The Other Side of Doubt and the View 22 Project

Rainbow Over Aspens

Earlier this season, I was honored to have been included in the Jackson Hole Land Trust’s View 22 Project. In previous years, only a handful of local artists were selected to portray lands that the Land Trust has protected over the course of their existence. This year, however, they expanded it to 35 artists covering all different mediums. As one of the 35, I happily agreed.

The property I was assigned is a small piece of land located along the border of town along the Flat Creek corridor, between Snow King and Josie’s Ridge. As someone whose favorite places are away from civilization and light pollution, I began to have a little trouble finding the motivation to see what kind of photo I would ultimately capture. I was most thinking of trying to get a shot around sunrise and night, but this proved to be a little trickier than I initially anticipated. I never could find the right conditions at night because of frequent stormy weather, nor could I manage waking up early enough to get there for sunrise due to responsibilities I was managing into many nights. Days began to drift to weeks, until the deadline for getting in some info back to the Land Trust about the final image was rapidly approaching. The pressure began getting to me and I actually had to restrain myself from telling them that I wouldn’t be able to get an image done due to too busy of a schedule.

With the deadline for some info looming only a week away, I began to doubt if I would ever get a worthy shot of the property. Realizing I was just stressing myself out and putting too much pressure on something I do so naturally anywhere else, I finally released myself from all the doubt and pressure that had prevented me from doing anything at all. I decided not to stress myself out with it, but simply accepted that as a worst case scenario, I would just head up there at the last minute one night and get what I could.

The deadline for the info was now just a couple of days away when I found myself heading into town during a stormy day for other priorities. I happened to be parking nearby the property for something entirely unrelated, when I noticed a spectacular rainbow beginning to come out. I checked the time to see if I could spare a few minutes, and sure enough, there was a window of opportunity. I grabbed my camera and rain gear and ran up into the property and began photographing every angle I could, until I ultimately ended up with the image above. The rainbow started to fade nearly as soon as I got this shot, almost as if it were just waiting for me to take advantage of the opportunity. My camera gear was (relatively) soaked, but I was excited about the serendipity that had unfolded right in front of me. I couldn’t have planned it any better. All the elements I wanted were there with no sign of town. All I had to do all along was just relax.

Read on Source Site

Mormon Row Preservation and Enhancement 2015:


“Cyclic Maintenance  — Long Overdue.”

Construction Sign

July 28th photo: Check back regularly this week and all summer for more images and updates!

Many of the historic buildings and structures are getting some maintenance, structural repairs, and cosmetic touches this summer. Two independent groups have begun work all up and down Mormon Row this summer. Work will continue into September. While it might seem like a disruption to the norm to visitors and photographers, the long term benefit should far outweigh the temporary inconveniences. Workers show up at 7:00 to 7:30, so it might still be possible to get sunrise shots.

First Day's Debris

The T.A. Moulton Barn is a Grand Teton National Park project, headed by Shannon Dennison — Cultural Restoration Branch Chief. Harrison Goodall, a Conservation Specialist from Langley, WA is on hand to help direct the 16+ volunteers from around the country. July 28th photo.

Moulton Barn and Corrals

The John Moulton Barn project, along with the rest of the maintenance along Mormon Row is part of the Western Center for Historic Preservation (WCHP). July 10th photo.They are headquartered in Grand Teton National Park, but work on various projects in the Intermountain Region. Katherine Wonson is the director for WCHP. On site, you might find Jeff Olson, preservation carpenter. Recently their group has been adding cement foundations to the corners of the John Moulton barn, along with repairing and replacing chinking. Additionally, groups of youngsters from the Grand Teton Youth Conservation Program and the Student Conservation Association has been assisting preservation efforts. Earlier in the summer, crews worked on barns, sheds and structures around the Chambers Homestead.

