Friday, November 25, 2016

An Invitation To Journey

On the way into Pass Creek a few hours before, LC and I had noticed a side road (actually a rough looking dirt and rocky double track) that looked as though it led to a canyon.
In our eagerness to explore on a beautiful fall day, we decided on the spur of the moment to check out that road and see where it led, once we were done with our wanderings in Pass Creek.
Hours later (and still about 40 miles from the house) we pulled out of Pass Creek, drove a very short distance and pulled into the turnoff.
From our vantage point by the road the double track looked as though it traveled alongside the property line of the farm adjacent to the pass, and then took a sharp right turn before heading into what looked like a steep canyon.
Tired, but curious where the road led and what we would find, we eagerly turned onto the double track and headed off into the bumpy and sometimes muddy unknown................

We should KNOW this by now.
Distances are so deceiving in the vast expanses of the west.
When we turned onto the double track we thought we would reach the hills in only a few minutes.
Thirty winding, meandering, muddy, bumpy minutes later we finally approached the hills only to realize that the road was taking us to the left and not the right as we had fully expected.
More meandering and wandering and finally we reached the entrance to the trail.
Instantly the terrain transformed from the flat, muddy and open terrain we had been traveling through, to a world filled with rugged rock hills on both sides.
The trail became very rocky...............
The trail continued to deteriorate, the hills continued to get steeper and more jagged, and after four wheeling for a couple of miles we decided that - on this day - we would call it a day.
The day had just been too long and at this point in our quiet adventure, this trail that we were now on was just more adventure than we needed.
We were both enamored with the terrain - a combination of steep and rocky hills, evergreen trees, endless rock, and views of the valley that was now far below us - and we were curious where this trail led.
But at that point we had no idea where we were headed or what we were heading into.
We'd find out another day.
It was time to go home...................
Mountains are both journey and destination. They summon us to climb their slopes, explore their canyons, and attempt their summits. The summit, despite months of preparation and toil, is never guaranteed though tastes of sweet nectar when reached. If my only goal as a teacher and mountaineer is the summit, I risk cruel failure if I do not reach the highest apex. Instead, if I accept the mountain’s invitation to journey and create meaning in each step, success is manifest in every moment............TA Loeffler

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Return To Pass Creek - Part 2

We stayed at the campground for almost two hours.
Wandering, picture taking, walking trails, taking our time as we circled back to the Suburban.
There were pull offs that we had bypassed on the way up to the campground, and once we were done here we planned to stop at some of those pull offs, because we had seen that they overlooked the valley far below................
One last look at the small frozen lake - pond - before continuing further..............
The first pull off we came to LC pulled the Suburban off the road, and we all three eagerly climbed out of the vehicle and headed up the double track trail.
Filled with a sense of adventure in this wonderful place, that felt so far removed from the lower Pass Creek, and a world away from the highways on both ends of the pass that could both lead us back to Atomic City and home..................
The trail simply........ended.
It ended in nothingness.
A view of the valley below us.
Endless mountains, endless trees, endless silence and a blue sky that spoke of a beautiful late fall day.
Kory reached the end of the trail before us of course, and as we approached I watched my dog.
It was SO GOOD to just let her roam free and know that she would wander, but not too far.
As we got closer and I saw her staring off into the valley below, I wondered what a dog thinks of such scenes.
Was she thinking of bunnies to chase?  Was she thinking of her life in a cage in a kill shelter in Florida?
No matter what her life holds for her in the future, she has had more freedom with us than at any other time in her life.
That thought pleases me.
My happy dog pleases me..............
Showing off his mountain hand gun...................
The view across the road from one more pull off..............
We had seen these same hills and mountains on our trip to Pass Creek Pass with Gary a couple of months earlier.
On that day we had looked up at them.
This time we were looking out and looking down on them.
The sheer beauty and vastness of the world from this vantage point was humbling.
It always is.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
We had left the house late morning and now it was mid afternoon.
As we dropped down to the road that wound its way through the pass proper we did some quick math.
There was a trail just on the outer edge of the pass entrance that we wanted to investigate before heading home.
Once we had done that we still had 40 miles of two lane highway driving before we would reach the house.
No problem.
We had this.
We decided to make one more quick stop at the creek before leaving..................
There is no such sense of solitude as that which we experience upon the silent and vast elevations of great mountains. Lifted high above the level of human sounds and habitations, among the wild expanses and colossal features of Nature, we are thrilled in our loneliness with a strange fear and elation – an ascent above the reach of life's expectations or companionship, and the tremblings of wild and undefined misgivings..............J Sheridan Le Fanu

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Return To Pass Creek - Part 1

Early in September (while LCs brother was visiting from Minnesota) we explored a place that LC and I had always meant to explore, but which we had never gotten around to.
Pass Creek Pass is located off the main highway between Moore and Mackay, and is an easy drive from Atomic City.
Within minutes of beginning our drive through the pass on that day I was already mentally kicking myself.
How could such a beautiful place exist so close to home, and we had not found it in the three years we had lived in this area??
Along with that mental admonishment was the knowledge that there must be MANY places just like this one, hidden in the mountains, off the beaten path, off the highway, that were patiently waiting for us to find them...........

