photography, travel, writing

Exploring my Backyard

“I wasn’t lost, I just didn’t know where I was for a few weeks.” – Jim Bridger


A lot of places feel like my “backyard” at this point. But none more so than this massive and idyllic parcel of the Rocky Mountains (any more detail than that, and I shall have to kill you) that we return to every year. 

There’s a well-known valley in the area that I’ve been exploring for nearly 20 years now. Much like the surrounding mountain terrain, it would take a lifetime to really get to know it. “I’ve got the rest of mine,” I think to myself, “so what the hell.”

All of the dirt roads and where they go, when they’re passable, where the wildlife hide, and the fish too. What’s just over this ridge or that forest. The CDT zig zags and criss crosses the divide through here. I’m going to have to hike it all someday. For now, I tackle sections.

I have made my life’s goal to learn and know these mountains intimately. So each year, I focus on a few different sections. Some you can drive, others, only walk. Ellen had to leave town for a long weekend, so I took the opportunity to take the dogs and go explore.

It’s still too early to get very high up hiking… late season snow has the high country buried still. So we loaded up the new (to me) truck and headed deep into the wild.

On the way out of our current home (where we are parked for a few weeks), the pastures give way to massive hills, which yield to snow capped peaks.

Exploring one of my new favorite lakes to fish, I found a very old cabin. Probably a cow camp from decades past.

Sometimes, an image presents itself in black and white. The hills surrounding my fishing hole.

The locals. Seen everywhere around here. Until hunting season, and then they become elusive, as if to know.

One of my favorite dirt roads of all time. This old route connects three mountain ranges and two wonderful mountain towns. But it is very rough, remote, and impassable until right about now. Sometimes even later.

This pass is a historic route used by native peoples, as well as early trappers and mountain men. It was treacherous for all who traversed it, as it is remote, high elevation, full of grizzlies and wolves, and the weather is quite unpredictable.

I watched this raptor for what seemed like hours. Turned out to just be 10 minutes. At first I thought it was a falcon, but once I zoomed in, I realized it was a beautiful northern harrier.

On a hike to a potential fishing hole, I startled this old girl. A cow moose peaking over the willows at what was most certainly the first human she likely encountered this year.

But for the wildlife, it is a haven of relatively pristine wild land. Used by humans for hunting, fishing, recreation, grazing, and forestry, the amount of land seems to support the needs of all.

Up at the top. From this pass, one can see at least four mountain ranges. The views are just remarkable.

Another distinct range as viewed from the top.

If you look closely, you might see a very distinct looking and familiar mountain range off in the distance. Almost looks like clouds!

It is quite awe inspiring to be able to view at least four different mountain ranges from the top of the pass, and at various spots along the way. Even more than this, it is one of only two places in the whole of North America where three of the continent’s seven major watersheds interlock. One drop of water here can end up either in the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific, or the Gulf of California.

Yet another range.

And the same from a different spot further down.

The beauty of the trees this time of year is second only to fall.

One of the lakes up top.

The pups and I spent the weekend way out off the grid, hiking, fishing, and exploring the unending and perilous dirt roads of the high pass. It was a time of getting a little (actually, a lot) mud on the tires, and enjoying the feeling of being wild again.

My favorite mountains, waiting patiently for me in the distance from near the top of the pass.

Bare aspens ready for the new buds to sprout. Any day now for these.

Back home after a long weekend of adventures. Right out my front door. It’s good to be home.

After a decent bit of time exploring one of the many different sections of our backyard, I am always humbled and amazed at the vastness. The sheer size of all that I need to explore is daunting, but ultimately exciting. If this is what I get to die doing, count me blessed and happy.

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022 If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops. For more info, please visit

photography, travel, writing

Spring in the Parks

“In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” – Mark Twain

Even before living on the road made travel a bit easier, more fluid, visiting my Wyoming parks in May was a goal. No, an imperative. But it wasn’t a given.

Having missed spring 2021 up here, my urge to spend May this year searching for bears and enjoying the abundant wildlife, matched the intensity of the dramatic weather. Ask Ellen.