Mormon Row Pathway

Connecting the two “Most Photographed Barns in the World”: July 8th photo: I’ve heard people suggest the T.A. Moulton Barn is the most photographed barn in the world. Over my 30 years of living here, I’d suggest the John Moulton Barn is at least equal in numbers of photographers in the field each morning—if not more. Most people visiting one barn, go to the other, so call it a dead heat! Either way, the Park Service is in the process of linking the two areas with a path. A restroom is included in the plans to be built in a larger parking area along the path, just north of the T.A .Moulton Barn. I haven’t seen the official plans, but I also hear there is a bus turnaround area planned along Antelope Flats Road. (I’ll update details in this section as I can get more concrete info)

Moulton Barn Photographers

Sept 24, 2014 photo

T.A. Moulton Barn Photographers: In the early years of Grand Teton National Park, most visitors were drawn to the mountains, streams, rivers and features along the base of the Teton Range. Over the years, more people venture to the rural East side of the park for a nostalgic glimpse of a less common way of life—by today’s standards anyway. Farms and barns can be found in almost all states, but none of them can compare with the two Moulton Barns when they are viewed with the Tetons behind them. The two barns are popular all year, but even more so in the Fall when the leaves of the cottonwoods begin to turn yellow and orange. Aspens are more common at the John Moulton Homestead, attracting big crowds as they change colors.

Moulton Barn Photographers

Sept 24, 2014 photo

I’d seriously doubt John Moulton could have ever envisioned photographers lined up to take photos of his barn as he started building it in the 1910’s. A crowd like the one above is uncommon, but both barns have a steady flow of tourists and photographers at all times of the day and night. Both barns are popular with photographers doing star photography and light painting. Antelope Flats Road is gated from sometime in mid-December until the snow melts in April, but numerous hardy souls still snowshoe, hike, or cross-country ski into the area for Winter images.

.A. Moulton Barn & Fence 1964

T.A. Moulton Barn, 1964. Sue Ernise’s father took this shot during one of his family’s summer stays at the John Moulton homestead. The corrals, chicken coup, and other structures have fallen down since the photo. See more of his photos on these two pages:


Josette Katcha, a preservation specialist intern, is onsite at the T.A. Moulton Barn project almost full time. She told me the #1 goal for the barn is stabilization and preservation. Additionally, some interior work would be in anticipation of future interpretation. Projects along Mormon Row are receiving “cyclic maintenance —long overdue.”

Morning Meeting

Morning Meeting: July 28th photo. Harrison Goodall can be seen in the red jacket going over the prior day’s accomplishments and detailing the current day’s assignments. Most people, including myself, have never seen the inside of this old barn. Note: I was given permission to be onsite and signed an acknowledgement of risk form with the Park. Visitors and photographers are requested to stay out of the work zones.

Harrison and 2x4s

Harrison and 2x4s: July 28th photo. Maintenance and stabilization has been ongoing off and on since Labor Day of 1994. Harrison is pointing out how some of it wouldn’t exactly be considered historically correct, prompting a smile from restoration specialist Nick Wujek. For more info on the 1994 restoration, check out the book Legacy of the Tetons: Homesteading in Jackson Hole by Candy Vyvey Moulton

Early Structural Supports

Early Structural Supports: July 28th photo. Some early structural maintenance was designed to simply hold the building upright. This year’s crew is removing some of the earlier work and bringing the building back to its original state. Someday, we may all get to see the interior close to original as possible.

Removing Old Supports

Removing Old Supports: July 28th photo By the time I go back tomorrow, these supports in the original center section of the barn will be “history”.

Hog Shed

Hog Shed: July 28th photo. Paul Hodgdon (GA), Sheila Bricher-Wade (WI), and Lee Chavez-Goodall (WA) can be seen working on the hog shed addition on the North side. The rotting old flooring was ripped out on Monday and piled next to the north side of the barn.

Horse Shed

Horse Shed: : July 28th photo. A couple of other teams of volunteers are working on the horse shed on the south side of the barn.

Horse Shed Progress

Horse Shed ProgressJuly 29th photo Mike Wujek, a restoration specialist from New Jersey, heads the team working on the “horse shed” part of the barn. The timber running down the center of the shed needs to be replaced, so Mike’s group built temporary lifts to hold the roof up while a new timber can be set in the original location. A new “sleeper” will be added under the posts.

Clark and Melba c.1919

Clark and Melba Moulton c.1919: David Moulton supplied this shot of the original barn. At the time, if had a flat top roof. Later, an additional five or six foot section was added to the front along with the roof and hood.

