photography, travel, workshop

LOCATION FEATURE // THE WINDS

In 2005, I packed everything I owned into a Nissan Xterra and headed north, leaving Dallas, my home off and on for almost 25 years. Sure, I lived in Austin for 5, and a short stint in Telluride, CO, but Dallas was HOME, all caps. It was February 13.
The next day, Valentines Day, I arrived in the sleepy, frozen town of Pinedale, WY. The reason; a job as photojournalist for the local weekly newspaper. I had no idea, however, that it would utterly change my life in so many ways. But all of that is for a later post…
My first week, it reached -20ºF every day. Needless to say, not much going on outside, except for the occasional parade of moose clopping through town. Part of my job, aside from community journalism, was to get outside and engage in outdoor activities. I would shoot it, construct a story, and then write about it. This forced us to do something other than sit in the office, the bar, or in front of the TV. Well, needless to say, summer couldn’t come soon enough for us at the Pinedale Roundup.
Cue the Hallelujah Chorus. Summer did not disappoint. Though I did not work for the paper throughout that season, I remained in Pinedale. The draw, you might ask?
The Winds, of course.
Huh?
Sorry, the Wind River Range.
I developed an immediate infatuation. Maybe I should say obsession. Yeah, that seems more appropriate.
Every year since 2005, I returned at least once, sometimes twice or even three times. And over the last four years since we hit the road full time, I have spent more time in the Winds than I have anywhere else. By far. It’s now my home. Even if we only spend the summer and fall there… It’s only because we aren’t quite hearty enough to weather the brutal winter in our trailer.
The area encompasses 2.25 million acres, so although I have extensively explored it over the years, I feel as though I havn’t even begun to scratch the surface. I could easily spend the rest of my life walking those trails, and still never see it all, I suspect. None-the-less, I have made it my life’s work to become one of the few living experts on these mountains. I’m surely on my way.
So, what’s going to happen here is that I plan to open the faucet of images I have made over the joyful years of stepping into this incredible wilderness. During this time of quarantine and daily bad news, I simply hope to bring you (and myself) a little beauty and some memories of better times. I hope it helps, even if for a brief moment. Below are tons of images, and some stories I wanted to share as well.
Maybe just to remind us all of the good that there is out there. And perhaps it will help you hear the wind through the trees, the mountain songbirds, the mighty rushing creeks and the deafening quiet of the wide open wilderness. Maybe you’ll catch a whiff of the lodgepole pines and clean air. Listen for the cry of the eagle, the chirp of the marmot. These good things still exist.
And when all of this ends, I’d love for you to consider joining me out there. Amidst the unending beauty. Check out my newest workshop of backpacking and photography in the Winds.
  
Ellen and I developed an affinity for skinny dipping in these secluded, high mountain lakes during the summer of 2016, when we first hit the road. I dare any of you to tell me of anything more naturally exhilarating than jumping head-first into a 50ºF lake, with towering granite surrounding your fragile frame.
We’ve learned another simple joy these past few years with our wonderful pups; they love nothing more than bounding through open mountain meadows. Witness the pure ecstasy!
    
 
The night sky still elicits awe.
Let me be the first to tell you that hiking these mountains is not always romantic. It’s difficult as hell. Mosquito swarms, submerged trails, freezing temps, grizzlies and other critters of which to be mindful, high elevation and the problems to the human system that can arise from that. These mountains are for real, and quite unforgiving. But the beauty and solitude one can experience are worth every ache and pain.
  
Islay and me in Titcomb Basin…
Only one year later… and one more pup added to the pack, Skye.
More skinny dipping. Actually, this was our first time! Islay loved it from the get go. After a brief, breath-stealing swim, Ellen, Islay, and I sat on the shore in the sun eating cherries as the sun warmed and dried our frozen skin.
A mother moose and her littles (there’s another just out of frame). This is one of my favorite pastimes in this mountain range; it’s full of wildlife. I can spend hours just quietly watching wild animals live their best lives.

The fishing’s damn good too. Islay hasn’t figured out how to help just yet, but she’ll get there, no doubt. She tries.

Every year we spend up here, I find new places that leave my jaw on the ground. So many spots that I want to return to in the “good light” to capture something truly amazing. That’s the plan, Lord willing.

