Thursday, December 25, 2014

Little Lost River Valley

After religiously watching the weather forecasts for the past week in hopes of having a white Christmas, the skies finally opened up yesterday afternoon.
It snowed heavily non-stop from mid afternoon and then throughout the night, and this morning we woke up, pushed the back door open and walked out into a back yard that was knee deep in snow.
But a few days ago, surrounded by only the terrain of a snow-less desert and feeling increasingly restless, I needed white instead of endless beige.
And so we drove through 20 miles of desert, turned right off the fast and flat two lane highway and headed for  the tiny community of Howe.
Driving through Howe without stopping we continued moving, eager to be close to the mountains.
Heading for the snow covered mountains of the Little Lost River Valley..................
 The lower valley is filled with huge cattle ranches.
Huge pieces of ground owned by Mormon families whose ancestors settled this area a hundred years ago or more.
It is an incredibly isolated area.  Community halls located in the middle of nowhere and in Clive a Forest Service building.   
Each home, each community hall, is separated by miles and miles of nothing but farm land that is surrounded by increasingly rugged mountains.
After driving for 30 minutes without passing even one vehicle, we pulled off the winding road and pulled into a small campground that is located close to a narrow and winding section of the Little Lost River.
Climbing out of the Tahoe I looked at the back seat and smiled when I saw my sweet dog eagerly dancing around in anticipation of being sprung from the bondage of the vehicle.
Opening the back door Kory immediately made a jump for the ground and I made a quick grab for her leash.
Maybe it was time to trust her unleashed away from the BLM land around home, but we kept her leashed anyway.
There were coyotes out there.  Certainly wolves.
As I looked around me the wild terrain compelled me to let her go so that she could run untethered, but I couldn't do it.
Maybe soon.  Maybe a while longer yet.
But likely soon.
Handing my sweet dog over to my sweet Mountain Boy, I reached into one pocket of my jacket and pulled out my little digital camera................
 This was only the second time that we had explored parts of the Little Lost.
In February we were here for the first time:
As it was on this day, we had initially decided to explore back in February because we needed to be around trees and mountains and snow.
For the second time this year we stopped at the same campground, and again relished in how beautiful it was.
Neither of us could see camping here.  The river was too narrow - no boating, no kayaking, questionable fishing, a campground sitting close to the river but also in wide open terrain that felt too exposed.
But still a beautiful place to stop and wander.....................
 As soon as we climbed out of the truck I knew that it was much colder in the valley than it was in the desert.
It felt at least 10 degrees colder than it had been when we left the house, and even though the cold initially surprised me, LC and I were both dressed for it.
We had enough clothes and (knowing that we were planning on being in an isolated area) we were also armed with enough emergency supplies to feel comfortable with the trip.
After spending half an hour wandering along the edge of the river (and watching Kory continually step into the rushes and then sink through them into the shallow river) we all climbed back into the truck, curious to see what else we would find.
As we continued to slowly make our way further into the valley I wasn't exactly sure how far we would go.
On our last trip in February we had eventually reached what I can only describe as a no-mans-land area where we decided to turn back.
The area was absolutely isolated, and buried under huge snow drifts it appeared that there were no power lines, no homes, no community halls.  
No trees.
Nothing but expansive hills covered with snow.
With no emergency supplies, no cell phone coverage, no signs of civilization, snow drifts gently blowing across the road and no idea what we would face up ahead, we reluctantly decided to turn back.
We had meant to return and retrace the drive again during the summer but never got around it.
Would we drive that far this time?  We had no specific plans or agenda in mind other than to be in the mountains and be surrounded by snow, and we had already accomplished that...............
 On the spur of the moment LC reached a directional sign and turned left off the main road.
The directional sign pointed the way to the pass, which climbed up and over the mountains until it eventually dropped down into Mackay.
Another one of those roads that we had promised ourselves we would see during the summer, and one of those things that we forgot all about in the rush of camper buying and campsite visiting and home improvements.  The drive never happened through the summer..............
 We were greeted with deep snow cover as soon as we turned off the main road.
Neither one of us thought that we would be actually driving up and over the pass at this time of year, but we were both curious to see how far we could get and what we would see before having to turn back.
All of a sudden LC picked up speed and I looked over at him in surprise.
We were being followed..................
 In a wide bend in the road LC pulled the Tahoe over to the shoulder so that those in the vehicle behind us could pass.
As they drove up to the drivers side they stopped.  Did we know what the pass was like?  No - this was our first time up this way.
What were our names?  Pausing for a moment - LC.
I could tell by his tone of voice that LC was as caught off guard by the question as I was.
But quickly we had our answer.
One of the four guys in the truck had bought a third seat from us back in the spring and recognized us.
Smiling I thought "what are the odds?"
The guy was from Pocatello, we had not seen him in over six months, had only met him the one time, and here he was joy riding with three other guys in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the Little Lost River Valley.
At the same time that we were.
After exchanging pleasantries and jokes about digging out if they (or we) got stuck, we wished them well.
Quickly they sped ahead of us and were gone from sight...............
 The scenery was stunningly beautiful and as we ticked off one mile after another I found myself excited about what we would see during this unexpected side trip through the valley.
How far would we get before we had to head back?
Was it possible that the pass was passable?  Doubtful but who knew?
We had no idea what kind of roads were up ahead and so we slowly made our way in this unknown place, both of us excited by the newness of our experience and completely enamored with beautiful and wild terrain...............
 15 miles later we came across a Road Closed sign.
Driving right by it, both LC and I knew that our trip was almost done but we continued a little further anyway.
Our trip had been easy enough to this point.  The snow had been getting deeper with each passing mile but the road had remained mostly flat and navigable.
Let's see how close to the mountains we could get.................
 After a wonderful and unexpected 20 mile detour, our trip into the mountains came to an end.
The truck that had passed us was long gone, and as we pulled into a wide and empty spot so that we could turn the Tahoe around, we wondered just how far they would get.
The four smiling men had struck me as free wheeling young guys who were up for an excellent day of manly adventure two days before Christmas.
Maybe they would make it.  Maybe they'd get stuck.  Maybe they'd eventually turn it around.
But somehow I knew that whatever happened during their trip, it was all good.
But for us, the steep climbs up into the mountains were just up ahead, and so our sidebar adventure would have to stop right here.
While LC backed into the wide open spot in the snow and off the road, I grabbed for Korys leash one more time and slowly began to walk on the road with her.
God, we were in a silent and wonderful place.................
 There were trees down the hill.  Which meant that there was water down the hill.
As we slowly began to wander down the hill where LC had pulled the truck over, I looked at the lone set of tracks that had just recently broken trail.
My first thought was a coyote, but as I looked at them more closely I realized that these were not the prints that I was so used to seeing around Atomic City.
These were bigger.  Slightly larger than Korys big paw print.  And the prints were close to Korys in appearance and that was not a coyote print.
I believed that these were wolf trackst and that this lone wolf had wandered down to the river just recently.
Me and my sniffing and curious dog wandered only a short way before turning back.................
As my puppy and I reached the Tahoe again, unexpected noise pierced the silence that I had quickly become accustomed to.
Looking up I saw the four guys heading back our way.
They had made it another few miles before finally turning back after seeing five foot snow drifts across the road.
Smiling, they told us they were going to search for another way across the pass.
Smiling, we wished them well and waved as they sped away.
Good luck guys.  
Slowly heading back the way we had come................
 Pictures taken on a slow and excellent trip back towards home...............
 I hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas filled with joy and family and friends.

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