On a very beautiful and very cold Christmas Eve LC, Kory and I drove north to the very small, mountain surrounded, town of Mackay.
LC loved Mackay right from the get-go.
Right from the very first time we visited there early last year, during a whirlwind house-hunting trip from Cody to feel out the area and see if buying a home here would be a realistic option for us.
It was late in the winter - March I think - and even at that time of year he loved this little town.
Mackay took a while to grow on me though.
A small town that we first saw at a time of year that tends to be messy and dirty and grey.
But it is also a place that has grown on me a lot over the past year, as we continue to be drawn to it for one reason or another.
We have now seen Mackay in mid-summer and the dead of winter.
Been to community bar-b-q's and local yard sales and driven up into the mountains to see the remnants of the old copper mines.
Driven through it on our way deeper into the Big Lost River Valley.
I love this little town.
And on this day, we all headed that way for two separate reasons.
We needed to grocery shop and heading to the bigger cities of Blackfoot and Idaho Falls the day before Christmas was not going to happen.
We also wanted to stop at the Salmon-Challis National Forest Ranger Station in Mackay to ask questions about the area and to pick up area maps.
There are mountain lakes, waterfalls, streams, canyons, trails - endless outdoor recreation opportunities - that we know exist but had no idea how to find.
Where did we even start?
We want to spend spring and summer exploring our area, and the Ranger Station seemed like a logical place to begin to find our way around.
There is a paved road from Atomic City that leads to the highway (and that would take us to the valley in one direction and Blackfoot in the other). It is about one mile long and is the way we usually go when we have places to be and things to do.
On this quiet and very lovely winter day we decided to take the dirt road to the highway.
It is a few miles longer, is partially covered with snow and ice right now, and divides this section of the enormous INL (Idaho National Laboratories aka Secret Squirrel Lab) in two.................
The drive from Atomic City to Arco is very hard and fast.
The straight and mostly flat highway is without fail always quiet, and is usually entirely devoid of traffic.
Although the distant snow-covered mountains are visible during the first 20 miles of the trip, the terrain begins to get more and more hilly the closer we get to the small town of Arco.
Arco is the town where we began our search for a home in Idaho.
I had never heard of Arco or Mackay or Challis or Atomic City until I surprisingly found a few very reasonably priced pieces of property during online searches while still living in Cody.
Some of the homes were not in great shape, which was information neither visible in pictures nor provided to us during communication with real estate agents.
Other properties were fine but had qualities that just didn't suit us.
We had to "see" to "know", which was why we made two whirlwind trips over the course of a couple of months.
We settled on Atomic City because it was close to everything, because it was quiet, because the house was the best quality house of all that we looked at, and because the house was cheap.
We love it in Atomic City, but regularly need to be close to any combination of trees, water and mountains.
Increasing hills as we got closer to Arco.............
The outskirts of Arco.............
After the fast and flat 30 mile drive from Atomic City to Arco, the drive slows down but only a little.
The rugged mountains that we always see from a distance (and that are increasingly covered in snow) get closer and closer to us.
The road, still flat, slowly begins to wind its way to Mackay.
There is farmland on both sides of the road where long standing farms grow vegetables and hay and cattle............
I had called the Ranger Station before we left the house, wanting to confirm that the facility would be open the day before Christmas.
A friendly lady told me that they were indeed open but she was hoping that the Chief Ranger Dude would let them close early for the holiday.
With that in mind, LC and I decided that before we did anything else we would head straight to the Ranger Station.
After having driven a little over 50 miles of very quiet and very beautiful to get there, Karin headed for the rest room while the lady at the front desk opened up a map and began talking to LC.
A picture of the wall paper border in the ladies restroom of the Ranger Station in Mackay............
We picked up a lot of maps and area brochures that described the recreational opportunities that are available to us locally, and then spent a good long time with a woman behind the counter who highlighted some of the local trails, campgrounds and lakes.
There is a hugely exciting, virtually unlimited amount of adventures almost in our back yard, and although much of it is snowed-out and closed-up right now, we at least have some direction.
The woman at the Ranger Station had hiked it, and after highlighting maps for us she showed us an enlarged picture of the rocky peak, that speaks to climbers all over the country and compels them to tackle it.
Pointing out her route, pointing out the most challenging portions, the woman was eager to share her experience with both of us and as I listened I could see her hike in my mind as clearly as I could see the picture in front of me.
A link to an article, videos and pictures of one newspaper reporter's experience climbing to the top (and likely the toughest part - climbing back down again):
And one more video:
After heading back outside (and after a very friendly and informative conversation with the woman at the Ranger Station), LC walked over to the Tahoe and I wandered around the grounds of the facility, snapping quick pictures.
Blue sky. Snow covered mountains. Trees. It was a beautiful day and we were in a beautiful little town..........
After quickly power-snapping pictures at the Ranger Station I headed back to the Tahoe.
We were just beyond the downtown section of Mackay, and the plan was to park the truck in town and wander.
Just a little.
On the day before Christmas................
You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves.........Lito Tejada-Flores