Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Chief Joseph Highway - Part 1

These pictures were all taken early last fall during a trip on the Chief Joseph Highway, to the top of Dead Indian Pass, and beyond to the North Gate of Yellowstone National Park just beyond Cook City.
It was a beautiful weekend day.
Endlessly sunny.
Very cold.
And both LC and I wanted to do the drive before winter hit.
We knew that this would likely be our last go around until spring, and so we loaded into the vehicle and on the spur of the moment decided to head up the mountain..................
I always think of Dead Indian Pass as being a long drive from Cody, but 45 minutes after we left town we were contentedly standing at the overlook.
At the top of the pass and looking out over an entire world that seemed completely devoid of people.
The wind was blowing wildly (as it always seems to up there at just over 8000 feet) and both LC and I pulled the collars of our jackets up higher in a mostly failed attempt to stay warm.
Kory (as is always the case) seemed impervious to both the wind and the cold.
She is a beautiful, wonderfully simple creature.
Whether she is sniffing and marking beside a dumpster in back of Albertsons grocery store in Cody, or beside a bush on an historic overlook in the mountains of wild and isolated Wyoming, she is a contented, focused, happily adventuresome dog.
We should all be so wonderfully simple.
And so contented, focused and happy.......................
We had been up to Dead Indian Pass just a few weeks earlier and on that trip I had taken multiple pictures of historic markers and numerous informational boards.
I didn't do that on this trip.
This trip was about simply being.
Being up in the mountains.  Being together.  In this beautiful space.  One last time before winter.  Relishing in the freedom and silence.......................
I haven't really looked at these pictures in a few months. is beautiful in this place.
Endlessly wonderfully beautiful.
LC, me and Kory have now been in Wyoming since late September 2017.
17 months now.
Recently I was compiling paperwork for both of our taxes, and looking over paperwork was like looking over a road map of the craziness that we went through over the past year.
In 2018 we lived in three different places.
We made a trip back to Idaho in February to get our belongings out of storage, and made another trip back in the fall to get our camper.
We bought and sold three vehicles, moved our stuff in and out of storage units here a couple of times, bought a home and opened a business.
Almost seven months after moving into a house we bought, we have still not completely unpacked.
And neither one of us cares.
We're here.
We're in no rush...................
After loading back into the vehicle, we immediately dropped down the back side of Dead Indian Pass.
The plan (or lack there-of) was to drive for a while and take in the extraordinary beauty of the area.
We may make it to Cooke City.
We may make it to the west gate of the park.
We may go a short ways into the park.
Earlier in the year we would have been able to circle down into the park, and exit through the east gate, and get back to Cody without having to retrace our steps.
At this time of year the east gate was already closed, so no matter how far we traveled we were going to have to go back the way we had come.
We didn't know what the plan was, and it didn't really matter to any of us at the time.
What mattered was that we were there....................
Endless mountain peaks.
Endless wide open valleys.
It was all good...................
 The road sign tells the story of what the highway we were driving looked like.
With so many climbs, and so much winding road, there was no way to travel fast.
And that was OK...................

Sunlight Creek Bridge, the highest in Wyoming..............

You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you..............John Muir

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Smoke On The Water

I have taken many pictures over the past months that have not been shared in blog posts.
Part of me thinks that it is ridiculous to keep blogging.
Who blogs for a decade?
But I also have pictures.
Many pictures.
Pictures that have to go somewhere or what's the point.
Statement not question.
I wasn't always a picture-taking-a-holic.
It started a decade ago with a small digital camera that my oldest son gave to me not long before leaving for Juneau AK.
Another life time ago....................

