"Last Week in Pictures"

June 12-18, 2022

This weeks edition of "Last Week in Pictures" brings the conclusion of my short trip through the Tetons and Yellowstone (and back through the Tetons.) You can see the first set of photos HERE, and as I work through my edits I'm sure there will be more to come.

As mentioned in my last post, with limited time I decided to focus on two sites in Yellowstone that I've been wanting to photograph for awhile- this waterfall* that I had scouted the day before and would attempt at sunrise, and a thermal pool best photographed in the light of midday. The two locations are about an hour's drive apart, so my plan was to spend the morning casually exploring between them, and then the afternoon checking out anything else that I might see in the park. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas.

The storm system that brought historic flooding to the region set in the day before. It rained off and on through the night, but broke slightly Sunday morning at dawn. Skies remained overcast and a heavy fog hung low over the canyon- taking away any chance at the colorful sunrise photo op I'd long envisioned- but creating its own intriguing mood.

I will add that there is a guard rail at this overlook, but even then between the shifting fog, vertical exposure and rushing water it felt a little disorienting. To get these shots I had to wedge my tripod into the corner of the fencing, extend the center column over the top rail and angle my camera downward. This was actually pretty unnerving too, as my aging tripod has a history of spontaneously falling apart at inopportune moments. (About 10 frames in I remembered that one of the memory cards in my camera at the time not only held all of my images from the trip so far, but also yet to be saved senior photos I'd taken of my nephew back in Iowa. I quickly pulled that card and tucked it away in my pack for safe keeping- thinking at least if my camera went over, not all would be lost... Luckily it never came to that.)

The rain started to fall hard again just as I packed up and left this site, and wouldn't stop the rest of the day. I drove around a bit, stopping a few times to get out and see some sites between the heaviest of the showers, but the morning ended up being kind of a bust.

One thing I will say about Yellowstone... while it's known for it's rushing waterfalls, other worldly geothermal features and incredible wildlife, one of my favorite things about the park is that it has the most beautiful meadows with meandering streams. Here you can see one example, with a creek just starting to rise out of it's banks.

I said in my last post that with extensive flood damage it would be a long time before the northern loop of Yellowstone reopened. I was wrong- it's since been announced that this area will be accessible in the coming weeks. I'm sure there will be some logistical issues- with the footage I've seen of washed out roads I can't imagine cars will be able to navigate the drive as a full loop any time soon- but this is great news for Gardiner, Cooke City and the other little border towns that rely so heavily on tourism to survive. (I still think it would have been interesting to see how some of the resident wildlife responded to a summer without the crowds though...)

By late morning I felt about like this bison looks. Between the dreary weather and just feeling kind of down and anxious about things not related to this trip, I wasn't enjoying myself or really able to focus on being present and making the most of my time. The parking lot for the hot spring I wanted to photograph was full (even steady rain doesn't dissuade the Yellowstone crowds) and I just decided it was time to go.

(Please note- this photo was taken from inside my parked vehicle, using a telephoto lens. I was stuck in a "bison jam" -traffic was stopped and lined up in front of me as this girl's herd attempted to cross the road. Please never approach wildlife for a photo op.)

I had two choices for my drive back to Logan- I could either leave the park through West Yellowstone, or go south for another pass through Jackson Hole. While I didn't really plan to stop, I decided on the latter- just in case the weather broke. It was the right choice, as not only did the rain stop when I got out of the storm near the border of Grand Teton National Park, but shortly after I came upon another line of cars stopped near a pullout. Spotting park rangers stationed to keep traffic moving and the people who'd congregated in check, I realized there was likely a bear or moose in the vicinity. Sure enough, up ahead there was a large grizzly sow foraging in a forest clearing, just off the road. This was the first griz I've seen in at least five or six years (considering some of my summer plans though, likely not the last.) She was absolutely gorgeous.

I didn't stop. I didn't try to pull over with the others or scramble for my camera. I just drove past, respectfully and slowly, grateful that we still have places wild enough for her to exist.

Still feeling the need to clear my head, I did stop for one more visit beside the Snake River. This time walking along methodically, pondering the flow of braided channels, the stories of the landscape and considering the more intimate scenes. I don't know the tale behind the dandelion floating atop the algae. I'm not the one who picked it, but wondered if it had been dropped in some nearby rapids- accidentally, or intently with a wish- and had it's journey to the big waters temporarily delayed. (Regardless I felt drawn to photograph the poignant scene.) I spent some time with a hummingbird, and though she was a bit too evasive for any clear photos, this- I think Common Goldeneye (if any bird lover's out there say differently, please let me know) was a little more accommodating.

The peaceful little stroll was certainly needed, and a fitting way to end the trip. I made the three and a half hour drive back to my apartment, ready to move forward into a busy summer ahead.

*In adhering to Nature First principles and wishing to protect our natural landscapes, I use strict discretion in sharing locations. As a rule of thumb, I will generally mention a park or geographic feature by name, but avoid pinpointing specific locations. In instances such as this, where the waterfall is well-known and the overlook commonly visited it's really just a matter of consistency in my practice- which may seem silly to some- but it is still a standard I'll uphold. The only exception will be in places like the Moulton Barns in Grand Teton National Park, as labeled in my prior post, which are easily recognized manmade structures and the location widely known.