Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Year In Atomic City - Part 3

As you drive through the Snake River Plain from Blackfoot, on your way to Arco or Mackay or any of the other sweet and wonderful little towns in the valley that quietly lay between mountain chains, the land looks very desolate.
This year the desert is green.  
A sign of all of the wonderful and very welcome rain that we had through the month of August.
But most years the desert in the summer is brown, bone dry and looks very flat.
In actuality it is not flat.
The Twin Buttes, Rattlesnake Butte, Cedar Butte, and Big Butte quietly and unassumingly rise above the desert floor, beckoning to anyone that cares to see .
The Twins and Big Butte garner some mild attention by passers-by, but the others look like nothing more than small rises.  Bumps in the terrain.  Hiccups in the world.
We have done a lot of exploring over the past year, with still much more to do............

We happily hiked to the top of Big Butte last November.
A behemoth in the desert, it is a lone mountain in its own right.  
A land locked white whale of a rise that has an eco system that it unique to itself.
Once you leave the sage brush and parched grasses of the desert floor you quickly find pine trees, mountain laurel, lush grasses, and astonishing 360 degree views of the world for 100 miles in every direction.............

Cedar Butte (Big Buttes' underachiever cousin) is nothing more than a lower, wider, flatter piece of rock.
Only it's actually so much more than that.
The first time we explored one section of Cedar Butte I was stunned to find that the rises were higher than I had expected.  
Size and space and distance are all deceptive in a desert that is so vast.
Cedar was further away from Atomic City than I had initially realized.  Cedar was further away from Big Butte than I had realized.
While Big Butte has only one challenging trail that leads from bottom to top, Cedar Butte is an expansive rise that contains multiple trails and with that, every single trip out there is a new adventure.
We have been to Cedar Butte many times over the past year.  Always exploring a new part of it, always enjoying ourselves immensely, always relishing in the uniqueness and wonder of this quiet desert place...............

Rattlesnake Butte (aka The Tabletop) is located about two miles from the outskirts of Atomic City and the first time we visited there not long after we moved to Idaho, I initially did so with little enthusiasm.
It didn't look very big.
It was close to town.
I couldn't see any trees.
How interesting could one little treeless and rocky rise be?
Once we climbed the rocky and rutted out and steep trail that leads to the top of Rattlesnake, both LC and I realized that it was the first time we had seen our town from elevation, and in the context of its location in the desert.
It was the first time we fully realized just how vast and empty and isolated the desert really was.
It wasn't a huge butte, but our first trip was memorable because it was that trip that finally drove home exactly where we had chosen to live, and what our new and quiet life would be like in this strange new place......................

A few miles outside of town there is a trail that leads through flat and open BLM land until eventually it arrives at a series of small peaks.
LC and I have no idea whether or not they have an official name, but because there are eight of them all located close together, we quickly christened them 8 Points.
We have visited this place often because we love to explore the points, and because this place always reminds us of Kory.
It was the place where we first let her off leash about a month after we nervously picked her up from the Boise Airport, and the first place where we allowed her to run free.
I had walked with our new pup extensively in and around town, wanting to have time to bond with her before releasing her.
Atomic City Idaho was a far cry from Tampa Bay Florida, and deep into winter and the vastness of the high desert, we hoped that we had done enough groundwork with her and that she would stay close to us.
With the desert completely covered in snow we released our dog next to the Eight Points.
Both LC and I hoped that our newly released dog would wander and run and have fun and stay within calling distance of us.
Instead she turned away from us the moment I took her off leash, quickly picked up the snowy trail and RAN.
LC and I watched her in stunned amazement.  She was fast.  She was very very fast.  And she wasn't stopping.
We climbed into the truck, neither one of us speaking, and knew that we needed to go retrieve our wayward dog before she got too far away from us.
She was miles from the house.  Where the hell did she think she was going??
By the time we finally caught sight of Kory she was half a mile ahead of us, still on the trail, and still running in a full on sprint...................

I am not sure if Atomic City Idaho will be our last stop or not.
Part of both of us would like to live closer to the mountains and closer to water.
But for now this little town, surrounded by this huge and unending desert, is a comfortable and quietly satisfying place to be.................

A blog post about one of our many trips to Cedar Butte:

Our hike on Big Butte:

My first hike alone with Kory, only a few weeks after we brought her home:

One more trip to Cedar Butte in the dead of winter, on a freezing cold and completely beautiful day..............
A trip to Cedar Butte on a snowy, overcast, misty day.
Visibility was low and the world was completely silent.......................
A trip to 8 Points.
By the time these pictures were taken our happy-go-lucky and incredibly athletic dog happily ran and played and stayed within calling distance of her people................
These pictures were taken not long after we moved to Atomic City.
Our first experience with the vastness of our desert town and our new desert life................
The same sun that rises over castles and welcomes the day
Spills over buildings into the streets where orphans play
And only You can see the good in broken things
You took my heart of stone, and You made it home
And set this prisoner free............Bethany Dillon 

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