family, photography, writing

Revisiting Shirley

When we first hit the road, back in June of 2016, Ellen and I had an idyllic summer up here in Wyoming. We had already spent a good bit of time in the area, but now we had the time and freedom to explore and get a deeper knowledge of these spectacular mountains.

One of our first day hikes was to a little known high alpine lake. I was scouring my maps one day and saw it…

“I’ve never been here,” I exclaimed to Ellen.

And like that, it was settled.

We saw Islay’s abilities as a true mountain dog blossom on that long, challenging 13.5 mile day hike, our confidence and trust in her solidified. We skinny dipped in the crisp high mountain lake for the first time, ate cherries on the banks as we dried out in the warming sun. It really was one of our fondest memories from our entire time on the road.

But we haven’t been back in over four years. It’s almost as though we didn’t want to affect or soil the great memories we had from that experience by returning. As though we might be risking disappointment somehow.

However, this year, we decided to revisit this lovely spot. And this time, we wanted to do an overnighter and spend a little more time.

 

We set out with heavy packs, and a new companion. Well, new to this particular hike. Skye didn’t join our pack until the winter of 2017, so she’d never been on this trek with us.

The hike for me wasn’t as hard as it was the first time, even though on that initial trip I was only wearing a day pack. This year, I’ve been backpacking all summer already. To me, a seemingly unending resume of much more challenging treks than this.

It was nice to feel this good and confident as I approach 40 this year!

Skye of course loved every second of it and fit right in to the new landscape.

I even got to explore the lake just above us this time, which was just as gorgeous and peaceful.

Photographically, it wasn’t the best trip, as I didn’t get any of the clouds or light drama I love so, but regardless, we had a wonderful time as a family doing what we love best.¬†¬†

It reminded me that our memories are important, and that the ones we hold dear don’t have to be jealously guarded so as not to lose the sacred nature of them. But that perhaps to piggy back off of them by revisiting them, honors the memory and often times expands their beauty and specialness. Good memories beget good memories. And good memories beget gratefulness. And gratefulness begets joy.

¬†— Andrew


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photography

YET ANOTHER BASIN

My goal this summer was to spend most of my time backpacking and hiking my home range. So far, I am thankful to have been able to walk an inordinate amount of time and miles already in the Wyoming wilderness. This past week was no different.

I chose a really difficult loop that was 80% off trail navigation. I got to see countless lakes I have never visited previously, and a whole new basin. Waterfalls, granite monoliths, and miles of difficult terrain unfolded before me.

  

 

The weather was lovely, and the mosquitos are getting to be manageable at this point in the season.

 

 

And the wildflowers are still going off!

 

Several new peaks to fall in love with.

 

 

  

All in all, it was a very difficult hike, due to the massive elevation gains and losses, dangerous boulder fields at steep pitch, and miles of felled trees. I was so ready to be done the last day, and not sure I would do the hike again… but I am so glad I did it. I was able to see some of the most spectacular wilderness, AND I didn’t see a soul for four days! Unfortunately, that is becoming less common in these mountains these days.

— Andrew


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In The Silence: Jack Creek Lake

07/08/20

Light strikes sideways

Low and golden

Rainbows and browns rise

The crowns of the trees gently sway

In the momentary ebb and flow of the wind.

Colorful ripples dance on the lake,

And then smooth out like a carefully made bed.

Fire expands in a cloudless sky

Anticipating the brilliance of stars to come.

I am alone, and small.

— Andrew


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landscape, photography, travel

WHERE I BELONG

I’ve always told Ellen that I just feel at home in the mountains… more specifically, our little mountain range in Wyoming. Well, we made it back to our summer/ fall home base, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. I’ve already done a lot of day hikes and a few backpacking trips. Out “there” is where I feel most at home.

In fact, I just completed a four day, three night trip this week to two of my favorite areas in my home range.

The hike in is pastoral and gorgeous. I’ve been to both of these areas a few years back, but I wanted to do a specific photographic trip on my own. It is bit of a haul to get to either area in one day though, so you’ve got to work for it.

I got a late start to the trailhead, and five long hours, 14 miles later, I arrived at my first destination.

It’s a stunning, alpine basin with miles of towering spires and still lakes to explore. I spent two days surveying all of the available angles.

Then, on day three, I used my route finding skills to blaze a trail up and over a pass only to drop down into the second basin of my choice. It wasn’t a lot of mileage that day, but the elevation gain and loss, boulder hopping, etc. made it a good half-day of adventure.

The last night, I finally got some good clouds and a lovely sunset. It was invigorating, as always when the conditions align.

All in all, the mosquitos were biblical plague level, and my water filter broke on day one, causing me to have to boil all drinking water, thus minimizing the mount I could drink. But in spite of the difficulties and set backs, it was an amazing and memorable trip. And it still felt like a place where I belong.

I will definitely head back out to both of these areas again before this summer ends… but I will likely wait at least until mosquito season is over…

— Andrew


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photography, random thought, travel

A REVERSAL OF OPINION

These days, most of us dig our heels in on the hottest issues. We rarely listen to the other side. We wait and formulate our counter argument, while we pretend to listen to the opposing view.

I assure you that I am no better. Nine times out of ten.

Let me briefly talk, though, about that one of ten moment. Well, I should say more accurately that I had a slow u turn.

Years ago, I wrote an article titled, To Share or Not To Share. I still hold to the majority of the stances and claims in that post. However, I have made a complete about face on the sharing issue. As many of you know, I am pretty libertarian. And sharing is a matter of choice, so I remain libertarian. But I do not think that sharing locations is a net positive any more, so I will no longer share locations publicly.

What I have witnessed on the road the last four years is degradation and disrespect for many of our special places. Places that deserve respect. Places that to us, and many before us, have been and are sacred. Do I have such a following so as to think that I am to blame for this? Of course not. But our over-sharing culture (of which I have been a direct participant) is. It saddens me that we, at this point in time, lack personal responsibility, but I unfortunately have to come to terms with this.

Many have argued this point for years, and I hoped they were wrong, but I now realize they were right all along, and I was naive and wrong.

I hope all of you will understand that if I do not personally know you, I will not under any circumstances share locations with you, and I suggest you do the same. I am even incorporating NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) into my workshops to ensure the safety and protection of these areas. I believe in being personally responsible on my part, so I don’t have to rely on laws and stricter regulations. I would prefer it this way.

Now, with all of this said, there is some positive to come out of this. And it is that we can now return to the good old days of finding places by studying maps, striking up conversations with locals, hours of in person scouting, and stumbling upon hidden gems. It really is a better way to explore anyway. There is nothing wrong with working a bit harder for the shot!

Please do let me know your thoughts in the comments below…

— Andrew


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