I am in lust with this oversized area I like to describe as a “no man’s land”. Easy riding roads build and maintained by the Forest Service, the possibilities of wandering aimlessly are endless as we took off again on the sunny day offered to us. The weather pattern here has been of a strange one for sure. One day inviting, filled with blue skies and a few clouds for a bit of momentary shade mixed in with great lighting for photos, the next day with a quick flip of the coin the clouds forming an all day lining above us bringing in almost cold temperatures. It is as we are on call, nothing else matter but to explore, ready to go on “the” nice day, setting everything else aside. What else is really there?
The landscape might end up blending in, curve after curve one might thing as it is becoming all the same, but it is not. My Friend KC who has in the recent past explored himself the area expressed it well when he wrote to me ” But unless you’ve been up there and felt the crisp, cool air and the solitude, I’m afraid not too many will truly understand what you experienced that day. I do. It’s been a couple of years, but your words & images brought it all back to me. I’m grateful and rather envious. But I like knowing that you and I have both experienced it. And I’m so glad you stopped and talked to the sheepherder. He’s set up right where I saw the same camp. What a place…”
For some reason, always unknown as a clock has become a foreign notion to me, I knew we had a late start as the sun here in Ennis was starting to pound the thermometer, raising it’s bar to over a hundred in the sun. It was time to ride and get up fast to the coolness of the higher elevations, it does not take that long here. It is fairly rare that I will stop for photos in the frame of mind I was in, when the true desire of riding takes over. I was trying to think about this ambiance when my head into this full face helmet, ear plugs in, goes down the road with the sounds of it all muffled accentuated by my visor and a sun shield, and yet my body is at the mercy of the elements. Maybe it is a bit as being in space I thought, as being in a small capsule with it’s protection, in control of this machine kicking up much dust as I like to watch it in my rear view mirrors coming off the three tires that takes us forward.
It is easy for that reason to know about approaching vehicles, as when stopped at one point, we saw some dust coming forward starting at the crest of the next hill. It is kind of a cool sight, so desolate the area is, that the knowledge of the presence of another being in itself is at times comforting… maybe. One will stop, some will not, as this urban truck only accelerating and kicking up more dust than earlier as I glanced the seemingly nervous face of a lone driver. Maybe our sight with our strange vehicle stopped with a Pit Bull on it’s side, who knows.
A new turn, a new name for a road deciphered on the map, a bit further I think, a bit further always, and finally crossing this invisible threshold which consciously makes me feel as now we are have just entered another dimension. There was no marker, nothing had changed much in the “physics” of it all, there was no sign supporting my feeling, it was all up in the mind that for some reason, maybe because of the distance covered, the land, the space, all became more raw then earlier. I have a hard time finding the words for this feeling. I want to say apprehension maybe as Spirit and I being alone so far from it all, but it is not. We are always prepared, our SPOT works just right, I do have a SAT phone always handy, plenty of water and food. It could be the unknown ahead, these ribbons laid out of new roads for us, maybe the thought of an adventure that might not be gone quite right?
We have never really had a serious problem, much care of Old Faithful lets her take us most everywhere we have wanted to go. U turns at times are hard not having reverse, but I have learned to use the uphills or the downhill’s of the roads to our advantage for some maneuvering to do so. I love it “up there” and I know so does Spirit. That is a space where the mind becomes so calm, thoughts are sometimes non existent, where it is so easy to live the “now”. It reminds me of “The Oasis”, it is a rare find.
There was some movement on the horizon at some point catching a glimpse of it around a curve as we stopped, noticing two dots approaching ever slow. A couple horses. The first one with a rider, the second one carrying much gear. A hunter maybe? He changed his course toward us and turned out to be another sheepherder on his way to spend the night with his herd. As “Bigne”, who we had seen again earlier for a visit and a cup of coffee, he is part of a sheep Ranch from Dillon. His name is “Ted”, I am sure made up as it could not be a Peruvian name. They are from Peru by the way, I was mistaken, not from Chile, and somewhere within these hills there are five of them.
Nice guy! His English was great and we had a good time chatting, looking at the map as he pointed up where the other ones resided for those 3 months up on the hills. More dogs of course, I like those sheep dogs, they are not given as much affection as Spirit receives, I would not go as far as saying they are “tools”, but they are working animals with a purpose. Again one of them took a liking to Spirit, it is always hysterical to see his face when another wants to come up and share his space as I sense his words which would be I hope mildly said “please… get out of here”. I am adding the “please”! Mocking me too maybe? with his tongue out…
Always some sights to stop for! A rabbit that did not make it over the fence, a sharp shooter maybe a bit upset at “recreational parking”… who knows what really happened, photos are always the source of questions within one’s self as to the reality of them.
Today it is raining, unusually for here a slow rain which will not stop versus the heavy storms that comes and goes. We went on, still more riding ahead, it was like being on a mission to take it all in, even as the clouds where starting to form. Changing into rain gear is always the question which of course I always wait quite often too late out of pure laziness to stop. And then again, sometimes we get lucky and as almost feeling “by design”, even riding on wet roads that have seen the rain, we don’t get touched by a single drop. These are the great rides. I always feel as giant hands from the skies opening the path for us, I prepare myself for a downpour, for quickly digging into my gear to change, and it just does not happen.
We arrived back on the paved road which would take back to Ennis and the curtains, those beautiful curtains of rain clouds shined us by the sun setting in loosing it’s bright colors into the muted one sees, stood just ahead of us. I have only seen this in Montana. As the roads above, it is an experience not to be missed as a photo might show it’s beauty, but the smells of the wet soil, the coolness and strength of the winds, they are missing here.This was probably our last ride up Gravelly Range Rd for this time around. We might be back next year, who knows. The memories are good, better than that. I will always be able to close my eyes and transport myself into that space unlike much others.
Ara & Spirit