Black Tail Ponds
Today I’m awake at 04:30 already, which is hard after only 5 hours of sleep. It’s completely clouded which doesn’t sound that good at all. First, I drive to Schwabacher Landing. This is a famous location where the Tetons are reflected in a small bever pond. It’s very popular and I noticed this the last time I visited. Then I also arrived in darkness only to discover 3 people that were already there.
The spot from where one can take the best photos is only 1 meter wide. Directly next to it are trees and next to that the mirror is ruined by a bunch of water plants. The last time I took some shots, but a part of the forest had been set on fire and because of the smoke there was no red glow on the mountain summits during sunrise.
The turnoff is difficult to find this time again. Soon, I discover I haven’t looked well and have ended up on the wrong side of the stream. I should have taken the next turnoff. I can’t do anything else than continue on the narrow road until it ends in the parking lot. On the other side of the water I notice cars already on the other parking lot. It’s clear to me I don’t have to try that one anymore as it’s already too late. I return to the main road and continue to the second alternative: Black Tail Ponds. This is a depressed area covered in bushes, grass, a couple of streams and a few ponds that have been constructed by bevers. This is also a good spot to photograph mountain reflections.
In twilight, I descent about 10 meters into the area. It’s full with willows and grass. The whole area is crossed by streams which are just a bit too deep to wade through conveniently. At first I fail to find a good spot and feel attracted by a treeline further down. I follow the largest stream for a while until ending up at a spot where it’s more easy to cross. It has become much lighter meanwhile. I have to come up with something fast or else I’ll end up empty handed.
Without putting off my shoes I walk through the stream. On the other side I find a large oval flat spot in the grass… that looks like the sleeping place of a bear? I didn’t expect to find them here in this wet area. A bit in despair I continue for a bit and stumble upon a half eaten carcass. Shit, shit, shit there is indeed a wandering bear here and I’m much too close to his food. I have to get away from here as fast as possible. I quickly cross the stream again and walk away as fast as I can, back to the plateau above this area.
A couple of times I have to find the right passages between the willows and try to force myself not to start running. I feel my heart pumping in my throat. I have been so stupid. Wandering around in twilight in an area with bears and then stumbling upon a carcass. These are two mistakes that can turn out very bad. In the end I’m running out of the area, most probably with wilde eyes. Back on top I find a group of people looking startled at me. They turn out to be a group on a photography course. I explain to them what I have seen. Should they have thought about going down there, that is clearly not the case anymore now.
Looking back I see the spot where I have been. In the middle there is the stream going from right to left, and at a little less than 1/3 of the left is a bunch of larger and higher willows than the others surrounding them. That is where I crossed the stream and where I found the carcass. Brrrr. Behind the treeline in the back is the Snake River. That was where I was aiming for. On the photo, the area doesn’t seem that big, but it’s about 10 meters lower than where I’m standing and it’s quite a labyrinth down there, because all these trees are about 3-4 meters high and you can’t really see where you are going. Going in, I followed the stream, but on the way back I ran straight through it (-;
A couple of kilometers away, we see a herd of Bison crossing the road. Too far away for a photo anyway. I walk around a bit and notice a couple of sunflowers, nice with the mountains in the background. And that’s all I get out of it. No beautiful light at sunrise.
I do have another alternative for this morning in mind. Closeby there is a row of old Mormone barns that could deliver some nice photographs. On the way I see a Coyote crossing the road. There is a thick layer of clouds and that provides just for enough time to find the best spot for a couple of photographs. When the sun finally appears, beautiful warm light falls on the barns unexpectedly. Nice with the mountains in the background!
Closeby there is a camper with the door open. A man steps outside with his eyes half closed. He is also a photographer. He has a device on top of his camera that I do not recognize, a kind of range finder or something. We start talking and I ask him what it is. It’s a home made frame that he uses to compose three partially overlapping photo’s delivering the right format for a print. When I ask him his name, it appears to be Robert Park, a well known American photographer. This is his website http://plateaulight.com. He owns a couple of galleries where he sells large prints for a couple of thousand dollars a piece. He makes a good living out of it, he tells me.
I have read before that these professional photographers are all using a camper or old van with which they drive to a morning location the evening before to sleep there until it’s time. Then first shoot photographs followed by breakfast. Saves them a lot of hassle and searching in darkness and they are always in time at their location.
As soon as the sun becomes brighter, I return to the hotel for breakfast. Today, I will be leaving here. First I pass by Oxbow Bend that’s still in nice light.
While driving away I notice a Pelican peddling around happily with a catfish he just caught in his mouth.
Hereafter I start looking for a lupine meadow I have read about. Here you can photograph a reflection of the mountains with lupines on the foreground. This appears to be in the same area where I photographed the Grizzly yesterday. From the description I learn that it must be somewhere behind a barn. Because I can’t drive all the way up to it but have to go on foot I let it go. I have enough of bears after this morning(-;
I continue further northward through Teton National Park towards Yellowstone.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file here.