Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's Beautiful Out There

Five minutes walk from the house are multiple entrances that lead to endless thousands of acres of BLM land.
To quote part of John Muir, everyone needs places to play in and places to pray in, and this is our place.
LC and I committed to exploring this region this summer.
To find some of the natural beauty of central Idaho that we had only read about but desperately wanted to see for ourselves.
Atomic City is one of those pass through towns that I spoke of in my last blog post when talking about Moore.
A place that people blow right by while they are traveling on their way to somewhere else.
Only Atomic City is even more of a pass-through town.
It is located a mile from the paved 2 lane highway, and located in the middle of nothing and nowhere.
There are buttes and there are smaller rises, but mostly there is a whole lot of nothing.
Only...........that is not really the case.
Big Butte is visible for fifty miles or more in every direction, but to look at it, it appears to be nothing more than a huge rock.  Hardly something worthy of a second glance.  Barely even worthy of a first glance.
Until you take your four wheeler up there, or your dirt bike up there, or until you hike it on foot as LC and I did late last year when we discovered the silent and extraordinary wonder that it Big Butte:
Similarly Cedar Butte disappears against the background of his younger and larger brother.  
From the highway Cedar looks to be nothing more than a hiccup in the desert.
It is only after you explore and wander, that you realize that with its extensive trail system, multiple rises, colorful moss covered rocks, endless views of the world and signs of coyotes and deer, Cedar is much more than it appears.
And so it goes with the vastness of the desert.
As people drive by they see nothing, because in the sheer vastness of the desert everything blends into one monochromatic, beige picture of emptiness.
A world without change.  
A world that almost compels your eyes to constantly keep moving while your brain intuitively seeks out something (anything) in which to focus.
From the highway the buttes are the only things that the Snake River Plain has handy for the eyes to rest.
But once you stop driving, once you slow down and head out on foot, there is an ever changing world of small and remarkable and quiet things to see in the desert...............
Earlier last month I blogged about a place in the desert that LC, Kory and I unexpectedly found while walking.
It is located 10 or 15 minutes drive from the house and it is a lava field.
Remnants of a time thousands of years ago, tens of thousands of years ago, when this area was burning and alive with volcanic activity.
It was so close to the house and yet the entire field had blended seamlessly with the desert and we had driven by it countless times before the day we finally decided to stop and see what was over one particular rise.
For mid June it was very windy and very cold, and both man and woman were bundled against the cold.
And we had a most extraordinary adventure exploring this new place:
We had explored one large area of the field, but there are other sections that branch off to the left and right and a few days ago we went back to this same field to explore some more.
A couple of weeks ago very cold.  A couple of days ago very warm...............
When LC finally parked the truck on a dirt double track trail in the middle of the desert I opened the truck door.
Immediately Kory jumped down from the seat in between us, maneuvered her way around my legs, and jumped out of the truck.
Gone in a flash.  LC and I just looked at each other in amusement.  In the seven short months that we have had Kory we have both grown to love her.
Her funny ways.  Her desire to be in the middle of whatever we are doing.  Her sheer energy and athleticism.  Her joy for life and her joyful spirit.
Sometimes I look at her and am still in wonderment that this dog from a kill shelter in Florida somehow found her way into the lives of two grieving humans in Idaho...............
With Kory and LC wandering ahead, I held back and looked around me, trying to get the lay of the land.
What did the buttes look like from here?  What did the mountains to the north look like from here?  Was this section of the lava field similar to the last section that we had found, in that it was filled with unexpectedly lush and colorful plant life?
And then I looked up at the sky and was momentarily enthralled by it.
The cloud formations in this desert home are so different from what I am used to.
They are beautiful in ways that I find impossible to describe, but the sky always seems to be alive to me..............
As we started to wander in earnest I was gratified to see that the lushness and green-ness that we had found in our last trip was also to be found in this section of the lava field.
