It is 112 miles from Atomic City to the small town of Challis, that is quietly hidden among the mountains of the Big Lost River Valley.
I had signed up to take part in a special event this past weekend in Challis and I hoped to make some business connections that could be helpful to me in the future.
Even as we left for Mud Lake to camp early last week, we had also planned on camping up in Challis for a few days during this event.
By this time last year it had already snowed here, and even as we drove home from an astonishingly warm and beautiful few days at Mud Lake I wondered just how long this weather would hold.
We were now well into October. At elevations over 5000 feet. In the west.
In short, we were living on borrowed time when it came to warm weather, and both LC and I knew that a week and a half after Mud Lake we had the potential to be facing really freezing cold weather.
But this unseasonably warm and dry weather is apparently in a holding pattern and as we hurriedly packed up the camper yet again I looked up at the sky and saw only blue.
It was slated to be around 70 degrees during the day, and around freezing overnight.
Extraordinary. Wonderful. So incredibly beautiful this late in the year.
I snapped this picture while we were at a gas station in Arco filling up the truck.
As I walked into the gas station to pay, LC filled the truck and then (as he is apt to do) he struck up an easy conversation with the driver of the flatbed that was transporting these old John Deere tractors.
The tractors were on the way to Minnesota. The driver traveled all over the country, transporting old vehicles to new owners...............
The drive from Atomic City to Challis is a quiet, ever changing and always welcome trip.
It begins with 30 miles of wide open, flat and fast desert driving from AC to Arco.
Driving slows a little between Arco and Mackay as the road alternately winds through mountain passes and then opens up into huge valleys filled with huge ranches.
And finally the drive from Mackay to Challis - mountains that begin to climb to the sky, the Salmon river begins to make its appearance, more huge farms and ranches, and the increasing awareness that you are heading further and further away from civilization and are replacing the civilized with the increasingly wild and untamed.
I love this valley.
We have barely scratched the surface and I know that.........out there...........as yet undiscovered by us............there are mountain lakes, mountain trails, few people and an endless and isolated world to explore.
A couple of pictures taken through a dirty windshield...............
With only one stop in Arco for gas the drive went quickly, even as Kory happily spent most of the trip standing on my lap with her head out the window.
With an agenda for one day of our trip, LC and I decided to go to the same campground that we had stopped at during our trip to Salmon a few months earlier:
As we pulled into the campground two things immediately struck me:
1. A few months ago the campground had been unbelievably green, and the sight of this place now completely embedded in fall was immediately astonishing.
2. The homeless man that we had met briefly in June was still in the campground, and still camped in the same spot where he had been when we first met him.
For a moment I was disappointed to see his vehicle, because I had hoped to park right by the river, and this was the very best spot in the campground.
Almost immediately I felt guilty about those selfish thoughts. We were the only other campers in the entire, wide open and beautiful campground, and there were many beautiful spots to choose from...............
As LC unhooked the camper from the truck and got the camp site squared away, I wandered the area with my dog.
All three of us had been sitting for far too long, and both me and Kory were eager to move, eager to see what this place looked like in the middle of this different season.
Everything looked beautiful.
I looked up at the trees, greatly enjoying the sight of gold, and then noticed for the first time that all the trees were hard woods, as opposed to the evergreens that I was so used to in mountain environments.
And then I looked up at the sky, once more enamored by a blue that you only see in the fall when the air is clear and clean and very crisp.................
As Kory drunk water from the river I bent down to feel how cold it was.
The water was moving much slower than it was a few months ago, was much shallower than it was in June, and it was freezing cold................
By the time Kory and I reached this place, we were standing right beside the camper of the man that we had met in June.
As I turned away from the river I saw him appear from behind the camper, and he instantly smiled broadly at me.
He remembered me, remembered Kory, and as LC approached us he turned and extended his hand.
While LC and the man (whose name I could not remember at the time) began to talk, I wandered away from them.
I needed to move, and in truth was not ready to make conversation.
In truth I needed to be alone.
Needed to wander with my beautiful dog.
Needed to absorb the mountains and the trees and the river.................
By this time my pup and I had walked the entire perimeter of the campground and were now standing down next to the boat ramp.
As I stood at the waters' edge watching Kory drink water out of the river yet again, I looked to my right and was surprised to see first a float boat and then a fisherman standing by the shore.
The fisherman turned to look at me and I nodded and then turned away instantly forgetting about him.
A minute later I looked back and he was still staring at me.
Surprised, I automatically raised my hand to him and he raised his in return.
LC could fish here.
I hoped that while I was busy in town the next day maybe he could have a nice time fishing a beautiful and quiet river...............
Looking down river again I looked at the trees and the slower moving river, absently trying to decide whether I liked this place better in the summer or in the fall.
There was no real decision to make. It was beautiful at both times of year, but there was something really wonderful about the vibrant colors that stood in front of me.
There was no more summer haze. Only the crispness of a fall day.
God it was beautiful.............
Cows grazing on the private property adjacent to the camp ground.............
Slowly my dog and I found our way back to the un-named man and LC, and I stood on the outskirts of the two men for a few moments, silently listening to their conversation.
That's right, the mans' name was George.
He had a dog with him the last time we saw him in June, and I asked where his pup was.
We had done little more than exchange pleasantries a couple of times during our last visit to the campground, but LC and I had both gotten the strong impression that this man was down on his luck.
We thought perhaps also homeless, and that he was living out of his truck and camper.
He was obviously attached to his dog, and at the time I had been impressed with how happy and healthy his dog looked and how attached they both seemed to be to each other.
His dog and our dog had played with each other on our last day just before we left, and both pups had seemed to greatly enjoy the encounter.
It was while our dogs were playing together that we actually exchanged more than a few words.
And so it seemed entirely natural for me to ask where his pup was.
George had given his dog to a couple from Montana that he had met at the campground not long after we left.
His dog had through necessity been spending too much time chained up when it was used to running free.
His life was unsettled. The Montana couple owned a home and 10 acres.
And so he made the decision to give his dog a new home.
Or so the story went, and I tend to believe him, but this man was a stranger to us so who really knew for sure.
Regardless, Georges' dog was no longer with him, and we all spent another 20 minutes in casual conversation before LC and I finally decided that it was time to make a quick trip to town.
Neither of us knew where the building was, that I was scheduled to spend most of the next day at, and so we wanted to locate it.
And we had left the house with very few groceries. We needed food.
And then LC needed rest, and likely so did Kory since they were both used to napping together in the afternoons
Smiling at George we told him that we would see him later..................