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    Tetons in Winter (Wyoming)

    - [draft #2: 2005/03/23]
    2005/03/18 - 2005/03/20
    -  +
    .First Posted: March 21, 2005.

     
    My plan was to photograph Yellowstone in winter. I could just picture it -- buffalo approaching me through a corridor of snow-frosted evergreen trees on a bright and sunny day, with geysers in the background...... and at least one of the above could have been in my pictures _if_ Yellowstone was open to cars. But instead, Tetons were on the menu for me that weekend.

    2 hours after leaving Denver, I noticed a cop in oncoming traffic. As i watched him in the rear-view mirror, he did stop but only turned sideways at the median crossing, he did not finish the U-turn. Almost immediately i saw another cop, following the first one. Then another! Well one of the three amigos caught me at 87mph in 75. And that's how it stood on paper.

    I was in Cody, Wyoming close to midnight when i saw the sign "Yellowstone East entrance - closed". Mama mia! E' un peccato! (1) I camped by Lake Cody (known by everyone else as Buffalo Bill Reservoir), a camp area i knew from August. It was a 32 F night and I decided that tent was not required. I used the fly of the tent as a cover over me. There was some wind, but with a comforter blanket over my head i was just fine.
    500 miles from home
    Yellowstone is closed
    the cop did not budge
    about my 12 over.
    
    I camp without a tent
    a lake is to my right
    if just you were here
    we could talk alnight.
    I was up at 6am. Sleeping without tent helped with the wakeup call. A blanket of snow covered my tent-fly cover. There was light but the sun didn't peak yet from behind the mountain. Fog covered the landscape far away. I took pictures by the lake I was next to, then I drove around until my hunger for pictures was satisfied. At least in the area and on the topic of morning.

    Instead of driving 40miles to the closed gate, I decided to drive right-away to the south gate, some 200miles away. I passed through Cody, seeing it during the day for the first time. There were several photo opportunities I noticed, but I decided against pictures at this time. I was heading for Yellowstone! on this trip. (Reading the Yellowstone map at this point would have helped.)

    I can never just drive through. I resisted pictures in Cody and Shoshoni, but after Shoshoni I had to stop to photograph the rolling landscape I took several pictures from the middle of the road of distant lonely cars and the road leading to the mountains.

    Before reaching Grand Teton National Park I was surprised to find a mountain pass. The sky was now overcast, and there was lots of snow around and snow even falling. The roads were mostly clear of snow. What a change from the sunny plains I just came from. Sky cleared up now and then and I took pictures of a lonely hiker with skis in his hands, walking uphill on a meadow 300 ft below road level.

    Then finally I was in the area --Yellowstone was next. "Road closed 18 miles ahead". Riiiight -- that's not far enough.. is that negotiable? I drove the 18miles in the fading light of the day. Most of the way was still in Grand Teton National Park, and while there were views of the mountains, I was after snowy Yellowstone. At this point I thought of taking the road cutting in a semi-circle through North Yellowstone. It would mean driving back to where i slept the previous night.. over 200miles away, and then-some in the morning. While this was the spontaneous wild idea of the weekend, I decided against it. Instead I would stay for pictures of Tetons. During the only trip there in August, we came in the evening -- generally not a best choice for Tetons. During sunset it's probably good and then of course mornings. The road from Yellowstone to Jackson is on east side of Tetons, and sun washes out the colors in afternoon hours.

    I found a spot to camp, cosy and private, just as I like it. This time I decided to put the tent up, more of a safety precaution for being driven over in case it snowed and my "spot" started to look like a pile of snow. I set my watch's alarm clock for 6am, but i slept through it, and my internal wakeup call was at 6:20am. It didn't look promising outside, the sunrise would happen in overcast sky, and i headed back inside. One hour later i got up and drove on the new blanket on snow which covered the dirt road.

    Tetons looked great in the overcast morning with sun occasionally peaking out. I took color photos, but then decided for black and white for one roll only. I drove a bit, then parked on side of the road with right wheels digging into the 12 inch snow banks. Most of the time I left the engine running as I took pictures. I drove all of the 18miles again, but my best pictures were at the beginning. I followed a side road and I saw 2 people ice-fishing with a mountain behind them. I walked on the ice myself to get the right angle. I walked about 300 yards from shore, and noticed the snow is about 8 inches deep. It was actually 3 people and about twice as many fishing holes they made. I took pictures of them from close up too -- a different perspective than the black dots previously. They were friendly and somewhere from Wyoming, maybe near, maybe far. Though not impressed by the overcast sky, they liked it better than the snowy start of the day.

    Late afternoon was great. The sun was near the peaks in the west, but the fog cover made the sun photographable -- it wasn't the big fiery ball but rather more a lightbulb behind an opague glass. It fit in nicely with the mountain peaks and the foreground as well -- a wideangle of 18mm or so (that's called a Ultra-Wideangle lens, becuase it includes everything from within a few inches to infinity).

    The ride home started from Jackson, at 5:24pm. I estimated about 600miles of road ahead of me, and i doubted i would make it before 2am. I was hoping for sooner, but reality was against me. I didn't make 20miles when the oncoming car revealed a Park Ranger and immediately he started flashing. I was the target. I was speeding but the "78mph in 55" sounded extreme. He was eager to add to my ticket collection and $115 fine inspite of my existing $110 souvenir from 2 days ago. But as he put it "it's a federal fine and does not affect the ticket system". In my mind I blamed the jeep and the mere 30,000miles we have done together. My old Cherokee wasn't as quick to respond as this one.

    Over the pass the road got snowy and icy looking and i wasn't comfortable over 30mph. Then it was flat but still i had this urge to stay close to the speed limit. I don't know why.... Time went by... finally Shoshoni. A cool name, and a good photographer can make almost anything look good in photos... but not this time. Cody, Shoshoni, Casper, and a few of those "Population 10" or "Population 50" cities are on my to-do list someday. Black and White or color... Thermopolis sounds good too.

    It was 10:44pm and 275mi since Jackson when I arrived in Casper. Maybe I took a wrong turn because I didn't see the mountain where I expecting to see it. Just afer Casper I stopped for gas in Douglas. Stepping out of my jeep i noticed how windy it was. The"old-style" gas pumps had mechanical counters. I approached the store to pre-pay and saw the clear looking in my direction with binoculars. Probably a safety precaution for activities behind me. She confirmed that the wind is quite normal to the area and even called it "The Windy City. That's Wyoming for ya". At 3am Cheyenne was just ahead but i was not comfortable driving. Another 2 hours of driving were ahead of me, and that would be past the deadline for "restful night's sleep". I exited to a road to nowhere with pavement ending within 200 yards. When I stepped outside though, the wind was quite strong. Putting the tent up in the wind, and hearing it all night... that was not a selling point. Just before Cheyenne it started to snow.

    It wasn't until mile 627 and 5:14am that I arrived home to Denver. 1649 miles in 3 days. Kind of like the 880 mile weekend trips from Phoenix to Independence Pass during my Cherokee days.


    ... Pictures... 12 rolls color, 6 rolls black & white .... someday
    #Pursue Passion#
    .First Posted: March 21, 2005.

     
    Notes:
    (1) Sources of my Italian phrases are from www.smartphrase.com/Italian/it_general_words_phr.shtml
    • Yellowstone West Entrance from Ashton, Montana opens on April 22, 2005 ... and ... East Entrance at Cody, Wyoming opens on May 6, 2005
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