Monday, July 28, 2014

The Desire To Walk

There was a time when we lived in Juneau when it rained every day for six weeks straight.
Six weeks of endless cold, endless cloud cover and endless rain.  
In June and July.
Rain was a way of life in Juneau, and after living there for a while I quickly came to understand what the locals had told me not long after I arrived in that isolated town that is also the capital city of Alaska - do whatever you were planning on doing regardless of the weather.
'Cause if you waited for a sunny day you could be waiting for a long time.
The rain, the constant cloud cover, the cold even in the middle of summer, never bothered me.  Not for a minute.
But in truth I would never have imagined while living in that damp, moss filled, rain forest environment that only a few years later we would be living in the high plains desert in Idaho.
And that the endless dryness and blue sky could become so tedious.
I wake in the mornings wishing for rain in the summer, knowing of course that the likelihood of that happening is very small.
The weather here changes constantly during the other seasons of the year, but summer in the Snake River Plain is what it is.  
My need for water is increasing as it does predictably after weeks of high desert plains.  
We need to go in search of it soon.  
We need to feed the need................

A few days ago LC, Kory and I headed away from our tiny town and drove out into the desert.
It was early morning and the temperature had not yet reached the predictable blast furnace levels of mid summer in SE Idaho.
Cedar Butte is located 8 BLM miles or so from Atomic City, and as my 56 pound dog stood on the seat with her head excitedly stuck out of the passenger side window of the Tahoe, I looked out over the endless emptiness of the land.
I hadn't been on Cedar Butte in a couple of months and was eager to walk.  
It would be a short walk I knew because right now it is far too hot to walk too far, but I viewed this outing as a good opportunity to test how our pup would do off leash among the hills and trees of this expansive rise in the desert.
Kory has run endlessly on wide open BLM land.  She has eagerly explored rocky lava fields.  And she has wandered happily among the tall and lush sage brush that can be found in the desert if you look hard enough for such things.
But on this day we would wander off trails, in and among trees, sometimes losing sight of each other.  We were prepared (if need be) to wander in search of our wayward dog who may run after deer or rabbits or possibly even coyotes.  
But we hoped that we wouldn't have to.
A link to a previous blog post with other stories about Cedar Butte:
Not long after leaving the house, LC turned left off the gravel Big Butte Rd and drove a short ways before pulling into a dusty, wide open area where four wheelers typically off load.
A brief hike and we reached a fork in the trail.
The left fork circles all the way around Cedar Butte.  The right trail immediately heads up into the hills of the butte and that is the direction that we headed.
Once Kory hit the trail she ran ahead of us, enjoying the freedom of space and  the feeling of unbridled movement.  Her unwavering joy at experiencing such freedom never ends.
I see it in her face, in the way she moves, in the way she runs and explores, and that joy pleases me.
I don't know what her life was like in Tampa Bay, Florida when her name was first Lily and then Korea, but I can only imagine what her life was like during the months that she spent at the shelter.
Can only imagine how she must have felt when she was finally adopted by a family, immediately jumped their fence upon arrival at her new home, and then was immediately returned to the shelter.
Can only imagine how she must have felt when our friend took her out of the shelter, and then a week later put Kory into a cage and loaded her into the cargo section of a plane.
When I see this beautiful dog running through endless BLM land I am always reminded of just how lucky she was to find us, and how lucky we were to ultimately find her...................

The Twin Buttes to the left and Rattlesnake Butte to the right.............
The trail was open and dusty and it climbed quickly.
Neither LC nor I had a specific plan.  No specific destination in mind.  
No specific agenda other than to explore some more of the butte and gain confidence in our dogs' ability and desire to stay close to her people.
A look back at the Tahoe as we continued to climb................
Cedar Butte is such an interesting place to me.
Unlike the wonderful and very beautiful Big Butte that has only one trail leading to the top, Cedar is a vast conglomeration of trails that veer in every direction.
There is a trail at the base that circumnavigates the entire butte, and we have eagerly driven that trail a handful of times over the past year.
There are also a number of trails and trail heads spread out over the entire butte, which means that every single trip that we have taken has been a different and unique adventure.
Through the winter and spring I often heard large packs of coyotes howling in these hills.
There are deer and elk tracks everywhere you look.  
Much of the butte is filled with small, rough and rugged and hardy cedar trees.  The type with thick and spiny needles, and whose limbs have been twisted over many years into mangled shapes by the strong and unrelenting desert winds............
Looking north towards the entrances to the Big and Little Lost River Valleys..............
In the increasingly daunting heat, we stopped walking the trail with its steep incline and impulsively began to bushwhack through the thick sage brush to our left.
We were still climbing, but were heading towards the short and rugged cedar trees that were located on a rise.
Kory was wandering, and although she disappeared frequently behind trees and large boulders, she was not wandering too far.
Each time we called to her she quickly reappeared.  Excitedly bouncing back to us. 
And each time she returned, LC and I felt more encouraged that our sweet pup was now trained enough and bonded enough to be able to handle this much freedom without getting injured or lost.
In the heat of summer Kory has now almost completely weaned herself from the hot dog treats that we used so often through the winter and spring to encourage her to return to us.
It's all beginning to come together............
This black fungus is all over the butte, and attaches itself to rocks that lay in the sun.
This was the first patch that I saw and so I quickly snapped a picture of it before moving on, but as we continued to explore I realized that it was everywhere.
In some places rocks were covered with surprisingly thick layers of this black, spongy fungus.............
Kory and LC looking out over the Twin Buttes and the Snake River Plain.............
After reaching the top of the cedar covered rise, LC found a gully that led down the back side of the hill.
Neither of us had ever explored this part of the butte before, but we both knew that it must lead back down to the trail that meanders around the entire butte.
From there we could simply walk the trail back to the Tahoe..............
90 minutes after we left the truck we eagerly grabbed for bottles of water.
Kory drank from LCs hand as she loves to do, and then LC and I shared a bottle before slowly driving gravel road back to the air conditioned comfort of the house.
It was a good walk.  They're always good walks on Cedar Butte...............

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.  Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.  I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it............... Soren Kierkegaard

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