With unusually warm weather this late in the year, and with the sky in a seeming holding pattern of endless sunshine and temperatures that barely fluctuated away from the mid-50's LC and I spent almost a month straight gutting out and redoing an old camper.
It's almost done but not quite done as I write this and (for the next couple of weeks at least) we're on hold.
The weather is finally crashing, and after visiting the four businesses in town that sell paint and stain, we are out of needed supplies until early next month.
One day in the middle of that month-long camper gut LC and I decided that we needed a break and that we needed to do something or go somewhere beautiful.
We needed the mountains..................

 On our last trip up and over Pass Creek Pass with Gary, we had all noticed a dirt road that veered to the right.
Right at the turn was a sign that told us that down that road was a lake and a campground.
As we passed by that road and sign a couple of months ago LC and I resolved that we would check it out one day.
Yeah sure.
Maybe we would and maybe we wouldn't.
And maybe (given our past history of resolutions) we would get back to it in.......a year..........or three..............

It turns out that we would get back there sooner than expected after all..............

The last time we visited we drove into the Little Lost River Valley, turned off the highway, climbed up and over the pass before coming out in the Big Lost River Valley between Moore and Mackay.
This time the plan was to go in on the Big Lost side, climb to the top of the pass, turn off to check the camp ground and then come back the way we came on the return trip.
View as we approached the entrance to Pass Creek Pass.............
Not far into the pass we pulled off the road and pulled into a circular driveway adjacent to a creek.
We had stopped in this same place on our last trip because it was so beautiful and we stopped again on this trip for the same reason...................
On a very beautiful and warm day we wandered -  pleased with ourselves for making it back so soon, for finally taking a break from gutting and rebuilding a camper, and for being together in this quiet and very wonderful place.
We had badly needed this trip.
The world was silent.
The sky was endlessly blue.
There was snow in the higher mountains, but around us was only running water, pine trees, and rugged and rocky hills.
This was a special place................
A couple of months ago, in early Fall, the hardwood trees were filled with bright yellow leaves.
Now, a couple of months later, the shadows from the rocky canyon we were heading into were longer, and the trees were bare..............
Moving along...................
At the top of the pass.
If we had continued straight we would quickly drop down on the other side of the pass.
The creek expanded "down there" - a long expanse of wider, tree lined stream with occasional signs boasting of exceptional trout fishing.
Instead of continuing straight we turned to the left.
Following the sign promising a campground and lake.
We were curious................
Immediately we began to climb.
And immediately the hills got steeper and we were greeted with more pine trees................
After continuing to climb amid pine tree lined dirt road we stopped the Suburban for a moment so I could snap this picture.
It was a small lake, surrounded by pines, and a thin layer of ice covered the surface.
Lower down temperatures had been in the mid-50s but now it was a good deal colder, and the lake was mostly still shaded by trees.
Was this the lake the sign described?  The one I had seen on the map on the Internet after our last trip?
If so, it was much smaller than I had imagined.................
10 minutes later we passed by a sign that said "group camping".
Was this the campground we had been looking for or was there another?
As we stopped in the middle of the road we looked in the direction of the group camping sign.
The dirt road to the right was much narrower than even the narrow road we were now on.
It was also very rutted out and dropped steeply.
Well............if this was the only campground it wasn't conducive for fifth wheels or pull behind campers, that was sure.
And I sure wouldn't tent camp in this place.
Not in the rugged mountains of Idaho.
We decided to drive further to see what was still up ahead of us.
10 more minutes and the road suddenly turned into a rutted out muddy mess. was time to turn back.
We were alone up here, had no idea what was up ahead, nobody knew where we were.
I didn't check but was fairly certain that there was no cell phone service up there.
Hell.........I was in Blackfoot yesterday and I dropped calls twice while talking to LC.
You know that red Can You Hear Me Now map?
There were patches of non-red all over the west including where we lived and where we were at that moment in the mountains....................

Disappointed that we could continue no further we gingerly turned the Suburban around and headed back towards the campground.
When we reached it again we this time turned into the long driveway, dropped down into the rutted out and narrow trail and drove beyond the campground sign, curious to find what we would find.
Right at the entrance to the campground we eased the Suburban beyond the sharp pine tree branches (no - a camper would not be able to get through here) and suddenly the world opened up again and we were greeted with  a huge expanse of grass surrounded by pines................
As LC slowed the Suburban down and then stopped before we hit the deep mud on the double track dirt trail, Kory eagerly began to bark and dance around in the back.
She had wandered with us for a few minutes near the creek when we first headed into Pass Creek, but after being in the vehicle for the past 45 minutes she was eager to get out of the vehicle and wander.
We all were....................
How do you even describe the feeling of freedom that we all had in this place?
A completely silent, completely wonderful place on a completely beautiful day.
In those moments it felt like we had the whole world to ourselves.
Every mountain, every pine tree to ourselves.
We wandered in the field for a while.  I snapped pictures in all directions.  We looked around for signs of another lake but found nothing.
It was obvious that this was strictly a primitive campground, and that those with campers did their camping in the many pulloffs adjacent to the stream lower down.
We found a trail and took it, curious to see where it led.
It turned out to be a huge semi circle that eventually found its way back to the field.
Pictures I took along the way..................
She is loving her new found freedom this year.
We're loving it as well................ 

How can you explain that you need to know that the trees are still there, and the hills and the sky? Anyone knows they are. How can you say it is time your pulse responded to another rhythm, the rhythm of the day and the season instead of the hour and the minute? No, you cannot explain. So you walk.................Author unknown, from New York Times editorial, "The Walk," 25 October 1967