Sunday, April 5, 2015

Going Out - Going In

 It was late in the day yesterday.
LC and I had fought through increasingly strong winds and installed more upright boards on the back of the house, in addition to framing one last window.
It was official.  There was not one window in the house that was installed straight, and obviously no-one who ever placed a hand on the construction or installation of this house knew what a level was or what a 90 degree angle was.
And so it took some swearing and creativity yesterday (as it has on every other day that we have worked on the house) to install new wood boards in some form or fashion that kinda-sort-maybe made everything look sorta-kinda-maybe straight.  Ish.
When it was all said and done we looked at what we had put up, and then looked over at each other, immensely pleased with ourselves.
We were making something nice out of something that nobody else ever cared about, but in which we saw (right from the start) all kinds of promise.
Still more to do, but less every day.
NOAA promised that (at least for the next five days) we would be mired in an eclectic combination of clouds, cold, wind, rain and snow.
This would be the last sunny day for a while, and with enough house work done for one day, we bundled up against the wind, made a quick grab for a couple of bottles of water, loaded into the truck, and headed out onto BLM land to see what we could find.
We had heard stories about old buildings out in the desert.  There were only foundations left, but we had high hopes of finding and exploring them.
We didn't find them.  
We had received only general directions - go beyond Cedar Butte, and take the first trail on the right.
In the vast expanse of endless acres and square miles of wide open public land, those kinds of directions turned out to be TOO general.  How many miles?  Any landmarks we could look for?  We did not have that information and so quickly realized that we were not going to find those elusive building foundations on this day.
Just about the time we were looking for a place to turn around and head back the way we had come, LC pointed to something on the left side of the double track trail that we were slowly driving on.
Located fifty feet off the trail, LC parked the truck in the middle of the double track and we all jumped out of the Tahoe, curious what this structure was.
At that point we wondered if we had accidentally happened upon part of an old structure.
We hadn't.
As Kory ran ahead of us, and as LC walked ahead of me, I stood for a moment regarding the silent world around me.
There was "weather" blowing in.  A predictable sign of the upcoming transition from sunny to a five day stretch of everything-but-sunny.
The sun was beginning to slowly descend this late in the day, and I pulled the zipper higher on my jacket in an absent attempt to protect against the wind.
The day was hazy.
But we were roaming and wandering and seeing something new in the vast and endless Snake River Plain, and I was just pleased to be where I was.
I needed this.
I needed to be out in the uncomplicated emptiness of the desert.
LC and I have talked about it recently.  There is no-one else in town who comes out into the desert, and neither LC nor I could ever imagine living where we live and NOT going out there.
Just living in our tiny, nothing little town day after day, only breaking routine occasionally to venture into Blackfoot or Idaho Falls.
No.  I could not live that way.  Neither could LC.
Not when the most wonderful part of living where we live was.........this............
 Kory ran and played, and followed her nose wherever it took her.
LC immediately walked down into the large bowled area below the rock wall.
I headed up the hill and walked along the back side of the wall, trying to digest this unexpected structure that was located in the middle of nothing...............
 Looking towards the Tahoe.
Directly in line with me and 9 miles away was town, although we could not see it from this vantage point.
12 miles beyond town were the Twin Buttes................
 And directly behind me (and another 9 miles away) was Big Butte, awash in late-day watery sunshine.
Eventually I walked the entire length of this rock wall and circled around it to meet up with LC down in the bowl.
The ground was completely barren and already cracked even in spring.  
This had been a watering hole for cattle at some point in the past.....................
 We did not stay long.
We were in the middle of flat desert and there was little else of interest around us to see.
Loading back into the Tahoe we drove for a few more minutes and quickly decided that this road (eventually) would end up all the way out at Big Butte.
 We began to look for a trail on the left that might circle us back to the road we had originally traveled out from town.
Picking up a very steep and rocky power line trail we slowly climbed up and over endless sage brush.
As we continued to climb I looked around me, seeking out something that would grab my attention and pique my interest.
Sage brush.  More sage brush.
I was uninspired.................

10 bumpy minutes after turning onto the power line trail, we did indeed find ourselves back on Big Butte Rd.
LC turned left - heading back towards Cedar Butte.
What?  What did we want to do and what did we want to see?
And then I saw it, and instantly knew what I wanted to do.
There were large sections of cedar trees on our left up ahead.
That's what I wanted.
I wanted trees.
LC looked for a place to pull the Tahoe off the gravel road, until I pointed out that there was no traffic on this road, that we were on BLM land, that there was room to go around us if anyone DID come by.
Pulling as far over to the side of the gravel road as he could, we again climbed out of the truck, crossed over the road and headed for the trees.
The first thing I saw as I stepped back onto BLM land was wild flowers.
Tiny clumps of fragile white flowers nestled in and among sage bushes and lava rocks, and scattered in every direction.
They were the first flowers that I had seen in what seemed like many months, and I stood looking at a clump for a minute, greatly enjoying the unexpected sight of them.
There had been little frozen mist and little snow this past winter, so scant moisture for the dormant desert plants.  
The ground was already cracked and baked and I wondered just how tough this upcoming summer was going to be.  For the desert.  
For us...................
A look back at the Tahoe, with part of Cedar Butte in the background..............
Ant hill.
They are scattered all over the desert............
I remember not long after we left Wyoming to head back to Tennessee.
We were out at the Air Force base not far from the house, where I had literally spent years running and biking on the extensive trail system, and kayaking on the lake across the road from the mountain bike trail head.
I looked up from the trail at one point and was stunned at the sheer number of trees around me.
There were probably more trees around me at that specific moment in time than there had been in the entire city of Cody.
For a minute I was overwhelmed by the complete difference in terrain - the difference between the high desert of Cody that we had just left, and the sheer volume of greenery in a place in Tennessee where I had spent years of my life training.
Standing on this high perch in the desert in Idaho, I was again overwhelmed by the trees, and realized just how much I had needed to be among them.
It felt good.
It felt very good, and gave me........something..........that I did not even realize I had needed................ 
There was a large section of trees, followed by a large section of wide open and sage filled land, followed by more trees.
LC sat on a rock underneath the first clump, and Kory and I continued walking further.
I was drawn to the larger section of trees, as well as the mountains to the north of us, and I continued walking in that direction.
Kory happily followed me, dancing and prancing her way through sage.
Glancing over at her I knew that she was having a wonderful time, and I smiled at her knowing that she would wander, but always know where I was.
She would meander her way back to me.  I knew that....................
I was standing high on a hill looking over both the desert floor below, and the mountains of the Lost River Valley that were 30 miles to our north.
It was cold.  The wind was strong, it was late in the day, and the weather was trying valiantly to change from sunny to the complex and random mix of bad weather that would dominate our area for the next few days.
And I stood high on the hill looking out over uncomplicated forever, enjoying the silence.  
Enjoying being alone for a few minutes before I would have to round up my dog and head back in search of LC.................
As I looked back at the mountains to the north, I realized that this desert is a complex place.
Or rather, I have a complex relationship with the desert.
There are times when I wander in it, and the sameness is tedious.  Nothing stands out.  Nothing excites me.  Everything looks flat and mono chromatic.
And then there are times like this - when the sky and the light speak to me in some silent and compelling way.  When we (or I) happen upon something or some place that captures the imagination.
This was one of those trips..................
When Kory and I finally caught up again with LC, he was busy studying a cedar tree.
Curious what he was looking at, I wandered over to him.
Some animal - likely a buck - had rubbed the top of the tree bare....................

 I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in..........John Muir

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