national parks, photography, travel

GLAMPACKING

I have this group of guy friends who every year around the same time, head up to Estes Park, CO for a backpacking trip. I have been lucky enough to be included on it the last two years.

We had a permit to do a few nights backpacking the northern end of Rocky Mountain National Park, but because of fires, much of the park shut down. The parks service rerouted us to an off trail section in the south of the park.

It was a beautiful, easy hike in. And because of this, the glamper contingent of our group decided to blow it out for us and bring copious amounts of gourmet food.

The first night, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and Perini steaks, as well as manchego cheese and other charcuterie. It was pretty epic.

With full bellies, the next day we day-hiked up to a lake surrounded by a cirque at 12k feet for some adventure and an afternoon of fly fishing.

I am not much of an angler, but the gents slayed like there was no tomorrow.

That night, the glampers made us a hearty soba noodle dinner with homemade popcorn for desert. We figured it was all over, but when we awoke the next morning, they outdid themselves with a portable hand-pump espresso machine and pancakes. Lattes and hotcakes for all.

That was enough to fuel us for the hike out. Now, I am used to going minimal when it comes to backpacking, so all of this was a bit unusual for me, but I must say, aside from actually gaining weight on a backpacking trip, I enjoyed the spoils of glampacking.

Our last day, after having come out of the wilderness, showered, devoured a lovely steak dinner with the family, and stayed a night in the cozy cabin, we hiked into the park again for another full day of recreation.

The group fished while I meandered the moraine valley in search of images, wildlife and other.

The elk were in full rut, and posing beautifully for me.

They even had a few curve balls to throw my way. Lol.

Overall, it was a supremely relaxing day watching the light move across the valley with a seeming lack of any urgency. The fishing was tough, but the time was easy.

It is a wonderful group of friends that continually challenge my thinking and priorities. They are the good men, that do still exist out there, who enjoy some of the finer masculine activities. And not afraid to enjoy a few of the feminine… thinking of you, lattes.

— Andrew


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family, music, photography, random thought, travel, writing

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

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photography, random thought, travel, writing

vermejo again

i was lucky enough to be invited back to vermejo last week for another shoot.

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the hummingbirds were very social.

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there are a few groups of ferrel horses on the property.  they don’t call them wild because at some point they were broken and used by humans.  but they are now ferrel because they have been released and are free to roam the 600k acres.

i came across a group of about a dozen on the road down to the main lodge.  i stopped the car and stepped out to snap a few shots.  two of the horses came right up to me and began sniffing.  they gently rubbed their long faces against me.

i had no idea what was going on, but it seems these powerful, wild creatures wanted to be friends.  perhaps they missed the strange bond that horses and humans share.

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one of them seemed interested in tasting my camera.

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i had a strong urge to hop up on one of their backs and see if they remembered what it was like to transport a human to and fro.  i decided against that idea.

it was really hard to get back in the car and leave my new friends…

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but i did.  after all, we had lots of great wine to drink…

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the next day, we set out for lower underwood lake to catch some trout.  i have never fly fished before, so i thought i’d give it a try…

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with the help of a fantastic guide, and a lot of luck, i got to land a 3 lb brown.  good looking fish!

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that afternoon, john and i headed for the streams.  fly fishing streams is a whole different game, and frankly, my confidence was high and i wanted to give that a shot as well.

the weather had different plans however.  the sky opened with reckless fury.  lightning and wind kept us from fishing the rest of the day.

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we set out at 6 a.m. the next morning to catch our flight out of amarillo.  on the way out of vermejo, we were treated to a spectacular sunrise.

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a great last memory to hold in my mind of this amazing place…

i sincerely hope i have the opportunity to return, some day.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009

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photography, random thought, travel, writing

vermejo, nm

this week i was invited to vermejo park ranch in northern new mexico to shoot phenomenal scenery, fly fishing, and wildlife.  no complaints here._MG_6803AS

ted turner’s private home near the main lodge is quite impressive.  but even more awe-inspiring is the sheer size of the property.  at just under 600,000 acres, vermejo is the largest privately owned parcel of land in the u.s.

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aside from the common bee, vermejo is home to elk, black bear, mountain lion, and one of the largest herds of american bison in the world.

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our view from the front porch of costilla lodge.

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the crew (minus the photographer)…

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the art of fly fishing.

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jim and i went for a drive down to one of the lower lakes to meet folks that were already there fishing.

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we found their truck recently ransacked by a bear.

