Centennial Valley Spring
While the sun is shining, the air is warm, a friendly breeze blows, and summer appears to have finally arrived in the Centennial, it took its time coming this year. In fact, a few folks were beginning to wonder if we'd fallen off summer's 2011 list. However, the view outside my window confirms it has arrived!
Nonetheless, before it came calling, we enjoyed / endured (depends on the day and one's perspective at the moment) a wetter than normal late winter and spring. Thus when the time came to haul a load of junk to the Dillon dump, we knew we were looking at a long trek along some less-than-perfect roads. And it was - a LONG trek. Nevertheless, the roads were not nearly as bad as I'd anticipated.
Granted, things were obviously wet enough this Pin-Tail pair found the road as inviting as the nearby river. However, puddles like these are pretty well the 'norm' for the Centennial. Besides that, the local puddles always look worse than they are.
The adventure began as we turned down the Northside Centennial Road heading west. This is a road we rarely travel. First because we rarely head west. Second because we usually use the Southside Road. However, on this particular day the Northside Road seemed the better option. Certainly the view is inviting, even with the low-hanging clouds.
One of the reasons we prefer the Southside Road is the journey across the valley on Elk Lake Road and then the next 15 miles or so along the Southside Road almost always provide abundant wildlife sightings. The Northside Road, perhaps because it crosses the Sand Dunes and open sagebrush flats, just doesn't produce as many sightings. However, as you can see from the opening photo, the views are certainly spectacular. Furthermore, things picked up a bit as the road drew closer to the Red Rock River.
The waterfowl were thick along the river. Innumerable ducks swam in flocks or pairs. Several Swans graced the view. Even a few pronghorn grazed nearby (note the Pronghorn in the top left of the photo).
However, for sheer concentration of numbers, the Pelicans definitely won out. Because the river is running so high, this flock look to be standing on an island.
While wildlife sightings were scarce, the cattle were fairly abundant. The west end of the valley is big ranch country. Several ranchers from the Dillon / Lima area summer their cattle up here. Thus while the grass wasn't even beginning to look hospitable for cattle on our end of the valley, here cows and calves grazed peacefully against a stormy spring sky.
Traveling the Southside Road leaves one few options. It runs east and west with few junctions or side roads. The Northside Road is a different story. Once one gets beyond the Refuge boundary, several options open up. You can head up over the Ruby (although that road doesn't open until July). You can head along the north side of Lima Reservoir and end up in the town of Lima. Or, you can head due south across Stibal Lane to the Southside Road.
It would have knocked miles (and perhaps an hour or more) off our journey if we could have taken the road along the north side of Lima Reservoir. However, unless one had 4 inch cleats on their tires, I do not think it could have been done. That road looked like a mud slick! So, we turned south across Stibal Lane.
I have to say, the west end of the Southside Road was about as bad as anything we covered that day. And, as things go, we met the only other vehicle that morning along one of the worst stretches. And, to make matters worse, we were both pulling trailers. Nonetheless, everything ended well. Neither of us ended in the ditch. No one got stuck.
Finally the end came into view - well, at least the end of the paved road. I'm not sure anyone (except, perhaps, the dozen or so folks who call this ghost town home) would say they'd reached 'the end' when the came to Monida. However, at least we could say we'd survived the roads and reached the Interstate. While we were still about 60 miles from Dillon (and the County dump), the journey at least picked up speed at this point.
No one would ever accuse us of living a dull life. That's how we like it. Living in the Centennial is an adventure - and the best kind at that!
Lady of the Lake