Can’t Get To Heaven



Cue blues riff: slow steady, talking blues style, capo on third fret

Bring bass up: There, right there

Cue singer: 5 4 3 2 ….

          Well, You can’t get to heaven

            On 287

            But you can get as far

                   As you can get by car…….

I’ve mentioned this blues song* before in a previous post but it was brought back to me this morning as I was traveling up highway 287 in my Yellowstone portfolio looking for an image for today’s post. I was cruising along noticing that the grass was going golden as it always does this time of year, seeing the images change as I drove through Fort Washakie towards Dubois working my way up towards Togwotee Pass, hoping to get there in time for the sunset over the Tetons. Dark was coming on fast and I knew I wasn’t going to make it in time.

The clouds were building  over the mountains and there was more than a hint of snow in the air. I wasn’t looking forward to running Togwotee in the dark in a snow storm so I put the hammer down and thanking the traffic gods for not having a Wyoming State Trooper in sight, hauled my keester down the road at a very high rate of speed.

But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and photographers oft-times get screwed up. Just when I thought I was going to make it I looked over and saw the sun breaking through the clouds, highlighting the mountain and I knew I was doomed.

As a shooter when you see light like this you have to stop and take the shot. It’s the law. You have no choice. If it means running Togwotee in the dark, in a snow storm, which I did, you have to. These things don’t happen every day. Every time is unique. You miss it you lose.

Later as you’re squinting through the windshield wipers into the driving snow, exercising fully every descriptive phrase you learned in the Navy, your headlights fully illuminating the highway 10′ in front of the truck, you think about the wisdom of what you’ve chosen to do. The trip over the pass which would normally be about an hour takes three, but you know you wouldn’t have done it any differently.

Fortunately I can review this image now, sitting here in my bathrobe, drinking English Breakfast tea, knowing I can see this sight on my screen and I won’t have to drive Togwotee in the snow. Plus you get to see it too. See, cool things are happening all around. 2015 is going to be a good year.

* I attended a concert one time some years ago and the singer talked about a singer/songwriter friend of his that was writing this song. He may have mentioned his name but if so I’ve long forgotten it unfortunately, but I never forgot the lyrics.

Rough Night Ahead

RoughNightAhead7608click to enlarge

The Dubois badlands. I think they have been very badly misnamed and should have been called the Dubois Goodlands. Now I know why they’ve been called badlands and it has a lot to do with settlers being able to settle here and basically stay alive. Once you move away from the Wind River and head into the drier and more vertical areas of the badlands your possibility of raising a bountiful corn crop lessen dramatically, so are your chances for a good rice harvest. And trying to run cattle there poses some unique problems as well. Cows don’t climb cliffs as well as bighorn sheep, say, and if they do by some chance get up one of those slopes the forget how to get down and normally wind up cascading down the hill with their udders in the air and end up badly. All of this contributes to a prejudice against places such as the badlands that don’t cooperate with, as Mr. Sagan used to say, Yuman Beings.

Places that seem hostile to Homo sapiens have always offered a challenge that must be overcome regardless of the value of the victory. It is a moral affront to some that there should be spots where people can’t easily live and they will go to any lengths to change that. Fortunately Mother Nature views these attempts with amusement and although she might allow things to go on for a while, her time schedule being different from ours, she will take a perverse delight in sending them packing just when it is most inconvenient for them.

The beauty of these places is only enhanced by its ability to create monumental displays of power and drama. This storm for instance, still in its infancy, will soon unleash incredible forces that at its whim can overcome any man-made constructs and never bat an eye. We see this as bad luck when this happens, but Mother Nature just goes about her business unaware that there have been people inconvenienced and rightly so. Why would folks pit themselves against what is surely a lost cause. Because there are always those who dwell in the murky depths where their vision is impaired and never float to the top of the gene pool. And because they apparently are working at a disadvantage they don’t always see things with the clarity of other brighter beings, and hence they are destined for failure. We call this tragedy, Mother Nature calls this weeding.

Sunset on the Wind River with a storm brewing is a wonderment to observe, however it makes good sense to take your picture and get over Togwotee Pass and on into Jackson as quick as you can and do not test Mother Nature. If you do reach the upper levels of the gene pool you have to keep paddling, because life is an IQ test, and its primarily pass/fail. Good luck.

Things That Make You Go ‘Oh Man….’

YS-NP 2005-0052-EditClick to enlarge

I think it is safe to say that there are sunsets and then there are sunsets. This is a sunset. One evening I was behind schedule trying to make it to Jackson before all the motel rooms were gone and I was having a tough time getting over Togwotee Pass because I kept stopping to shoot one thing or another. It was getting late, I was tired and rather than push in I stopped at the Togwotee overlook to drink some tea and have a sandwich.

There was thunder rolling in from the distance and a huge storm front was moving over the Tetons heading south. It was pretty dark and it didn’t look like there would be a photo op because the sun was setting faster then the storm was moving, but never say never in this business. Just as I was packing up the clouds broke and lifted enough that the sun could stream through the break and this is the result. It only lasted moments then the sun was gone and so was this view.

I have been through this area dozens of times since and have never seen another sunset like this. The Tetons themselves are so beautiful that you can’t imagine anything making them better, but every once in a while Mother Nature says “you ain’t seen nothing yet” and does something so spectacular you can’t believe you saw it. Photographers have a saying “Shoot it when you see it, it’s not likely to come around again”.