There is probably no such thing as a “perfect” vacation, but our September 2016 Yellowstone trip with our friends Ronnie and Sherisa was at least “near perfect.” Our flights to Denver were separate and when they picked us up at the airport in the rented Chevy Traverse, a vehicle that was better than the Explorer we had originally rented, we made one scheduled stop in Denver before hitting the highway for Wyoming. For me it was a dream come true. All my life I have dreamed about seeing that extraordinarily beautiful country, and as a photographer I could not have been more pleased.
The first of our lodging destinations was the Placer Cabin, in Pray, Montana, just thirty minutes north of Yellowstone National Park. We spent 5 days there, the first of which we just relaxed and enjoyed the local scenery, which is Paradise Valley and the surrounding mountains. That is also when the serious photography began. One day, while Brenda and Sherisa went rafting down the Yellowstone River, Ronnie and I went on a long hike up in the mountains above Pray. The views from these mountains are spectacular and great compositions abound. Not only did I come away from our 8 hour venture with images I’m very pleased with but the two of us discovered that, at 60 years old, we still have some long hikes left in us. It was a profound experience that we will never forget. Incidentally, before the hike ended, we joked about how we would both fake hurting from the hike to our wives. As it turned out we did not have to fake it. Near the end the hike had a rythm to it: step-step, pause, grimace. Or step, grimace, pause. We quickly recovered though and that is when we realized that indeed we do have long hikes left in us.
On other days we drove into the park and experienced the awesome beauty of places like Mammoth Hot Springs, the Firehole Spring, and the Sulfur Cauldron. Photographing these places is a challenge in that you have to shoot from the wooden walkways. For preservation of these areas you are not allowed to walk on the ground, so you have to deal with the walkway vibrations, created from all the tourists walking by. I did manage to use my tripod as a monopod with one leg extended during breaks in the traffic. Other times I was able to set the tripod, ever so briefly, on the ground just over the edge of the walkway. Other shots were simply hand-held. With patience, it is possible to get good compositions under these somewhat adverse conditions. At other times in the park we simply pulled over on the side of the road to shoot scenery that excited us, in which most of it did.
Our second lodging destination was the Wyllis Cabin at Trail Creek Ranch in Wilson, Wyoming, just 10 minutes from Jackson Hole. I had an excellent time photographing the woods and open fields in and around the ranch. The early morning skies at the ranch were spectacular and I’m glad I braved the biting cold one morning to shoot them. The drive down from Montana through the western part of Yellowstone is nothing short of amazing. And the Grand Tetons, whether from far away or close-up, are awe-inspiring. No wonder director George Stevens chose this landscape for his film, the name of which I do not have to mention. We also took a fantastic ride in a raft down the Snake River in which we saw bald eagles, beaver, moose, beautiful trees and skies.
For Brenda and I the last part of our trip was back through Utah. And once again thanks to my father-in-law Wayne and brother-in-law Paul I came away with great images from Santaquin and from Utah Lake. The scenery there never ceases to amaze me. It was all part of our “Yellowstone Adventure.”