We reluctantly abandoned the warmth and sunshine of south Florida and booked it 2500 miles north, to the snowy, moody, freezing frontier. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are unpredictable in May. Most of the 10 days we spent there ended with at least snow flurries.

The lakes in Yellowstone were still mostly frozen.

But the wildlife… out in full force, seemingly energized by the (somewhat) warming weather with periodic snow.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the grizzlies were out in solid numbers. They are by far my favorite animal to observe and photograph.

But I do love all the canine species too.

The weather and light wasn’t the best at sunrise and sunset most days, so no incredible landscape shots this time, but it was wonderful just to witness the vistas and myriad wildlife.

It isn’t possible to make it up each and every May, but I certainly cherish the years I am able to visit my beloved parks and animals during the magic of spring in the Rockies.

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops. For more info, please visit

photography, travel, wildlife, writing

For the LOVE: Bears

“There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid.” — Teddy Roosevelt

Spring in the northern reaches of the Rocky Mountains means several things, but to me, none is more important and compelling than the emergence of grizzly bears. But I am certainly biased. They are my spirit animal. 

And for those who share the same affection for Ursus arctos horribilis, a mecca is spring in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

Since I don’t make very much of my income from wildlife, it’s tough to justify a super telephoto lens, so I don’t often get nice, tight images of the bears. But I enjoy it immensely none-the-less. Below were some of the moments I was fortunate to experience and capture this May.

Felicia pauses and watches the people who watch her from the highway nearby.

A solitary male grizzly wanders through the spring snow in Yellowstone.

We crazies will endure snow, sleet, and freezing rain all to glimpse the awesome sight of the largest land predator remaining on earth (except of course the polar bear). The childlike wonder is thick even amongst adults when we gather on a roadside together to witness and (sometimes) photograph a grizzly. In these parks, the bears are even known by name (or number).

I was fortunate to see seven bears (not all pictured here) in a ten day period… I “knew” five of them. And I’m not even one of the hardcore bear watchers! 

Felicia makes eye contact. Always a heart-stopping moment.

A tagged and collared three year old female high in the Absaroka snow.

Felicia keeps watch over her playful two year old cubs. They will be kicked out next spring to allow Felicia to mate again.

Grizzlies are some of the most human-like of all animals I have studied closely. They are complex. Sweet and nurturing one moment, brutal and murderous the next. In fact, it is quite common for mother (sow) bears to hang around roads for safety, as adult male grizzlies will kill her cubs to reduce competition and induce mating. 

One of 399’s cubs to be sent on its way in 2022.

One three year old bear I observed is one of the cubs of the most famous bear in the world. 399, an old bear by all standards at 25, had a litter of four cubs three years ago, to the surprise of everyone. This year, she cut them all loose. This is pretty strict grizzly protocol.

This bear was one of those four. Watching her, I couldn’t help but think about how much I hoped her mom prepared her adequately for life alone in the vast mountain wilderness. Her entire life to this point was defined by traveling in the safety of a family of five, enjoying the protection of mom and the playful company of her three siblings. Now, she is a typical, solitary wanderer in the harsh landscape.

Will she make it? If she does, she will join a growing number of successful Wyoming grizzly bears.

399 is known for her successful and plentiful progeny, so I comforted myself as I watched this cub struggle in the snow. I prayed that she would become another survivalist successor to her mum… Queen of the bears.

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops. For more info, please visit

photography, travel, writing

A Crescendo, Part 2

02/18/22 – Our National Parks odyssey has shifted into a different kind of journey. Nearly 6 years ago we set off on an adventure to travel the country and see/ document all the national parks. Since then, 3 new parks have been created, 2 presidential changes, a 2 year (and still counting, in some states at least) pandemic raged, and in the midst, we found a new direction. We abandoned the goal of all the parks, though it is absolutely something we plan to revisit someday.