Trimming the New Decking

Trimming the New Decking: July 29th photo. This image shows the front, left corner of the original T.A. Moulton barn. Bob Haynam (Moose, WY) is seen here trimming the new decking, added over the original barn section.

Hay Loft:

Hay Loft: July 29th photo. Harrison Goodall is seen here going over the “battle plan” for work in the loft. They are standing on the new deck. Fred Chapman (WY) has his back turned. Matthew Masters (Loveland, CO) listens for instructions.


Moulton Barn Dec23, 2013. Most tourists see the barns along Mormon Row only in the summer and fall, but they have to stand against the elements all year. Heavy snow settles on the north facing roof and hog shed addition. The bracing and cables seen in the previous image are helping ensure the structure doesn’t crumble under the weight.

David Moulton

David Moulton, working on removing one of the supports in the front of the barn. July 29th photo.

Sleeper Timbers in the Hog Shed

Sleeper Timbers in the Hog Shed: July 29th photo. The new sleepers are being reinstalled in the north addition. Plastic Visqueen is being added in the hand dug trough under the logs to allow the crew to add rot retardant. Eventually, a new floor will be added over the sleepers. Much of the current work will be “buried” from view of future tourists enjoying the old barn.

Another Sleeper Timber:

Matthew Masters, Lee Chavez-Goodall, and Paul Hodgdon can be seen here hauling in a new section of the sleepers going into the north section of the barn. Sheila Bricher-Wade is bringing up the last sling, but slightly out of sight. July 29th photo.

2015 Volunteers

2015 Volunteers: July 29th photo. You might say this group is “half a bubble off”…maybe a couple of bubbles off! Many of them have been volunteering each summer in Grand Teton National Park on multiple projects. I can’t help but feeling their time spent here is close to a family reunion. I suggested the observation to Sheila Bricher-Wade. She replied, “Yes, but we get to choose this family.” If you were to click on last year’s post, you’d see many of the same faces. Preservation Begins on the John Moulton Homestead! (2014). The crew worked half a day today to allow them to enjoy parts of the Park.

Young Volunteers

Young Volunteers: This group showed up temporarily at the T.A. Moulton barn to help. (I’ll try to get their group name). The group leader discovered they had gone to the wrong barn initially.  They moved on north to the John Moulton Homestead to help with the Western Center for Historic Preservation (WCHP) group. Either way…thanks!


This year’s preservation efforts along Mormon Row are a joint venture between Grand Teton National Park, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, and a group of volunteers from around the country.

You Can Help!

Both private and corporate donations can be made to either of these two organizations: (Note: you can earmark donations to specific projects like the GTNP Mormon Row restoration projects.) Grand Teton National Park Foundation and Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund

Additional Pages and Resources

Check Back for More Photos of the Progress at the Homestead!

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Teton County Fair 2015: A Photographer’s Perspective.


Jackson Hole’s Mid-Summer Break Filled with Bright Colors, Flashing Lights, and Non-Stop Action.

(Note: As I post this page, there are still two more nights at the Fair. If I have a chance to go again, I’ll be adding more photos to this page. Check back! And…remember YOU have two nights to get to the Teton County Fair!)

Teton County Fair Wide Shot

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1 EV,  ISO 640

Teton County Fair: I find this time of the year fun and exciting. A few miles north, animals and tourists scurry about doing what animals and tourists do. Down the Snake River Canyon, fishermen fish and whitewater enthusiasts paddle through the rapids in kayaks and rubber rafts. In town, and for only a single short week, we are given a chance to experience the thrills of the rides, the familiar barking of the carnival midway workers, and enough color and flashing lights to send our senses into overload. (Click this image to see it much larger!)

Starship 2000

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/13 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 2000

Starship 2000: In previous years, I spent a fair amount of my time capturing images with lots of blurs, similar to the shot above. Check last year’s post: Fair Time! Photos from the Teton County Fair.