These pictures were all taken sometime way back in November.
The days were getting shorter and at that time I was rushing home at the end of each day, so I could grab my dog and head out to the lake before dark.
Sometimes LC came with us and sometimes not, but over the past year my spoiled dog has learned that when I get home she goes somewhere and so I am always greeted with hysterical puppy-barking.
Sometimes we just go outside and around the house.
Sometimes to the back of our one acre to say hello to the lonesome horse on the adjoining property.
Sometimes for a walk on leash around the 1 mile or so block.
And often to the lake.
Not long after these pictures were taken, trips to the lake were relegated to LC during the week.  
Winter was bearing down.
Darkness was coming too fast.
Freezing temperatures were also coming too fast.
But on this particular day LC and I bundled against the freezing cold, grabbed our hysterical dog and rushed to the lake to squeeze out as much daylight as we could.......................
The sun was already rapidly descending below the surrounding mountains.
Darkness was not far behind, but we all walked on the rocky beach, relishing in the silent beauty of this place that is only two miles from the house...............
If you were a sixties kid and a seventies teenager like me, then you remember a particular song.
Every kid who learned to play the guitar learned to play this song.
As Kory happily ran and played on the beach, LC and I walked and talked, catching up on each others' day.
And as I looked out over the lake and saw the smoke, I thought of that 70s song.
The song every single kid of a certain generation knew how to play on a guitar...................
We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn't have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Still And Pewter World

There is a horse that lives on the property behind ours.
I don't know the gender of this horse but I think it is a female.
She has no shelter.
She has no companionship.
The one acre of dirt ground that she lives on is her entire world and she lives in that world alone.
She is fed and watered but she is lonely and I can see that she is lonely and I feel badly for her.
I have seen her chewing absently on the wood fence on the far side of her dirt field and I have watched her literally walk in small circles for a long time.
She is lonely and bored and I feel badly for her..................
One day a couple of months ago I was walking the perimeter of our property with Kory.
This horse was standing silently in one corer of the field as she so often does, and on the spur of the moment I reached down and picked a couple of handfuls of brown grass that lay dormant along the edge of the fence.
Throwing the handfuls onto the ground on her side of the fence I continued on with my dog.
As I reached the house I turned back to look the way we had come, and the quiet and lonely horse was eating what Kory and I had left for her.
The next day we did the same thing.
And the next day.
And the next.
Now she waits for us every morning.
I don't know how Kory knows when it is 8am each morning but (as LC likes to joke) "her puppy pocket watch tells her it is 8" which means it is time to go outside.
Apparently a lonely horse has a pocket watch of her own.
The picture above was taken this morning.
It was freezing cold and we walked in the frozen mist.
Looking up I saw the beautiful face of this horse and we walked over to find some more grass for her because now she waits for it, expects it, hopes for it.
And I don't feel like I can let her down.......................

The pictures below were taken looking across the road from the front of the house.
It was absolutely freezing cold.
 The world was completely silent.
Instead of a brown world, we were living in a pewter world.
A world almost completely devoid of light and color....................
Eating the handfuls of dried grasses I could find along the icicle covered fence.................
After retreating gratefully back into the warmth of our home, LC and I drank coffee and caught up with emails while slowly waking up on a slow Sunday morning.
By 9:30 we got dressed, bundled up against the cold and did what we do most Sundays.
We went to the historic Irma Hotel in downtown Cody for brunch.
We have tried other restaurants.  Other buffets.  Other decors.
But the Irma Hotel dining room is so beautiful and historical, the food so good, the wait staff so friendly, and the price so reasonable, that we always seem to gravitate back to the Irma.
After unsatisfying meals at other places on a number of consecutive Sundays, we decided to just stop experimenting.
Stick with what works.
Don't fuck with the system.
We went to the Irma Hotel this morning and it was a great meal as always:
A couple of hours later we had full bellies (our weekly splurge while losing weight), we had bought a little metal fishing boat and tossed it into the back of our truck, and we had turned off the Southfork Highway and turned onto Bartlett Lane headed for Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
It was freezing cold but the wind (for once) was not blowing wildly.
We were dressed for the weather, we needed to walk and puppy needed to run........................