I always felt like this tree somehow belonged on the grounds near Hogwarts.

I’ve spent far too many nights (and it’s not even that many) tent camping in the winter in the Winds. Very little sleep occurs though. I highly recommend NOT doing this.

I truly hope you’ve had a nice little break from the “real world” going on all around us. If you ever need a break, I encourage you to come back and daydream for a bit of this lovely place of immense beauty. It’s what I do.

— Andrew
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NEW WORKSHOPS

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INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
BIG CYPRESS // OFF-THE-BEATEN PATH // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
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Grand Teton National Park
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All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
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national parks, photography, travel

QUARANTINED IN APPALACHIA

With the Covid-19 global pandemic in full strength, our nomad dream has halted abruptly, just like everyone’s normal lives. The state of Florida closed down all of the state parks where we had reservations, so with no where to stay, we headed up to Chattanooga, TN to hole up with my brother and his family. There are much worse places to be.
It’s a beautiful area in Appalachia. Admittedly, we’re not getting out much. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is only 2 hours away, but is of course closed. So as we’re quarantined, I’m reminiscing about our spring trip to the Smokies back in 2018. Here are a few images from that month or two we explored the area.
  
  
  
Even though we can’t get out too much, I will still try to share the beauty of our wonderful world with all of you. I hope you all are safe and healthy… when we emerge on the other side of this, we will undoubtedly appreciate our wonderful parks and our freedom with fresh eyes and wearied hearts.
— Andrew

SPECIAL OFFER for my blog followers – 10% off everything by using code “BLOG10” at checkout
VIDEO TUTORIALS
Check out my free and paid video tutorials and learn from a 20+ year professional.
NEW WORKSHOPS

Learn photography and enjoy a guided travel adventure.
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
BIG CYPRESS // OFF-THE-BEATEN PATH // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
GIFT CARDS
Give the gift of beauty, travel, and knowledge… buy a gift card. Help a small business.
The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
PRINTS
Andrew Slaton // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
STOCK
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
ASSIGNMENTS
andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
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photography, random thought, writing

METAMORPHOSIS: PART 1

Originally posted on December 15 at the Red River Paper Blog.

I’ve learned that stagnation often seems to be the natural state of humanity. But this is not how people thrive… it is merely how one survives. And Ellen and I need change.

Light changing as the sun drops behind the Tetons in our summer/ fall backyard.

Dallas in December is a crap shoot. For many reasons, really. First, the weather is often all over the place. Blustery and in the 40s one day, and the next, 75 and sunny. It wreaks havoc on my allergies. Also, we spend most of the year away from the masses and when we arrive in Dallas for the holidays, we are bombarded with work, social events, and family.

The breakup on Jackson Lake occurs with the changing of seasons from winter to spring in May and June.

Have I mentioned that we have 11 nieces and nephews between Ellen and myself? Well, with all those human interactions, not to mention those with illness-incubator kiddos abounding, I always get sick. Weakened immune system from under-exposure the rest of the year or simply the time of year, who really knows what’s to blame. Regardless, the holidays are a time of warm reception for us, but also extreme exhaustion.

I’ve escaped to Lake Whitney in central Texas, where Gertie is parked, to write this episode and recover from the busyness of city life.

“Have I lost the ability to live in the city?” I ask myself this question every year. I grew up in a city, but I’ve always felt drawn to the rural, quiet life. As time passes, I feel much more at home in our little Wyoming town of 2,000 than in the urban/suburban sprawl of nearly a million-and-a-half I’ve called “home” for 30ish years of my life.

With the ushering in of spring, deep greens and blues are the dominant colors of the landscapes in Wyoming.

The reason I bring all of this up is simply that as I reflect on the last leg of our nearly four year journey, this theme keeps surfacing: city vs. open country. The change seems inevitable for us.

Life on the road is not as romantic as you might think. I was criticized by one reader of this blog early on that I focused too much on the trials and disappointments of our new, transient life. Fair denunciation. Maybe I focus too much on the negative. Perhaps the struggle is a bit more interesting to some of us than the vapid mountaintops. I tend to think we learn more from failures than successes.