Mike with Strobe

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 52 mm, 1/100 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 2000

This year, I changed my approach some by taking a Nikon SB910 strobe with me.  Not every shot includes the extra light, but having it gave me some additional options. The SB910 was triggered using an on-camera SU800 controller. The normal infra red signals don’t communicate well in bright sun and require “line of sight”, so I added a Radio Popper transmitter and receiver to change the IR signal to radio frequency. To trigger the camera, I used a Vello FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote Shutter Release. It works great on by my Nikon D4 and Nikon D800. They make additional controllers for other brands and models. The wide shot of the Fair near the top was washed with light from the strobe. Without the strobe, the shot would have been dull, flat, and generally silhouetted in the foreground. Some shots worked well without the strobe, too!

Zipper and Vertigo

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/50 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 125

Zipper and Vertigo: The layout of the rides and midway changed considerably this year. From a photographer’s perspective, I think the change was for the better. In the past, the general configuration went from East to West. This year, it changed from North to South and was pushed against Flat Creek Drive. This layout eliminated a few annoying power lines behind some of the rides and attractions. Evening skies remained deep blue much longer. The Jackson Hole fair is unique in a few ways. There are no admission fees—so it is cheap to simply mill around each night. The rides and attractions are tightly configured into the allowed space. The people at Frazier Shows don’t have a problem with photographers taking photos, and the workers seem to enjoy having photos taken of their rides.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 44 mm, 1/200 at f/14, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Aliens: For the most part, I go to the Fair to simply have fun, experiment, and learn. Other than taking a few photos for a blog post like this one, I don’t have any particular use for the images, and as a result, don’t have any editorial restrictions. The aliens in this shot were actually vivid green. While in Lightroom, I experimented with quite a few of the sliders to come up with a unique color scheme that makes me smile. The fair gives me plenty of room for experimenting—both in the capture and the post processing.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 52 mm, 1/100 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 2000

Dots: On this shot and on quite a few others, I turned the focus button on my lens to manual and then purposefully put the scene out of focus. After seeing some of the results from these experimental images, I can see how I might use the effect on other, more finished images.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/1 at f/14, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 100

Duckies: The concessionnaires at this attraction let me set up the tripod next to the spinning rubber ducks for a few shots. When the flash settings are turned to “rear-curtain sync”, the flash fires at the end of a long exposure. This allows for blurred movement, but then a tiny bit of sharpness at the end of the blur. Objects near the center of the spinning move much less.

Carousel Horses

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/4 at f/16, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 1000, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Carousel Horses: This is a typical shot of the horses, augmented with a little fill flash via the remote strobe.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/1 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 640

Horses in Motion: This shot was taken with Rear Curtain Sync as the horses flew by.

Horses Oncoming

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/1 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 640, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Carousel: This is close to “my vision” for this shot. I was looking for long streaks with a split second of stopped details.

Ghostly Horse

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/6 at f/16, Aperture priority Mode, -3 1/3 EV,  ISO 320

Ghostly Horse: I could go to the fair and shoot a thousand more shots of the carousel horses and never recreate this 1/6th second shot. In reality, most photos taken at the Fair fall into the same category. Lights, people, and conditions are constantly changing. Last year, Frazier Shows opted to leave the Carousel out of the fair. I believe they said it was merely a matter of space. This year, the large Ferris Wheel was being repaired, so the Carousel was back. Who knows if it will be in the show next year? I spent more time there than normal.

Lion's Head

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/15 at f/16, Aperture priority Mode, -3 1/3 EV,  ISO 320

Lion’s Head: Without the fill flash, the blue frame and details on the figure would be almost non-existent. Carnival rides are “ridden hard and put away wet”—  to use a cowboy phrase. Very few of them are pristine, as seen here. A few bulbs are usually missing or burned out. The bottom of the crested frame on this element of the Carousel is broken off. Character?

Lion Head In Motion

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/13 at f/10, Aperture priority Mode, -2 EV,  ISO 320

Lion’s Head: Rear Curtain Sync: 1/13th second at F/10, ISO 320. I experimented with the Shutter Speed to get the length of blur I wanted.

Cliff Hanger

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/4000 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, 0 EV,  ISO 800

Cliff Hanger: A couple of the rides pose problems for me. The Cliff hanger is one of them. The actual gliders lack lights. After it gets dark, they disappear. Also, when dark, there are numerous intense lights in the hub area that shine directly at onlookers (and photographers). My better shots of this ride have been taken while there was still some ambient light.

