Sunday, November 25, 2018

Claw Marks On The Tree

I took these pictures a few weeks ago.
It was cold, and although we had had snowfall a few times by now, it had not stayed.
One of the things we look forward to throughout fall is heading out the North Fork.
By this time the tourists have all gone home.
The East Gate of the park is closed.
And the animals have begun to move down from the mountains, to take up residence in the "low lands" of the North Fork for the winter.
Every few weeks we head out there to monitor the wild life.
To determine how many bison and elk and big horn sheep have moved down, and how close we really are to winter proper.
On this particular Sunday we drove into town early, as we so often do on Sundays, and ate brunch at the historic Irma Hotel.
Again........the tourists are long gone..........and at this time of year we relish in the "just us chickens" - the locals - that are left behind to hibernate for the winter in this now-quiet town.
After a delicious all-you-can-eat brunch we headed west.
Through the canyon between Cedar Mountain and Rattlesnake Mountain.
Through the tunnels leading to Buffalo Bill Dam.
Past the dam and past Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
Through the tiny mountain-surrounded community of Wapiti.
Until eventually arriving at the Shoshone National Forest that would take us all the way to the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park if we wanted to drive that far.
Before we made it to the forest we looked to our right and were excited to see a herd of a couple of hundred elk.
They were standing in the middle of a huge pasture - a common place to see them.
And they were surrounded by the rugged mountains that we have come to love so much.
LC pulled off the highway and I climbed out of the Suburban to snap some quick pictures.
Another vehicle pulled off the highway at the same time - another local couple doing the same thing that we were doing.
Monitoring the wild life in the area now that the tourists were gone, the weather had turned, and we had the highway and the world to ourselves.....................
Ten miles further down the highway we pulled off again.
This herd was smaller, more watchful, and grouped tighter together.
As I snapped pictures LC and I looked around for signs of what may have spooked them.
We saw nothing.
It was an overcast and very cool day, and the mist sat low in the canyons between mountains.
The leaves on the hardwood trees were still bright yellow, but would be gone soon enough.
And even though there were plenty of wolves and bears in the area, on this day we could see none.
But something had scared these beautiful animals and they watched us closely even though we were a long way from the herd................
30 minutes later we were deeply in the forest.
We had pulled off the highway and driven a short ways down a gravel double track trail that paralleled the Shoshone River.
This was a favorite pull off of ours, and many times we have walked along the trail, walked along the river, enjoyed the sight of the pine-tree-filled mountains that surround it. 
It is a beautiful place and we were there at a beautiful time of year in mid fall...................
As I was standing above LC and Kory snapping random pictures of our surroundings, I saw LC studying a tree.
He looked up at the tree.
He looked up at me.
He wordlessly pointed high on the tree, I turned to look at what he was pointing at, and was stunned...................
There were large claw marks on the tree.
One set high, one set much lower down, and one more set close to the base of the trunk of the tree.
I studied them for a moment and then turned to look back at LC.
Wordlessly we both looked at each other and then looked around us.
They were without a doubt bear claw marks.
Recently made.
High enough on the tree to have been made by a grizz..................
We had been to this very same place more times that we could count over the years and over the three times that Cody had drawn us back.
We had enjoyed the lushness of this place in summer.
The starkness of this place in fall.
The beauty of this place when it was covered in snow and ice in the winter.
We had taken pictures last winter of a herd of big horn sheep that was plodding through deep snow right at the turnoff to this place.
We had driven around a lone bison that was standing in the middle of the trail - normally a gravel trail but at that time covered in snow.
We had walked through the trees following the river and walked up the trail to the highway while I snapped picture after picture of this wonderful place.
And never once had we seen such clear evidence of a grizzly bear as those claw marks on the tree.
I climbed over the rocks and down to meet Kory and LC at the river..............
Looking back at The Beast and the tree with the claw marks..................
Claw marks above and below LCs extended arm................
As we did every time we visited this place, we wandered by the water for a few minutes and then climbed back up to the trail, intending to walk and take pictures.
We wandered up trail about 20 feet and then wordlessly turned to look at each other.
The trees and bushes were thick.
Beautifully yellow in mid fall.
On both sides of us was thick undergrowth, thick brush.........perfect cover.
For a cantankerous bear that was trying to eat as much as possible before going into hibernation.
There was no getting around it...............we were creeped out.
And so we headed back to the Suburban...................
We drove just a little further before turning around and heading back to Cody.
There would be no all-day and epic adventure.
But we saw beautiful on a mid fall Sunday...................
Fall, temperatures, fall, fall! Let the weather mellow and the year fall into peacefulness.......................Terri Guillemets

