Thursday, April 24, 2014

8 Points

When we first moved to Idaho late in July of last year, Atomic City was deeply embedded in summer.
Dry, hot, unrelenting summer.
Every single day throughout the last of July and the entire month of August was nothing but heat, blue sky, endless sunshine and amazing sunsets.
The sunsets were great, and sometimes I wonder why someone would possibly complain about endless blue sky and sun.
But summer is not, nor has it ever been, the season that I enjoy.  
Maybe it's my menopausal age.  Maybe it's my Norwegian heritage.  Who knows?
But the heat and monotony and sameness of the weather was not pleasing to me, and truthfully (even as I was still unpacking seemingly unending boxes) I wondered if we had done the right thing by moving here.
I wondered during those six endlessly hot and dry weeks before Labor Day (when - just as though a switch had been flipped - the days instantly began to cool and the nights instantly inched closer to freezing) if the sameness of the weather held through the rest of the year as well.
It doesn't.
Throughout fall, winter, and now spring, we have moved through the gamut of weather, that thankfully and wonderfully changes every few days.
The past couple of days have been cool, rainy and so windy it has been difficult even to walk the few streets of Atomic City with my dog.
Prior to rain and wind though, we were enmeshed in cool and calm sunshine.
On one of those days LC and I drove out of town, drove a mile down a gravel road, turned right onto Big Butte Road that (as the name implies), eventually finds its way to the Big Southern Butte 18 miles away.
About a mile down Big Butte Road we pulled onto a dirt single track road, and slowly drove this rutted out trail for one more mile.
We were only about 3 miles from town and found ourselves completely isolated and alone in the middle of the Snake River Plain.
Opening the truck door Kory climbed down from the center of the seat, snaked her way around my legs and had already jumped out of the truck before I even had a chance to tell her "OK Baby - let's go".
She was already out and already eagerly looking around and trying to get her bearings.  
Already trying to figure out in which direction "adventure" lay.
As I walked to the back of the truck I looked down at my feet.
The first flowers I have seen in this desert since we moved here.
I looked around me and realized that there were clumps of these tiny and fragile wild flowers scattered throughout the cracked desert floor..............
In this place are tall rocks hills.
From town we can see five of them, but when you are at this place you realize that there are actually 8 hills.
Each one rises about 100 feet above the desert floor, and they are all grouped together a few hundred feet from one another.
I don't know if they are formally named, but LC and I call it 8 Points..............
Cedar Butte in front.  Big Butte in back.
And in the far distance, one small section of the wall of mountain that makes up the Lemhi Mountain Range, the Borah Mountain Range, and so many more mountain ranges...............
One of the 8 Points with the Twin Buttes in the background...............
The Table Top Butte (aka Rattlesnake Butte) in the background.............
One of the Twin Buttes............
As with so many other trips we take, LC and I had no other agenda when we went out there, other than to see what we would see.
Kory over the past couple weeks has found a new game, and that is to run away during walks.
Inevitably she has taken off from us when she was running off leash on BLM land on the outskirts of town.
Thankfully she has always run straight into town (and not further out onto BLM land where the vastness of the wide open could mean a long search for her and where the coyotes could make life uncomfortable for our pup).
This new game has turned into a frustrating and worrisome aggravation, and on this day LC and I wondered how she would react further from home and in new terrain.
Would she run?  Would she stay close?
We'd find out...................
LC and I climbed each, and wandered around each of the eight separate rock hills during this trip and our dog had a really great time.
She climbed, she investigated every nook and cranny of every hill.
Most of the time she stayed close, and when she disappeared out of sight our calls brought her back.
She didn't bolt.  
And I wonder if Kory has simply gotten bored with the flat, grassy, brushy, dusty trails that are close to home and that she has run and walked a hundred times since she joined our family.
She knows those trails inside and out, and she knows town just as well, and maybe the temptation to run towards town has gotten to be too much for her.
How do you read the mind of an energetic, active, curious, intelligent dog?
You don't.  All you can do is guess.
But on this day and in this place, she loved where she was and she stayed close..............
When I look at these pictures I am reminded again of how vast and isolated this land is.
I like it.  
It pleases me.
It is an endless and uncomplicated terrain where you can see for 70 or 80 or more miles in every direction.
From the 8 Points I could see mountains beyond Pocatello.  Beyond Blackfoot.  Beyond Arco.
I could see every large and small butte within a 20 mile radius around Atomic City.
Like a mirage in the desert I could see some of the white single story structures that make up INL (known regionally simply as "The Site").
We have seen antelope recently on BLM land.  Have seen a coyote.  Even have seen a bald eagle.
All of them fleeting sights as we drove towards Blackfoot and gone almost before I had even realized what we had seen.
Our town deer are gone now, after having spent the entire fall and winter within the city limits.
I miss seeing them, but they were out well.
And they will be back...............
The very top of Big Butte, visible from between three of the points............
30 miles in this direction is the small town of Blackfoot.  The mountain range behind Blackfoot, covered in hazy mist, looked mystical from this distance..................
To say nothing is out here is incorrect.  To say the desert is stingy with everything except space and light, stone and earth, is closer to the truth................William Least 

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