This is a Journal of a Journey on the Road started in November of 2006. A Healing one throughout this beautiful Country of ours, it’s remote spaces. Not a mission to cover grounds, only a path to feel and sense it all. Has it really been that long?
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."
"Always be who your Dog thinks you are…"
~ Unknown ~
The prescription was ahead of us ready to be picked up totally unaware of it’s presence. They are too often on our meandering routes the best and uplifting remedies. Once again ready to move on after exchanging our wheel in Helena I had to decide. Back to Glacier or move on to the unknown, a space which has intrigued me all these past years: Bighorn National Forest and it’s elevation meaning our favorite weather, "cold". It so much pays off stopping at the local Ranger’s Station or BLM Station when it is the case. These are people [generally...] that truly know the lay of the land, where to go and not to go, tips specially if it is a Ranger who normally works outside and coincidentally happens to be in the Office throughout our visit. They like it, they feel useful, they have maps, I have highlighters, I like it, it gives me a bit of a heads up as to what to expect.
I tried the back roads from Helena , Highway #12 to Townsend, to #89 where we went North instead of South, a good habit of mine, and end up spending one night near by the town of "White Sulfur Springs". The old wagons caught my nostalgic attention, the Main street was deserted as the signs inviting but no takers besides the couple bars where when I walked by could hear the outbursts of maybe one too many beers. It use to be a town of a 1000. Most of the Mines are now closed, the sheepherders and their dogs have moved on, the new generation has gone Urban for jobs besides still a few grand Ranches encompassing 100,000 acres and more each. Empty spaces as we then on headed South through "Ringling", [yes, one of the Brothers from the Circus had moved there and named it after himself], "Wilsall" which I remembered still had the best Cheeseburger in the Country but closed till 11am. I was not going to wait. Across the street the Mercantile Store where I could tell there were no cinnamon rolls today as the smell was not present. I was unfortunately right.
Finally we came up on the big highway, 90. The one where the speeds pick up, the fumes concentrate and the fuel stations mere impersonal Oasis of myriads of trucks and cars hardly trying to avoid fender benders while munching on a day old Burrito killed again from a one minute zap in the microwave. Everyone is mindless with a haggard look and a phone at their ears while gesticulating their news of their latest. No choice but to get on also this band wagon all the way to Columbus where finally we could get off the stream and take #421 to #212 to "Joliet", a sweet name sounding a bit French, to #310 southerly. "Fromberg", "Bridger", "Wade", "Frannie" in Wyoming, Good Bye Montana for now, "Cowley" and on to "Lovell", our mental Base Camp, the source of our information.
Pleasant and knowledgeable Lady at the front desk at the Ranger Station. I had her undivided attention or maybe Spirit did. The lay of the land. The decent roads, the ones not so, dispersed camping, the weather, a bit of History going way back thousands of years. She finished with more information on the Bighorn Canyon. I did not want to hear about lower elevations and a reservoir where taking domicile in a campground is a must. I have seen enough of those. Yet, I took the pamphlet not wanting to hurt her feelings. Back on the road, mentally and physically prepared for some steep uphills and switchbacks. Double check everything, nuts and bolts and fuel and tires. On we went. Till we passed Highway 37, the entrance of Bighorn Canyon bearing north.
Red rocks, magentas, shapes of ghosts left over from the past, patches of green shrubberies, mauves and browns and all in between glistening from the harsh afternoon sun. Desert! A spark took on effect, a U turn. We are going "there". We will make our Home in this Desert, no more trees cloned from each other, no more forest, no more of the vision curtailed by the forefront lines of the pine trees. For now. I pull up the pamphlet, a hidden Treasure, yes, a Canyon, a blue water reservoir, a couple campgrounds. They are free as we pull in the first one, a few campers are around in their condos, all is quiet, respectful bowing in front of this wonder I was shrugging off, this find I did not want to hear about.
We are here, we are in Utah, we are in Big Bend, we are in the Wyoming Red Desert, we are everywhere as my Heart lifts up from this filled prescription so much needed. It is warm but not too hot. It is a nice heat as the winds are picking up howling at times as everything from the ground up is trembling and shaking as it has within all these years past, yet remains and grows and matures building their daily strength toward such an unforgivable stage. The skies are however darkening and are becoming menacing. I am the only one out and standing facing what could be an upcoming rampage. All is now gray, all shades of grays and a bit of black mixed in for good measure. It lasts till Sunset where at the horizon a small patch of blue is allowing some colors to come through. No rain, no lightning, no thunder. It only seemed to be a rehearsal for an another day when the real performance will take place. What a quick change.
