Monday, October 3, 2016

Pass #1 - Antelope

Over the past 9 1/2 years I have only seen LC's older brother a handful of times.
The first time was in Tennessee, the second in Alaska, the third was in Wyoming, and the last and most recent time was here in Idaho.
A reflection of how often we moved for a few years.
Gary visited us for 9 days just recently, and I know that LC (who is close to Gary) was very happy to see him.
He arrived late on a Tuesday night, and used the first day or so to recover from his trip, which had first taken him to Oregon to visit other family members before he headed to our small town in SE Idaho.
The weather had been cloudy and very cool for a few days before his visit, but happily he brought warm weather with him.
While he was here we took some long day trips, so that we could show him the area where we now live.
On this day - a day that was sunny and surprisingly warm - to drive up and over Antelope Pass............

Antelope is located in the Big Lost River Valley, 50 miles or so from where we live.
Both men wanted to see a truck in the area, and we used the truck-inspection as an excuse to continue further into the mountains and to wander up and over the pass.............

While the guys looked the truck over, I walked with Kory.
It was a perfect fall day.  Sunny.  Warm.  No longer the dry, oppressive heat that had burdened our summer (as it always does).
The owner of the truck was a ranch hand, and as he showed LC and Gary his truck I looked around me, trying to get the lay of the land.
Large barns, extensive fencing to contain farm animals (although none were visible in the immediate area).
The home was..............amazing.
A humble log home that looked as though it had been in this place since at least the early part of the last century.
So many years, that I imagined it to be one of the earliest homes in this very isolated place.
There were a few homes on this dirt road, but in truth we were more than 30 minutes drive from any kind of real civilization.
A fast moving creek ran alongside the property.
The water ran deep and fast even this late in what had been a very dry summer, and I was completely enamored with the entire spectacle around me.
The isolation.  The mountains.  The hardwood trees that were in the early stages of changing color.  The creek and the working farm across the road from the house and the wonderful log home.
What a very cool place......................
Looking back the way we had come.
Working farm to the left of the tree line and home across the road to the right.
I should have taken pictures of the home, but with the ranch hand right there I thought best not to look as though I was invading privacy....................
I had no idea how long the guys would be so I didn't wander far and I power snapped pictures, enjoying the silence and beauty of this place..................
After 15 minutes Kory and I found ourselves back near where we had left LC and Gary, and I was surprised to see both the guys already loaded in the Suburban.
Kory and I quickly followed suit, and as we drove back down the winding dirt road LC told me what I already knew.
The guy had lied about every important aspect associated with the vehicle.
In short, it was a piece of junk.
Gary had toyed with the idea of buying a vehicle while in Idaho to replace an aging vehicle he owned in Minnesota, but he was beginning to learn what LC and I already knew.   That people lied and they lied often, and that it was a very time consuming deal to purchase a decent used vehicle for a decent price.
I hoped in that moment (as we slowly wound our way further into the mountains) that that was the end of vehicle hunting.
Thankfully that turned out to be the case....................
20 minutes after leaving the lying ranch hand, we pulled the Suburban into a large section of grass and trees along the side of the road, so Kory could again wander and so all three humans could pee, before entering the Challis National Forest.
CNF is similar in nature to the Shoshone National Forest over in Park County WY,.
 Portions of it seem to be everywhere in the region.
In both cases, as you travel the region, you find yourself constantly weaving in and out of the forest and (also in both cases) the terrain changes around almost every bend in the road.................
One of a number of beaver dams we passed on our way to the base of Antelope Pass..................
The back side of Antelope Pass is a heart pounding drive.
A few miles of non-stop climbing.  Extremely steep.  Tight switchbacks.  Steep drop-offs on the left side and sometimes both sides.  Sections that are very rocky (and that cause your front wheels to jump if you hit them too fast).  Sections where there are minor washouts along the edge of the drop off.
In short, during both times LC and I have gone uphill on the back side of Antelope I've held my breath. chosen not to look down on occasion, not taken any pictures and asked LC not to lose climbing momentum by stopping to look out over the world or take beautiful pictures.
Just get me safely to the top please.................

When we finally reached the top (and after breathing again) the first thing I saw were cows sitting at the very peak of the pass, right beside the sign marker announcing that we had made it.
Now that we had made it to the top all I wanted to do was get out of the Suburban and wander this beautiful place.
Climbing out of our beast of a vehicle I opened the back door, unhooked Korys' leash and moved out of the way so she could jump down to the ground.
My action was a huge deal, both for us and for our pup.
It was the first time that we had ever been in the mountains and trusted her enough to set her free.
Our pup was finally growing up.
She had learned to listen.
She had learned some impulse control (to the extent that she could now consistently watch a rabbit run across the road and not run after it if we told her no).  
There was no way that would have happened or could have happened last year.
 Last year she HAD to chase and no amount of calling from us would pull her back.
After a summer of proving herself, LC and I had decided that we now trusted her enough (while still in the wide open) to release her from the bondage of her leash.
I watched Kory jump down from the Suburban and then watched her for a few moments as she eagerly roamed in the freedom of the mountains.....................
There has been snow in the higher peaks throughout the region for at least the past month...................
We had disturbed their quiet place, and as we three humans and one pup wandered, the cows clamored to their feet, turned and quickly disappeared over a rise.......................
LC's brother Gary...................
I have watched LC a number of times over the years as he has inspected vehicles.
This Suburban?  
It had been on Craigslist for a week or so by the time we found it.
The guy was asking $600 for it, and with that asking price we almost didn't go to see it.
How good could be a vehicle be for $600??
As LC looked the Suburban over, and as I wandered with Kory, I knew that he was really interested in it.
The guy who was selling it was moving to Dallas in only a few days and could not take it with him.
An hour went by.  
Another hour went by.
LC looked under the hood, underneath the vehicle, under the hood again, and underneath it again.
He took it for a test drive.
By the end of two hours the price had dropped to $400.
143,000 miles.
With a full tank of gas.
As he drove the Suburban home and as I followed him in the Tahoe, I watched as LC easily hit 70 mph on the interstate.
Within a few months we had put another $600 into it (including used 10 ply tires), so we now had $1000 invested in the Suburban.
Over the past year the Suburban has taken us to Challis without issue, but aside from that one trip it has evolved into being mostly a BLM vehicle.
A sturdy and tough and butt-ugly beast of a vehicle to wander off road.
But this trip was the very first time we had ever totally stressed it.
Kory loved the Suburban because both back windows rolled all the way down, and with the back seats down she could easily wander from one side of the vehicle to the other and stick her head completely out of the window.
After watching it effortlessly climb the back side of Antelope Pass - and a year or so after we had bought it - I was finally and completely a convert.
It may have been a butt-ugly beast, but it was one helluva butt-ugly beast.
It was a keeper...................
An empty Forest Service building located 30 minutes from the top, on the way back down the pass..............
By the time we reached this creek smack in the middle of nowhere, we were all out of water.
On the spur of the moment LC pulled the Suburban over to the side of the gravel road we had been following for almost an hour and we all climbed out and headed down to the water.
Kory was LOVING this trip and loving her new found freedom, and we three were having a really great trip.
As I looked around me again I lifted my camera to snap a picture and heard a familiar beep.
Looking at the camera screen I groaned inwardly.
My camera chip was full.
Damn!  I had more pictures to take!
Scrolling back through my most recent pictures I quickly deleted a few of high desert mountains, which freed up space to take pictures of the water.
I took these few.
I could have taken another 50 before we finally made it back to the highway, but it was what it was...................
Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction - so easy to lapse into - that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us................Robert Macfarlane

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