Bare trees, mountains hidden in the fog, and a frozen lake.
We walked.
Kory ran.
Aside from the dwellers of distant ice fishing huts we had the entire frozen world to ourselves.
It was colder than it had been all winter, but on this day somehow the cold didn't seem to matter.
 The still and pewter world was beautiful....................
One of a handful of ice fishing huts we could see from our vantage point above the lake...................
Winter is the slow-down
Winter is the search for self
Winter gives the silence you need to listen
Winter goes gray so you can see your own colors......................Terri Guillemets

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Why We Climb

We never do such things but this past holiday season both LC and I decided that we would make a New Years resolution.
Neither of us are fat.
But both of us wanted to lose some weight.
LC for health reasons and me because..............just because.
For years long walks have been the almost sole domain of woman and dog, but since the new year LC has walked more often with us.
Long walks.
Demanding walks on steep trails in the hills.
By next month I hope to drag him up and to the top of Cedar Mountain...............
A couple of weeks ago we walked on a steep trail on the outskirts of Oregon Basin.
I had done this hike a number of times alone with Kory, but never with LC, and I was excited to make the trek with him.
It would be demanding.
Long and steep, but I knew that if he could hang on, the views from the top would be worth the effort
The day was cool, still, beautiful, almost snowless.................
The Tree Of Life.
I named this tree TTOL over a year ago when I first came across it.
Cedar trees at this elevation and in this high desert plains environment are often misshapen and gnarly - small and twisted because of exposure to almost continual strong winds.
The first time I walked this trail with my beautiful dog I saw this tree up ahead and knew immediately that it was special.
It is short and wide, majestic and lush, and it overlooks all the mountains that surround the town of Cody - Heart Mountain directly in front, Cedar and Rattlesnake Mountains to the left, Carter Mountain behind.
My favorite tree on one of my favorite trails................
Heart Mountain................
Looking west towards Cedar and Rattlesnake Mountains (seen between the wide branches of The Tree of Life, and the rock wall that someone built around the tree as protection against the wind).................
We climbed a little higher and found this.
This is the second time that we have found a grave site dedicated to beloved dogs.
The first was found in the summer, just a few hills east of the one we were now on.
Both grave sites had markers, and both sites were covered with many rocks to protect pet animals from the wild animals that live on BLM land.
As LC and I stood looking at the marker for Katie, we could easily imagine dog and owner doing exactly what WE were doing - walking the hills together.
This was obviously a special place for Katie.
It's a special place for Kory as well - rocks and trees to investigate, wide open spaces to walk and run, bunnies to chase.  She loves it here.
Now Katie can run free forever in Oregon Basin................
This winter - too much wind and not enough snow..................
30 minutes after we left the vehicle (and 30 minutes of non-stop climbing) and the basin proper began to make its appearance.
There is no way to describe just how enormous the basin is.
Huge swaths of flat grassland, encircled by endless hills, with views of both the close and distant mountains in all directions.
It is an extraordinary place..................
Still climbing................
Kory comes and she goes on these walks, and she relishes the freedom.
With us part of the time and then disappearing often to investigate whatever catches her attention.
I trust her on these walks.
 It is a trust that has been built up over many walks over many years.
She comes back often to touch base with her humans, and when she IS in sight I see her looking back often to check on us..................
When you finally reach the top of the trail it veers to the left in a long straightaway.
The views from the top of the trail are endless, silent and beautiful.
I looked back at LC to see how he was doing.
It had been a tough hike but here we were, and I could see the feeling of success  written on his face.
In truth I was no longer used to hiking with LC.  
It had been me and Kory for a long time.  
The dynamic of two had been suddenly changed to the dynamic of three but it was good to have him with us.
It was good for him to be in this place - high above the world.
Looking out OVER the world..............
There were a number of ways that we could take to get ourselves back down to the Suburban.
We could go back the way we had come - taking the same rocky and steep trail down that we had taken up.
We could make our way down the adjoining hill.
We quickly discounted that option because the adjoining hill was attached to the archery range.
There had been no-one at the range when we set out, but we could not see if anyone was there now.  It could be dangerous.
The last option was to make our way across the west side of the adjoining hill a short way before dropping down into a drainage.
We'd have to walk back up a steep hill at the end, but it was a short hill full of sage and desert grasses, and ultimately not too difficult.
We decided on Door #3......................
It had been a great hike.
Demanding.  Beautiful.  Challenging without being disheartening.
There was something fulfilling, redeeming and unspokenly positive about the hike.
As we slowly drove back down the rutted out double track trail, heading for the two lane highway that would take us back to Cody, the bulls silently stared their approval...................
Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit, is the answer to the mystery of why we climb..............Greg Child