letter to family, written 27 May, 2016
The morning was super cloudy so we didn’t even pretend to go anywhere for photos. After a leisurely breakfast we went back into town for some errands. The tripod that we brought with us never really locked the camera on tight and was unstable with a telephoto lens — so we stopped in the one camera shop in town and picked up a toy. Stopped at the library to upload a few photos to Facebook and Dave checked mail. Turns out he had several hours of work to do which kept us busy inside while it stormed outside. Had a super bison burger for lunch.
Just before sunset we went over the Blacktail Overlook where Dave had seen moose last week. The snake river meanders below the overlook. It was once a beaver pond which has now filled in with meadow and habitat favored by elk, moose, geese, ducks, hummingbirds, and yellow warblers. We got to try out new tripods — though mostly just on landscape shots. There were a few dozen Canadian geese down there but they are not very exciting to photograph. Through my binoculars I could see elk just coming out of the tree line about a half mile away, munching their way through the sagebrush, but they never got within range of our lens.
A moose never showed up but a storm did. We left just in time.
Not every tourist’s experience
I feel like a fireman this morning — jumping into pre-staged clothing and heading for the door at 5am. Talk about a favorable sky — there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, east or west! Whoo-Hoo! Schwaubacher’s here we come. And with a tripod to play with in hopes of sharper shots. Not the first to arrive but early enough to pick interesting spots, Dave and I split our forces. I selected a spot down an embankment close to the water.
34 degrees. No ice. Not a cloud or whiff of fog. The breeze hadn’t been born of the day yet so all elements seemed optimal for a classic mountain-reflected-in-water shot! And then the birds landed! A couple mallards and a pair of American Widgeons, paddling around in circles and making waves. Then I spot a little guy at the edge of the weeds. The way she holds her head and pecks at the water makes her look extremely intent and determined in her fishing expedition. The birds would come and go from my scene, and I was able to snap a few images of the mountains, lit with the warm blush of alpenglow kissing their faces.
Once I am pretty happy that I captured a good picture of the mountains I decide to go on walkabout like yesterday – hoping maybe the beaver is out. I go pretty far upstream, scanning the bank for animals, and keeping an eye on other likely compositions of mountain and water. Then I see this little brown head swim into a forest of reeds. The leaves whip back and forth as the beaver attacks them, ripping or cutting them down and swimming off with an emerald turban of long stemmed leaves swirled around his head. I follow him through my lens, astonished by what I see. My photo does not begin to convey the sense of floating I had — that the beaver wasn’t moving through anything of substance, that somehow that intense reflection of the green reeds on the water was really a translucent and etherial space rather than thing. I think it was a late breakfast — he took it to the lodge, dove, and disappeared. On the dam was a small bird with a bright yellow beak – a Sora. I think she knew I was taking her picture because she kept showing me her tail (except for this one lucky shot). I also got some great images of one of the Widgeons and the mountain reflections. By now we are feeling like we are shooting the same photos over again, so it is time to head out.
We stop by the Blacktail overlook again hoping to catch a moose at breakfast. Instead we see the elk still at the far end of the river bend, and arial acrobatics but no moose. At least a dozen yellow warblers were out hunting insects and squabbling with each other in amazing high speed chases over the bushes and along the sides of the bluff we were standing on. Tiny birds with such intense color that you can spot them with the naked eye farther than a 300mm lens can reach! This was the best my pocket camera could get. The other birds showing off their amazing skills were the humming-birds. I’ve never seen more than one at a time but there were easily a dozen in the area. They would zoom up, high above our heads at the top of the bluff, and then nose dive like a missile straight down.
Feeling frozen by now we head back to the cabin for breakfast and to warm up. Dave repacks and heads off to hike Cascade Canyon — hike of 13+ miles and one hundred flights of stairs! And yes, of course, he saw a moose. *sigh* He made it back just in time for our party invitation. The cabin’s owner Lance was in town for the holiday and visiting his family, that live in the houses next door. Third generation on this land? We met his step-mom Shirley, his brother-in-law Bob, and neighbors Lyle and Ann at the end of the street. During the summer they rent their home and sleep in teepees on the property. It was fascinating to listen to them talk about living here in Moose, raising 2 daughters, life in a park, and how they see the climate changing here. I had a really great time — interesting and friendly folks. Bob’s home was fascinating mix of log home and midcentury modern style. Not the experience most tourists have when they come to the Tetons.