I watched Kory lead the way as we headed towards one more series of hills that looked small in the vastness of the desert, but which actually were not.
Still greatly enjoying this adventure with my dog, I was now more focused on finding a way to change direction and begin making my way back to the vehicle.
As Kory and I set off to circle around the two hills, I had already decided that if that route did not pan out I would head back the way we had come.
I didn't want to do that and hoped that I didn't have to.
It was the old adventure racer in me.
I HATED traveling the same piece of ground twice...................
As we continued to head towards the hills that I hoped were the last in this particular lava field, I longingly looked to my left, visually in search one last time of a way through.
There may have been a way (that I would have found if I had investigated further) but I did not see one from where I stood, and so I chose not to go in that direction.
I had thought when I first dove into the field that eventually I would be able to go up and over one of the hills, hit the back side and meander my way back.
LC and I had always been able to do that when we had explored other volcanic rock fields.
But not this one.
The hills were taller. The cracks at the peak of the rocks were wider.
As I continued walking I glanced over at Kory again double checking that she was OK.
She was still dancing and prancing and investigating and running up and down hills.
No. She was fine.
She was better than fine. She was having a royal blast................
One more leafless and rugged tree that was a metaphor for the skeleton that was the landscape.
After spending a few moments looking at the tall tree I finally noticed the one to its right.
As with so many others I had seen on this day, this tree had begun its life deep within a crevice.
And (as with the others) it had found a way to reach for daylight..............
Rounding the last big hill I looked in the direction that I needed to go.
It was wide open.
Blue sky was struggling to break through the clouds.
Blue would not win the battle on this day, but that was OK.
It was a mild day and I was out exploring with my puppy.
Smiling at the sky, I found the most wide open area I could (that was surrounded by snow covered cacti, small trees, desert grasses and unending ancient rock) and began walking again.
Looking towards Cedar and Big Buttes I realized that we were standing on low ground, that Cedar had disappeared and that I could only see the very top of Big Butte.
That was good enough for me.
I was reassured that we were headed in the right direction.
Eventually I would need to work my way south but this was a good start..................
She weighed 52 pounds when we got her.
She weighs 64 pounds now.
I asked LC to cut down on the people food he shares with her because I would like to see her stay at this weight.
Actually, I think what I said was "She BETTER weigh 64 pounds when she gets her rattlesnake shots in May!"
Good naturedly of course.
She's partial to cheese and fried egg sandwiches................
I stopped a number of times on the way back, mostly to look at the sky.
It was alive with activity.
I could see the quiet battle that was happening, as fronts and winds fought for dominance of the sky.
I stood watching Big Butte for a minute and could see the clouds continuously move and change shape.
I really love the sky in the desert.
It speaks to me in words that I do not understand but which I find compelling.
Clouds are sometimes so low that it appears as if you could actually reach up and touch them.
Clouds that move, and shape shift, that slide up and over the tops of the buttes, but which are sometimes so heavy you can almost hear them giving up the battle and slowly retreating.
The constant battles between blue and grey as they duel across the desert with nothing to slow them down.
Kory and I constantly saw and then lost sight of the buttes as we continually walked down into low lying areas and then climbed out of them
By this time I felt as though I needed to swing to my left if I was going to find the road again, and I searched the landscape to find a navigable route.
I was on the back side of the lava field but if I stayed on BLM land that would mean I would have to find a way back INTO the lava field to find the road................
Five minutes later I had my answer.
Up ahead of me I could see the tracks, but I had been meandering and wandering and sidetracking for a couple of hours by this time and the sight of the tracks momentarily confused me.
I hadn't even thought about the tracks and the sight of them was unexpected (although in hindsight they shouldn't have been).
100 feet from the tracks I scanned the horizon, searching out the cues I knew, when there are actually very few cues in a desert.
Tracks. Cedar Butte. Big Butte. I could barely see the road covered in snow, as it began to gradually climb towards Cedar Butte, but it was there.
I looked again, wanting to make certain that it WAS Big Butte Rd and not one of the many trails that meander across this land.
Nope. It was the road.
My first thought was "Oh hell". If we were where I THOUGHT we were then we still had a mile or so to walk at least.
Still standing in one place, and unwilling to make a move until I was certain, I glanced over at my pup.
She was close and she was fine.
Did trains still use this track? I didn't think so but wasn't 100% certain.
Glancing to my left all I saw was the back side of the lava field.
Small hills. Not the big ones I had tackled a couple of hours earlier.
But I didn't want to go back in THERE when it was time to get out of HERE.
Walking up to the tracks I looked in both directions.
I could see the familiar break in the rocks to my left. The break that up-til-now I had only seen from the other side of it.
It was the place that had been blasted to allow tracks to be laid (likely in the 50's or 60's).
I hadn't planned on it but in that moment decided to walk the tracks back to the Tahoe.
I knew exactly where we were, and I called to my dog.
Kory! Let's GO!!
Happy dog happily followed.................
The tracks looking north...............
The tracks looking south and in the direction I was headed................
Random piece of artistic and rusted metal seen on the tracks................
I smiled when I saw these initials.
There were painted on one of the rock walls.
My first thought was that apparently I wasn't the ONLY person to wander in the desert.
My second thought was to wonder who painted these letters and arrow, and why?
Was it someones' initials?
Was it a sign made by workers on the track?
Did someone answer nature's call and was so proud of it that they announced it on the wall, complete with arrow?
Just one of those minor, side-bar, inconsequential Questions of Life that did not really need to be answered...............
Looking back the way we had come...................
About half a mile beyond the break in the rock walls we finally reached the railroad crossing, as I knew that we would.
It was the place in the very first picture of Part l of this blog.
And the place where we had started this adventure a few hours before.
I had parked not far from the crossing, and Kory and I happily stepped off the tracks, wandered down the snow covered Big Butte Rd a short ways and returned to the Tahoe.................
I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone.'
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!............JRR Tolkien, The Hobbitt