Cliff Hanger in Drizzle

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 82 mm, 1/400 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Cliff Hanger in Drizzle: “Neither rain, sleet or snow will stop the fair rides!” Well, that’s not exactly correct. They do stop the big rides during heavy rain and lightning storms. Drizzle didn’t stop this ride and provided some moody lighting. I would have preferred the “Freak Out” ride was not behind this ride, but that’s not an option I can control.

Rain Delay

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/400 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Rain Delay: There are moments of transition following a big rain as the rides begin to start running again.

Ring of Fire

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 210 mm, 1/160 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Ring of Fire: I prefer the night and lights, but some rides translate well in broad daylight. On this day, I was drove to the fair early in anticipation of a possible rainbow. Once there, I stayed for the entire change from afternoon light to darkness.

Ring of Fire

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, 1/800 at f/8, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Ring of Fire: Direct light on the silver sides of the ring pushed the exposure down and created some drama in the skies. The ride was ending as I set up the shot. A cloud moved in front of the sun by the time the next ride was loaded and the effect was negated.


Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/6 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 2000

Midway: I tried this shot with the strobe lighting the fair goers, but that distracted from the the scene. It’s easy to shoot it both ways and pick the one I like.

Zipper Detail

Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/50 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2 EV,  ISO 320, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Zipper: Using a telephoto lens, I concentrated on small areas. The lights change constantly, so I took lots of images.

Zipper: Blurred Lights

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 160 mm, 1/60 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 80, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Zipper: Lights out of focus.

Vertigo With Indigo Skies

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 50 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1 EV,  ISO 2000

Vertigo With Indigo Skies: This is probably my favorite ride to photograph.

Vertigo and Zipper

 Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 at 18 mm, 1.30 at f/22, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 320

Vertigo and Zipper: I tilted my camera to slant the horizon on this one. The long exposure created streaks, while the static Zipper ride remained in relative focus. The cages on the Zipper are lit by the ambient light, but disappear in the dark night shots while spinning.


Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/250 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  ISO 100

Goldfish: If you can throw a ball into a cup, you can go home with one or two of these goldfish. An aquarium sits in each of the four corners. I was set up taking a few shots of the fish when a youngster put his hand on the corner of the aquarium, causing the fish to move to the other side. I suspect this happens hundred of times a day. A human element can be a big plus.

Brynn and Her New Fish

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 140 mm, 1/200 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Brynn and Her New Fish: This fish has a proud new owner.

Another Winner

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 140 mm, 1/100 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Another Winner: For a few dollars more, you can go home with a few fish and mini-aquarium.

Carousel and Riders

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 70 mm, 1/400 at f/2.8, Manual Mode, -3 EV,  ISO 100

Brynn and Father: Hard to beat a good ol’ family shot. I was taking artsy photos of the horse’s head while the ride was stopped when the seat filled with a little rider.

Carousel Horse Portrait

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 98 mm, 1/800 at f/3.5, Manual Mode, -3 EV,  ISO 100

Carousel Horse Portrait: This shot was taken when there was still a considerable amount of ambient afternoon light. I dialed in some heavy negative exposure on the camera, then moved the remote strobe relatively close to the head.

Black and White

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 98 mm, 1/800 at f/3.5, Manual Mode, -3 EV,  ISO 100

Black and White: Same shot after processing through NIK Silver Efex in Photoshop.

Fresh Pizza

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 105 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1/3 EV,  ISO 640, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Fresh Pizza: Kayla Perez and Dominic Fraley were working in the Pizza trailer. I asked Kayla if she would hold the next pizza up for me when it came out of the oven. No problem!

Fresh Pizza

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 105 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1/3 EV,  ISO 640, ©2015 Mike R. Jackson, All Rights Reserved

Fresh Pizza: Sometimes, all the bright colors can be distracting. I like this one both ways.

Cliff Hanger Tilted

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 at 50 mm, 1/60 at f/6.3, Aperture priority Mode, 1 EV,  ISO 2000

Cliff Hanger Tilted: Blurs are still good! A tripod is a must for this kind of shot.

