Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey

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Wherever you go, go with all your heart – Confucius

In late March and early April, I went on my planned trip, and it was really wonderful.  The first part of the trip I traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah to see my dear friend and her family. I’ve know my friend since undergraduate school and along with her husband and daughter we would be traveling to Moab, Utah.

I had been to Bryce Canyon and Zion, but never to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks or Dead Horse State Park. I was prepared for spectacular landscapes, but this trip brought home again the message that there are some places on this earth that are otherworldly and awesome. First, there were the red rock landscapes that seemed to my friend’s daughter as if we were traveling on the moon or in a episode of Star Trek! The view coming into Moab was the red rock land formations of Arches backed by the snow capped La Sal mountain range. The contrast was beautiful.

The canyons of Canyonlands were breathtaking, but the park also boasted one of the best arches we saw, Mesa Arch, which frames a dramatic canyon view. However, I have to say, Arches National Park was my favorite of the three parks.  It’s as if a great sculptor let his imagination run loose on the landscape, but really the geological spires and arches are the result of changing sea levels, various layers of different types of rocks, erosion and millions of years.  A better explanation than I can provide can be seen in this short video. The individual arches (there are over 2000 arches) are amazing, but I also love the strange vistas you come upon and other rock formations such as Balanced Rock or the Three Gossips.  While time is measured in millions of years, the last arch to fall was the Wall Arch in 2008, so you never know!

It is also so heartening to be around old friends. Since we were traveling on the cheap, we all shared a hotel room, which we’ve done before.  So there were the now familiar teasing squabbles about who kept whom awake with their snoring. We are already in the early planning stages of the next trip, although I think this time I may have to splurge for another room.  I think on this whole trip, I got an average of 4 hours sleep per night. It’s one thing to wake up at home, but I can usually read until I’m tired again. I have more problems falling asleep when other people are present, and I ended up lying there for what seemed like hours not wanting to disturb anyone else with light or noise. Yet, sleep aside, the trip was a great opportunity to reconnect in a way that’s deeper and more relaxing than phone calls or emails interspersed with busy lives and schedules.

Since I was flying to Utah to see my friends, I decided to combine it with a meet up with my cousin who lives in Idaho. I haven’t seen her since our high school reunion which took place about eight years ago. She had moved to my school district in high school so we became close friends.  After high school, we’ve always lived in different states, and have kept in touch sporadically, yet it is also a friendship that feels comfortable even after long periods of non-communication.

What was perfect was that the Grand Tetons was about the same distance from her as it was from Salt Lake City. I really couldn’t wait to get back there since my trip last fall.  The combination of the animals and environment just seem to touch me in a very deep way.

It was also wonderful to see it in a different season. I really hadn’t expected so much snow or to see the frozen lakes still.  I don’t know why. I guess I just was thinking that with what seemed like an early Spring in Oregon, it would be the same in Wyoming. I love being there, and seem to love it more and more each time I visit.

There were some road closures, like Moose-Spring Road, or parts of the Teton Park road between Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain Lodge but the upside is there are also practically no tourists and the hotels rooms are available and reasonable. I definitely would plan a trip in Spring again, maybe a couple of weeks later to see the wildlife babies.

The very first full day we were there, my cousin and I decided to take a walk in the Gros Ventre area. I was fiddling with my camera gear and my cousin was ahead of me.  I looked up to see her walking right towards a moose she hadn’t spotted yet.  He/She was looking at her like, what are you doing?  We backed off and went in another direction.  I don’t know if this was a cow or a calf. Somehow, I was feeling it was a young calf from last year, but I am unsure.

The second day was supposed to be the clearest day, so I was definitely out to get as many shots of the Tetons as I could since in the fall, the low cloud coverage had blocked them.  My cousin went skiing in the Targhee mountains area which she found was cheaper than the Teton area, and as the Tetons are so steep, she heard that the runs aren’t as  well groomed.  We both had good days.

My day was spent working my way all the way up to the Flagg Ranch right before the road closed going towards the South Entrance to Yellowstone. There had been reports of grizzlies at Colter Bay and wolves at Flagg Ranch, but I saw neither. I had been telling my cousin how my experiences with other nature photographers were normally very friendly and generous with information, perhaps because of a mutual love of animals, but unfortunately, I didn’t really feel that on this trip with the photographers I encountered – a momentary disappointment. I was glad that I was familiar with the area as I got to see more moose, antelope, bison, a ruffed grouse, trumpet swans, geese, ducks, hawks, an eagle, deer, and a beautiful red fox. I got some great shots of the beautiful Grand Tetons. At the end of the day I ended up near the Taggart Lake trailhead hoping to get some sunset shots as well as hoping to see the beautiful red fox I had photographed the day before.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a great sunset, but as I was turning to go to meet my cousin for dinner, I was a bit delayed by the full moon rising above the trees.

On our third day in the Tetons, we set out separately but met in the afternoon and decided to take a walk through the snow to Taggart Lake.  My cousin lent me some crampons and although she initially was going to cross country ski, she decided to walk as well. She is in much better shape than I, so after 1 mile and a half in when we discovered we had suddenly ended up on the trail to Bradley Lake, she plunged ahead (and uphill) to see if she could get a view of both lakes from the crest. I, was carrying my telephoto and tripod and was already tired, so I decided to work my way back to Taggart Lake using my phone as a navigational device.  It should have been just through the trees, but after postholing and sinking my right leg up to nearly my hip, I decided to work back to the point we had gotten off trail.  Soon, my cousin who had been up to the crest and came back, caught up with me and we found the trail together.

Taggart Lake was frozen over, except around the edges, which I managed to step through. I would love to do the hike again to see the lake in summer or fall as the setting is just beautiful.  That evening we also drove over the mountains to have dinner with her daughter who happened to be taking a weekend course in Driggs.  I haven’t seen her daughter probably since she was pre-teen and now she is a lovely young woman.

I am already thinking of when I can get back to the Grand Tetons, and combine it with a return trip to Pryor Mountain and Yellowstone.  I just can’t seem to get enough, and I still haven’t seen a grizzly there!

I am also thinking of when I can see more of my old friends.  Too much time goes by too quickly and it felt so good and comfortable to to laugh, talk and hang out with both my cousin and my friends of many years. I am eager to see more friends and family on a trip that I’m taking in May. It is too easy to let geographic distances create temporal distances between ourselves and people who are important to us. We create excuses why we can’t do things now – time or affordability. One might think, from the way we put things off, that we had millions of years.