Rockies Roadtrip 2004

Over Fiesta at the beginning of August, my company has Fiesta Friday as a company holiday. I had been examining the weather reports for weeks and finally saw an opportunity; clear skies were heading for the northern Rockies. I took a week off of work, hopped in my new car with a tent, and went on off. My car had been for repairs on the front shocks, so I was delayed half a day getting out while the repairs were completed. The first day I drove on up through the eastern side of the Sierras and got to see Mt. Whitney and the lava flows coming down from the mountains. This was to be a great taste for my first stop, Craters of the Moon National Monument.

You could see the volcanoes’ impact gradually increasing on the landscape driving across the black walls of the canyon of the Snake River and the plains with black volcanic rock peeking up through the surface. Craters of the Moon was a giant field of lava flows covering over 25 square miles. There were cinder cones, craters from lava fissures, and spatter cones. There were many more features then at El Malpais, the only other lava landscape I had been hiking through.

I left the volcanic plains and drove on up into northern Montana to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend. We then went into Glacier National Park. I had fallen in love with the glaciated mountain chains of the Rockies years ago but hadn’t gotten back there until now. We drove on up to Logan’s Pass and started hiking up in the alpine meadows on a trail towards Hidden Lake. With carved horn peaks and glaciers in the distance, we strolled past snowmelt creeks and mountain goats grazing in the high meadows. My company had to leave to catch their plane, but I stayed in the park for another day. I hiked up the Sperry Canyon Trail. Starting at Lake McDonnell at about 3000 feet, the trail wound up through the cedar forests and up into the mountains. During the next 3200 foot climb the landscape changed from thick forests to cliff edges with high waterfalls to alpine meadows following right up to the base of a glacier. There was a campground at the top, but also a chalet! Given the beauty of the mountain surroundings it’s understandable.

I then hopped back into the car and followed the Rockies down to Yellowstone. I spent an entire day amongst the geysers hiking among the vents and multi-colored bacteria flows, camera in hand. The Yellowstone geysers truly make for an otherworldly landscape. Driving through the lodgepole pine forests it is stunning to just see columns of steam in the distance. The day afterwards I did a long hike into the Yellowstone backcountry, something used by only less then five percent of the visitors of the park and something I had been looking forward to for years. I hiked a trail into Heart Lake. The trail started in an area that had been burned during the wildfires of 1988. Dead lodgepole pines reached up to the sky with a bed of grasses and wildflowers at their feet. The trail then went into an older stand of trees and kept climbing until it reached the top of the ridge. Overlooking Heart Lake, the small creek suddenly turned into the drainage creek for an entire thermal area stretching from the ridge all the way to the lake. Vents, springs, and small geysers were just nestled at the base of the Red Mountains, cradled by meadows full of yellow daisies, there for only the brave to see.

After Yellowstone I drove down to Grand Teton National Park. I had truly forgotten the awe-inspiring beauty of the Tetons. The mountains just shoot up out of the land, their sharp rocky slopes cutting into the sky. At the base of the mountains are series of lakes carved by glaciers, their waters reflecting the grandeur of their origins presiding above them. I only had a single day in the company of the Tetons and spent it traveling along the shores of the lakes at their base, camera in hand. I can only hope that I’ve finally been able to capture just a fraction of the majesty of these mountains.

All in all I had a very relaxing trip, although it was saddening at the same time. The Rockies are so beautiful and I have nowhere near enough time to spend with them. Hopefully the future will allow me to spent more time in the land that I love.

The Photographs

All of the photographs were taken with my Minolta system on Kodachrome PKR 64. Click on "Next" in the upper right to begin. There are hundreds of pictures in this sequence, so you can use the links below to jump to a specific park: