Saturday, January 17, 2015

Not Walking On Cedar Butte - Part 1

This morning I took Kory for a long walk out onto BLM land.
The world was almost completely devoid of color.  
We were walking in a black and white world, surrounded by an endlessly grey sky, new snowfall covering the ground, and frozen ice crystals that were wonderfully hanging from every surface.
It was a beautiful morning and we walked in the snow for a long time.
As always, I am completely enamored with this world in winter.
I found these pictures last night and downloaded them onto this blog.
The difference between the winter wonderland that is the world right now - and how the world looked only a few weeks ago is startling.
These pictures were all taken a couple of days before Christmas.
At that time we had already had a handful of overnight snows, that covered the ground by morning but then quickly (and disappointingly) melted during the warmth of the day.
And so, a few days before Christmas I gathered up my puppy, loaded into the Tahoe and drove out onto BLM land in search of a new place to explore and discover.
I eagerly drove out of town, turned onto Big Butte Rd, passed the trail entrance on the left that would take us to the 8 Points, passed the trail on the right (that led into the center of BLM land where a lava rock field that we had explored extensively through the summer was located), passed by the pull-off where I had parked the Tahoe previously and explored yet one more lava field in the snow with my dog, crossed over the railroad tracks and then looked around me trying to decide where I wanted to go.
I had no idea.
I wanted to walk on Cedar Butte but was not prepared to do that. 
 I was armed, but had no water with me and Kory was not wearing her vest.  
With no snow on the ground we would need both water and her vest 
Quickly (but reluctantly) tossing out the idea of wandering Cedar, I parked at the very entrance of the long trail that quickly splits - with one trail heading up into the hills on the butte (before eventually dead ending), and a second trail that circles all the way around the circumference of Cedar Butte.
Parking the Tahoe I climbed out of the vehicle, reached for the back door handle, and then quickly stepped out of the way so that my over-eager Kory would not mow me down as she bounced out and onto the ground.
I already knew what she would do.  
Her boundless energy had been barely contained during the 8 mile trip out to Cedar Butte, and so I stood beside the vehicle and watched her quickly run in circles, mark her new found territory, and quickly wander back and forth with her nose to the ground - all Kory-things that Kory-dog does when in exploration mode.
After a few minutes I called out to her to get her attention, and then encouraged her to follow me up the trail.
Where was I going??
I had no idea at that point, but destination was less important than the journey itself.........
Looking longingly at the trail up ahead that veered to the right and then quickly began to climb up into Cedar Butte, I told myself NO!  
There was a lot of climbing involved in that route, there was no water up there and I was not carrying any.
The over-prepared ex-adventure racer was now just the under-prepared schmuck out on BLM land.
I had not heard coyotes yet but if they unexpectedly appeared I wanted Kory wearing an orange vest.  
In case she ran off.  In case they cornered her when she ran off.  In case I had to go in search of a lost or injured dog.
Writing all of that sounds a little melodramatic but there are so many coyotes out there, and it was all so unpredictable when they might appear.
A few weeks ago Kory and I were walking just before dark.  She was on leash and I had no plans to head onto BLM land.  Rather, we would trudge in the snow, wandering up and down the few streets in this little, silent no-mans-land town.
We didn't get very far when all of a sudden I heard coyotes howling.
They were on BLM land, somewhere in back of town.
Not right behind town, but not too far away either, from the sounds of their constant cries.
Kory stopped walking.  Right in the middle of the road, and looked doubtfully around her.
When the cries stopped my pup began walking again, but when the cries started over, my dog stopped again.
Watching her closely I could tell that she felt very uncomfortable, very uncertain, and we ended up cutting the walk short and heading back to the house because Kory did not want to be outside.
That episode answered a question that LC and I had always had.
If there were coyotes in the area and she was off leash, would she be curious about them and want to be friendly with them - and run in search of them?
Or would she be scared of them, and want to stay as far away as possible?
After seeing her during that walk on leash, I feel comfortable that she would avoid them if she could.
Having said all of that, there was no way to know when and where coyotes would appear out on BLM land.
They are just a fact of life here, and IF they showed up I wanted to be able to find my orange-clad dog.
A look back at that Tahoe as Kory and I began to wander down trail in search of who-knew-what..............
The ground was a little muddy, the world around me was filled with dried and dormant desert grasses, and (although I was pleased to be out with my pup), I really wanted snow.
Nothing was growing.  Nothing appeared alive.  And I was greatly looking forward to the time when snow would finally settle into SE Idaho and wash the region in frozen wonder.
Happily, that occurred only a couple of days later.................
A look towards the trail leading up into the hills of Cedar Butte..............
Only the top of Big Butte still visible, as Kory and I continued to walk the trail.............
Drawn to the hills to the left of the trail I veered in that direction, heading towards the gnarly, twisted cedar trees that I could see on top of the largest hill.
I could see large sections of buckled ground that told me that I was headed towards one more ancient lava field.
They were everywhere in this desert..............
The last time I had explored a lava field had been a month or so before, and during that trip with my dog the ground had been covered with snow.
Underneath that white covering I could not see the bows and buckles and waves that made up the lava rock.
These kinds of waves speak to me in some primitive way, and every time I see them I can almost feel the heat, almost see the violent explosions, almost smell the smoke that would have been in this place during a period when the earth was raging and filled with fire.
They are all hugely interesting to me, and in all the places that I have lived I have never seen this before.
The rocks are cracked and buckled and broken and porous, many times covered with moss and lichens.
They are also filled with air pockets and if you can find a small piece of lava rock that has broken away from the larger rocks, you can actually crumble it in your hand............
Headed towards the trees...............
As I made my way towards the lava rock hills I looked to my left.
The mountains to the north that were all part of the Big Lost River Valley stood blue against a partially blue sky.
It was warm out.  Far too warm for this time of year and I was disgusted with that.
It was supposed to be colder only a few days before Christmas, and I stood for a moment looking at the mountains.
When the world was covered with snow the mountains looked so much bigger - an optical illusion that I enjoy greatly throughout the long, cold winter months that dominate Idaho.
And then I looked behind me, and then too my left.  No sight nor sound of coyotes - good.  
BLM land looked barren and unfinished somehow.  
Nothing was growing.  Everything was waiting.  Waiting for the hydration that snow would bring.  Waiting for the snow to cover it, water it, smooth out all of its rough edges and transform it from a desert into a silent, winter place.
The land felt impatient.
I felt impatient..........
Getting closer to the hills I smiled as I looked up at my dog.
We got very lucky with Kory.
We accepted her into our lives sight unseen, and after losing Jamie I wondered just how this was going to work out.
She has the same sweet and loving spirit that Jamie had.
As I got closer I realized that she was waiting for me.
She had already covered three times the distance that I had covered, and she stood patiently as I picked my way up and over uneven and rocky ground...............
The very top of one of the Twin Buttes, barely visible from where I stood............

Eventually I had worked my way across large sections of uneven and rocky ground, and I began climbing up on to the highest of the lava hills.
As is so common in these places, there were sections where huge cracks in the rocks made it impossible for me to continue in that direction, and I had to find another route.
Frequently I looked around me, checking to see where Kory was and double checking that she was doing alright.
She was having as good a time exploring as I was, and I smiled when I saw that she was easily navigating her way through the maize of rock..............
The pictures are just too monochromatic and do not show it.
As I continued climbing I began to realize just have huge this lava rock field actually was..............
Almost to the top of the tallest hill....................

A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles...........Edward Abbey

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