Friday, November 23, 2018

Sharing Her Bounding Joy

I walked with Kory again a few weeks later - again down by the lake and by this time there was little color left in the world.
Fall was coming and it was coming very fast.
The water was receding and it was receding very fast.
And (as has been the case for a couple of months now) I was still in awe of how different the reservoir looked in fall compared to summer.
Kory and I walked over the sand and rocks that had been underwater all summer.
The world was beautiful but in a different way.
A more barren, and monochromatic, and silent beauty.
So different from the birds and grass and water and flowers and green and blue of summer.
The place was silent and beautiful..............
Kory and I have now spent five years traveling together.
Wandering and communing together in both Idaho and Wyoming.
Climbing and hiking and exploring on BLM land and mountain land and lake sides.
She is my traveling companion and I enjoy her companionship immensely.
I share in her love of adventure, or freedom, of movement..................
When I wake up every morning, I smile and say, 'Thank you.' Because out of my window I can see the mountains, then go hiking with my dog and share her bounding joy in the world................Carole King

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Evening Walk By The Lake

These pictures were taken.........when?.............sometime in mid October I think.
There were still leaves on the trees but the wind was rapidly carrying them away.
Not long after these pictures were taken the trees were all bare............

There are so many things that I love about where we live, but what excites and pleases me the most is that we are only five minutes from the lake.
We are so used to BLM land.  
Sage brush.  Rocky hillsides.  Gnarly and twisted cedar trees.  Steep dirt embankments.  No water.
So used to it while living in Idaho and so used to it while living in Wyoming, that the sheer joy of living so close to the Buffalo Bill Reservoir has not even begun to wear off yet.
At this stage I cannot ever imagine it wearing off.
LC can fish.  I can kayak.  Kory can swim and splash and drink.   We can all relish in the site of water and mountains and hard wood trees..............

On this day I walked alone with Kory.
Armed as always against the unlikely (but always present) possibility of running into a bear.
Or a human intent on doing harm.
It was a cold, windy and partly sunny day, and the promise of the impending winter was in the air.
I had closed the store at the end of the day, rushed home to meet my dog, and then rushed down to the lake, all the while knowing that the days were getting shorter and our time wandering by the lake after hours was finite.
Soon the time change would happen.
And it would be cold and dark and instead of wandering by the lake, I would already be wandering around the house in my PJs at 6 o'clock.
We were living on borrowed time by mid-October and so I consciously embraced the cold and the wind, and enjoyed the evening with my dog...............
All of this was under water just a couple of months ago.
Now it is rocky beach front for us to wander..................
The behemoth known as Carter Mountain dominates the South Fork landscape..................
All summer we have been patiently waiting for the time when we would have this place to ourselves.
We finally do..................
We have now had this girl for five years.
Five years ago on Nov 6 we drove to Boise to pick up a dog that we had never met.
I was still grieving over the loss of Jamie (our previous dog) and was not ready for another.  But LC wanted her and so we accepted her.
Bringing an unknown being into our home and hoping for the best.
Kory quickly became a beloved member of our family.
She has an increasingly white muzzle these days, which she did not have five years ago.
But she still runs, climbs and jumps like the healthy, athletic dog we met for the first time five years ago..................
Multiple piles of driftwood had been gathered on the beach, and when we first found them in mid-October we assumed that they would quickly be burned or put into a chipper or..........something.
As of this writing there are still almost 20 of this huge piles dotting the rocky beach down by the lake.....................
It was a gorgeous night.
Cold and still and gorgeous.
I was bundled against the cold and relished both the silence and the sight of my beautiful dog as she ran and played by the water.
The sun was setting.  It was time to head back to the Suburban and go home.................
It was a late-October Sunday, the leaves tinged with brown, and the air crisp in a way that made you shiver if you stood still too long - Joe Kita, Growing Old and Staying Young..................

Monday, November 5, 2018

Rest In Peace

Life has been very hectic recently.
My business has been keeping me extremely busy, and I couldn't be more pleased.
It is very gratifying to see an idea successfully become a reality.
i have been working six days a week for almost seven months now, and this past Tuesday we finally transitioned into a winter schedule.
I had to laugh when I saw this sign (below) on a downtown store front window the other day.
After a very busy summer tourist season Cody is slowly but irrevocably falling into hibernation mode.
My business hours are not quite this laid back, but having two days off in a row each week through the winter will be nice.
And so will getting home before dark.................
My mother died on Tuesday.
She was a few days shy of turning 82.
She died of uterine cancer.................

About a month ago one of my brothers contacted me to ask if I would write to my mother.
It would make her happy.  She did not have much else in her life.  It would mean a lot to her.
I wrote to her.
I am so terribly sorry that you are going through this.  I know how hard this is for you.  I wish you peace and strength, and that you will always be surrounded by friends and family who love and care about you.
She wrote back - interpreting (as I feared she would) my message as an opening to talk.  To find common ground.  To catch up on 30 years of living in different worlds.
I never responded back.
It was too late.
There was no going back.
My mother died, surrounded by her four local children and I sent an email to my youngest brother (who is always in one exotic part of the world or another).
I was sorry to be the one to break the news to him.
My sister sent me a picture of my mother and four of my siblings.
My mother looked terrible.
The four (who are all younger than me) all looked older than me.
My father was not in the picture and when I asked my sister twice if he was there when my mother died, she never responded back.
I prefer to think that he was there at the end.
But I don't know that for certain.
Rest In Peace Mom.....................