Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tetons Tower Beartooth Yellowstone 2006

The Grand Tetons
First leg of my WYMT06 trip. I booked an afternoon float through Grand Teton National Park followed by an early morning wildlife tour. On the float trip, I saw some beavers, bald eagles,  Canada geese, and some nice sunset clouds. On the AM safari, we spotted moose, elk, osprey, a doe and her bambi, bison, and pronghorn. 

Return to Devil’s Tower
This was payback! In 1978, Jean, Dena, and Dean traveled to the location from the then-hit film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We motored out way to the trails that circled the base. I circumnavigated the volcanic monolith with trusty camera in tow. I shot the monument from every conceivable angle. When I returned to the parking lot, I discovered there was no film in the camera. Twenty-eight years later, I returned with a digital camera (set to not shoot without a memory card installed). Two of the three trails at the monument were closed, but I retraced the loop trail and got my boatloads of pics. 

Toward the end of my full day there, a thunderstorm swept the prairie. I thought it would be worth the effort to try getting a lightning shot. I managed to stay fairly dry under my van’s hatch and learned a bit of technique in the process. I did manage to catch a keeper (though I missed a better shot). I hustled back to Gillette (60 mi west of The Tower) to post-process the pic. At Applebees, a fellow patron inquired about the shot. Her family had seen me by the side of the road getting the photo. And her older son was a student in Julie Bennett’s class. And her husband is the older brother of my schoolmates, Suzy and Katy Manett! The odds must be crazy!

Beartooth Scenic Byway
I had never traveled the Beartooth Highway, the high-altitude scenic drive across the Absaroka mountains. Stunning vistas greet drivers along every turn of the 64-mile course. You scrape up against 11,000 ft at the top of the pass. I spent one night at each end so I could sneak in some hikes and linger at the views.

The Beartooth highway leads to the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone remains my favorite national park. Originally set aside for the geothermal oddities, now also a wildland preserve. Natural settings that were ordinary in 1872 are extraordinary these days. I focused my explorations on the northwest section of the park (Old Faithful to Norris Geyser Basin). Hiked to Lone Star Geyser,  lonely Monument Basin, toured the mudpots in the secluded Pocket Basin, explored the Artist Paintpots, and tried to catch a nice shot of Great Fountain Geyser steaming at sunset. Capped it off with a full day trail ride in the northern section. Note to self: next time, go for the half-day ride. And yes, my horse was named “Widowmaker.” I passed through the Tetons one last time on my way back to Sactown. My last photo of the trip was one with me in it.

2006 07 Wyoming-Montana