But it is abundantly accurate to say that the highs we experience on the road serve to inspire us and remind us that life does, in fact, grant us beauty and reprieve as well as truth and trial. So let me give you a little of both.

Light glides across the landscapes of Wyoming, constantly changing.

Our view from Gertie for much of May and June this year.

A mountain bluebird perched with the Grand Teton as a background.

Snow was falling in Wyoming last May when I wrote my previous installment. Spring is basically a more dramatic yo-yo-ing version of winter and it lasts through June. We agreed to manage (with the option to buy) a small tourist shuttle business for a friend this summer.

Great Outdoor Transportation Company (GOTCO) has been servicing our little area of Wyoming since ’97, shuttling people and their vehicles throughout the Wind River mountains, anglers up and down the Green and New Fork Rivers, and tourists and locals alike to and from Wyoming airports.

The dramatic metamorphosis of the Wind River Range in spring.

Skye darts into a seasonal pond created by the massive amount of runoff.

As summer begins to take hold, lupine abound across the prairie.

The momentarily changed landscape, scarred from the Boulder Lake fire of 2019.

Our home for the summer near the Wind River Mountains.

There was a ton of work to do to get ready for the season. Vehicles to buy, insurance to set up, employees to hire, marketing/ social media strategy, not to mention just learning a new business. It was a wee bit stressful for us, mostly because we weren’t used to moving at any pace other than our own.

But Ellen and I also had to learn how to be business partners, which created challenges of its own. I also realized I would have to set my own photography business aside for a time to focus on this new venture. What happened next gave us a whole new skill set and was far more rewarding than we ever thought possible. [To Be Continued in Part 2.]

–Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 60 National Parks in 3-5 years. We are currently in year 4 and half way thru the Parks. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE
BIG BEND // WILDFLOWERS + STARS
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019
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photography, random thought, travel

Up The Eastern Sierra

All the world lies warm in one heart, yet the Sierra seems to get more light than other mountains. The weather is mostly sunshine embellished with magnificent storms, and nearly everything shines from base to summit – the rocks, streams, lakes, glaciers, irised falls, and the forests of silver fir and silver pine. — John Muir

The Sierra Nevada topped my bucket list ever since I first laid eyes on Ansel Adams’ and Galen Rowells’ photographs. While studying photography in college back in Austin, I was exposed to images that awoke a sleeping giant within me. An adventuresome spirit that began to show inklings when I was a tiny creature going on camping trips to Colorado with the family, became a force I wouldn’t be able to suppress.

Instead of our typical winter in Florida, we decided to explore the deserts of Arizona and Southern California. It was glorious. Those will warrant separate blog posts, but for this post, I’ll focus on California’s famous Highway 395.

I have to confess… I planned this whole past winter with the idea in mind that I would finally get to road trip up 395 along the eastern Sierra in the spring.

I can say with confidence that we were not disappointed with any portion of this leg of our nearly four year journey.

The flowers were just beginning to bloom when we arrived at Alabama Hills. The nights were still quite chilly, but the days began to warm, unless the wind was blowing, of course.

The Sierra loomed large and still nursed large swaths of snow.

Spring storms would roll in every few days to add another awe inspiring visual to the magical light of these mountains.

I was mesmerized by the sandstone formations and abundant desert flora. Endless photographic opportunities.

As we worked our way up, we made it to Bishop, a quaint little town. It’s a unique mixture of old conservative ranchers and dirtbag hippies. It seems to work, in a strange cultural yin and yang. I’ve only found that in one other place, and we made that town our “home.”

There’s something so balanced about having two opposing lifestyles like that in a small town that’s immensely appealing. Maybe it’s because I grew up idolizing cowboys and the old, conservative pioneer spirit. And with Boomers for parents, I knew the good side of the hippies and “free spirits” too.

We lived off the grid in the deserts surrounding Bishop for free for several weeks, as I explored the area with my feet, my truck, and my camera.

I was struck by how much it reminded me of Wyoming. Sparse, vast, open, rugged. Drop-dead gorgeous.

After our time in and around Bishop, we headed up to Mammoth and Mono and the land of the hot springs.

I made a few reptile friends along the way, of course.

The original plan was to go all the way up to Truckee and then head east back to Wyoming, but the unfortunate gas prices, and hell, frankly the price of everything in CA caused us to bail a little early and head over to Nevada for a few weeks before our return to WY.

So we have a little unfinished business along Highway 395. But in all, we spent six weeks exploring this remote American gem, and it will forever now hold a place in my soul. It is unique in it’s landscapes and the people it attracts. It is our kind of place.

So much so, we made a little fam portrait at the end of our time in the eastern Sierra.

It was a wonderful first visit, and I feel certain it won’t be our last.

–Andrew


N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
Andrew Slaton // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
 
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photography, random thought, travel

INTO THE WINDS (Part 2)

Continued from Into The Winds (Part 1)

We arrived just as our friends were tying up their horses.

They came with gifts. Gifts of glorious food.

One of the things that inevitably occurs when backpacking is that you begin to fantasize about certain foods that you couldn’t possibly take with you into the backcountry. It may sound nuts, but Ellen was dreaming about fresh salad. I know, I know, let me explain. Nothing you take in a backpack with you is fresh. Most of it is high sodium, high protein, processed energy foods. And as we all know, when you know can’t have something, it tends to gnaw at you.

Ellen couldn’t imagine anything better than a fresh salad. Not even pizza.

Spoiler alert. They brought Ellen a huge, fresh salad in tupperware. Me? Oh yeah, they brought me some goodies too. Fried chicken and skittles. No, it’s not autocorrect. You read that right; fried chicken and skittles. And it was glorious. Not together, of course.

Oh, also beer and cookies…

We gorged and laughed with our friends all afternoon, smelly as we were. It was a real treat. In the evening light, our friends saddled up and headed back to town. The next morning, happy and with full stomachs, Ellen and I repacked our packs and hit the trail again. We were energized from all of the calories and conversation, but our packs were the heaviest they’d been that entire week.

And we still had 50 miles to go.

I had resolved that we were going to finish this hike together, come hell or high water. My shin would get to feeling a little better every morning, but by the end of a 10 mile day, it felt as though it were still day 2. We rationed the ibuprofen so I could sleep, and made the decision to keep pressing on.

My shin seared with the pain of a newly 50+ lb. pack. Thankfully, I had peppered in a few “day hike/ rest days” in to the 12 day trek. It was unfortunate, but I really did need to stay put and rest on those days.

It’s funny how difficult it was for us to chose to actually rest on those days. I felt a bit like a failure. I think our culture dictates a “never slow down” work ethic, and it’s done great things for our society’s productivity. But there’s something to say about the fact that even the Lord took a day to rest… just sayin’.

As we continued, we reached the high country. Towering spines of granite surrounded us, majestic and mighty. I spent my mornings and evenings wandering and photographing… not far from camp, just enough to change my perspective of the gray monoliths and reflective lakes. The clouds passed overhead without notice of us or our affairs.

With each day dawning, it was getting a little bit cooler. The mornings brought dew, and then ice to our tent and packs. The willows were fading from bright green to golden yellow.

One of the main things that I took away from this trip is that I’m not getting any younger. It is of utmost importance that I take great care of myself. Gone are the days of eating junk and somehow still feeling great. Gone are the days of taking a fall, and simply brushing myself off, unscathed.

I’m certainly not old by most standards, but as I approach 40, I’m realizing that the lifestyle I love will take more and more work to maintain.

As someone who is always up for a challenge, I welcome this new realization.

I remember sitting at my grandparent’s kitchen table as a young teen. My Papa sitting across from me and Nana making a sandwich for me, on a summer afternoon of mowing the lawn for them. “I can’t wait to be older. How fun will it be to say ‘I remember 20 years ago when X happened. Ah, those were the days!’” I mused. They looked at me smiling, glancing back at each other with a seemingly secret wisdom. At least secret to me.

Well, I may only be pushing 40. And I may be in arguably the best shape of my life. But now, I really can say that I remember 30 years ago, sitting at my grandparents kitchen table, admiring the passage of time. It feels good. Even with the aches and pains, weak shins and sore back.

We arrived at the Green River Lakes trailhead, where our truck had been delivered just days before. We were relieved to be done, but in a strange way, a little sad that it was over. A decade and a half of planning paid off, but all that time was suddenly cashed in. The reward was knowing that we could do something this grand and exciting, and that made us both happy and proud.