Pharoah's Revenge

Shooting Data: NIKON D800, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 at 100 mm, 1/500 at f/2.8, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  ISO 500

Pharoah’s Revenge: There’s a treasure trove of unusual subject matter at the Teton Country Fair right now. It’s a great place to experiment, make mistakes, learn from them, and generally have fun like a little kid. Better yet, there are about five nights, so even if you don’t get what you want one night, you should have second and third chances. If you are shooting in RAW format, you have additional chances to modify the original capture.


(Note: As I post this page, there are still two more nights at the Fair. If I have a chance to go again, I’ll be adding more photos to this page. Check back!)

Here’s a link to last year’s Fair post: Fair Time! Photos from the Teton County Fair.

Please, if you like this post and know others that might want to see it, share it by clicking on any of the Social Media icons.

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Defeated by Cream Puff Peak

Hiking Trail in Mountain Meadow

Distance (one way): 6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Best time of year: Spring, Summer

If the hike hadn’t been as challenging as it was, I might have felt a little demoralized by the name, but summiting Cream Puff Peak does not come easy for anyone, especially once the 6-7 foot wildflowers have grown in. This hike is definitely not for novices or anyone looking for a casual day in the mountains.

After my safe return, I discovered there were two main routes up the peak. I was using a popular guide book by Rebecca Woods called Hiking the Tetons (a mandatory addition for anyone wanting to hike in the area). The trailhead I was directed to was on Bull Creek Road, just west of The Shield (a popular climbing destination) and Granite Hot Springs. As I began hiking, I was thankful I was in long pants. This trail is seldom used so the vegetation along the trail was dense at best, and at least a few feet high. It had also rained the previous day, which meant a lot of the plants were still very wet, soaking my legs as I brushed past them all.

It didn’t take long for the trail to begin gaining significant elevation, at which point I noticed four turkey vultures circling overhead. It was a breezy morning, so assuming they were just enjoying the breeze, I admired them and then moved on. I popped in and out of not-so-dense forests of fir and spruce and even the occasional aspen grove, the latter becoming more frequent as the elevation increased. With the increase in elevation came more and more wildflowers. Duncecap larkspur, mules ear, lupine, and Indian paintbrush carpeted endless meadows on the mountainsides. Views to the south opened up as well with the higher elevations. It was also at this point that I began to notice those same four vultures circling overhead again. I thought it a little peculiar, but then I was distracted by the view of the northern Wyoming Range and continued my climb through the sporadic evergreen and aspen trees.

Aspen Trees and Undergrowth

The trail continued upward, seeming to approach a distant ridge up above as I popped out into another larger meadow about 1.5-2 miles into the trail. As I hiked through the meadow, I noticed a shadow on the ground flying past in the shape of a large bird. I looked up, and again, those same four vultures were circling, now making an occasional pass only about 30 above me. At this point a person’s imagination starts to kick in. Was there a reason I was the only one on the trail and being stalked by vultures? Is there something up ahead that I’d rather not know about? There was only one way to find out. Of course had I been more influenced by bad Hollywood movies, I might have started to wonder if the vultures were well underway in a mental attack on me. Maybe they had learned that with enough persistence, they can cause a human to panic and run and just have that person injure themselves, doing the work for them. Fortunately, I know nature doesn’t reflect idiotic Hollywood movies like The Grey. As I continued on, I told them I was healthy and wasn’t going down, and I never saw them again.

The views to the south only got more and more impressive as the trail ascended through the wildflower meadows, and it didn’t take much longer for views to the east to begin to unfold too. Pinnacle Peak popped out over the eastern ridge with other neighboring peaks, and shortly thereafter, the trail crested a significant ridge where sweeping views to the north were finally revealed. Some of the Gros Ventre Mountains’ finest peaks were showing off in a mesmerizing 360 degree panoramic view.

Hiking Trail in Mountain Meadow

The trail then cut west heading down toward a small evergreen forest, supposedly with a hunting camp on the south side which I wasn’t able to find, or even see. The trail began to descend into the woods, and became somewhat difficult to follow at times. I lost the trail more than once and even became confused by now obsolete forks, until it finally emerged from the forest into a large, open meadow covered in wildflowers that were easily a minimum of five feet high. I followed the trail, thinking my hike was nearing its end with one last climb up the distant ridge, when all of a sudden the trail was gone. It had completely vanished into the overgrown meadow and there was no sign of it. I headed back to the treeline and noticed a fork I hadn’t seen before. I took the new trail, but suffered the same fate. Fortunately, this one of the rare exceptions where I actually brought the guide book with me. I took it out, read about where I was, but still couldn’t make any sense of where I was supposed to go. I had apparently missed my opportunity farther back on the trail to scope out the ridges and meadows to see more accurately where I was supposed to be going. In fact I wasn’t even sure at this point which peak was Cream Puff Peak. There was a distant ridge, and I knew I needed to get on top of it.

