Life in winter in Atomic City has been quiet recently. The snow is almost gone now, temperatures have been crazy warm for almost a week and I find myself wishing for more cold and more snow..
Today it was 47 degrees. In February. In Idaho.
Looking at the forecast for Cody, WY it is supposed to be 58 degrees there tomorrow.
Not surprisingly most of the snow is gone, and also not surprisingly, BLM land and all unpaved surfaces in town are now little more than large mud pits.
Today we had someone with a backhoe making an unseemly mess of our backyard.
We have had a small leak in a pipe in the backyard for months now and hoped to put off having to get it fixed until spring, but it was not to be.
I originally thought that the plumber would dig up that section of yard, remove the renegade fitting that had sprung a leak, neatly replace it with with another, fill in the hole and call it a day.
Boom - in and out.
Within a couple of hours we had an eight feet deep trench running the entire length from the back fence all the way to the house, and when it was all said and done our two backyard faucets had been removed, another had been installed in line with the trench in back by the fence, and the faucet that had been located too close to the house (and that would have been an eye sore once we installed our fancy new windows that have been standing in the breezeway all winter waiting for spring) had been moved.
Oh yes...........and we got the leak fixed as well.
Needless to say, a very large section of our backyard now looks like hell, made more so because the dirt of the morning quickly turned into the mud of late afternoon, making it almost impossible to smooth out once the trench had been filled in.
LC has assured me that it will all look great by fall..............
These pictures were all taken late last week during a couple of walks with Kory.
There is still much snow in the mountains, but even last week most of the snow at ground level was gone................
A mile or so outside of town to the north, BLM land comes to an end and Idaho National Laboratory (INL - aka The Site - aka Secret Squirrel Lab) territory begins.
In terms of terrain it is all more of the same - buttes, sage brush, tumbleweeds, lava rock.
The Site is made up of more than 800 square miles of desert land, although in the vastness of this terrain it neither looks nor feel that huge.
Most of INL is simply empty and barren land, but occasionally you catch a glimpse of a small white structure here or a larger beige structure there,all spread out over the desert and all barely visible unless you are actively looking for them.
Many employees at the site drive their personal vehicles to work, but there are also buses that travel the highway in long rows in the morning and at the end of the day, delivering their people to respective buildings.
These buses travel back and forth from Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, Pocatello, and I believe they used to travel from Arco, Mackay and Challis (although I think that is no longer the case).
More information on INL:
Although there are no obvious signs outside of town indicating the start of INL land, these yellow signs begin to appear on a regular basis.
They say No Trespassing, I have always taken them at their word and have not trespassed, even though I know a couple of residents (older guys who have lived in Atomic City for many years) who regularly wander onto the land of secret squirrels.
They four wheel and hunt and just generally wander. The Twin Buttes are on INL land, and there is not a day that goes by when I don't look out over them and wish that I could hike them.
But I don't.
I always have this image of action-movie-music playing in my head as I surreptitiously glance one last time over my shoulder before taking that first dangerous step beyond the dreaded yellow signs and into No Mans Land.
100 yards onto Secret Squirrel land a giant cargo net suddenly rises from the desert floor and blocks my path.
Immediately after the raising of the net, a black helicopter suddenly appears out of nowhere, and two Humvees carrying serious looking, beige unformed men (wearing black berets, mirrored sunglasses and black semi-auto slung meticulously across one shoulder) speed over a small butte, briefly go airborne and then throw sand high into the air as they slam on the brakes and come to a sudden stop two feet from where I am standing...............
One of the Twin Buttes, complete with switchback-filled trail that continually calls to me and beckons me to climb.
It looks so close, and yet it is 12 miles from Atomic City...............
A day later I walked through town not long before dark with my pup.
It had been mild and overcast all day, snow was rapidly melting and even the gravel roads under my feet felt soft and mushy, but the dreary day was turning into a very lovely evening.
The skies in front of me were still overcast, but the skies behind me promised clearer weather the next day.
As we walked up and down silent, empty town streets I internally commiserated about the loss of snow, but then looked further to my north and realized that the pink and grey sky, and the still snow-covered mountains of the Big Lost River Valley were beautiful..................
LC and I successfully organized a community event last month that thankfully was embraced and well received.
We used social media extensively in the 9 days leading up to the event, and in truth we were so busy for that week and a half that I gave little thought to that social media start-up and what exactly we would do with it once the event was over.
I suppose I assumed that we would just let the page die.
Event over. Page over.
Once the event was over I looked at the page that we had set up, and looked back over the posts that we had placed on the page in such a rush, and suddenly I realized that I wanted to keep it going.
I believed that the page was becoming a community service of sorts.
Or at least that it had morphed (without really trying) into something really interesting and useful.
And so I decided that I did not want to just let it go.
There are people from all over the country now reading a page that we started simply as a quick way to get the word out about a special event.
It's funny how unexpectedly and organically some things can begin to grow and take form without you even trying............
The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you...........Neil deGrasse Tyso