Into the Winds also reiterated the point that we would be doing this again. And other treks like it. No matter how many years we have under our belts.

Aches and pains will come and go, but there are few experiences like waking up to a fresh dawn in deep in the wilderness. And that’s worth all the struggle and work.

— Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
EVERGLADES // WINTER // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
BIG BEND// LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2018
 
Standard
photography, random thought, travel

INTO THE WINDS (Part 1)

Nearly 15 years ago on Valentines Day, I rolled into Pinedale, WY on frozen streets. Who knew I would fall head over heels for this area at the time? But I did. In spite of the -40 degree winter temps.

It was my first “real” job after college, working for a small weekly newspaper at the foot of the Wind River Range. It didn’t take long before I met and interviewed a guy in town who had just come back from a pack trip spanning the entire 100 mile long range. I became obsessed with the idea of this trek.

Fast forward 10 or so years, and Ellen and I began seriously discussing the project we were now calling “Into The Winds.” A journey through some of the lower 48’s most spectacular wilderness. At the time, we had almost none of the gear that a hike of this magnitude would require, and our dog, Hunter Trek, a small, 11 year old, city beagle, was not exactly the best canine for an adventure like this. We also lived in Dallas, so we would need to drive 20+ hours, spend a week getting acclimated, and then another two weeks on the trail… it just simply wasn’t practical.

Life on the road has created opportunities for us where before there were only obstacles. In this case, the fact that we tend to base ourselves at the foot of the Winds most summers buried one of our biggest obstacles right away. Likewise, we are in the best shape of our lives because of our healthy lifestyle of eating clean and hiking almost daily. 

The other main road-block was the gear. Since we hit the road, several of the top gear companies have invested in our adventures by trading stuff for photos. I generally don’t like to do that, because let’s face it, gear doesn’t feed us or keep gas in the tank. But if I’m being honest, certain gear is just as good as cash to us.

As for the dog issue, our wonderful Hunter Trek lived a long, happy life, and passed away just 6 months before we hit the road, at which point we brought home our Islay Blue. Skye Blue came along a year later, when we realized that Aussies were the perfect breed for our lifestyle. Energetic and happy, adaptable and strong, and subsequently the best trail dogs a human could ever want.

So in 2018, everything came together to make our Wind River traverse a reality.

We set off on a bright, warm day from Big Sandy, a trailhead of increasing exposure and popularity in recent years, at the southern end of the range. It was late August. The night before brought freezing temps and snow to the mountains, so we were prepared for the worst.

Remarkably, the weather would hold steady for us the entire 12 days. However, on day 2, I fell, landing face first on my camera, busting my lip wide open, and worse, severely bruising my shin. Thankfully, my 5D MK IV with the L series 16-35mm sense attached seemed to still function just fine. I find Canon equipment to be very resistant to my clumsiness.

So from then on, only 16 miles into our 96 mile trek, I would have a persistent sharp pain coursing up my left leg every time I took a step. Honestly, until day 6, I was fearful that I may have to bail out on the whole trip.

Other than the minor injury, the adventure was going wonderfully. We were averaging 8-10 miles a day and seeing incredible country. The girls (our two Aussies) were having a blast, and Ellen was feeling her best ever.

When we weren’t hiking, we spent our days at camp watching the clouds pass, listening to the wind through the trees, and playing fetch in the myriad lakes with the dogs. It was idyllic.

Day 6 was resupply day. And just in case you were wondering, carrying 12 days worth of food and supplies is nearly impossible, unless you are an ultra-light hiker, which we are not. So we split up the supplies into manageable 6 day rations. The day before we set off, we made an 11 mile round trip supply drop to our proposed day 6 camp, hanging the rations high in a lodgepole pine to keep the critters from stealing our lifeline.

Doing a longer trek like this gave us a window into the joy one feels on a resupply day. Before this, the longest hike either of us had done was my week long, 60 mile traverse in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness many moons ago. No resupply needed.

So on resupply day, we were especially giddy. Our best friends in Wyoming were planning to ride their horses in to meet us. We were excited to see them and to have a fresh new pantry of food on which to gorge.