I picked the latter fork and headed back into it, determined to get somewhere. My pace slowed to a crawl as the thick plants, all competing to be the tallest, seemed to be grabbing at my legs to hold me back. After only a few dozen yards, I came to a small stream, producing just enough water to refill, had I needed it, but at about 10-15 feet down a small ravine, had produced some steep inclines that made getting down and across a rather tricky task. I worked my way down the bank, slipping a couple of times until I had reached the stream, but I didn’t have time to plan my jump across. I felt my balance give out and so I just made a leap of faith, hoping I wouldn’t land into a stream I couldn’t see. I hit solid ground, got my bearings, and made my way up the steep incline as best as I could.

After bushwhacking for what seemed like miles, I was a couple of hundred yards from the tree line where I lost the trail. Fortunately, I found a game trail (or possibly a rarely-used hiking trail) which made things slightly easier, though the plants still seemed hesitant to see me proceed. I forced my way through the game trail until I realized it was turning toward the opposite direction that I wanted to be going. I could either head off the makeshift trail with no real certainty where I should be heading, or continue up to the next ridge to at least get a better view and get my bearings. The path of least resistance, so to speak, in this case was the latter.

Unnamed Gros Ventre Peak

I reached the ridge and found a very impressive view of a large peak just to the north. I knew it wasn’t Cream Puff Peak, but I was wondering why I wasn’t making my way there in the first place. It was certainly the most impressive looking in my reachable vicinity. I checked the time, and realized I wouldn’t have the time to summit either peak. I needed to be back in the evening and I had already been going for over three hours and 2pm was quickly approaching. I also knew it wouldn’t be easy getting back to the actual trail. I glanced back up at (to my knowledge) the unnamed peak, and regretfully turned around to be sure I’d be back in town when needed. As a not-so-smart compromise, I decided to hike to the other side of the meadow. With uneven terrain, thicker brush, and even more stream crossings, this proved to be one of my poorer decisions. I fell multiple times, tore up my pants, and am pretty sure I got stung by something on my leg. Though it was only 200-300 hundred extra yards or so, it probably ate up at least an extra 30-45 minutes going back the “scenic” way.

Having finally reached the trail again (I was at least smart enough to consistently look back to make sure I’d find it), I was beginning to get very hungry. I had a quick snack, and proceeded back up the trail to the initial ridge that opened up all the views for me. Here I had a (relatively) proper meal, while also getting a much better lay of the land. Now determining where both Cream Puff Peak and the hunting camp were, I had a much better understanding of where I was actually supposed to go, and just how far off the trail I had actually gone. Cream Puff Peak was apparently much farther south than I thought, and the ridge I was going to was too far north. All I could do at this point was to save that valuable information for next time, and enjoy my lunch and the tremendous views that were in front of me before heading back down.

Sage Grouse in Wildflowers

After over six hours on the trail, I saw a whopping total of zero other people. In fact I didn’t see a single other mammal either. There were plenty of signs of deer, elk, and moose, but nothing else, unfortunately. In addition to my stalking vulture friends, there were a few hawks out, and plenty of sage grouse to practically scare me off the trail as they began to fly. You don’t know how startling it is until you’ve experienced it.

So, if you’re looking for some solitude and a good challenge, this one’s definitely worth a shot.

Getting there: From Jackson, take Highway 191/189 south to Hoback Junction. Follow the highway east and into the Hoback Canyon. Continue along the highway for roughly 11 miles and there will be an obscure, unsigned dirt road on the left. If you pass The Shield or the road to Granite Hot Springs, you just missed it. There will be a parking area just up the road, still visible from the highway. Walk up the road a bit more, and a sign marking the trailhead will be visible off the road to the left.

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