Sunday, December 27, 2015

Chinook Snow Shoe

 The week before Christmas we saw seemingly endless waves of snow fall.
One day it was sunny and cold.  The next day was snowy and cold.  The days after that?  More sun and then more snow.
By the time I snapped these pictures tiny Atomic City was a beautiful, cold, snow filled place.
More snow already in the third week of December than we saw in total through our first two winters here in Idaho.
I love it.  Very much.
It makes the world look beautiful.
It makes the expansive  and endless square miles of public lands behind town look even more expansive and endless.
It smooths out every rough edge to be found in Atomic City.  
And this town has many rough edges.
Over the past couple of weeks I have had many opportunities to snow shoe.
I have even had opportunities to cross country ski.
I bought skis while living in Juneau, but with a work schedule that was always long, unpredictable and stressful I did not have more than a couple of chances to try out my new used purchase.
I snow shoed a few times while living in Juneau.
Thankfully the learning curve was short and the first time I used them was actually to head out into the mountains with a group.
I loved it immediately.  Excellent exercise and a chance to wander in deep snow without endlessly post holing.
These days it is to wander on BLM land with Kory, who loves the snow as much as I do.
For the longest time we thought that Kory was a Belgian Malinois (with perhaps something else in the "wood pile" because her ears didn't stand up).
Everything pointed to a Belgian - the smooth double coat, the intelligence, the athleticism, the even temperament, the loyalty to owners, the long lean body, the muscular shoulders, the territorial nature, the running and jumping ability.
Not long after we came home from a trip to Glacier National Park (after a whirl wind visit with Chris) he called me and told me that he did not think that Kory was a Belgian at all.
He thought she was a Chinook.
A what? 
Neither LC nor I had ever heard of the breed.
After I got off the phone with my son I Googled pictures of Chinook.
Some of the pictures did not look like Kory, but as I continued wandering through the pictures I found some that looked exactly like her.
The more I read the more I became convinced that he may be right.  A Chinook.  A New Hampshire sled dog:
 It was obvious the first time she saw snow that Kory had never lived in New Hampshire.
She had never seen snow before, and for a short while that first snow fall (until she realized that she loved it) our new dog was very upset and confused with this new development in her still-new world.....................
 On a cold and very calm day not long before Christmas I bundled up in multiple layers, attached Kory to her leash, grabbed my snow shoes and headed toward the Hay Bale field in back of town.
I had snow shoed in town but not yet out on BLM land since we had had a week of frequent snow falls, and I was eager to play in the snow with my dog.
While standing at the very back of town and still on the snow covered gravel road I unhooked Kory,
\ secure in the belief that she would head in the direction that she knew she was supposed to go (unless she saw a rabbit, and then all bets were off).
As she stood in the snow unsure of whether she should wander towards the trail head or wait for me, I quickly turned towards the mountains.
The wall of mountains, that began 30 miles from us and extended for a hundred miles or more both to the north and west, were covered with snow.
More beautiful in a world that was now completely beautiful.
Snapping a couple of quick pictures I turned back to my pup and moved in the direction of the trail.
Eagerly Kory followed me, and I knew that she ready for snowy adventure.....................
 I watched as Kory began to bound through the deep snow before dropping my snow shoes in the snow, pulling my gloves off, and awkwardly fitting my snow covered boots into the shoes.
Kory wasn't the only one wanting to wander in the snow.....................
 The snow was deeper than I had realized and I slowly broke through the snow pack with each step, in no rush since Kory was happily breaking through the snow herself.
I smiled while I watched her because she so obviously loved where she was and what she was doing, and even though the snow was dog-belly-deep she easily bounded from one place to another, quickly criss crossing her way through the large field.
When I reached the fence that separated the two fields I stopped for a moment and looked around me, trying to decide whether to turn around and snow shoe back the way I had come or continue into the second field.
Kory led the way (as she does so often when we go on walks) and made the decision for both of us.  We headed into the second field, and I snow shoed through the deep snow towards the old and abandoned potato silos........................
 I don't know when these silos stopped being used for their intended purpose, but in the two and a half years we have lived here I have only seen someone else on the property (aside from me and Kory) twice.
The silos are old and built strong and stable, but even so portions of the roofs are beginning to falter.
The beams and poles still look solid, but the hay bales that were used to insulate each of the roofs of the four structures are gone in places.
Occasionally Kory jumps the fence leading directly to the silos and occasionally she climbs up onto one roof or another.
Thankfully she seems to understand that these sections have been compromised and stays clear of them.  But I call her back quickly anyway.  Trying (sometimes successfully and sometimes not) to keep her away from the buildings......................
 Big Butte - with road leading to the top closed to vehicle traffic for the winter now - looked mystical and magical covered in snow.........................
 I snow shoed across the length of the second field, wandered through another open gate and circled around to the front of the silos as I had done many times before.
Kory was...........somewhere..............exploring one huge tower of abandoned hay after another.  
The same routine she played out each and every time we headed this way.
Climbing on top of the towers so that she could play Queen of the Castle.  
Sniffing at the base of each tower and poking her nose into every nook and cranny, certain that she would find a rabbit to chase.
I stood in one place for a few minutes looking out over Big Butte that was 18 miles away and then called out to be dog.
As usual I could hear the tags on her collar before I could see her.
She ignored my calls.  Wasn't ready to come to me yet.  Still busy searching for something to chase.
Patiently I continued snow shoeing, picture taking, enjoying the silence and the beauty of a late day that was getting very cold very fast.
The sun was going down, but we still had a little more time, and so I gave my dog a little more time..................
 Passing in front of the silos I stumbled while climbing over a fallen gate in the snow.
Awkwardly picking myself up I brushed snow off my gloves, finished stumbling over the partially snow-covered and partially downed gate and snapped the picture below.
And then I called for my dog again.
And then again.  OK Kory - it's getting very cold out here.......
The sun was almost completely below Cedar Butte by this time and I could feel the temperature dropping very quickly.
We were only a half mile or so from home but we needed to move on.
I saw my sweet dog appear from the far end of the silos and I called her name again.
Quickly she ran to catch up with me.
It was all about tone of voice and she knew THAT tone of voice............
 The main road leading out of town.
Blackfoot is 30 miles down this road if one wanted to stay off the highway......................
 The main road leading back towards town, with the sun shining through the window of one of the BLM Fire Station buildings.....................
 Kory running to catch up with me
It was time to go home............................
 It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it...........John Burroughs

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