones, and we found them on this day as well............
Within only a few minutes I had had enough of being battered by the wind.
It angrily whipped around my head, and my hands were red and freezing cold.
Quickly I snapped a few other pictures and then turned in search of my dog and my Mountain Boy..............
I promised LC that I would take some pictures of his truck............
As we drove further along the road we found a huge herd of cattle.
With the snow capped wall that is the Big Horn Mountains in the background, I snapped these pictures of hundreds and hundreds of cows spread out over the course of the next couple of miles............
At the top of one more hill we stopped the truck in the middle of the empty road and looked down over this new valley.
It was greener and we could see a couple of homes in the distance. Miles away.
Down there was civilization.  Likely Burlington but I don't know for certain because this is where we turned around and drove back the way we had come.
We had wandered on BLM land for over a hour and were a long way from the Greybull Highway that led towards home.
It was a beautiful and quiet drive............
Heart Mountain in the far distance.
Visible as it always is, no matter where you wander in this area...............
Miles and miles of cows..............
I've begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own................Chaim Potok, The Chosen