What the pandemic allowed us to realize in a very sobering way was that we were financially living on the edge. No money in savings, a fairly substantial pile of debt, living job to job, stressed constantly about how we were going to pay for this or that, and worst of all, no plan. It was exhausting.

Ellen and I dont care about being rich, we simply wanted to remove the burden of limited choices. So we made a decision together a little over one year ago to take control of our life. Take responsibility for our spending habits. Quit being victims of circumstance. And, as Ellen says, to work our lil hineys offand pay off every penny of debt we have.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Deep in Big Cypress preserve I found a gator hole that has become a favorite spot for me to fish and enjoy some much needed solitude, away from the crowds of south Florida. What I have observed over the years of visiting the Everglades ecosystem during the dry season is that the fish often get funneled into ever shrinking pools of water. If they are resourceful or lucky, they make it to a gator hole.

These small ponds stay deep year round and provide a perfect little habitat for fish, as well as myriad creatures. But for those who enjoy the freedom of roaming the vast waterways and floodplains of the glades in the bounty of the rainy season, eventually they will slowly get choked out of existence, as the water subsides day by day, hour by hour this time of year. It must be excruciating. The world begins to close in on them. Death does too.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Eventually they are literally sucking air, baking on their sides in the hot Florida sun.

When Covid hit, we realized we were swimming in the freedom of the road. Endless possibilities. No plan. It was magic, for a time. But what Ive foundagain and again, allowing myself to lose my way is sometimes the only way to find it.

Image © Andrew Slaton

03/24/22 – Im not backpackingI wish I was. Im sitting at the airport in Orlando waiting for a southwest flight to Tucson to pick up our new (to us) truck. A Hoss 2.0. Nothing super fancy, but we saved up and are paying cash. It feels momentous. Ive always had car loans. Like an annoying pet.

Last year we managed to get scrappy and pay off a huge chunk of the debt that was weighing us down so heavy. This year, we are still on track to change the trajectory of our lives within the next few years. Debt free, homeowners, continuing to live the life we love, on the road, this time with options.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Approaching the six year mark is exciting for us. Mostly to look back and reflect on the beautiful memories, to see how far weve come, and to renew our resolve. The road ahead is still long. And we plan to stay nomadic for several more years. But we now have a plan. Were not wandering aimless. And its working, at least for now. Good jobs continue rolling in and keeping us busy,focused. And beauty is always at our doorstep (literally). We found our little gator hole in a vast wilderness, during the driest of seasons. We could stay here through the worst of it.

Ive just recently started shooting for fun again. But I mix it in with time fishing. Both have the ability to fill up my soul. Fly Fishing is a lot like photography. It takes immense practice, patience, and perseverance. The payoff is never guaranteed. No matter how much preparation, planning and knowledge you employ, the angler, just like the photographer is at the mercy of nature. Sometimes the light just doesnt show up, and the fish just dont bite. But when either do, its all the magic you can hope to witness. Pure joy.

Image © Andrew Slaton

The gliding ghosts beneath the surface, taunting me to try my hand at enticing them to bite. Presenting the fly just so. Irresistible to the hungry or territorial specter in the shadows.

The apparitions of light, fleeting. Pastels and hues of delicate gradations of blue and pink. Sometimes orange. Clouds of immensity passing, revealing cracks, rays. Illuminating the beauty that surrounds us always, but in these moments, overwhelms the lens, and the witness behind it.

Im looking forward to being back in Wyoming in only a few weeks, roaming the mountains again in search of the most spectacular nooks and crannies rarely seen or photographedand of course, stalking those illusive, prized trout.

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops in the Everglades and Big Cypress. For more info, please visit

photography, travel, writing

A Crescendo, Part 1

“Disfigurement is synonymous with the whole idea of frontier. As soon as we lay our hands on it, the freedom we thought it represented is quickly gone.”Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces.

01/19/22. The light filters through palms and dances seductively along the prickly- looking edges of the Spanish moss. It hangs in a pattern of almost perfect randomness on the ancient oaks above my camp. Florida feels like home. Hell, who am I kidding? So many places feel like home these days, it’s hard to decipher what “home” really means anymore.

This June will mark six full years of living as nomads. Gertie, our 29- foot travel trailer shows the scars to prove it. Both Ellen and I are bewildered that she’s still standing. Our 2011 ford truck, Hoss is a few inches shy of 300,000 miles. His noises attest to every hard mile and dirt road he’s traversed.

Image © Andrew Slaton

A transmission slip, exhaust leak, and front (and rear, for that matter) shot suspensions all announce our coming and going to anyone nearby. We must sound like a joke to all of these well-heeled, newly-retired boomers neighboring us on all sides at the RV parks. I don’t really care. As Townes Van Zandt once sang, “you cannot count the miles until you feel them.”

I’ve largely stopped shooting images for fun lately. Strange, I know. After shooting nearly every sunrise and sunset for 4 years (and staying motivated and interested), I needed a break. Last year, after making the decision to pay off all of our debt, I was consumed with working… shooting portraits, weddings, real estate, commercial. I really didn’t have time to shoot for fun. Or the energy. This year, I also have a lot of work to shoot, but something else is edging out my time typically devoted to honing my craft of landscape photography…fly fishing.

02/04/22 I awoke to the rhythmic patter of a woodpecker. Somewhere nearby, not far above, an owl. Palms sway and clatter with the gentle wind. Last night, my sunset ramble filled my soul, though I didn’t see the bear or panther for which I came.

I arrived at camp early – 2:30 or so. I rested in the shade of my tent for a bit, may have even dozed a while. As I felt the sun gain a lower angle, I loosely slid on my hiking shoes. Camera and 400mm slung over my shoulder, I set out with a relaxed vibe.

Image © Andrew Slaton

The sun was low enough that the landscape sang with accent light. On more than one occasion, it was necessary to place my left hand out before me to block the glare long enough to see the path ahead. My imagination skipped wildly with images of a panther sauntering down the two-track trail before me, backlit, or that distinctive bear butt waddling up ahead.

My tobacco pipe rests precariously between my lips, the loose grip from my teeth bouncing the stem to the cadence of my walk, like a just-released spring on a diving board. I like to smoke and walk; I’m beginning to find my rhythm again.

02/14/22 There’s a rustling near my tent. I’m a few feet away, cooking my dinner. It sounds like a snake. I slowly rise, back and leg muscles sore from the 15 mile hike in, to inspect the sound. Nothing. Or at least nothing I can spot. Likely a snake somewhere beneath the dense ground cover.

Image © Andrew Slaton

It’s now 4:43pm many miles deep on foot in the Everglades. I caught two decent sized Mayan Cichlids (pronounced Sic-lids) earlier on the fly, but that’s not what I’m cooking. I threw them back, like every one I’ve caught since I learned to fly fish in August.

But then I recall that Mayan Cichlids are an invasive species. I can’t for the life of me remember, though, if the park service wants you to kill them on capture or not. National parks are weird that way. A few years back, I came across a 14 foot Burmese Python not far from here. I tried to wrangle it but didn’t have anything with which to kill or capture it safely, and it slithered surprisingly fast off into the marl prairie.

I quickly made my way to the Flamingo visitor center and happened upon the “python ranger” to whom I told my story and showed a video to prove my seemingly tall tale. I wanted to know what the protocol was for such a find.

Image © Andrew Slaton

See, pythons are a highly destructive invasive species here in the Everglades. They have reproduced into the millions and are decimating the mammal populations. The python ranger looked at me sideways, “I didn’t tell you this, but if you find another huge one like that, kill it.”

Thankfully,  slaying these giants does not rest solely on my shoulders. A recent study in Big Cypress found a particularly brave bobcat preying on a clutch of python eggs. Returning over and over in the course of days, the native wildcat invalidated nearly all 40 plus eggs. It may suggest that the native fauna are beginning to “retaliate” against the successful invaders. It may take time, but nature’s ability to maintain balance is a powerful force.

To Be Continued

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops in the Everglades and Big Cypress. For more info, please visit