like brothers on a hotel bed

wyoming is not a place i share with other people.  i do it alone.  that may sound like a prick thing to say, but it’s true.

i go up there to experience solitude, peace, fear, loneliness.

this trip was a little different though.

i arrived to jackson hole airport late on tuesday afternoon.  i was supposed to be there by 3 that day to pick up my brother.

the inbound flight from austin arrived on time, so he took a taxi into jackson to get a beer.  i told him i’d meet him there as soon as i could.  the traffic coming down through the parks was miserable.  it seems they always scramble to make improvements to the roads just before the ground freezes.  thanks.

i finally made it to snake river brewery, after dark.  but the alone time in wyoming didn’t seem to bother my brother.

after a hug and a few beers, we were off.  it was dark, and i have a spot in teton park that i always go to camp when i arrive late.

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we woke up the next morning to a cool autumn breeze, and my brother’s 34th birthday.

two months ago he called me.  “there’s a fare sale to jackson hole.  $89 each way from austin,”  he said.  “you planning on going soon?”

“well, yeah.  i was planning a fall trip.  september or october.  why?  you wanna go?”

i started to get excited.  no one had ever expressed this much interest or determination to go to wyoming with me since my mother visited 5 years ago when i lived there.

i was excited at the prospect, but then nervous.  could i share this place with others?  would they understand it?  no matter.

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most guys have the idea that if they’re spending any time in wyoming and montana, they better have a fly rod or a pair of skis.  and i think they’re right.  it is world class skiing and fishing, after all.  no snow yet, so my brother brought a friend’s rod.

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we took a drive one evening up the beartooth highway outside of cooke city, montana.

regarded as one of the most spectacular drives in north america, the beartooth runs from red lodge, mt to the northeast entrance of yellowstone national park.

the beartooths are one of the highest elevation and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. the road itself is the highest elevation highway in wyoming (10,947 feet) and montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the northern rockies.

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we fished the lamar, the snake, the yellowstone, among others.  to no avail.  it may have been too late in the season, i guess.

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the fires in northwest wyoming were in full force this time of year though.  they even closed a few of the roads in yellowstone, preventing me from returning to the lamar valley.  very sad.

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but the drama of it all was truly impressive.

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the fire on the banks of jackson lake at dusk.  breathtaking.

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the next day, there was an unavoidable haze that covered the sky and mountains.  but again, to the naked eye, it struck as a little bit of a downer, but the dramatic effect can be artfully employed with a camera.

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it was my brother’s last day.  he had a flight out of JAC in the afternoon, so we found a section of the snake river, just 10 minutes from the airport.  he wanted to give it one last go.

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he didn’t catch anything, but i was happy.  i think i got a few shots of him in this unreal landscape that will draw others in, and take him back…  anytime he wants to go…

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i’ve never shared this place with anyone before.  but it was really nice to do so.  to see the look on someone else’s face the first time they see the sun rise over the lamar valley of yellowstone, or the moon as it hovers over the tetons before dawn…

the way the fiery autumn leaves shimmer in the cool breeze.  awaking in the cold to the sound of bull elk in rut, bugling.  or the sound of wolves.

it’s all so beautiful.  i’m glad i had my brother there to share it.

i hope there’s more sharing of this place in the years to come.  i’m ready for it.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009