You really have to stick with me on this one to see that it is all about the art. But honestly, this is my memory of capturing some of my favorite hydrothermal images. I was in Yellowstone in late spring/early summer of 2022 and had just arrived at the trailhead for the Grand Prismatic Overlook near this geyser basin area. When I got to the trail to hike up to where you can see the entire spring, there was a ranger there turning people around because a sow grizzly and her two tiny cubs were just spotted crossing the trail. I was so bummed that I couldn’t hike and take photos as planned, but headed back to my car to eat a late lunch in the car. It was already looking a bit stormy when I arrived, but by the time I finished eating, a huge storm was coming in. The wind was 30-40 mph. I drive an old Suburban on my photography trips as it is set it up with a queen size mattress and this is how I live for a week at a time on my solo trips. The car is older – it has keys…not fobs. I jumped out to get my jacket and the door slammed shut on me. I did not have proper clothing for the weather, bear spray was now locked in the car and no phone (not the phone would have mattered because there is no service there).
While this is happening, everyone else is running to their cars and leaving because the rain has started and lightning is coming in. By the time I walked back to the trail hoping a ranger was still there (but wasn’t) and made it back to my car, almost all cars were gone from the lot. I was alone with a huge storm and grizzly bears somewhere nearby. This was one time I actually didn’t want to see grizzlies. My only brilliant ideas were 1) crawl under the suburban to avoid the incoming hail and lightning or 2) throw rocks at the side window to break in my car. I went and got a couple large rocks and then thought, “How am I going to camp with a huge broken window?” (not that I could have even broken it – apparently it is harder than it seems) As the rain started coming down, I walked to the main road and waited for a ranger to drive by. There was no point in stopping cars to help me because there is no cell coverage and no one could make a call for me. A little while later, I flagged down a ranger who radioed me a locksmith. Fortunately, the rain came and went so it wasn’t horrible the whole time. About 30 minutes later the guy shows up and starts to work on my car, but he cannot get it open. By this point I am soaking wet (as is the locksmith) and he is so frustrated with my car. Next, it starts hailing so he has me sit in his truck for ANOTHER 40 minutes! He could not get it open and I had to sit there and watch him get pelted by hail for about ten minutes and then more rain. Finally, he used air pressure to pull the door out far enough and uses a long hook thing to retrieve my keys (this worked on about the 5th or 6th try). I am forever grateful, pretty humiliated, and soaked to the bone. It stopped raining and the skies start to clear as I sat in his truck paying him a decent chunk of money. As he drove off, all the plans I had for leaving and heading back to camp faded as I watched the soft light forming as the evening sun started to peak out behind storm clouds. I quickly grabbed my jacket and camera gear and headed out. I spent the next couple of hours here and got lost in photography.
The anxiety, stress and embarrassment of my recent situation was already slipping away as I captured images I knew instantly that I was in love with, as it was one of the most beautiful evenings I have had in the park. I left in time to catch the sunset over Lake Yellowstone, thankful for the crazy timing that ended up giving me the best conditions for photos that day. Sometimes our stories are adventerous or beautiful and we can share about the tranquility and peace of the day, or the intense hiking we had to do. Sometimes the story is something random, but that we will never forget. The ranger and the locksmith both did tell me this happens all day long in Yellowstone – so at least I am not the only one to let something so foolish happen.
Three of these images are in my Hydrothermal Series coming January 18, 2024.