Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Little Lost River Valley - Part 3

After driving away from the snowless and beige Atomic City, we turned off the highway and explored the Little Lost River Valley for the first time.
 We had found a very beautiful and isolated valley while also finding increasing snow.
When we finally turned back, we turned back because we had unexpectedly hit a totally isolated area that held no signs of civilization, and that was neither ploughed nor maintained during the winter.
Originally LC and I had planned on a short drive, but (as with so many other times that we have begun "short drives" and ended up exploring a new area for untold hours) this had turned into a welcome and unexpected and very wonderful adventure.
LC, Kory and I had been roaming for a long time and with no cell phone coverage, no emergency supplies, no signs of civilization and an unknown road in the winter, we erred on the side of caution and turned back the way we had come.
A couple more pictures of the abandoned and isolated area we found before turning around.............
In our ever-present eagerness to see "what was around the next bend in the road", we had blown right by a number of things that I wanted to take a closer look at on our trip home.
One of those things was this beautiful homestead.
As we slowly approached this place I looked over at the home, at the barn, at the snow and the mountains and the ever changing sky.
What a beautiful home.............
My ideal place to live............
30 minutes later LC pulled off the winding, two lane highway, drove for a minute down a gravel road and then pulled into one more campground beside the river.
The river was partially frozen, but in the relatively short time we had been back on the road the snowy wasteland where we had turned around was long forgotten.
There were still remnants of snow dotting the ground, but for all intents and purposes we were back in our familiar beige world again.
There was still much snow in the mountains, and we were still surrounded by mountains on both side of us.
There were no amenities at this campground.  Strictly primitive camping beside the river.
After sitting in the truck for too long, all three of us were more than ready to wander and stretch our legs.
In all the hours we had been in the valley we had only run into one other person.  
There was nobody walking or working in the fields, and LC and I almost felt as though we had the entire valley to ourselves............
A grave site seen right beside the road.
William Johnson.  1816-1899.
After all this time somebody was still caring for this grave.
Installing a protective fence.  Hanging a wreath...............

While doing cursory research on this grave after we made it home I found this additional picture, but no other real information on who this man might be:
Only two of five or six huge stacks of hay bales, found in front of one more cattle ranch............
By the time we had driven through the tiny community of Howe and were only 20 minutes from home, I looked up and startled to see movement on the side of the road.
LC and I had seen only two antelope in all the time we had lived in Idaho (almost 8 months now)
The first time was one lone antelope who was standing on the side of the road just outside the Atomic City limits, towards the end of summer.
The second was also one lone antelope, that ran out in front of us on the highway near the city limits and as we were coming home from Salmon last September.
After seeing only two antelope in all these months, it was a huge surprise to see a line of them speeding across the highway and disappearing into the sage brush on the opposite side of the road.
They were fast.  They were beautiful in that weird and funky way that only antelope can be beautiful.  
As LC braked hard and eased the truck over to the side of the road, I scanned the beige terrain in search of them.
And there they were.
Click on any picture to enlarge...........
They had run at full speed across the highway, and did not slow down until they were surrounded by the protective covering of tall sage bushes.
They turned as one to look around them, eventually found us and stared at us for a few moments.
We watched them, smiled at the sight of them, took too-zoomed-in and too-far-away pictures of them.
They were great to see and in that moment (and as with the wild horses and the buffalo) LC and I both realized just how much we had missed the sight of them since moving from Wyoming................
After a few minutes they turned, ran through the sage brush, eventually worked their way back to the road, and we watched as they sprinted and sprung across the road before disappearing yet again.
A wonderful and totally unexpected animal sighting.
A wonderful and totally unexpected trip.................
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware..............Martin Buber

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Little Lost River Valley - Part 2

