10 September 2013

City of Rocks

In south-eastern Idaho near the Idaho-Utah-Nevada border, farms and grazing pastures sit nestled up against rolling hills and picturesque towns. Mountains merge with valleys, plains with hills, prairies with deserts, farms with nature, and everything seems to fit right where it belongs.  If you drive far enough south from Albion or Oakley, Idaho, out into the desert where the roads turn to dust, you'll find the City of Rocks.  Huge domes of stones dot the landscape, out of place and time, surrounded by silent, thin air where sound carries effortlessly.  It is one of the most unique places I have ever seen. 
I first visited the City of Rocks as a teenager and fell in love with the surreal beauty, the juxtaposition of rocks against desert and mountains.  I was visiting some friends in Oakley when I was 18 and decided to drive out to the City of Rocks by myself on a late afternoon in November.  I didn't see any other cars or people; it was just me and the quiet, still rocks.  Beneath a gray sky heavy with snow I stood on the rocks and looked out at the expanse and at that moment felt like the only person in the world, so free, so wild, so sacred.
Over Labor Day weekend we took Ellie to see the City of Rocks, her first time this far south in Idaho, and she was enthralled just as I was that first time. We saw a cactus, found a tiny jaw bone from some poor creature since passed, chased a speckled lizard, and climbed until we were too tired to do anything else.  It's a diverse place where rock climbers, hikers, nature-lovers, and horseback riders thrive and some of the rocks can be scaled by kids to which Ellie took every opportunity.
Everyone had fun climbing, even Matt's parents.  Ellie loved having Grandma and Grandpa high on the rocks with her.  You can barely see all of us (minus Matt) waving from the very top. 
Matt and Ellie sat for a while taking in the view.  Far off in the distance is a rock that we named "Stegosaurus Rock" with spikes made slowly over time by erosion.  I love seeing shapes in stagnant forms--it somehow brings movement and animation to those things that are still and without a voice. 
Places like this always stir thoughts about existence and time.  This place, formed over thousands and thousands of years, time chipping away the rocks and molding new forms, will be here long after we've left this life, our presence nothing more than an instance in passing. It's hard not to think about who might have been here hundreds of years ago--all the eyes that have born witness to a fragment of something like eternity. 
As I took photos of my family, I couldn't help but think how precious this place might be for us someday and how Ellie will remember spending time here with her grandparents. Like those who came first and those who have yet to come, we've left pieces of ourselves in the form of memory on the rocks and in the sand.

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