Monday, January 5, 2015

Oasis In The City (Blackfoot)

The City of Blackfoot is located 30 miles to our south.
With a population of a little under 12,000 people, it is a mid-sized city by Idaho standards.
Blackfoot is decidedly blue collar and is filled with small town people, huge corporate farms and primarily Hispanic farm workers.
Situated alongside the edge of both the Snake River and the interstate, BF is sandwiched between the larger towns of Idaho Falls and Pocatello.
Blackfoot is a town that primarily holds negative connotations for me.
It is the closest thing to a big town to us, LC and I go into Blackfoot at least once a week, and it is our primary destination when doing all the things that people must do in order to hold their lives together.
Pay bills, get the oil changed in vehicles, get haircuts, take the dog to the vet, buy groceries......that sort of thing.
Usually our trips are rushed and frantic and stressful as we make one stop after another in quick succession, to drop off or pick up one thing after another.
As we thankfully drove out of Blackfoot and began the fast drive back into the empty desert and home one day last week, I counted.
We had made 12 different stops in the span of two hours.
 I am always thankful when we finally pull out of town.............

Having said that, there have been occasions when we have taken time to actually enjoy ourselves in Blackfoot.
Times when we have walked at the beautiful park that is located in back of town, and which provides endless opportunities for locals to swim, boat and fish in the small lake that is filled with water in summer but is bone dry through the winter.
Times when we have picked up nice things for the house at yard sales or taken time to stop and eat at one of the few restaurants.  Even time to visit the Idaho Potato Museum (which I was not initially excited about but which turned out to be an unexpectedly enjoyable place to visit).
A hundred times we have driven across a bridge that takes us up and over the Snake River and I have always had a sense that there were places to walk, down close to the Snake.
Why didn't we wander and explore through the summer, to SEE what there was down by the river?
Truthfully I don't know.  
But typically by the time we had made seemingly endless stops in town to do business (that always seems to involve us spending money) you could stick a fork in me.
Get me outta here.
I'm done.............

A few days ago we had some time to kill and no other business to do aside from the waiting.
And so we drove across the bridge, pulled the Tahoe into a large snow-covered parking area in back of a small business and wandered briefly.
The Snake River, even in summer, is a dark, cold looking and vaguely ominous looking body of water.
It must be the kayaker in me but every single time we drove over the bridge during the other three seasons of the year, I would look down at the swirling, roiling, boiling river..
Always mesmerized by it.
This part of the river would be challenging to paddle.
With winter now deeply settled into the Idaho bone structure, the river was mostly frozen...................
With snow and ice all along the bank of the river we quickly turned our attention to the bridge.
I wanted to take some pictures of the river from the center of the bridge and expected that LC and Kory would hang back and continue to wander close to the river.
Surprisingly LC and my sweet dog followed me along the narrow, metal walk way.
Kory did not like this bridge.
The frame of the bridge continued along the walkway, and all three of us carefully made our way on the slick, snow covered metal.
Tentatively Kory looked down through the small holes in the weaved metal, fully aware of the fact that we were not walking on ground.
No.  She did not like this at all.  But she walked with us anyway - tail down and head down but troopering along wanting to stay with her humans....................
As we all stood in the center of the bridge I realized that we could see moving water underneath the ice in certain places, and there were sections further down river that were not frozen at all..
I could also see human footprints on the surface of the snow covered river and was surprised.
Temperatures had only been consistently below freezing since just before Christmas...............
Turning in the opposite direction I quickly snapped this picture of a railroad bridge................
A look down at the frozen river................
After heading back to the Tahoe we drove across the road and pulled into a narrow, snowy parking lot.
I was looking for a small walking bridge located near a marshy area that would have fed in to the river - a place that I had seen every time we hit the interstate on our way to Pocatello.
We were now parked on the opposite side of the same bridge that we had just walked, and as we all three climbed out of the truck I looked around me, trying to get the lay of the land.
To my left was what looked like a short snow-covered trail.  To my right I saw unexpected color.
Momentarily surprised I walked over to the underside of the bridge, squatted down and found the graffiti............
Heading towards the railroad bridge................
A look back at the vehicle bridge as I rushed to catch up with my guy and my dog................
It was a very beautiful day.
Moderate temperatures.
A sky that was becoming increasingly blue and that was filled with the watery sunshine that you only find at this time of year.
I knew that there were busy roads located all around us, but for a short while we had unexpectedly found an oasis in the city.
We had found an access to the river and a trail that led directly from one bridge to the next.
We were surrounded by trees and a quiet place to wander by ourselves close to the frozen river, and it was an unexpected gift in a place that generally beckons me to leave as quickly as I can..............
I had been pulling up the rear, quickly snapping one picture after another of both the public bridge behind me, and the trail and rail bridge in front of me.
I smiled inside as LC turned to look for me.  We do that with each other.  So used to staying close.  So used to watching out for each other.  So used to watching over each other.
I dropped my camera down to my side, smiled and gave him a quick wave.
Silently I spoke the words - I'm coming Babe..................
As we all stood underneath the rail bridge looking out over the frozen river, and then around us at the underside of the bridge, I realized that we had reached a dead end.
So OK..........I had seen the little walking bridge close to the highway.  It was not in this place so it HAD to be over on the other side of the river.
We still had a little time to kill and the three of us slowly walked around underneath the bridge, inspecting the bridge construction, looking at the predictable and ever-present graffiti, simply enjoying the day.
This was Blackfoot - the town where we always spent too much money, cursed at the traffic, made too many stops, and where we were always eager to exit and make our quick retreat back to the silence of our high plains desert home.
But on this day I was having a very good time..................
Checking the time after we arrived back at the Tahoe, we were supposed to meet someone is 20 minutes.
But she had already kept us waiting for a few days so it was OK if we were a little late.
We were now unexpectedly in Explorer Mode.
Driving back across the bridge we quickly turned left at the gravel pit, unsure as to whether or not there was a small walking bridge or a trail entrance there but eager to find out.
As we pulled into the large circle driveway I looked to my right and there it was.
The little bridge that I had seen often when getting onto the interstate headed west.
During the summer the small wooden structure overlooks a small boggy area that is filled with tall grasses and cat-tails and that is surrounded by tall leafy trees..
A little marshy area that feeds into an inlet that feeds into the river.
Pleased that we had found what I had been searching for, for the past 45 minutes, we climbed out of the Tahoe for the third time.
My dog was happy and dancing and excited in the back seat, and she eagerly jumped out of the back seat and down into the snow, and I struggled to grab her leash before she slipped through my fingers.
She immediately headed down the trail towards the bridge, following her nose and with me in tow.............. 
With great delight I realized that there were trails - short but many of them, and all of them meandering through this green space that we (up until that very moment) knew nothing about.
The trees were all bare and the trails were all covered with snow, but they were all there in front of us.
And the river paralleled some of the trails.
How extremely cool...............
In a little over an hour we had made three stops, explored too-quickly three different snowy areas beside the river, and taken pictures of frozen and snow covered river, bridges and trails.
A great way to spend a short period of time.
And now we had found a place for LC to fish from the shore, and I had found trails inside town where I could walk with my pup after running too many errands in a too busy town.
Good deal..................

 The shed of leaves became a cascade of red and gold and after a time the trees stood skeletal against a sky of weathered tin. The land lay bled of its colors. The nights lengthened, went darker, brightened in their clustered stars. The chilled air smelled of woodsmoke, of distances and passing time. Frost glimmered on the morning fields. Crows called across the pewter afternoons.............James Carlos Blake, Wildwood Boys

No comments:

Post a Comment