Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Favorite Place

Wyoming. It's the only other state I can claim as my home, and it was fleeting at that. I lived there for five whole months in 1999. My husband (then boyfriend) and I moved there together and worked a summer at Old Faithful in Yellowstone. It was ages ago, when we were babies, but most of the memories are still just as fresh as the days they happened. 

We ended up returning a year and a half later, when my husband proposed to me on the widow's walk there on top of the Inn, just beneath the American flag on the far left. Though, back then, it was the Montana flag. (The Inn only flew four flags - US, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming - prior to its renovation for the grand old building's centennial in 2004.) Four months after that, we were married at Mammoth Hot Springs, and will celebrate our 12th anniversary this September. Needless to say, Yellowstone is a very special place to us. 

So it was bittersweet to visit the park without him back in June of last year (yes, I'm really that slow posting these). I had some work to do on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which lies south of the park, and when you're that close to Yellowstone, you just go, even if it's only for a few hours. My friend Heather joined me on that trip, and as always, we had an awesome time. She's such a great road-tripper who's always up for anything, and always has a camera or two at the ready. (See her beautiful photos from the trip here and here.)

We left early on a Monday morning at the end of June, and drove north through the farms of extreme northern Utah, and lava fields of southeastern Idaho, past Palisades Reservoir to Alpine, Jackson, Wilson, and over Teton Pass to Victor, Idaho for the night. The next morning, after uh... two trips over Teton Pass and a lost ID/credit card situation (lesson I learned: don't pack up your tent until you empty the pockets inside it) we drove north to Grand Teton National Park to snag a highly desired campsite at Jenny Lake Campground (we ended up getting one of the last four available), then headed up to Old Faithful for the day. 

That evening, we had dinner at a great little pizza place in Jackson, Wyoming, and as we sat on the patio above the main drag, a bluegrassy/country-ish band played down the street. I enjoyed it but didn't think much of it till I saw a poster at Pearl Street Bagels the next morning for One Ton Pig. I took a picture with my phone and once I got home, I bought everything of theirs I could find. They are one of my favorite bands now. So happy I heard their tunes on the wind that night! After dinner, we wandered the dock at Jenny Lake, catching the last light with our cameras (the two images above).

The next morning, we set out pretty early for our long drive home, which involved heading deep into the Bridger-Teton to photograph cabins. When I picked up keys from the Greys River Ranger Station in Afton, Wyoming, I was told that the Fontanelle Fire, on the opposite side of the forest, had closed my planned exit route on the LaBarge Creek Road, and the only other options were to either double back on a 75-mile dirt road, or take a road that may or may not have been covered with snow drifts and/or mud. Promising, eh? 

We drove south down the beautiful Greys River Road - a favorite place of mine of all that I visited for the Forest Service - passed a dusty cattle drive, prep for a timber sale (above), and stopped so I could photograph Meadows Cabin, Cazier Cabin, and LaBarge Guard Station. We stopped for a little while at LaBarge Meadow (below), both to exclaim our happiness for getting through the last stretch of the Greys without any trouble (a 15-mile section was so rough and rocky that it took us nearly two hours to pass though) and to marvel at the meadow and the plume of smoke pouring off the Fontantelle (last image). 

After the last stop at LaBarge Guard Station, an adorable little log cabin with hantavirus warnings, with trepidation, we headed up over the Tri-Basin Divide and Smiths Fork Road (the road that may or may not have snow and mud). After just 10 minutes, we came to what would be the only tiny pile of snow on the entire drive, and a large branch I had to move out of the way. The entire drive was so pretty. I'd love to stay at LaBarge or Meadows one of these days. (Or pretty much any number of the cabins I photographed throughout the Intermountain Region.) We had about 12 hours in the car that day, but it was worth it to see a part of Wyoming very, very few people ever experience.

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