Friday, November 14, 2014

Visitor Center In The Desert

Last Saturday I spent a good part of the day giving things away.
Posting on a local Facebook classified site, I listed pictures of assorted ends and odds that have been laying around primarily in the garage, posted everything for free and encouraged others to do the same.
Some did and it turned out to be a nice day, with a number of people handing things (that had simply been taking up space) over to people who could make use of random stuff that we no longer needed.
On the way home from Arco (which was the meeting place for people to pick up things they wanted) LC, Kory and I headed towards the house, traveling back through the high desert of the Snake River Plain.
It was late in the day, the sun was already beginning to set, and although it had been unseasonably warm temperatures (as they do in this part of the country) were already dropping like a rock.
Half way home - in the middle of the empty highway, and in the middle of the empty desert - LC pulled the Tahoe off the road.
Climbing out I pulled the zipper of my jacket up towards my chin.
The early evening was dead calm and very cold but, excited to be in the middle of the desert looking out over the mountains to the north and the desert sunset in front of me, I gave the cold little attention.
We were into November.
With winter fast approaching there would be few days remaining like the one we had just had, and on this night the sky was silent and gorgeous.
  I wanted to enjoy it, for the little time we had left of it.............
Looking back towards Arco and the Big Lost River Valley................
The top of Big Southern Butte................
LC had parked in a huge paved area just off the highway, and close to the turnoff to Howe...............
After snapping a few quick pictures I climbed back into the truck and we continued with our trip.
On the spur of the moment I asked LC to stop at the Visitor Center.
We had passed by this center many times, and every time we blew by it I told myself that we should stop there on the way home, but somehow it never seemed to happen.
The desert between Atomic City has few focal points.
From Atomic City there are miles and miles of relatively flat land, with little to see other than sage and the odd INL secret squirrel installations visible in the distance.
Once you reach the turn-off to the tiny community of Howe, the terrain begins to slowly but irrevocably rise, first small hills and then larger hills, and then small mountains.
The promise of the tall and majestic mountains further into the valley are there, but only the promise.
And the middle of seemingly nowhere and nothing, there is a Visitor Center that overlooks Big Butte.
On this evening, as the sun was beginning to drop behind the mountains, and with little sunlight left, we pulled in to finally check it out.................
As we pulled into the Visitor Center I climbed out and headed towards the back of the building, drawn to the final heart beats of the sunset.
Behind me, I could hear LC reaching into the back of the truck to fetch our dog, who was already excitedly anticipating this unexpected walk so late in the day.
After snapping the picture above, I turned my attention to the information boards.
There were many of them, and like a mad woman on a mission I began snapping quick pictures, knowing that in just a few minutes we would be completely out of daylight.
Information board about the desert, about INL, about Big Butte, about the vegetation and the rock formations and the volcanic history of this region.
Click on the pictures and they will enlarge..................
Walking to the far end of the Visitor Center I looked up and studied these flags for a moment.
They were wind blown.  
Frayed from the cold and the endless wind that blows without constraint across the desert.
It was only a couple of days away from Veterans Day, and as I studied the frayed and tattered flags I hoped that someone (who?) would change them out.
LC approached with me Kory, looked up at the three flags, and when I said something about them he mentioned how difficult it was to maintain flags in this unforgiving environment.
But maintain them or don't put them up................
I watched as my guy and my dog headed back towards the info boards and then headed for the Tahoe.
It was freezing, but the night was so incredibly beautiful that I was just not ready to climb back into a vehicle, pull back onto the highway, speed across flat desert land back to our tiny desert town.
Not just yet...............
Right behind the Visitor Center is a dry river bed.
On the shoulder of the highway is a sign letting passers-by know that they are driving over the Big Lost River.
The Big Lost River is a dry river bed.  
A lost river indeed.
This sign told the story of a river diverted, and of the huge volume of water that over the years has been dedicated to farming between Mackay and Arco, and that eventually has drained this river.
Such a shame.
A shame not only from a dry-river perspective, but also because Arco is beginning to struggle mightily with water issues.
Interestingly some of the river has gone underground.
Also interestingly, Atomic City sits on a huge aqua duct...............
It was a good day when it was all said and done.
It would have been better if I could have sold things, but truthfully at this time of year I had little ambition to try and sell random things that were simply taking up space in our garage and what will eventually be our sun room.
This close to winter I only wanted to clear things out.
So people who could use our unwanted things were happy to get our cast-offs.
After meeting with people in the parking lot at Pickles Place in Arco, LC and I walked into the restaurant and quickly grabbed some burgers before heading back towards Atomic City.
And after mediocre and slightly overpriced burgers, it was nice to finally make a stop at this Visitor Center in the desert, that looked really beautiful against a back drop of a setting sun...............

The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand...............Frederick L. Knowles

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