To Be Continued…


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
EVERGLADES // WINTER // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
BIG BEND// LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2018
 
Standard
random thought, travel

The First 10,000 Miles

What I Learned From Life On The Road (Part 1)

Livin’ on the road, my friend, was gonna keep you free and clean. Now you wear your skin like iron, and your breath’s as hard as kerosene.” — Pancho and Lefty, Townes Van Zandt

When we set off in June, we didn’t really know what to expect… the stories, the landscapes, the people… the many, varied obstacles.

10,000 miles in, here we are; unscathed… relatively speaking, a little dustier, skinnier. Perhaps wiser, happier? Hindsight will be the judge.

The following are the first 10k miles in pictures and short stories, and what I’ve learned so far from life on the road…

The famous West Texas sunrise

We left Texas in early June, 2016 with great anticipation for the adventure before us. Besides our family and friends, the only thing left in the Lone Star State was a 75 square foot storage unit half full of our stuff. What I learned somewhere along the way in the first 10,000 is that 75 square feet is way too much.

Lesson 1. The less stuff you have, the less stuff begins to mean to you.

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Our new Australian Shepherd pup, Islay (named after our favorite, peaty whisky soaked island in Scotland) was along for the ride. Living in our 200 square foot trailer with us and Colonel Bubba the cat. She is growing and learning and playing with every new mile.

She has slowly become the perfect dog for which we could’ve ever asked… you’ll see later.

2. Finding the right dog for you is nearly just as good as finding the right person.

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We finally hit the mountains in record (slow) time. I’m not used to pulling a 6,000 lb. trailer and having to go 60mph. But we made it to Great Sand Dunes National Park regardless. Our first National Park of the 2-3 year 59 Park tour! We’ve been to GSDNP many times, so it felt like an old familiar friend welcoming us to this new way of life.

3. Old familiar friends are always a welcomed sight for the weary traveler.

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Our first new Park, and 2nd overall was Mesa Verde. And so far, it has been the biggest shocker. We expected nothing from this relatively small National Park, and it really surprised us with its beauty and mystery.

4. No amount of familiarity can ever take the place of a new experience.

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We didn’t have long to stay though. It was on to National Parks 3 and 4, Canyonlands and Arches in Utah.

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These two Parks are pretty spectacular, and basically right across the highway from each other. Pretty awe-inspiring and convenient.

5. Inspiration rarely knows convenience. But when it does…. oh boy, hold on.

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We started to get our “hiking legs” under us on this portion of the trip. I’m really glad we did too, because by the end of the summer we would’ve logged more than 300 trail miles from Texas all the way to Montana’s border with Canada.

The heat of canyon country sped the whole process along. 3-4 mile days quickly became 8-12 mile days as we worked our way up to the cooler mountain temps. All the while, we were dropping unnecessary pounds.

6. Hiking every day is the best way to stay in the best shape of your life. No pricey gym membership needed.

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When we finally arrived at our “home away from home”, the Wind River Range welcomed us with open arms. Pinedale is the town in which I lived in 2005, and the place got in my blood. I’ve visited at least once or twice every year since I moved back to Texas, some years making the 20+ hour drive 4 times.

It would now be our home base for the Summer and Fall. I had workshops slated to happen in the surrounding areas, and we both really wanted to get out deep into the Winds, so it was the perfect “base camp”.

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Soda Lake was our first “off the grid” experience. If you’re unfamiliar with what that means, it’s basically just car camping, but with four walls, a bed, a toilet, a refrigerator, and a limited supply of running water. Not too shabby really.

Ellen and I have been primitive camping all of our lives, so this was an absolute luxury.

And to look out our window and see a scene that I frequently had to travel very long distances to see… well, that proved to be priceless.

7. A spectacular view each morning has an uncanny ability to lift the spirits.

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Hanging around Soda the first week was a great reintroduction to the mountain life. Every morning I would get up before dawn to watch the sun rise over the Winds. Every evening, we would enjoy our “dinner with a view”, play a game of dominoes or cards outside, and then I would go chase the sun’s last rays. Life slowed down to the basics.

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During the day, our hikes grew longer and more challenging, taking us deeper into the Winds.

