Yesterday a cold front came through bringing rain, welcome in this fire prone area but not welcome by us. It was a good opportunity to catch up on reading. Today as the sky cleared we went to the farmer's market. We bought the best smoked salmon we've ever had and found the perfect piece of art for the last blank spot in our house.
And then we hit the road. We spent the rest of the day driving the Flat Top Scenic Byway. Much of it passed through national forest land on excellent gravel road. We had the impression we were pretty isolated, but it was a misimpression. RV's and tents were nestled in little byways and camouflage clothing hung on nearby lines. It's hunting season and you can camp wherever you want on national forest land as long as you don't block the road. We read that there is a managed herd of 30,000 elk here and have seen two taxidermist shops in town - reminders that there are some big differences between a national park and a national forest. We didn't see any of those 30,000 elk, but a fox, some antelope and a small black bear waved from the side of the road as we went by.
Some areas of the drive went through private property. We heard a huge flock of sheep long before we saw them. They moved in a very purposeful manner marching through a huge meadow. Nearby we saw a man in a small trailer, who looked like photos we've seen of Basque shepherds. Grazing cattle is a major activity around here. The grass grows thick and sweet and the steers ambled freely. It looked like they have a good life until someone comes and loads them into a truck. There's a large rodeo grounds in town and we saw many horses and mules amidst the steers. This is cowboy country.
Then we came to an area that obviously had been hit hard by a forest fire not too long ago. In some spots aspen were beginning to establish themselves. We've read that the pine trees are the climax plant and the aspen flourish after a fire when there is more sunlight and space for them. Whether the aspen are light green - their summer color - or yellow and orange in the autumn, they look so beautiful amidst the dark green firs. At the highest elevations we came to some snow. That rain that fell in town yesterday was snow on the mountain tops. While we try to avoid snow as much as possible, it was a gorgeous accent amidst the fall colors.
Since we lost a day of exploration to yesterday's rain, we decided to stay here an extra day to see a bit more. We're glad that we've been able to get places to stay without a lot of advance planning. Now that the economy has improved, RV sales have exploded and we're read that there isn't enough campground space anymore. That may be true in the summer or in more popular spots, but it's so far it's been great to be able to wander at will.