Last Fall, I drove with a friend of mine to The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, only to be shut out of both parks by the government shutdown. A little frustrating, a little expensive and quite an adventure. That was from 2013, the year of Murphy’s Law, rearing it’s ugly head over and over..
But that year is over, and I now have my Guardian Angel with me, so back I went to Yellowstone for a photography workshop in the park. What attracted me to this was the fact that the photographer grew up in the area around Yellowstone, and knew the area like the back of his hand. Plus, you can’t just drive into the park, you have to ride a snowmobile, or rent a snow cat which is what we did.
My friend and I started in Idaho Falls and drove to Jackson, which is a few miles outside of the Grand Tetons. We had planned to photograph the iconic Mormans Row at Sunrise with The Grand Tetons towering majestically in the background and Oxbow Bend at Sunset, with beautiful colors reflecting off of the …snow.
Oh yes, I forgot, it was snowing. Kind of a light powdery snow that would have been fun to play in, but not so great for brilliant sunsets. And it hadn’t snowed like that for weeks. Was it Murphy’s Law again? We did see Elk, which my friend scared away by calling it BooBoo, a weasel in his winter coat, and some beautiful snowy landscapes.
We spent the day exploring, had a wonderful dinner at an organic restaurant, shopped in town, laughed a lot, and headed to Yellowstone the next day, retracing our steps from October. I’d call the drive through Driggs and Tetonia kind of a white out. No clouds, just white everywhere. And slippery roads! Needless to say, we didn’t turn around much, but we did stop to rephotograph a few locations we’d shot in the Fall. My favorite was Hill House, which was surrounded by Aspens, so we have two seasons of that location. And we found my red barn, which made my day. As we got closer to Yellowstone, the wind picked up, I swear there were hurricane force winds driving us into the park! something was up…or down.
After meeting the group we’d be photographing with the next day, we all headed to bed to get ready for a sunrise in Yellowstone. The next morning It was cold. No, not just cold, it was freezing! No, not just freezing, USA Today reported that West Yellowstone was the coldest place in the country that day at MINUS 50. That’s 50 BELOW ZERO! Have you ever ??? So, we found our place by the river, stood in the snowbank for 20 minutes waiting for some light to break through, it never did, and by the time we all got back in the snow cat, we couldn’t feel our fingers, toes, arms, legs, nose, I’m surprised we could even move ! The “warming hut” wasn’t open when we got there, but the bathrooms weren’t too bad. They were probably 20 above zero. So we warmed up a little in there. I developed a headache that lasted 24 hours, and I think my feet finally thawed out around 8pm. Did I ALREADY say it was Cold? 50 BELOW? Seriously?
But there’s always a silver lining, right? We drove through the park that day, stopping here and there, getting out for snapshots because it was too cold for anything else. We saw a Bobcat, coyote, and the ubiquitous Bison, in fact a lot to them. And we drove around again the next day, which was a warmer day with the temperature hovering around ZERO. MY favorite part of our trip, aside from experiencing 50 below was the Norris Geyser Basin. Beautiful!
And I’m going back again in the Fall…but this time I’m headed to Bozeman and driving in from the Northern Entrance. The Western Entrance just hasn’t been good to me. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again !