Monday, August 15, 2016

Rhythm Of Walking

One day late last week I loaded Kory into the Suburban, rolled down the windows so she could put her head to the wind during our short trip, and headed out onto BLM land.
It was one more hot and sunny day and as we headed towards the outskirts of town I had no idea where I was headed.
I just needed to wander.  Just a little.  Because I was restless.  Just a little.
Turning onto Big Butte Rd I thought that I might just stop at Cedar Butte, but as I crossed over the tracks a few miles from town decided impulsively to pull into a flat rocky area just off the road.
There were large sections of lava field throughout this area, and on a hot and dry day it seemed like a fine time to explore a section that we had never seen before.
Predictably, by the time I pulled the Suburban off the road my pup was barking hysterically, knowing from past experience that we had arrived at our destination and that a run for her was now on the agenda.....................
Looking around me I took a few moments to decide in which direction I would go.
Back towards the tracks was a huge lava field - one that we had explored a couple of times in the past and one that would take a couple of hours to get through.
No.  Far too hot and just the THOUGHT of walking that extensive trail made me tired.
Right across the gravel road from me was a small lava field that did not look very interesting.
About half a mile further down Big Butte Rd was the huge, grassy parking area next to Cedar Butte.
Still indecisive I turned and scanned the brown landscape in search of my brown dog, found her, looked beyond her and realized that there was a natural trail that I had never noticed before.
Kory had found it and (taking one last look at the way I had parked the Suburban on the flat lava rock platform) I immediately headed off in her direction....................
On the hunt for rabbits....................
As I followed the natural trail that worked its way up and over a low rise, I looked to my left and saw the Twin Buttes.
I could not see it, but I knew that Atomic City sat in between them.
By road we were just over seven miles from town.
Even traveling across country I thought it must be just about the same distance.
The Twin Buttes to my left and Cedar Butte and Big Butte to my right provided me with easy navigation bearings.
It was impossible to get lost out there.
Such a difference from the vast, treed wilderness areas I had raced in for so many years back east.
Many times if you stepped 10 feet off the trail you could get lost.
But out here - in the vast emptiness of BLM land I had zero concerns about getting lost.
My biggest worries were getting a flat tire and rattle snakes.......................
I don't know what the real name of this plant is but locals refer to it as a "rabbit bush".
I had no idea why, but these bright yellow bushes are everywhere in the summer.
Generally growing low to the ground, I noticed them pushing up through cracks in the volcanic rock that surrounded me.
It was a welcome sight.
At this time of year everything was brown and beige and faded.
With no rain for the past couple of months nothing was growing anymore.
Desert grasses were stagnant.  Desert wild flowers were just a memory.
Nothing but brown.  And these bright yellow plants.
And one seemingly random bush filled with white, wispy flowers that reminded me very much of Queens Anne Lace back east......................
Holy Cow.
What a piece of junk pair of shoes.
I bought these from someone who had only worn them once, so in effect they were brand new.
Brand new Walmart hiking boots.
I bought them six months ago and almost immediately they started to fall apart.
Holes on the inside and outside of both boots, toes peeling away from the front of the boots, the suede upper fading - they got trashed almost immediately.
I don't remember the last time I bought such horrible footwear, but they're comfortable and I plan on wearing them through the rest of the summer........................
Rock (that was once lava and which cooled into waves that now lay across the Snake River Plain) were everywhere I looked.
 I was in the middle of one section of seemingly endless sections of lava rock fields out in the desert.
Watching where I stepped I kept one eye on the ground and one eye on my dog (who was having a wonderful time chasing rabbits all over the desert).
I smiled as I watched her.
Pleased that my dog was a happy dog.
And smiling because my big four-legged hunter was missing more rabbits than she was chasing.
It wasn't ALWAYS an advantage to be built low to the ground..........................
These holes can be found all over the desert....................
As Kory and I wandered further and further away from the Suburban, these holes in the ground became more frequent.
Some of the holes had long rocky overhangs that shaded caves.
All of them had ground that contained rich soil and lush plant life.
I snapped the picture above and then looked to my left.
What I saw surprised me so much that I stopped walking and just stared.
Scanning my surroundings I automatically located my dog.
Knowing that she was still close and safe, I walked over to the huge hole and silently regarded the rock and the unexpected growth.
There was one more huge pit in the ground.  Surrounded by the cracked and wavy rock that had cooled into tortured shapes eons ago.  Growing in and through and among the rocks were endless sage bushes and endless types of dried desert grasses.
But there was also something dark green.
Lush.  And dark green.
I looked at it as though it were some kind of space creature.  It didn't belong here.
Not among the dried, rugged, thirsty, faded, desert vegetation.
It was growing in large dark green patches around the entire pit.
Looking around me I tried to find another place where this vegetation grew.
I didn't see any anywhere else.
I was enthralled.  Surprised.  Completely curious.
There was no way to know what it was or how it came to be growing out in this desert.
And so I snapped a few pictures, excited about my unexpected find, and then continued on with my quiet adventure.....................
One more pit - this one with a lengthy overhang and caves hidden beneath the overhang.
I watched as Kory climbed down into the pit and tracked her way over to the overhang.
And then she disappeared inside the caves.
I called her name a couple of times without success and immediately began to climb my way down into the pit.
Deliberately dropping my voice down I called her name in a tone that I hoped told her that I meant business.
I had no idea what was inside those caves.  No idea what might be there to cause her damage.  And I had no desire to go in after her.
Thankfully my curious dog recognized the "Momma Means Business" tone of voice and she quickly reappeared.....................
Exploring every pit, every cave, every sage bush...........all in search of rabbits or any other creatures worthy of chasing.....................
Black and orange fungi - very common on rocks out in the desert...................
We were only gone for an hour, but after wandering around in the desert for a few miles it was good to see the Suburban again.
We'd both had a good time together but it was hot and Kory and I were both thirsty....................
As we closed in on our vehicle I turned to search for Kory as I had automatically done probably 50 times over the past hour.
Surprisingly she was very close, and seemed to be very focused on one bush.
While she continually dove in and out, and circled the bush I walked over to the Suburban and retrieved a bottle of water.
Unscrewing the cap I drank long, while watching in bemusement as my pup seemed intent on getting a hold of a little critter that must have been hiding in the bush.
Finally I called to her.
Resigned to the fact that she was not going to get Little Critter, Kory trotted over to me.
Easily she jumped up into the back seat of the Suburban, instantly searching me for the business end of the water bottle.
I had drank long, and she finished off the rest of the bottle.
Still thirsty I grabbed for a second water bottle, unscrewed the cap, and began to pour more water into my hand.
A few minutes later we pulled out from the rocks, crossed back over the rail road tracks and headed towards the house...........................
The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts.  This creates an odd consonance between
internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.  A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was
there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making......................Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

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