Sunday, July 19, 2015

Vastness Of The Desert

A day or so after heading out into the desert with our neighbors LC, Kory and I again ventured out into the desert.
This time headed for Cedar Butte.
The term desert has taken on an entirely new meaning this year.
We had endless rain in May, it was hot and dry throughout June, but July has been an eclectic (and out-of-the-ordinary) combination of sunny and warm, cloudy and cool, afternoon showers, and the desert now looks like endless green plains, instead of endless brown.........browness.
It is beautiful.
Unexpectedly and wonderfully beautiful.
On this cloudless and warm day we drove down a gravel road heading away from town, turned right on Big Butte Rd and picked up one more gravel road.
A few miles later I looked to my left and saw a lone antelope running across the plains.
Stopping the Suburban in the middle of the dusty road we watched her running - as fast and graceful and beautiful as they always are.
After a minute she crossed over the road without pausing or slowing and continued in full flight, until eventually she stopped in the middle of an endlessly huge, flat section of BLM land.
I snapped the pictures above and below as she stood still for a few moments before continuing on, and then quickly disappearing from sight.
Antelope are all over BLM land right now - in small herds, and protecting their young who now seem to be able to out-run their mothers.
It is extremely difficult to get close up pictures of antelope out here because the distances are too vast and the animals too wary.
Maybe one day I will luck out.............
There are multiple trails criss-crossing Cedar Butte, and often when we walk the area we park the truck on the front side of the butte where a large 4-wheel offloading area is located.
On this day we continued on Big Butte Rd and circled around to the far right side of the butte, before turning off the road and picking up a steep jeep trail that would carry us to the back of this huge bulge in the desert.
A picture of Big Butte (10 miles away) taken while climbing up onto Cedar..............
I don't really notice the desolation of the landscape while out in BLM land.
It is only after we have driven home, have downloaded the pictures (and I am looking at the pictures that I took while out on one adventure or another) that I realize just how vast and empty and other-worldly the terrain is,  that we now call home.
It is beautiful in an isolated and silent way.
So different from anywhere else that I have ever lived, and truthfully I love it................
Brief stop on the way up the back side of Cedar Butte.............
Stopping at the top of the hill, we all eagerly climbed out of the vehicle.
While LC wandered and Kory enthusiastically explored this new area, I stood in one place beside the Suburban for a short while, looking around me and trying to get the lay of the land.
I could easily see Big Butte in one direction, Rattlesnake and the Twin Buttes in the other, and endless small rises everywhere I looked that were surrounded by endless acres of flat land.
Whenever we are far into the desert and I catch a glimpse of the Twin Buttes I always smile because I know that Atomic City is there as well.
I can't see it of course.  Just a little forgotten, nothing-speck in the desert that quickly disappears from site after traveling only a few minutes.
But it's there.
Neither LC nor I knew what this tower was, and after brief conversation decided (perhaps correctly, perhaps not) that it was a techy-gizmo-thing to measure earth movement.
There was a huge earthquake near Mackay in the 80's.
Challis receives regular small quakes.
We have felt nothing in our town.  
Perhaps we are insignificant enough that nature won't ever bother with us..............
Spending some time climbing on various small hills, and looking back down at the Suburban............
We wandered along various up-til-now unexplored trails at the top of Cedar Butte, eventually finding our way to the top of a very rocky trail.
Again we stopped the Suburban and climbed out, eager to stretch our legs and explore the area.
Within minutes I heard an excited yelp followed by a flurry of activity.
Quickly looking around in search of my dog I instead saw a doe dart out of the trees, run by me at full speed and then disappear again into more trees.
A moment later a young deer ran by me.
A moment later my dog ran by me, and as I called to her she ignored me, completely focused and intent on catching the uncatchable.
Calling her name over and over, Kory reappeared a few minutes later, out of breath, hot and tired....................
Once we had retrieved our wayward dog I looked around me and realized with surprise that we had found something unexpected.
As Kory inspected part of a cistern, LC inspected some sort of unknown structure that was located further up the hill.
What WAS this place?
I had no idea, but in a quiet world seeming only to contain cedar trees, sage brush, lave rock and dusty hills, it was both unexpected and welcome.................
After spending a couple of hours quietly exploring trails on the back side of the butte, we picked up a trail that would take us down off the butte.
That trail led to one more trail that we knew would carry us to Big Butte Rd and eventually home.
We had seen new trails, antelope, deer, and some kind of mysterious structures.
Kory had chased deer.  
We had meandered around wide open trails and too narrow and overgrown trails.  
We had found sandy trails and rocky trails, and we had gotten one flat tire in the process.
Good trip..................

The vastness of the desert frightened her. Everything looked too far away, even the couldless sky. There was nowhere you could hide in such emptiness..........James Carlos Blake

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