I spent six days trekking through Grand Teton National Park south of Yellowstone, at a two and a half day photographic workshop put on by landscape photographer Rodney Lough, Jr. and hanging around the area after the workshop for a few days doing some additional photography in Yellowstone park. I then dropped in on my cousin Kevin and his wife, Debbie who are the owners of The Elephant Head Lodge located ten miles east of the east entrance to Yellowstone in the Shoshone National Forest.
The workshop, the group of fellow photographers, and Rodney were great, and I learned a lot. It was wonderful having someone who knew the area so well. Rodney has been photographing The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone for well over 10 years now and knows all the great spots (along with a few that other photographers do not know about).
Since all of my shooting was done on large format film, it will take some time before I can post any of my photos (develop, review, send out for scanning). I had planned on lugging my digital along, but it was just too much additional weight.
I wanted to share one experience with you though, that blew my socks off. Grand Teton National Park is one large sacred spot, and you can feel it wherever you go. On one morning after we had photographed an old barn at sunrise, we headed off to one of Rodney’s favorite spots to meet and photograph a tree he has calls The Patriarch. It cannot be seen from any road so virtually no one knows it’s there, and to get there you walk about a half mile down through three or four sagebrush and grass covered plateaus. When we got there, Rodney asked us to close our eyes and remain silent and listen for a time. As I stood there with my eyes closed, I expanded my awareness out and offered the spirits of the area my warm greeting as my eyes began to fill with tears. We then each walked out into the area to choose our spot to photograph The Patriarch.
The day after the workshop ended, I headed to Yellowstone to do some more photography, but not before stopping by to spend a little more time with The Patriarch. When I reached the last plateau where the tree sits with a few close friends, I stopped to take in the beauty and asked the old tree if it would mind if I spent some time with it. I felt it reach out and invite me over, so I walked up and sat down with my back against it.
This tree is a juniper and is estimated to be over a thousand years old. Half the trunk is missing from one or more lightning strikes and it wears the scars of surviving numerous fires. As I sat there, the wonderful old tree told me of its life. There was no mention of the lightning strikes or fires it had encountered over the years, there was only a sense of joy and of living, adapting and surviving. The fires and lightning strikes were just part of life and no more or no less important than pushing out new growth in the spring, or sending its roots deeper into the ground in search of water and nourishment. As I sat there it occurred to me that this tree was about 500 years old when Columbus landed in the New World, and 800 years old when Lewis and Clark headed out on their expedition to the Pacific Ocean.
I don’t know exactly how long I sat there wrapped in the spirit and energy of this grand old soul, but it was one of the most enjoyable mornings I can remember. I have never felt so at one with nature and so at peace, and I will certainly stop by and see that wonderful old sprit anytime I am in the area.