Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Snow - Part 1

I had no idea that SE Idaho could get this much snow.
These pictures were all taken early last week.
We have had more snow since then.
Much more snow.
Part of me is excited by the transformation of this tiny town into a frozen wonderland of snow and ice.
A place to snow shoe and cross country ski right outside the front door.
Part of me has recently become a little worried about how we will fare come spring.
The house is low lying, and on a concrete pad, and we had enough problems last spring with melting snow and ice seeping into the mud room in the front of the house on its march towards the living room.
As much snow as we had last winter, we have topped that by a factor of three or four.
The county ploughs the roads in town and the city (upon request and for a fee) ploughs driveways as they can get to them.
We have already had the city plough out the front of the house once this winter.
With snow four feet deep in many places and five foot drifts, we are again ready to have the city make a second visit to us.
We're concerned - but not overly concerned.
Mainly because spring is still a couple of months away, and it is what it is, and we'll keep the shop vac ready as we did last year, and simply know that we will be spending a few days keeping water away from the house when everything finally melts.
But there is no doubt that things will be a mess....................
It has been a couple of months since I last walked with Kory out on BLM land.
Since then we have spent a lot of time together both walking through town, and walking to the outskirts of town and then beyond.
Much of the year - when I am reminded every sunny, dry, unyieldingly hot day that we live in the desert - this road (that ultimately leads all to the way to Blackfoot) is a gravel road.
Depending on how quickly the road is ploughed through the winter it is either covered with a thin sheet of snow and ice, or three feet of snow.
I cross country skied on this road four or five days ago - skiing in the tracks that LC had made with the Suburban on our last trip out to Big Butte Rd a few days prior.
A quarter of a mile outside the city limits are these four old and abandoned potato silos.
They stand silently at the entrance to the desert, silently watching over the vast emptiness we have in back of town.
Standing uniformly at attention.
A resting place for your eyes when there is little more to see now than an ocean of endless white.
I have always loved them.
And through this winter they have also become Korys' favorite place because the silos, the towers of now-frozen hay bales, the abandoned farm equipment strewn at random in deep, snow covered fields, are a jack rabbit haven.
And so now (when I am ready to walk far along this road) my dog consistently insists of veering off the road, bounding (with increasing effort) through increasingly deep snow, on the hunt for bunnies.
In this most unusual winter, she is more successful than not these days....................
A successful hunt..................
And Kory quickly trotting ahead of me, intent of taking her catch back to the security of the back yard.
There are now four or five dead rabbits buried at random in the snow around the house.
Which is fine as long as we live in a frozen world, but which will simply be one more challenge come spring.................
A month or so ago I drove with Kory about 10 miles and pulled into a large parking area right off the highway close to the main gate of INL.
  Known locally as The Junction it is the intersection where the highway to Arco in one direction and Idaho Falls in another, and the highway to Blackfoot all converge.
 I had arranged to meet a woman there from Arco to buy something and she was running late.
I didn't mind.
The day was mild, calm, and filled with snow and frozen mist.
The world (even close to two converging two-lane highways) was closed in and silent.
While waiting for the woman I wandered with Kory.
Big Butte and Cedar Butte were normally visible from here, but they had disappeared in the mist on this day.
One of the Twin Buttes (that were now only a couple of miles away from where Kory and I stood) was barely visible in the fog.
Standing there in the huge parking area the world all felt a little surreal.
There are no real words to describe how completely different this region looks in the dead of winter.
As we continued to wait I allowed Kory to take the lead.
I wandered where she wanted to wander.  Stood obligingly as she sniffed and marked whatever she wanted to sniff and mark.
Both of us content to wander aimlessly in this silent place, and content to be with each other.................
Atomic City is 10 miles in this direction.
Normally you can't see town from here but you can see all the buttes surrounding it.
On this day there was nothing.................
One of the Twin Buttes, barely visible in the mist................
On the way home I (on the spur of the moment) decided to take a back road back to Atomic City instead of taking the two-lane.
I knew that it would by snowy and icy, and knew that travel would be slower, but I wanted to see if I could find the elk herd.
They travel all over the desert, but last winter they had all been together close to this back road on the way to Atomic City, were easier to see in the winter, and I wondered if they had returned.
As I slowly drove this winding snowy road I scanned the white terrain on both sides of me, hoping to catch sight of the elk.
Suddenly movement to my left caught my attention and I turned to see what it was.
A herd of 25 antelope had been spooked by the vehicle, were already in a full run through the snow, and were headed for the two land highway that was on the other side of the ridge.
Abruptly I stopped the Tahoe in the middle of the road and scrambled to pull my camera out of my jacket pocket (which was no easy feat while wearing gloves and strapped into a seat belt).
By the time I had pulled it out, turned it on and rolled down the winder of the vehicle, the antelope were already at the top of the ridge.
All clustered together they stopped and turned to look at me, intent on figuring out what kind of threat I posed to them.
I am no threat to you............beautiful things.................
While Kory excitedly paced in the back of the Tahoe I waited patiently, wondering if now that I had stopped moving they might come back this way.
Eagerly snapping pictures (just in case they disappeared over the rise) I hoped that they would move closer so that I could take better pictures.
They didn't.
After five minutes (expecting them to disappear over the rise at any moment) I finally decided that this beautiful herd wasn't going anywhere until I went somewhere.
They had more patience that I had ever imagined.
Reluctantly I pushed the steering column into Drive and slowly continued on my way.
Pleased with the unexpected antelope sighting.
Disappointed that they were so far away.
Disappointed that there was no elk sighting.
Pleased that Kory and I had had a quiet adventure on a cold winter morning..................
We have a really nice wooden pedestal kitchen table.
We bought it not long after moving into the house, and for a couple of months I left the table uncovered and with a huge, beautiful, white plaster swan sitting in the center.
Pleased with the starkness and beauty of my table and swan, we brought Kory home from the Boise airport a few months later.
Within a few weeks our new dog effortlessly jumped up onto the table - scratching the table, knocking the swan onto the floor and breaking its neck all in one effortless and smooth motion.
She had quickly figured out that if she jumped up onto the table she could see out the window.
That was it.
The genie was out of the bottle and I instinctively knew that I wouldn't be able to put it back INTO the bottle.
She could see the deer.  
See who was at the door.  
Watch us when we were out front of the house without her.
I covered the table to try to protect it.
LC fixed my swan and we put it somewhere else.
And my dog still loves to jump up onto the table.
On this day she stood like Queen of the Castle, alternately watching the deer walk by outside, and watching LC make chili in the kitchen.....................
 The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only.............Joseph Wood Krutch   

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