After leaving a public access area of the Little Lost River LC, Kory and I continued further into the valley, greatly enjoying the trip and eager to see what we would find next.
We had left snowless Atomic City a couple of hours before, and were now deeply embedded in snow.
It was a welcome sight.
Clear roads, mild temperatures, sunshine that came and went - it was a beautiful day to be in exploration mode.
A few miles from the public access site, we stopped the Tahoe in the middle of the road for a moment to read the sign.
Howe was 28 miles back the way we had come.  The closest town for shopping and banking and gas getting through the winter was Arco, which was 46 miles away.
There was a road off to the left and located close to the sign, and we realized that this road would take us over the pass to Mackay, which was 39 miles away.
Both LC and I looked down the road doubtfully, wondering if the pass was......passable.
The road from where we stood looked good, but after a brief moment of indecision we both discounted the idea of trying the pass.  
If there was this much snow here, we could only imagine how much snow there was going through the pass, even if it was open.
Just as we were about to continue further into the Lost River Valley, a truck approached and then stopped when we waved it down.
A few minutes of friendly discussion with this local confirmed our decision to not drive the pass.  The road up ahead was not ploughed, was filled with deep snow and the pass would not be open again until May.
Waving a thank you and good bye, we continued with our explorations.
This one vehicle was the only vehicle we saw on the road beyond Howe, during our entire trip yesterday..........
The road leading up and over the pass to Mackay............
A BLM or wild life office located directly across the road from the road sign.............
There are farms all up and down the Little Lost River Valley.
They are very large properties in an extremely remote area, with miles of distance separating them.
The one thing that LC and I both noticed was that in all the miles we drove, and all the farms we saw, there was not one ostentatious, ritzy home.
I have no doubt that there is money in this valley, but the money is put into land, animals, farm equipment...........
Clyde Idaho.
One sign - in front of what I believe must be a tiny community center - was the only indication that we were in Clyde................
I was in a rush to snap the Clyde Idaho sign and then quickly snap this star and unexpected shot of bright red, so did not think about it until much later.
Behind the star and the fence was a series of corrals and stalls.
If I had to guess, this area beside the "community center" might be a place for either a small local rodeo or animal auction.
I wish I had paid more attention at the time, but we will be back that way again.............
It was less than 10 miles beyond the burgeoning metropolis of Clyde where the world changed entirely.
Once we got beyond the even-tinier-than-Atomic-City community of Howe, we had driven into increasingly dense snow.
But beyond Clyde the snow was very deep.
And then all of a sudden we crossed over a cattle guard, and completely and unexpectedly found ourselves in the middle of a snow covered waste land.
No sage brush.  No power poles.  No farms.  No cattle or horses, no silent and still irrigation machines.
Just mountains and snow as far as the eye could see in front of us.
We crossed over the cattle guard and looked at each other in amazement.
Neither LC nor I had expected THIS.............
I silently snapped picture after picture while wondering just where the heck we were.
One summer a long time ago I was volunteering for an adventure race.  Volunteering because I hated racing in the summer time in the south east.
While manning the registration table I was greeting teams as they came in, checking them in, handing out registration materials, making sure they had all their team members etc.
One team captain approached the table and I asked his team name.
Fukarwi (pronounced fuck-are-we).
Thinking that I had misheard him when he told me his team name, I looked up.
With a straight face - Fukarwi.
As in "where the"?
He smiled at me.  Yeah.  I smiled back at him and handed him his package.
As we slowly drove on a completely desolate, drifting snow covered road, in southern Idaho years later, I silently wondered Fukarwi..............

It would have been useful if the sign in this picture had given us some information, but it was one of those "weed control" signs that are so common in the west.
LC said it almost at the same time I was thinking it - this was one of those places where if you made a mistake while driving, you could be spending a couple of days hunkered down and stranded in your vehicle.
We had no cell phone reception.  
We had no emergency supplies with us (I had recently just made up a large emergency box filled with tools, blankets, first aid equipment, ropes, compasses, power bars, extra winter clothing etc.), but it was sitting in our garage at the house.
There were signs that traffic came this way, but the entire barren place looked both beautiful and foreboding in our unpreparedness.
We continued slowly driving the road, completely taken aback by the terrain we found.
I was mesmerized by the world around me - and at the same time was mentally beating myself up for not throwing the box into the Tahoe before we left.
I didn't think that we would need it on what was planned to be a good but not long drive into the valley.
But this was the west.........winter in the west.........and it was dumb to take it for granted............
As LC slowed the truck down even more, I reached into the back seat and grabbed the Idaho map again.
The map looked as though the road we were on would circle us around to the small community of Ellis, and once we had traveled far enough into the valley, that had been the plan of attack for the rest of our trip.
Above Challis and not far from Salmon, we had anticipated that we would end up on the highway of the Big Lost River Valley.
After traveling this far, we had planned on going to Ellis and driving the Big Lost River Valley home (through Challis, through Mackay and then Arco).
THIS was not expected and nothing on the map told us what we were into...........
We had been on this desolate road for 30 minutes when we finally came to this sign.
Up until that point, LC and I had both be taken off guard but thought that the road was doable.
The sign told us that from this point forward the road was both unmaintained and unploughed.
OK.........that was good enough for us.
We turned around and began to head back the way we had come.
When we got home we looked online and think that we were actually closer to Ellis than we initially thought, but our mediocre map did not show that.  
On an unploughed, unmaintained, unknown road in the winter, we made the right decision.............
I took more pictures of the snow covered waste land on the way back, and was not disappointed that we had to turn around.
There were things that I had missed the first time that I wanted to take pictures of on the way back..............