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    A COMPENDIUM FOR THE DRY GARDEN

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The Cave

Everyday spring flirts with the valley.  The last two days it snowed during the night, then melted off by noon.  Today was a glorious day with a bite in the air.  I awoke early to finish planting the 60 pine and fir liners (Thank God!  I’ve planted thousands of plants in my lifetime, but none so difficult as these in this ‘soil’ of rocks); then packed up my daypack to enjoy the rest of the day and the good weather.

I headed up a little used canyon looking for an elusive cave I’d heard references to.  I had an idea of the general area where it might be, but not the exact drainage.  There were many to choose from and I took a breath, glassed the possibilities, then used my sense and instinct.

Frankly, if I’d never found the cave, I’d have been just as happy as if I had, for it was the first time all winter I’d been able to really get out and hike without trudging through at least some snow.  There is still snow, in places in deep drifts, up in the higher areas around here.  And high up, in the Absarokas that separate the valley from the Park, white is the only color visible on the mountain tops.  The run-off still hasn’t begun and Buffalo Bill Dam is preparing by letting out water in anticipation of the raging waters soon to come.

Absarokas filled with snow viewed from near the cave

At the head of the drainage where the trees were thick, the dry creek separated into two channels.  I decided on the left, more narrow one.  As the creek steered left sharply, I saw a hole in the rock.  Right away it widened into what was obviously a massive lens-shaped cave.

View from the inside

The cave was a fantastic habitat, obviously used for thousands of years.  The dry creek probably wasn’t so dry many years ago, providing water to its inhabitants.  The cave was easily bigger than my own cabin.  At the very back of the cave was an old sifter, probably used for archaeological purposes.  But now, there were no artifacts, probably retrieved long ago by looters as well as archaeologists.  The pack rats had made a large nest in the middle of the cave, with freshly cut pieces of Douglas fir boughs and lots of old bones.

After exploring the cave and its environs for a while, I hiked up the right hand drainage to a frozen waterfall.

Frozen waterfall

To end a perfect day, on the ride home I glassed 8 rams resting on a barren hillside.

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