Day 11 – October 7, 2016 – Friday
Woke up this morning with the alarm and of course it was another cloudy day, but on the bright side, it wasn’t completely socked in, but rather some interesting clouds. I headed to the Perce Flats hoping the sun might break through, lighting up the grasses, but the clouds were too thick for that. So I continued south and stopped at a group of dead trees I had filed away and wanted to try a very long exposure to show some movement in the clouds and to blur the steam from the many steam vents off in the distance. You’d think that with the clouds being so dark, and the grasses being pretty bright, I would have no need for a split ND grad filter. But, it just didn’t work so I put the hard edged in front of the lens to properly balance what I had thought was already even toned. And of course…I was waiting for a car to pass, which was traveling slowly, to take a shot and stopped in front of me and asked, “What are you shooting? I don’t see anything.” So I told her there were some bison grazing just ahead and she moved out of my shot. The clouds were pretty neat, so I thought I’d give White Dome Geyser a shot and I managed to set up within 5 minutes of its eruption and I liked it, so I decided to wait for the next one in about 20 minutes if things go according to plan. I changed my spot to include a kind of s-curve in the formation and sure enough, in 20 minutes, off it went again.
Then it was time to start the drive up to Mammoth on the road scheduled to open today at 7am. I saw the same sign “Road Closed 5-miles Ahead” and figured it was just left over from the closure and they hadn’t gotten it down yet. But of course, when I got 5-miles further, it was still closed. The woman said a federal inspector said it was too rough and wouldn’t let it open, and she said the other detour road was still closed. from the snow!! I had already stayed an extra day for the opportunity to get to the northern sections of the park, but the roads were not open, so I opted to go to Craters of the Moon NM in Idaho and begin my way back toward Denver. When I got to West Yellowstone, I filled up with gas and set the navigation for Craters of the Moon, and it said to immediately turn right at the light. But while it was red, I saw a McDonald’s to the left. So I stopped there first, and when I walked in, who was sitting there but Ted from yesterday!! Boy was he surprised to see it was me when he looked up to see who slid in opposite him. Another chance encounter with a person for the second time, and it has happened twice on this trip. So we talked while we had breakfast and when he left, he said he was headed for Ketchum to see Hemingway’s grave. I stayed a bit longer and used their wi-fi.
After the 3:10 drive from West Yellowstone to Craters of the Moon, I checked into the visitor center to get some info and get a camp site, but before heading out into the park to scout some things, I stopped at the rest room. And when I was washing my hands there, who pops in but Ted again!! This is a first; a third chance encounter with the same person. he was on his way out of the park, not staying long, but he did give me permission to use his name here in my journal.
I hiked the short Devil’s Orchard Trail and took a few shots of backlit sage bushes, but nothing extraordinary. Then I checked out the Spatter Cones before I headed to the tall Inferno Cone. This park is an area of ancient lava flows and is totally black, even the sidewalks are black, with quite a few obvious cinder cones of ancient volcanoes. A pretty unique landscape, which is why I had it on my list of things to do. The hike to the top of the Inferno Cone was steep, but thankfully short, and the reward was a 360-degree view of a snow capped mountain range to the north and cinder cones to the east and south. Also, some bright red rocks at the top along with a large tree and a few downed snags. With the low light, I had a lot of opportunities, but sometimes side-lighting can be difficult to handle and I found that out in a hurry. I think I shot 1-2/3 stops below middle and had to use a split ND filter for the sky. As it is, I will probably have to blend at least three shots together. The bad news was that the wind was howling up there, so I boosted the iso to 400 to try to stop the movement of some sage and other plants that I used in some shots, including a beautiful Double-tree. It looks like it would be a good spot for a sunrise as well and will probably try it. And as an added bonus, skies are clear and will probably attempt some Milky Ways after the moon sets around 11:40pm.
Made a backpack dinner tonight, but had difficulty with the “old” stove; probably because I over filled it. And now just writing and waiting for the moon. This may be the final attempt of the Milky Way during the trip as the moon sets later and later, and unless I get up pretty early, I would venture that I won’t be out in the middle of the night on this trip any more.