I’m done. After the big September storm that turned the seasons in our country and chased me from the Pioneers, I decided to scout the last section of the trek rather than saddle up the llamas and plunge ahead. More wintry weather was forecast; I had a clear window to check-out the route, a ridgeline that slopes through open country from 10,000 feet in the Iron Bog Lakes cirques to Blizzard Mountain where the land falls onto the Snake River Plain at the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Did chunks of the mid and lower route during two beautiful days and finished high in the alpine lakes on a third day. That was a brisk hike with a friend, my daughter Nina and her husband Andreas, the sky overcast, the land raked by a succession of snow squalls. The scouting done, it was easy to admit to myself that I was really done. The pictures tell the story.
I loved the return of clarity to our mountain skies. The wildfire smoke that plagued so much of the trek in August and early September had been cleansed from the atmosphere. The pure white peaks, wearing a robe of first snow, were pearls in a shocking blue; the sage draws aflame with golden aspen and red chokecherry. Frost crystals on all the dead grass and flora exploded in first light and the frost-riven ground crunched under foot. The sharp temperature and cutting wind was bracing, invigorating a ramble to see what’s in the next draw then the next, the clock be damned. A day is 24 hours.
But I made up my mind early about ending the llama trek. I did not like the loss of wildness in the mid and lower sections of the route. For the first time, the terrain was cut by 4-wheel roads and ATV tracks, pocked by mining exploration and fence lines that blocked the way, a land heavily grazed and trailed by cattle and sheep, stock watering troughs scattered about. Passed a number of hunting camps on the drive into the ridgeline trailhead. All bow hunters, but the gun season was imminent, a time when many more hunters would be afield. Could not see myself trailing llamas in such open country during that season.
The scout on the top of the route was really about the next time. We kicked steps in new, wind blasted snow to reach a view of the Iron Bog lakes. Up there, the terrain is already locked in a new winter. I glassed the highest point of my ridge route with binoculars. It would be courting jeopardy to scramble with llamas over the rock studded, frozen ground. I would do the route one day when wildflowers abounded, few people were in the country and the livestock down in their lower ranges.
The last day of the route on the Craters of the Moon side of Blizzard Mountain was special. I shadowed a small herd of elk, watched two large bulls sparring around 14 cows, the hills echoing whistles, barks and grunts. Away from that action, I slipped past three young bulls grazing in the sage and three groups of deer pile, stepped passed a big pile of bear shit. Along the way, bleached bones from scattered skeletons of yesteryear’s elk and deer attested the use of the area through time. I sat for long periods on the ridgelines in muse. I was at the end of our trek. Was I feeling a sense of accomplishment? Glad it was over? What? I did take a couple of self-portraits, one under Blizzard Mountain and the other on a ridge high above the Snake Plain’s volcanism. Why? To attest I’d done it? Not really. I missed Sarah on this special day, yet the strongest feeling was oneness with the land. Images assaulted me - the kid exploring his backyard wild in the Wood River Valley and the wider exploration of a magnificent home country that continues unabated. Felt a deep gratitude. I cried.
Trek Questions & Thoughts/A Summary
I’m going to appreciate readers of our Wild Trails Blog, answer questions and do some kind of trek summary, but first I’m going back into the blog to insert entries from my trail notes. From late July, Sarah has done the blog, my voice missing. Also, any questions you may have now are welcome.
I’ll pitch Wild Gift’s leaders too, provide an update on an exciting new era at the organization led by the first All-Alumni Board. Include a gallery of photos from Deep Wilderness and Synergy Treks that are a bedrock feature of Wild Gift’s programs that support a new leadership to build peaceful, sustainable communities worldwide whose economic development is in balance with the resources and gifts of the natural world.