We were in the center of the desert - with all its beigeness and browness and sage brush and barely-there and always struggling desert grasses, and yet in this very place among the ancient lava rocks there were tall grasses and beautiful flowers.
A magical place just by the sheer fact of its existence.
Town was "back that way".  In front of the Twin Buttes................
Both of us have been working a lot with Kory over these past months so that she can stay off leash as much as possible.
Things went well all through the winter, and then one day in the spring as we were walking close to the outskirts of town she unexpectedly sprinted towards town, completely ignoring our calls for her to return.
I thought that it was an anomaly the first time that it happened.  Only it continued to happen.
And then became a regular occurrence.
We wondered at the time whether she was so familiar with town (and so friendly with some of the people in town) that she wanted to explore the place that was her home.
We also wondered whether or not she was simply bored with walks on flat and open terrain, and needed more mental stimulation.
The answers to those questions appear to be yes and yes.
When we take her a long way from town (and especially when there are places to climb, places to explore, things to investigate) she stays close and shows no desire to run away from us.
She is challenged.  Stimulated.  Excited.  
She loves to go to places like this.  Loves to wander and explore alone and then (like a small child) return to touch base with us before exploring again.
She loves adventures like this.  And so do we..............
She had seen a large opening in the rocks and I snapped this picture as Kory was contemplating the best route to get to it.................
I am afraid that one day she will stick her nose into a hole and something will bite her.
But we live where we live and cannot stop that from happening if it is going to happen.
 So every time our curious dog sticks her curious face into an opening in the rocks or into a large hole in the ground I watch with fingers crossed.
Always prepared for puppy first aid or a trip to the vet if need be.
It is simply the nature of life on public lands in the west...............
The soil in the ancient lave field is darker, more nutrient rich, moister than it is in the endless square miles of desert land that surrounds us.
We go into the mountains and I expect to see lush growth everywhere I look.
I don't expect to see that in the desert, and so again (as I did the last time we explored here) I found myself constantly looking around.  
Amazed to see tall grasses.  Flowers.  All growing in and around the gaps in the rocks.............
Coming back with a call from LC, and balancing easily on a rock incline while eating a hot dog treat...........
I find lava rock so interesting.
When we lived in Wyoming the rock in the section of Shoshone National Forest that led to the east gate of Yellowstone was incredibly unique.
Volcanic rock that looked at though it had cooled very quickly, and which now towered over rock cliffs in tortured shapes, as though it were a series of frozen-in-time Mayan statues.
Silent, rock guardians of the region.
In our Idaho lava field there were oceans of rock.
Volcanic rock that was frozen for eternity in waves.............
The last thing I expected to see in the desert was domestic weeds.
The tall, purple flowered weeds that I had seen in endless green and lush fields back in Tennessee.............
I have no idea what this is, and it was the only plant like it that I saw during our trip................
We wandered contentedly through this section of the lave field for an hour or so before finally circling our way back to the truck.
There is still more to see of the field, and eventually we will see it all.
I smiled to myself as we got close to the truck.  
A small clump of flowers was growing out of a crack in the rocks.
The lava had flowed, and then settled and cooled, and then cracked into what looked to me to be a small platform.
As though the platform had been constructed specifically to best display these flowers in the desert.............
"It's beautiful out there."
A hesitation, before, "Could you be more specific?"
"The sky is gorgeous, intense blue color." She pressed her fingers to the glass and traced the wavy hills on the horizon.
"Oh, good. You've really narrowed it down for me."
"I'm sorry, it's just..." She tried to stamp down the rush of emotion. "I think we're in a desert."
"Cactuses and tumbleweeds?"
"No just a lot of sand. It's kind of orangish-gold, with hints of pink, and I can see tiny clouds of it floating above the ground, smoke."
"Piles up in lots of hills?"
"Yes, exactly! And it's beautiful."
Thorne snorted. "If this is how you feel about a desert, I can't wait until you see your first real tree. Your mind will explode.”................Marissa Meyer, Cress   

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