Winter seems to have forgotten about our quiet corner of the world..
For a couple of months it was all business as usual - snow, frozen mist, ice crystals.
But yesterday we woke up to watery sunshine, temperatures in the low 40's, and a ground that is now almost completely grey and beige.
Temperatures have been like that for well over a week and promise to be like that for at least the next week, and it feels more like May than it does mid-February.
I miss winter.
It has always been my favorite time of year, and I miss the complete whiteness and silence of the most silent of seasons.
Last year Kory and I walked every day on BLM land and through town, and there was never any doubt that we would see the herd of deer that had made Atomic City their permanent winter home.
The adventure of each walk was when we would see them and where we would see them, but we would always see them and the excitement was always complete..
After not seeing them at all for the past two months, there are deer tracks in our yard again, so we know that they are jumping our fence during the nights in search of food.
But aside from one brief sighting in the grassy alley behind our house a week ago (a time when Kory jumped our back fence and briefly gave chase before quickly turning and skulking back to the house a few minutes later), there have been no deer sightings.
I miss winter and I miss the deer..............
A couple of days ago LC, Kory and I wandered for a couple of hours in a huge lava rock field out on BLM land a few miles from the house.
It was the same lava rock field that Kory and I had explored a couple of months ago, and at that time it was covered in snow.
On this day there was no snow aside from a few patches in low lying and shady spots that never see the sun, in and among the rocks.
My puppy ready for adventure and decked out in her fancy orange vest...............
The last time we came this way, I parked the Tahoe alongside the road only a few hundred feet from the railroad tracks.
On this day LC pulled off the road, drove down a rutted out trail that was muddy from the melted snow, and parked the truck right in the middle of the trail.
Kory and LC climbed out and immediately wandered straight across BLM land headed towards the huge hills of broken and cracked and buckled and wavy lava rock, while I held back for a few moments enjoying the silence.
I looked back towards the Twin Buttes that were now 18 miles from where I stood.
From this vantage point I knew that Atomic City was sitting directly between the two buttes, although I could not see it from where I stood.
The mountains of the Lost River Valley in the north were still completely covered with snow.
It was a beautiful day. Cool. Warm. Sunny. Silent.
I turned and followed my guy and my dog, wandering across BLM land that should have been covered with snow and ice crystals at this time of year but wasn't..................
Guess what I figured out how to do with my camera?
I feel like a kid with a new toy, now that I have figured out how to make videos with my fancy new camera, and throughout the walk I played around that function, trying to become comfortable with something so new.
I only put a couple on this blog post because it takes so long to download them.
I remembered this rock hill very clearly from the time Kory and I were here alone.
It is a tall hill, filled with rock that is filled with waves, and it has a huge crack running from top to bottom, as well as a huge crack running the entire length of the top.
On our last trip Kory had easily strutted to the top, and then stood looking down at me, waiting for me to climb up to her.
Impatient with my slowness she ran down to greet me, and then easily climbed up to the top again, as I struggled to climb the hill in the snow wearing boots with the wrong tread for climbing.
I had thought at the time that I might climb the hill and then scramble down the back side of it, but once we both reached the top I realized just how wide the crack at the top of the hill really was.
Kory didn't reach the top on this day.
Instead, she wanted to stay close to LC, who was curious to look down inside the crack..............
On our last trip to this place the snow covered the rocks and hid the story of this lava field.
I have been all over the world, and have never seen rocks that look like these.
The appearance of these rocks speaks to me in some deep and primitive way that I find difficult to nail down.
When I look closely at them I can feel (deep in the pit of my stomach) the heat and the violence that created this place. And all of the other places just like it that silently lay in the Snake River Plain.
They are mesmerizing to study and they take you back to a time when the earth was a violent, billowing, glowing, lurching, churning place.............
Amid the greyness of the rocks and the beige-ness of the desert floor, I found this tiny, delicate and bright purple plant growing between in the cracks...............
Kory absolutely loves coming to places like these.
She curiously sticks her nose in every low lying cave, and although I worry that something is one day going to bolt out of one of those caves and bite her on the nose, there is no choice but to leave her be.
Our dog happily runs up and down every hill, traveling three times as far as her human companions do.
She continually disappears over small and tall rises, and when we call her back I hear her jangling tags before I see her come happily bounding back into view.
She pleases me, and seeing her dancing around and exploring so happily, pleases me as well.............
Everything looked so different than it had on our previous trip.
The naked bone structure of the lava field was now fully on display, and we were wandering along different paths than we had done before.
Pictures don't do justice to the world that was in front of us. It wasn't a beautiful world of rivers and snow covered mountains.
It was just simply intriguing. A field of ancient rock that quietly had stories to tell...............
One more video of pup exploring............
This lava field is huge, and contains endless hills and endless natural paths..............
Remind me that the most fertile lands were built by the fires of volcanoes.........Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase