Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cedar Butte With Kory - Part 1

After killing some time close to the house while waiting for LC to warm up the truck, Kory and I heard the horn beep and we both headed back to the house.
Every single time I walk down the middle of the road in town I find myself being very pleased that we live where we live.
Every single time we head out onto BLM land I am also pleased.
When the weather was still very hot and then simply warm LC and I would be working on one project or another out in the yard.  Inevitably one of the residents in town would pull into the driveway on their four-wheeler and we would visit for a short time.
But if we are not outside nobody visits.
People are opportunists in this town - if they happen to run into someone they will eagerly visit for a short time, but otherwise people generally (and very thankfully) stay to themselves.
Which is good because we are of the same mind.
In all the times I have driven on BLM land with LC or walked on BLM land both by myself and with my dog, we have run into people only twice.  
A group of 4-wheelers that we saw from a distance while wandering for the first time on Cedar Butte, and workmen on top of Big Butte.
Our very first visit to Cedar Butte
Laying closer to the ground, and in the shadow of Big Butte, Cedar Butte looks boring and uninspiring.
In the vastness of the desert it deceivingly looks like nothing more than a wide, flat rise in the middle of nowhere.
When we stood at the top of the big boy and looked down on the forever of the desert landscape, Cedar Butte was almost lost in the varied muted colors of the land.
When I looked at it (while sitting on a rock at the end of the trail on top of Big Butte a couple of months ago) it reminded me of a black and white Twilight Zone episode I had watched many years ago.
A group of adults were on a train and they were trying to leave town.
Only the train unexpectedly kept returning to the original station, and as the episode continues to unfold the people become more and more fearful as they begin to realize that they are stuck in some kind of vortex from which they cannot escape.
No matter how hard they try, they cannot get out of the town that they are increasingly desperate to leave.
They cannot escape the town because the end of the show reveals that they are the playthings of a giant little boy, his toy town and his toy train set.
The show ends with the little boy laughing as he looks down in delight at his toy people and his toy town, and the people are almost driven to madness at the realization of their fate.
As I sat on a rock eating ham and cheese sandwiches and cookies while looking down from Big Butte, I saw Cedar and my first thought was that it looked as though a giant child had made a sand castle, and then happily pounded it down with his hand.
Laughing at the impact he could make in the world.......................

Cedar Butte is a hugely interesting place to explore.
While Big Butte has one single trail that leads from bottom to top, Cedar Butte had multiple trails heading off in multiple directions.
It is hill after hill after hill spread out over quite a few miles, and (as with the other buttes in the area) it sits alone in the desert.
It has wonderful evergreen trees.  Ridiculously steep trails and friendly, flat trails that follow ridge lines.  Animal tracks everywhere - deer, foxes, prairie chickens, rabbits, more.  Rock outcroppings filled with bright green and bright orange fungi............

A large herd of cows grazing their way through the winter on BLM land.
We saw them for the first time recently, and half-way expect them to one day be seen walking down Main Street in town because there are no cattle guards to stop them.............
After traveling about 10 miles on snow-covered dirt road, LC turned left and picked up a power line trail............
For some reason I had pictured the back side of Cedar Butte as being flat and empty, but almost immediately after turning onto the power line trail we began to climb and see trees.............
Within just a few minutes of taking this trail I realized with regret that I was not ready to set Kory free in this environment yet.
By the time we reached a parking spot on the trail we had been following, I was certain.
Running free on flat, sage covered land was one thing, and LC and I were feeling increasingly confident with letting our pup run.
But this was different.  We were now a couple of miles into the hills.
We were surrounded by the hills that made up Cedar Butte in all directions.  There was little simply open space.  Rather we were surrounded by cedar trees, dense sage, lots of snow.
Too many places to lose a dog if she decided to run off, and too difficult to find her if we had to go looking.
It was too soon to test out those waters, and so we kept Kory on leash.
We parked the truck and as LC was pulling on gloves I grabbed for Kory and looked around me, trying to get some sense of where we were and what surrounded us.
This was not what I had expected AT ALL.............
Looking south towards Blackfoot, with hazy, snow capped mountains in the distance................
The Twin Buttes barely visible in the mist, to our east.............
The ground looked as though it was snow covered - and there was some snow - but more than anything there was a whole lot of this.
Ice crystals.  Dry ice crystals.  Soft and crunchy, dry and wet, all at the same time
I am amazed by it all but also thankful to have the ground covered by this beautiful surface, because it makes the world look nothing short of magical.
In truth I had expected a long, cold, grey, brown, boring winter in Atomic City.
But we have had snow.  And when it has not snowed it has icicled...............
Somebody on a 4-wheeler had been out recently.
We picked up a different trail and began to wander.............
Kory was both leading the way and setting the pace, and almost immediately LC and I realized that this was going to be a slow walk.
There were tracks everywhere, and our pup was having a great time burying her nose into every track.
This butte is a favorite of hunters, and with the snow and ice making tracks easily visible, I suddenly knew why.
Tracks everywhere.............
It was a beautiful day.
One of those clear, slightly hazy, completely sunny, not too cold days that make winter the exceptional season that it is.
As we continued to slowly wander on trail I could see the desert far below...............
Eventually we veered off trail and headed for a series of small rises.
Progress continued to be slow because Kory was so engrossed in sniffing out tracks.
Just like Jamie, our new dog is totally driven by her nose, and even though we yanked on the leash she did not want to move until she had gleaned everything she wanted from each track that caught her attention.
It didn't matter that we were moving slowly.
LC's back had healed and he could again wander with us, my dog was having a great time gathering information on animals that had passed this way, the day was extraordinarily wonderful, and it was all good.
We had no agenda for our morning.  
We just wanted to wander and explore this new place.............
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds...............Unknown

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