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we must have scared it off when we pulled up, judging by the minimal amount of damage done to the refreshments.

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looked like he climbed up the side of the truck-bed to get a better look.

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it started to rain.  and as jim and i scanned the lake, i noticed another bear heading toward us…

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he got within fifty feet of me before he ran away.

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back at the lodge, some of the fattest chipmunks i have ever seen hang around for handouts.

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nick was the star of the bunch.  he was named “nick” by the kitchen staff who noticed a chunk taken out of his ear.

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believe it or not, nick actually comes when you call his name.

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no wonder they’re so fat…

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saturday morning before sunrise…  time to head out.  off to telluride, colorado!!

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009

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photography, travel

remembering travels of the recent past

a few weeks ago i posted about july being a boring month for me.  especially with the anticipation of an amazing upcoming august.  well, august has changed a little, but july remains the same.

so, with the “july-factor” in mind, i decided that reliving my recent travels might help lift my spirits a bit.  and just maybe for a minute i’ll stop whining and feel thankful for the wonderful places i’ve been to see this year.

’07-’08 was a blessed year for me regarding travel, and ’08-’09 is already shaping up to be exponentially better.

i guess dallas is where it all begins and ends for me right now.  and though i’m not so fond of her, dallas has enough work to allow me to travel more than most.  so i’ll think kindly of her for the moment…

austin is kind of my secret girlfriend.  we courted for over 5 years, but i had to leave her for a more practical lover.  so sad.  i do sneak around from time to time though… just to see her pretty face, and hear her alluring voice.

  

 

brazos bend, texas.  my favorite place to play with alligators in texas!!  if you want to see some prehistoric monsters, i highly recommend this park.  it’s just a short drive southwest of houston.

cabo san lucas, mexico!  my friends joe and erin got married there last summer, and guess who was able to go for free in exchange for a little wedding photography.  well worth it…

  

not too far from the city, somewhere out in east texas, is a private getaway, known only as “timado” to the few elites who know of it.  i was let in to the inner-circle last fall when i was invited to a double bachelor party extravaganza.  well, okay, so it’s not very elite, more like a good place to drink beer, go fishing, and grow out your mullet.  but it’s really fun.  and a great place to catch snakes and shoot fireworks.

big bend national park, texas.  ah, the big bend of the rio grande.  one of my classic favorites.  this trip was the first of two for the year, but it ended in tragedy.  my truck somehow found its way to the bottom of a four-foot-deep washout.  at least i only had to hike 18 miles through the desert before i saw someone to get help – hahaha!  what a great trip!

  

another friend of mine, adam, got married in wonderful savannah, georgia.  what a great place.  i had been once before, but rest assured that i could never get sick of savannah.

  

  

  

  

  

  

so, yet another friend, anna, got married in her home town of philadelphia, pa.  big year for marriage apparently.  and no offense to my other friends, but this was the best one yet.  i’d never been to philly, but it quickly became one of my favorite cities.  partially because two of my favorite people were there – anna and elaine.

  

another first-time favorite city, san francisco!  i lucked out with this one because of some awesome friends of mine, john and bd.  the brothers had an extra ticket to the 2007 baseball all-star game, and i got the invite.  we had a fantastic time at the weekend’s festivities, and we even made our way out to napa for a day.  amazing trip!

  

  

  

  

i lived in pinedale, wyoming a few years ago when i worked for a small newspaper.  it’s a tiny town just south of jackson (or to you tourists, jackson hole… hahaha!).  consequently, it is also very close to grand teton and yellowstone national parks.  doesn’t get much better than that.  so, since i reluctantly moved back to texas in 2006, i’ve made the pilgrimage back at least twice a year.  this was my first trip of the year, in the autumn.  and it was breathtaking – just the way i remembered it.  i hope to someday move back…

  

  

yee haw, boy howdy!  ARKANSAS |ˈär,kanzəs|!!  the white river in arkansas is incredibly beautiful, no doubt.  i went on a weekend trip up to northwest ar with some friends last fall to do a little fly fishing, and enjoy the scenery.  i don’t know how to fly fish, so i just enjoyed the eye candy, and made photos all weekend.  i think we’ll try to go again this fall.

  

  

  

  

 

oklahoma city, oklahoma.  we have tons of family in oklahoma – our rival state to the north.  and in all honesty, i don’t visit enough.  it’s really a great state.  though the university by the same name will always be my arch enemy.

the okc bombing memorial is stunning… a quiet experience… completely heartbreaking.

