Saturday, September 29, 2018

Snow In August

There are warnings about rattlesnakes posted on the trails in town around Beck Lake.
All spring locals shared horror stories about dogs rushed to the vet with rattlesnake bites.
Stories of hikers side stepping rattlers on the trails, and expressions of generalized fear and disgust over the noisy and poisonous little beasts.
As she always does, Kory received her rattlesnake shots in May. 
By spring we were the proud owners of one pair of snake boots and two sets of snake chaps, and both LC and I were watchful every single time we ventured off pavement.
For all the wariness about snakes in this part of the world, this is one of only two snakes that we saw all summer.
Thankfully neither were rattlesnakes................

All of these pictures were taken over the span of one weekend sometime close to the end of August.
The Saturday was cold, foggy and still very smoky from all the wild fires that surrounded us in this and neighboring states.
We - as we did often this summer - ventured down to the lake.
A safe place for Kory to run and wander and explore, and both LC and I were still enamored by the water and the surrounding mountains, and our proximity to both...................
Difficult to see her, but Kory is sprinting towards us in this picture..................
Sunday morning I walked outside to let Kory do her Kory things.
Still half asleep it took me a few minutes to notice the world around me, but when I finally did I was completely stunned.
The sky was blue.
The air was clear.
There was snow in the mountains.
In August..................
Rushing back into the house to grab my camera I walked (still in pajamas) with puppy around the perimeter of the yard, snapping pictures as I went.
The sky hadn't been so blue in weeks.
The weekend before it had been a smoky and stifling 100 degrees but on this day the air was cool and clear and crisp and clean, and the world looked gorgeous.
Looking across the road from the house, with snow covered Carter Mountain in the background..................
Looking towards the North Fork.
After so many prolonged weeks of bad air quality, and smoggy conditions, the world suddenly and unexpectedly felt cleaner and freer.
As I walked around our huge yard with the dog I enjoyed the sight of the mountains again.
And at least some of the fires were now out.
Very good deal...................
LC and I had painted this metal elk and installed him in the yard just a couple of days earlier.
Still entirely embedded in summer, the last thing we had expected was to see snow in August.
A few days after snapping this picture we had to move our metal elk.
Strong wind gusts had bent his legs and when we found him he was completely folded in half.
After straightening his legs we attached him to the safety of a wooden wind break.
He will be safe there.
The snow disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
But it was nice while it lasted...................

Summer is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating, there is no such thing as bad weather only different kinds of weather..............John Ruskin.............

Friday, September 28, 2018

World Filled With Smoke

Early in August LC, Kory and I took a drive out the South Fork.
It was hot and dry on this day, but the prevailing story was actually the smoke.
The entire region was enveloped in thick, heavy smoke.
The day we took this drive was an unseasonably cool day, but the day before it had been almost 100 degrees.
I am used to heavy smoke from regional wildfires.
Every summer it is the same thing - fires develop in every western state and smoke completely overwhelms the region as brave fire fighters battle seemingly non-stop in hot and dangerous conditions.
Mostly the smoke doesn't bother me physically.
It is simply a reminder of the dangerous conditions in which we live each summer.
But the day it was 100 degrees had been different.
I walked out of the house, looked up at the sky and could see only random and very small patches of blue struggling to take hold in a sky of smoke.
I looked around me - the hills to my left were barely visible.
Carter Mountain was gone.
The mountains to the west were gone.
Rattlesnake and Cedar Mountains were all gone.
The world was nothing but smoke.
I crossed over the gravel driveway and walked over to the large metal out-building.
As I unlocked the padlock that secured one of the doors and began to raise the heavy metal door I realized that I was feeling really dizzy and sick to my stomach.
I had only been outside for a couple of minutes.
But the combination of high heat and thick smoke almost immediately did me in.
I spent the remainder of the day indoors................

A day later it was still smoky but much cooler, and after being house bound the day before, all three of us had cabin fever.
And so we took a drive further down the South Fork.................
We drove past huge and fancy houses.
We drove past huge farms.
Eventually the homes and farms ended and the hills and empty BLM land began.
Miles and miles of wonderful and beautiful emptiness.
45 minutes after we left the house we pulled into a wide open area that we have stopped at many times before.
It is nothing more than a large paved area overlooking mountains in all directions, and contains a huge rock and wood sign informing visitors that they are entering the Shoshone National Forest.
The SNF extends in every direction - heading out the South Fork, out the North Fork, up on Dead Indian Pass - everywhere you travel in Park County you eventually find unexpected parts of the forest.
After 45 minutes we were all eager to stretch our legs and wander for a few minutes.
The world looked different.
Still beautiful, silent and majestic.
But now washed out and covered in the smoke that entirely overwhelmed the region.............
We stepped off the paved parking area and onto hilly BLM land, wandering slowly, surprised at how cool it was and how windy it was after being so hot the previous day.
On the back side of this hill was a view of the river far below us and off in the distance.
Normally it was clear and easy to see, but not on this day..............
The first of many times crossing the south fork of the Shoshone River.........
As we continued further into the South Fork I looked out over the mountains, mesmerized by how different the world looked.
Mountains that were normally so vivid were now wholly or partially hidden behind the smoke.
The typical blue sky of summer was now completely grey and smoke filled, and the colors of the world were washed out because so little light was filtering through the smoke..............
Many miles later we pulled over again.
This time alongside the river.
Walking slowly down the road we crossed over the bridge, spent some time watching the horses that were grazing in an adjoining field, and looked out over the tree filled mountains.
By this time hilly BLM land was a thing of the past and we were now surrounded by trees and water.
We had no specific agenda, time frame or destination in mind during this trip.
We just wanted some quiet time in beautiful quiet places, and even in this smoky world we were all having a really nice time...................
Going further and seeing more, we pulled off the winding two-lane South Fork highway and drove down a long driveway leading to the SF public school.
The school has always been empty whenever we have driven out this far, but LC and I have always both found this place interesting, because the school is completely surrounded by a high fence, that was built as protection against bears.
The South Fork is notorious for grizzly bears (one of many surrounding areas that are notorious for grizz).
Even where we live (only a few miles from town) there have been bear sightings.
But the further up the South Fork you travel, the more common it is to see bears.
We parked the Suburban down a short side trail (that lay adjacent to a small cabin and close to the school building) and I climbed out intending to wander down to the creek in back of the small cabin, and snap some quick pictures of the water.....................
Standing beside the Suburban I snapped pictures of smoky mountains and misshapen trees in all directions.
For a minute I enjoyed taking pictures and after taking three or four quick shots I lowered my camera and looked around.
And then I began to feel creeped out.
The place was completely and absolutely silent, but in the span of only a few seconds it had moved from beautiful to spooky.
This was prime bear country, and we were surrounded by thick bushes, trees and grasses.  And we were surrounded by thick smoke.
No.................I wasn't walking around here.............
High fence surrounding small school..................
After leaving the school we headed back the way we had come and (on the spur-of-the-moment) pulled off onto one last side road.
Just to see what we would find.
We found plenty more rugged beautiful............
I like the mountains because they make me feel small,' Jeff says. 'They help me sort out what's important in life............Mark Obmascik, Halfway to Heaven:  My White-knuckled and Knuckleheaded Quest for the Rocky Mountain High