Day 5 – October 1, 2016 – Saturday
The Cunningham Cabin was pretty spooky last night. Maybe because it was pretty far off the road without much in the way of a build up…just a parking lot and then you had to walk to it through some bushes, so I was a bit apprehensive to say the least. I could hear elk bugling as I was setting up the shots. I tried to illuminate the inside of the cabin and combine with an outside shot lit with my headlamp, and of course the Milky Way. Luckily, I got the illumination in the cabin pretty quickly, so I didn’t linger much, but then tried to get the stars with the silhouette of the range. I kept looking around with my flashlight and never did see anything, but for some reason I was spooked last night. Even with the quick session, I still didn’t get into the bag until 12:30am.
Surprisingly, mine was the only car overnight at Schwabcher, but only until about 5am when the Photo Hordes started rolling in! I got up with my alarm set for 5:30am and made my way to the spot hoping the clear skies held until sunrise. There were others there already and I had to pick a new soot, but I started shooting when there didn’t seem to be any light on the mountain, but it came out in the image, but no clouds. So I learned that you need to start shooting as soon as you can see the peak! But one of the guys packed up saying he’s going to another spot and I followed. We ended up at the other more wide open spot I scouted and we took separate spots and miraculously, some clouds appeared above the peaks and sure enough, they lit up a beautiful pink and the color worked it’s way down the peaks as we both shot almost continuously. I bracketed +/- 2/3-stops with a soft 2-stop ND filter and it seemed to work. So away we blasted until that magic light was gone. The other guy was almost hyperventilating and seemed pretty serious, switching between a Nikon D810 and a digital Mamiya!! A lot of money in his gear.
A friend if mine from work once told me, “I take a shower every Saturday whether I need it or not!” So I did the same today and felt good afterwards. Headed to Yellowstone and along the way stopped a few times when I saw something. Once where there was some recent fire damage where I shot the edge of the damage: black trees and ground, partially scorched trees and then untouched green trees. The next was Moose Falls, just inside the entrance to the park. An easy 1-minute walk. Then I spotted some bright red huckleberries that had a few young evergreens growing within it. The next stop was an unnamed pullout for a much needed 1/2-hour power nap, and finally Kepner Cascade which was a very narrow and deep gorge that wasn’t even on the map. It would be good on a cloudy day. Got into the Old Faithful area and found it to be like a zoo; crowded and noisy, especially after the peace and quiet (mostly) of Teton. But luck would have it that Old Faithful went off within 3 minutes of when I got there. Unlucky was that it was cloudy, so the steam and water blended right in with the sky and it began to rain as the geyser started. Then it started to pour and continued to pour with thunder as well. Since they have a cafeteria here at the lodge, I decided to kill time having an early dinner in hopes that things will change for the 6:20pm eruption. It would be a great time to shoot it against a blue sky since the sun will be pretty low yet not blocked by the hills to the west. So as I sit here in the big lounge hoping for the rain to stop, it hasn’t. A lot of characters have passed through as I sit out the storm; they help pass the time. It turns out Castle Geyser should go off somewhere around 3:30am which would have been perfect for stars.
I have a campsite reserved for two nights in Madison several miles away, but I think there is nothing there like here in the way of a place to hang out. This is always the bad side of a trip like this is that you have nowhere to retreat to when the weather turns bad. Nowhere to kill some time except your car or a grand hotel lodge. I went to the Old Faithful Inn and it is truly amazing. I was lucky enough to get a chair in front of the blazing fire of the truly epic stone fireplace. The entire place is wood and stone and workmanship is extraordinary. Even though it was built in 1903-4, the main lobby included electricity, yet you don’t see any wires anywhere on the logs or branches that are the only things used around the lobby. What made it even more amazing was a woman was playing the cello with beautiful sounds wafting throughout the space that at times made me very emotional. It was a joy to experience a place and space that so many others have enjoyed for well over 100 years. I stayed longer that I originally wanted because it was just too enjoyable to leave, battle the weather, driving in the dark some 16 miles to Madison to crawl into a sleeping bag.
I chatted with a couple from Michigan who had to reserve a room 14 months in advance!! It would be great to take a trip and somehow staying at every great national park hotel.
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