  

  

  

  

  

big bend, part deux.  i took my new ride to experience the land that claimed my previous truck’s life only months before.  wow, i really like my new car.  especially with gas prices the way they are.  i was able to do the entire 5 day trip for under $250!!  that includes 1500 miles of driving, four days of bland camp food, and priceless nights under a clear desert sky.  it was a really rejuvenating experience.  i needed it.

  

  

the quintessential western road trip, executed at the worst time of year.  my friend, bd, got a wild hair in early november, and decided to plan one of the most classic of american road trips, down the 101.  it was originally planned for the next spring, but neither of us could wait that long…

we set off just a few days after thanksgiving.  we left dallas, and spend the first night in denver.  then from denver, we made our way through blizzards, over togwotee pass to jackson, wyoming.  we had the privilege meeting up with my old roommate, emily, and previous editor, noah.  we had way too much fun.

the next day in spite of splitting headaches, we were off to boise, idaho and then to portland, oregon.  portland may be my new favorite city (i know… i say that a lot).  it reminds me so much of austin, but even prettier.  we spent a few days there, and then made our way up to seattle.  another great city.  somehow, we ended up at a seedy bar called “shorty’s” that night.  it was clown-themed, which made it creepy to begin with, but it also happened to be in, what i found out later to be, seattle’s “crack district”.  that was the first, and hopefully last time i’ve ever seen someone smoking crack.  right outside the bar, in the rain!?  interesting.

so we were ready to get back on the road after that night.  from seattle, we drove back to portland, then on down to eugene…  go ducks!!!  from eugene, we headed over to the coast, and that’s where we hooked up with the legendary highway 101, which we followed the rest of the way down to los angeles.  the scenery was absolutely amazing from the oregon coast all the way to big sur.  and even south of big sur to monterey was quite nice.  really, the trip down the 1 was so overwhelming in its grandeur and raw beauty, that for me (someone who is already a painfully bad writer), is too hard to put in to words.  plus, i’m a photographer anyway.  so i hope the images speak for themselves.

in spite of taking this trip in the most off part of the off season, it was incredible.  i can only hope that i have the opportunity to do this trip again at some point in my life.  i should be so lucky.

my virgin voyage to chitown.  seriously though, i was such a nerd on the flight there, and in my rent car.  the only two albums i listened to the whole weekend were sufjan stevens’ come on feel the illinoise, and greetings from michigan, the great lake state.  but they fit so well!  and they are two of the best albums of all time.  so at least they had that going for them.

chicago is certainly a cool town.  i need to spend more time there.  also, it was december, sooooooo, just a little cold.  maybe i’ll see what it’s like in spring…

  

  

  

  

  

 

ah, spring in wyoming… what a segue – damn, i’m good!!  so this was the second (well, technically third, if you count the short drive thru on the road trip in november) time for me to visit my old haunt in about six months.  what a treat!

yet another friend, kim, was getting married in pinedale, so it was as good an excuse as any to go visit one of my favorite places in all the world.  and it certainly did not disappoint.  i camped for the first time in single digit weather on eight feet of snow pack too.  so that was cool.  but i learned a valuable lesson:  don’t ever do that again!!

in all seriousness, there is something about western wyoming.  a special quality that lacks clear explanation.  ask anyone that has spent any time there, and they’ll tell you…  it’s a deeply spiritual experience.  and there’s something about the winter (which is much of spring as well).  it is what quiet looks like… if that makes any sense.

anyway, if you’re still reading, i feel sorry for you because you may have severe mental problems.  or into s&m or something.  but i promise that i’m almost done.

there are two innocence mission songs that always make me nostalgic about my travels, so i’ll end with some lyrics.  if you’re unfamiliar with the innocence mission, i would highly recommend you give them a good listen.  the first song is called, song about traveling.  really… go figure!?  and the second is the brotherhood of man.

“a man said, ‘why?’  why does traveling, in cars and in trains, make him feel sad?  a beautiful sadness, i’ve felt this before.  it’s the people in the city, you’ll never know.  it is everything you pass by, wondering will you ever… return.”

“waiting at the airport on my suitcase, a girl traveling from spain became my sudden friend.  though i did not learn her name.  and when the subway dimmed… a stranger lit my way.  this is the brotherhood of man.”

“i never can say what i mean… but you will understand… coming through clouds on the way.  this is the brotherhood of man.  this is the brotherhood of man.”

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2008

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