In March and April, the town is ours at last. We see few out-of-state license plates, except for the spring snowmobilers heading up the pass.
Down-mountain, the snow may turn up now and then, but it doesn’t hang around very long. Everyone living nearby seems to have a new pond in their yard that freezes over and then thaws.
The streets are quiet. For motel owners who stay open all winter, this is the time to enjoy sleeping later and making repairs. You can probably count on a table at the Bistro without a reservation.
Some days it’s really cold; other days it’s mild enough to go out without a coat, especially where it’s not windy. Today the thermometer reads 20 degrees, but I’m quite comfortable in a denim shirt and down vest.
Still, the repeated melt and freeze are a challenge for a hiker. I have to strategize in order to avoid having to give the dog a bath after our outings. That’s why I revisit the badlands when early spring comes around.
It seems a shame to call them “bad lands,” when they are so wonderful. Later in the spring, they will erupt with small wild flowers and the sage will turn green and fragrant.
Just now, the ground is barren, but it’s also fairly dry and rarely muddy. Each turn up a draw is a new adventure.
The views, as ever, are splendid. I heard somewhere that Dubois was voted as having the most scenic drive to the town dump anywhere in the country. Whether or not that ever happened, I believe it could be true.
The road beyond the dump heads over the badlands and on up toward Table Mountain where at some places the scene over the edge looks like a miniature Grand Canyon. Hiking closer to the dump today, what I notice are the ever-changing colors of the soil — which is the most striking feature of the badlands in any case.
Returning down a draw after an hour’s hike across this vast expanse of wrinkled ridges, I come across a spot where the ground turns suddenly from badlands green to badlands red. I’m used to seeing this as changes in the stripes on the slowly melting slopes, not as fields of red or green, like this. I wonder what caused that transformation. (You can see the buildings of the dump ahead, at the top right in the picture. The white patch to its left is a snow-covered slope in the distance.)
This close to the dump (and the start of the road) you always encounter some trash in the terrain: empty beer cans, cardboard, construction debris deposited out here for free (rather than paying the fee, at the dump). The ground is cleaner farther out the road.
There’s always some of the kind of refuse that my dog appreciates, the kind predators leave behind.
That’s another good reason to bring the dog here during mud and slush season. The bones are clean and dry, and won’t cause him any problem if I take them away before he chews off a chip. He just likes to carry them around like trophies, anyway.
Usually I follow the abundant game trails through this labyrinth, but seeing my car in the distance, I decide to strike out overland, crossing a draw and climbing a fairly steep slope on the other side.
Nearing the top, I encounter a very large discarded object. Someone wanting to avoid the discard fee must have pushed this over the edge just beyond the dump, driving no farther than necessary on the rutted road in order to avoid being seen.
The wood is weathered, and most of the nails have pulled free. Nevertheless I turn it back upright, and tug at it. Wouldn’t it be great in our back yard come summer — bolted back together, given a new seat and left out behind the house, facing up our valley?
Alas, it proves too heavy to drag even a few yards uphill. I leave it turned toward the distance. Fine old chair as it once was, it at least deserves to crumble facing out across the same uplifting terrain I have just enjoyed.
© Lois Wingerson, 2018
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