Morning and I am up early. I stick my head out and I have time for coffee and a walk to the water all before sunrise. I know I do. I take my time and yet hurry. I want to see those red rocks take on their robe of the day while the sun comes up from behind a now dark mount. No one is around. I am the only one in this temperature a bit brisk as sunrise drops down the cold while lifting the heat. My wool hat keeps me warm while I am wearing a short sleeve T shirt. My camera is dangling for this easy walk trying to reach the shores. And it happens, slowly and yet too fast. The rocks are pulling up their daily dress as from shade to light all becomes a gradual golden change of clothes. Behind me the sun rays are at first shy glancing into the skies as to make sure all is alright. Next to me, the water once blue imitates the rocks and take on also this yellowish golden hue as to prove their own worth.
Not needed. All surreal. I am floating, I lost the feel of the ground, all seems to be so much, maybe too much I think and yet not enough. Can we freeze these moments? The "this is It" moments are incoming one at the time and all blends in for this feature presentation Mother Nature is offering me this morning. First row seats, it is all mine, it is the Gift we seek for on the Road. This is the prize, the rest can wait, I don’t have much use for it if any.
I come back and Spirit is still asleep. What a bum and yet, he needs to live his own Life. It is his turn for a walk while his nose to the ground I think he could care less about his surroundings only if the smells are good as yes, his tail his wagging, they must be good. It is his breakfast time. Another cup of coffee for me, a couple eggs with last night’s left overs. Colorful and tasty it all sets me up for this beautiful day ahead of me where cut off from everything with no connection all feels so timeless. The grays throughout the day have come back early and are protecting us from the heat with a breeze just mild enough to keep us cool. I could not have set the thermostat myself any better.
The weight of the past months is slowly lifting today. It has been mostly restless times, apprehensive ones, lonely times, not finding a momentum lost. Perseverance, the search, the efforts, the thinking, the swimming across the dark channels encountering me a bit too often, I know all will pay off. Life is not unfair as many might think, as once I myself also thought. It is what it is within the grandiose aspect that faces us. We are the ones with the inner power to surface and not let ourselves stay under. It is my "Mantra" daily, sometimes hourly. Victories are of many, defeats are also on this road sometimes muddy, sometimes hard packed.
Food is again tasting better as taking my time cooking, rekindling a Passion which had remained on the back burner. Cheese filled Tortellini with sautéed garlic, tomatoes and colorful peppers. I like colorful. The left overs turned into breakfast with a couple eggs cracked in nests made up, a couple warmed up tortillas. A nice light lunch with greens, blue cheese and sliced strawberries drizzled with a good olive oil and a syrupy Balsamic Vinegar which originally was 22 years old, must be about 25 by now. Another breakfast with a couple eggs and some blueberries, sweetness of fresh organic eggs with the delicate fruit now in season. Everything is in season, this is the best "foodie time of the year". All must be used before I revert back to my rice and or peanut butter and jelly, sometimes with a dab of Nutella which I try so hard not to buy being my weakness. Their jars should probably come with a time lapse locking mechanism!
I had the most incredible Dream last night I must write about as it will carry me on throughout the day and times to come. My Mother was with me "live". Smells, touch, presence and sounds. Her pleasant laugh, her radiant smile, her delicate mannerism, her longish hugs. It was as not a Dream but reality as waking up and experiencing for as long as it was her true presence. The most vivid Dream I have ever had in my Life. She was happy, she was approving. None has left me yet, I know she was here not in a surreal way but real. It has left me speechless trying to come to terms with her presence. Will I have such a Dream again?
The days are lingering. Menacing skies have now made room for unobstructed blue ones as I await the welcomed late afternoon clouds. The air has become still and humidity is present. The temperature has risen as almost a sign we need to move on to higher elevations only a few miles from here. Maybe 50 at the most. There is a lot of History here within this challenging land. Present and much of past times. Till the time the dam was built, the Bighorn River was too treacherous and too steep walled to navigate on and the early residents were forced to devise unusual strategies of survival. The Indian hunters drove the herds of game into land traps. They lived simply, gathering wild roots and seeds to balance their meat diet. They made clothes of skins, baskets and sandals of plant fibers, and tools of rocks, bones and wood. Much History of also Wars, Mining, all opposed by most tribes and also unopposed by others until after the Civil War when cattle ranching became a way of Life. In 1966 Congress established Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area as part of the National Park system.
Our last night here. Windy afternoon ride to “The Two Eagles” site a few miles up the road past the look out. It was an encampment for the Crows, an interesting one designed for short stays up two weeks or so. Sometimes just a day or two. As we are doing here. The winds picked up stronger and it’s music is now soothing to the Soul. If I knew music I would be able to tell what note is playing at the moment, but I don’t. A stop in Lovell in the morning for some provisions, maybe a Library or an Internet Café to send this out and finally we will make it up to the Mountains where the “Medicine Wheel” I feel awaits for us.
Ara and Spirit