We headed out to one of our favorite places in the world, the Upper Green River Valley. The area is unique as it is the confluence of two ranges within the Rockies, the Gros Ventre and the Winds. grizzlies, wolves, elk, moose, eagles, antelope, and so much more call this dramatic landscape home. And we did too.

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We had the time to explore new trails and scenery.

Islay was becoming quite the mountain dog, learning to cross dangerously swift rivers and creeks, negotiating boulders, swimming in high, clear mountain lakes with her crazy parents.

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8. Nothing can prepare you for both the terror and delight of the breath takingly cold experience of submerging yourself in a mountain lake. 

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I spent my mornings scouring the area for wildlife. And I had some luck.

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From the Green River Lakes trailhead, we found many of our favorite hikes. And our favorite trail snack.

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9. When in season, cherries pack the best punch of flavor and immediate energy on the trail.

We learned quickly how long our water (fresh, grey, and black) tanks and batteries could last… 4-5 days. There’s also no cell reception for 40 miles at our spot in the Upper Green. So it was time to “plug in” and reconnect with the world. We had reached our limits.

We found a little no-frills RV park near Pinedale that was part of a network we could join. For $150 a year, we joined the club, named this as our “home park” and could now stay for free, as much as we like, for the rest of the year. No electric, water, sewer bills… just free “on the grid” camping any time we needed it. All the other hundreds of RV parks across the US and Canada in this network are just $10-15 per night for us too. Best $150 we’ve spent so far.

So we plugged in and found new roads and trails to explore in the southern reaches of the Winds.

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Since we could now stay plugged in for free, we knew it was a good time to do an extended backpacking trip into the Winds. 4 nights, 5 days of carrying everything needed on your back, sleeping underneath a blanket of stars, and being a part of the landscape.

So we left Gertie (the trailer) plugged in at our new “home park”, put a ton of cat food out for Colonel Bubba, and hit the trail, just in time to celebrate Independence Day. Fitting, I thought.

10. There is no better (or often more painful) way to see and experience the beauty and majesty of wilderness than on foot.

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We hit Elkhart Park early and headed straight in for Seneca Lake, smack dab in the middle of the Winds. I’ve been wanting to do this trip for a decade… the infamous Titcomb Basin.

It was a moderate 8-9 miles in to Seneca the first day. Islay did amazingly well. This was her first backpacking trip, and though she’s too young to carry anything yet, she ran at least 2-3 miles for every one we did. She got to be off-leash the whole time, and she never strayed too far or got into too much trouble, and she got to sleep with us in the tent. Now this was a pretty big deal considering she’s slept in her crate every night of her life up to that point.

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We made it to Seneca and set up camp. It was a beautiful spot.

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But we did realize one important thing from that first day of hiking… our backpacks and shoes were way out-dated. It was going to be a painful trip.

11. The right gear is essential to a comfortable mountain backpacking experience.

I’ve known this truth deep down all my life, but I’d never done multiple extended trips so close together to really understand how important the right gear can be. We’ve also just never had the extra cash to throw at the problem. There’s always something else more pressing or important, and I don’t know if you’ve been in an REI lately, but outdoor gear is expensive!

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No amount of pain at this point though was going to stop us or dampen our spirits.

12. Pain is mostly mental.

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The Titcomb Basin has been called one of the most beautiful and striking places in the world. I couldn’t disagree at all. We did’t get the best weather for photography, but it was spectacular none-the-less.

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Our bond grew incredibly deep on this adventure with Islay. She would wake early with me and “assist” me as I shot sunrise. During the day, she would explore right beside us.

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It was perhaps here, in the Titcomb Basin, that Islay Blue became a real part of our family.

I’ve never been “that dog person”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved dogs, but I never treated them like a member of the family. Well… here I am… one of “them”. Islay has become an indispensable part of our family. And all it took was a few thousand miles sitting on the center console of the truck, her quirky personality, hilarious morning antics, a few near-death experiences, and a wilderness excursion for the ages.

Ask Ellen, I’ve become a total softy when it comes to that dog. She freaking gets away with murder when she’s with me.

13. Dog people have it all figured out. :)

… to be continued…

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— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 2-4 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2016 – SOLD OUT
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I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
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