Wyoming Landscapes - The Foothills Life Zone

Near the mouth of the canyon, a decision needs to be made: scramble up the brush covered hillside to a faint trail traced along the rim, or remain with the streambed and the interior course into the slot. On top of the tableland, the dendritic pattern of side canyons complicates travel and lengthens the route ... When I enter the canyon, the narrowing sky seems to draw the world closer to hand, within my reach. Intimacy blossoms here even in winter ... click here for the full excerpt

Near the mouth of the canyon, a decision needs to be made: scramble up the brush covered hillside to a faint trail traced along the rim, or remain with the streambed and the interior course into the slot. On top of the tableland, the dendritic pattern of side canyons complicates travel and lengthens the route. And it can be lonely up there. Sometimes the isolation and detachment from walking the edge makes me feel like an outsider, always the last boy on the playground to be picked for a team. Today, on this January afternoon, I choose: a mid morning May would be a cheerier time on top.

When I enter the canyon, the narrowing sky seems to draw the world closer to hand, within my reach. Intimacy blossoms here even in winter. And the fragrance of this flower: the cold thin air that threads its way through the long needles of ponderosa pine growing streamside, and mixes with the lean scent of volatile oils wafting down the xeric slope where juniper live. On the cliffs where damp shadows grow moss, the mud nests of last summer's swallows still cling to the rock, and decades of urine (amberat or ratite) from bushy-tailed woodrats build up below overhanging perches or spill out from crevices like old rotting glaciers. This is the garden where I sit on rough frozen ground.

The plowing of tableland to a new level of prairie is a long, arduous process and a canyon takes the easiest route. But, as with most (all) tensions, there is a duality of the yin and the yang. As the old, inorganic material is exfoliated and removed from the land, it is replaced with an infusion of life moving in to colonize the shiny new footings. Wild and raw-boned habitats are laid open with razor-cut edges as the canyon carves into the tableland's tamer, rounder and well traveled haunts. This is the attachment I add to the place.

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