Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Vibrant Desert - Part 2

I was disappointed in the spring because I had hoped that the warm weather, after such a long winter, would bring endless desert flowers.
In and around Atomic City they did not appear, and I had to be satisfied with the green lawns that residents compulsively maintain, and the many trees that we have in town.
And I WAS satisfied with that - our green oasis in the desert - until I found this place.
Only 15 minutes from home, we had finally taken the right turns, finally picked the right trails, and finally found this completely unexpected place.
This lava field in the middle of the vast nothingness of the Snake River Plain held mysteries that we knew nothing about until now.
A lava field that cooled thousands of years ago into an ocean of wave-rocks, caves, holes in the ground, endless shapes and colors.
Large swaths of bushy, bright yellow flowers.
Purple and white and pink and orange flowers found in unexpected places including some actually growing directly out of the rocks.
It was a colorful and amazing place, and on a cold and windy almost-summer day, LC and I were very glad to have found this place....................
The only trees we found were burned and mostly leafless.
Remaining signs of the huge wildfire that swept through this area years ago.
It was so large and so out-of-control that it threatened Atomic City.
Residents were warned to leave town when it was within a mile of the city limits.
Some people left.
Some didn't..............
A beautiful picture of beautiful man and beautiful dog, and a sky that whispers to me..............
Much of the lava rock we found was filled with air and crumbled easily in our hands.
This rock though - covering much of the ground - was very strong and cooled in waves.
It was fascinating to see.............
A field of bright yellow flowers completely filling one of the holes we found..............
My dog had an absolute blast.
Unlike when we walk close to town, she did not bolt.
Kory ran, climbed, jumped, and curiously inspected everything she found just as closely as we did.
We have come to the conclusion that our young and inquisitive dog is bored with the endless flatness of land that surrounds our town, and needs mental and physical stimulation as much as we do.
On this walk she stayed within ear shot and eye shot - wandering to inspect or climb or run, but always coming back to her people.
This trip ended up lasting a couple of hours and she was SO GOOD.
I was so proud of her.
So pleased to see her enjoying herself so completely.
I had expected a short and boring walk, and instead we found color and interesting and wonderful.............
A line of flowers growing in one of the channels we found in the rocks.............
We had been deeply inside one section of the lava field and had spent a long time investigating so much that was both beautiful and unexpected.
There was so much more to the field to see - sections that extended in a long line in both directions that we realized we would not experience on this day.
LC and I resolved to come to this place again very soon.   We were so completely enamored with this place.
By this time we were out of the field and back onto straight up BLM land, and although we had had a great time exploring, we were still a good ways from the truck.
As Kory wandered in the dirt, LC and I skirted the perimeter of the lava field, slowly meandering our way back to the truck.
Big Butte in the background..................
We had seen ferns and grasses and flowers and cactus, but the last thing we expected to see growing in the desert were mushrooms...............
Our hike back to the truck was sidetracked when we found this sandy hole in the ground............
You will have to click on the picture to enlarge it.
Somewhere - out there - in the middle of nowhere - is our truck..............
It would not have been a real trip to the desert without finding the remnants of one animal or another.
We found a handful of bones as we trekked through the desert on our return trip to the truck.
The bottom picture is vertebrae from a large animal - a cow maybe?
The top picture we can only guess at.  Coyote maybe?
On the drive back to the house we looked out over a large empty section of desert land that some nitwit had cleared in the hopes of "dry farming".
To my inexperienced eyes he does not appear to be successfully farming, and his clearing hundreds of acres of BLM land has done nothing but create a dust bowl on very windy days.
Thankfully the natural grasses are slowly beginning to take over the land again, and hopefully his escapade into un-irrigated farming has quickly come to an end.
As we slowly drove a dirt single track trail back to the gravel road we saw something move off in the distance.
They were so far away that it took us a few moments to identify the source of this unexpected speed.
Four antelope.  We had spooked them with our truck and they were running at full speed - two adults, one young one, and one (we suspect) older antelope who was pulling up the rear.
Excited to see them I asked LC to stop the truck so that I could climb out and try and take a picture of them in full run.
As I raised the camera I already knew that it would not be much of a picture.
Three of them had already disappeared into the sage brush at the edge of the field.  The older one was standing still in the desert but was so far away that I quickly realized that my little digital camera would not do him justice.
We had always seen antelope while driving towards Blackfoot but rarely see them out here.
An extraordinary way to finish up an extraordinary trip...............

But there is still too much to see and marvel at, the world very much alive in the bright light and wind, exultant with the fever of spring, the delight of morning. Strolling on, it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock...............Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

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