Friday, November 1, 2013

Cedar Butte - Part 1

My Mountain Boy and I had spent a long time in the previous blog entry exploring the small and lava-rocky hills on BLM land not far from the house. 
At the top of one of those rocky hills we had stood looking out over Cedar Butte.
We were saving Big Butte for another day because we wanted to climb it all on foot, but on this particular day decided that we would take a drive up onto Cedar to see what we would find.
Locals in Atomic City had told us that there were deer there.
I wasn't overly excited to see deer on Cedar Butte because we see deer all the time in town.
They bed down in our back yard frequently.
Many of locals dislike them because they eat their flowers and trees and vegetables, but LC and I like them very much.
Their continued presence in town in more important to us that a tomato plant.
Late yesterday evening I walked out into what will one day be our sun room, looked through the windows of the greenhouse (that was so badly built that it will have to be torn down next spring and replaced with an outdoor porch) and saw the deer eating grass in our backyard.
I stood silently watching them for a few minutes.  Watching them as one by one they effortlessly bounded over the back fence into the yard to meet up with others in their herd that were already there.
I watched them as they grazed in and around where Jamie is buried, and I was pleased.
The deer are gentle and soothing and beautiful, and I like that they are close to my girl................

We had picked up the long dirt road that leads to Big Butte, crossed over the tracks and continued a little further before turning left onto yet one more dirt road that we guessed led to Cedar.
LC stopped the truck at the tracks so that I could take these pictures.
Tracks heading north with snow capped mountains visible in the distance.
Railroad crossing signs - one more target for those desperate to get a shot off at something.  Anything.
The crossing signs were shot up.  The stop signs were shot up.  And after taking pictures of shot up signs from Alaska to Tennessee to Idaho (and many points in between) they still amuse me.............
The dirt road to the left began flat and then quickly started to climb.
We had left the house a few hours earlier without any real goals or destination in mind.
We simply wanted to be outside, and to spend quiet time together exploring this new area that is now our home.
Wide open double track turned into more narrow double track, and as we continued our climb towards the butte we began to see trees.
For all the vastness and wide open landscape that surrounds us in Atomic City, that we love very much, there is a part of both of us that misses both trees and water.
We seek it out when we can, feeding the internal desire for terrain that is more familiar to us.
I looked up toward the hills and trees and was excited to realize that we were headed for a hugely interesting place.............
Looking back the way we came.
The Twin Buttes dominate the landscape back towards home, much as Big Southern Butte dominates the landscape to the west of home.  
Much as Heart Mountain dominated the landscape in Cody.
No matter where you travel in the area these buttes and mountains provide you with points of reference..........
Continuing to climb..............
From the time we turned off Big Butte Rd until the time we pulled the truck over to the side of the dirt road after hitting a box canyon, we had slowly climbed for about 20 minutes.
As LC continued to climb and as I looked the area over trying to get the lay of the land, I realized that Cedar Butte was not the one large hill that I thought it was.
In fact, after we climbed out of the truck and headed out on foot, we quickly realized that Cedar was a large series of hills - all tied together with a maze of wide open, and easy to walk, dirt trails.
LC and I looked at each other in amazement.  This was not what we had expected at all.  Just like it was not what we had expected when we explored the Table Top for the very first time.
In the vastness of the Snake River Plain all the rises that surround us look smaller.  
When you are actually ON one of them (as LC good naturedly and red-neckedly always says "Get in amongst it"), you realize just how big they really are.
Picture taken standing beside the truck, and preparing to head up this hill to see what we would find............. 
One more look back towards the Twin Buttes.
As we continued to wander up ever higher on foot, and not knowing exactly what we would find, I felt as though I was as insignificant as each speck of sand I was treading on.
A tiny being - walking with another tiny being - in the unending openess and unparalleled vastness of the plain.
Sometimes the sheer emptiness, and the sheer size of this place is overwhelming.
Not so much while driving in the truck.  But certainly while wandering on foot.
At that moment I realized why I continued to look back towards the Twin Buttes.
They were more than geographical points of reference.
They were a point of emotional safety.  Something to hang onto that was familiar, as we traveled into the vast unknown............
So's not really just a picture of the ground.
If you click on the image it will enlarge and you will see why I impulsively snapped this picture.
LC saw him first, and like two little kids we squatted down to watch him more closely.
A lone ant, carrying a piece of grass that was almost as big as he was.
How long had it been since I had enjoyed the child like wonderment of watching a tiny insect carry an object as large as he was, and that was single-mindedly intent on reaching his destination?............
There were hills everywhere.
There were trails everywhere.
We only walked the circumference of one of the large rises on this trip, and realized for the first time DURING this trip, that there was so much else to see.
Other adventures for other days...............
At this trail intersection the right trail would take us to another hill.
It looked as though the left fork would continue to take us around the hill we were currently hiking, and we took it.............
The top of Big Butte............
And faced with a long, straight-up climb...........
We heard it, but it took us a minute to find the source of the noise.
And then we saw the 4-wheeler dust cloud two hills over from where were.  It sounded like more than one, but we couldn't tell exactly how many.  They were climbing a very steep rise to our left............
A non-stop steep climb that took us about 20 minutes and we had no idea what we would find when we reached the top.  
We found Big Butte towering silently in the desert.
When I look at Big Butte I can almost hear him.
He owns the desert.  He rules the desert.  He commands the desert.  And somehow he seems to know that.
Somehow he silently communicates that to me............
It was a clear day and we could see forever..............
From the top of this portion of Cedar Butte we had the entire Snake River Plain layed out in front of us.
After the stifling heat of August, and the moderating heat of September, we were finally in what I already know will be a beautiful fall in and around Atomic City.
Standing in THIS place - at THAT moment - was a soul-enhancing experience.
Of course beautiful.  But also unexpectedly humbling.  Mountains.  Desert.  Big Butte.  Endless blue sky and endless silence. An endless world.
In that moment I was very glad to be standing in this place...........

Continuing further on now flat trail............
About to lose sight of the Twins..............
Again we heard them before we saw them.
A group of five or six four wheelers.
LC and I stood watching them for a few moments as they rested after their steep climb to the top of their hill.............

I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams..........Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.


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