In Between Days

7/2/18 Monday

It got pretty cold last night, but I was happy I’d stayed pretty warm.  I got up early and snuck out to the highway, heading back into Jackson to do some errands before getting back on the road.  I found a laundromat with Wifi, which was awesome.  Got groceries and propane and a few other tidbits, then got on the road.  I noticed a pretty high number of grumpy-ass drivers in this town.  I’d imagine locals get pretty annoyed at all the tourists clogging streets and sidewalks, but damn.  Some grumpy motherfuckers.

I struck off towards Bozeman with plan to drive through Yellowstone.  I’d debated about that move, knowing the roads would be clogged full of tourists and did I really want to deal with that?  I decided I’d feel stupid being so close and not visiting, so on I went.  I soon regretted it, because due to my not paying attention, I paid $35 to go through Grand Teton National Forest thinking it was Yellowstone, then go to the gate of Yellowstone and had to pay another $35.  Duh.  Then there was the traffic.  And the tourists.  I made a couple quick stops to check out some of the geysers and a lake, but that was about all I could handle.  Just before leaving the west entrance I found a quiet pulloff next to a small river and decided it was time to “shower”.  It was awesome, and getting into the cold mountain water was invigorating.  Felt good to get some of the grime off too. 

 My "shower"

My "shower"

I drove down the highway, down winding roads in deep valleys lined by thick forest, past Big Sky and through the Galatin National Forest during a torrential downpour.  The air was warm and smelled sweetly of pine and wet dirt, so kept my window down despite the rain.  I arrived in Bozeman around 6:00, took a short walk around downtown, then drove around trying to find a place to park and cook some dinner.  The section of town I’m guessing is the old town is full of grand 19th century homes and rolling, green lawns.  A few blocks past those homes things start looking pretty janky pretty quick. There are a lot of cookie-cutter neighborhoods on the outskirt I drove through, and back towards the north end of downtown is Montana State University housing.  I found a nook to park in and make dinner, then noticed I was situated right next to a beautiful park just uphill from me.  I drove up and found the town cemetery, as well as a gorgeous park with rolling hills, perfectly manicured lawn, towering trees and tastefully placed benches.  I walked up the hill to the cemetery and wandered the rows of headstones placed amongst the trees, enjoying the fact that I was the only soul there. 

I decided to stay in town tonight, not really wanting to get back on the road and knowing I could get some work done in the morning if I found a café.  I cruised around and found a little park on a quiet street, and that was where I rested for the night.

7/3/18 Tuesday

Well, I did just what I’d planned to do the night before.  Got up early and walked a few blocks to a nice little café and spent the entire morning working and getting blasted on coffee.  Cruised outta there a bit before noon and made myself a sandwich in the van before getting back on the road.  Pointed my nose towards Helena, which was only an hour or so away. 

I parked and walked around downtown Helena, checking out a few shops and getting a feel for the place.  People were nice, but there weren’t many of them out on the street for it being midday on a Tuesday and all. 

Got back in the van & decided to check out the Helena National Forest and maybe spend the night there.  Not knowing jack shit about the place, I followed my maps directions to the forest entrance, then started heading up a road that sure didn’t look like an entrance to the forest, but there was a little sign there so I continued.  The road quickly turned to dirt and curled through a couple small enclaves of houses that looked old and weather-worn, like they’ve endured dozens of frigid Montana winters.  I had to wonder if people lived in those spots year round or if they’re just summer places. 

The road got steeper and rougher and as I passed a driveway here and there, most leading to small homesteads visible from the road through the thick trees.  Reminded me of mining cabins. I couldn’t help feeling like I was trespassing, though.  I know how hill people feel about strangers randomly bumbling down their roads and I hoped no one would get annoyed by my presence.  The van faithfully crept up the road, rocking back and forth, clanging all my belongings around and depositing some on the floor after particularly deep potholes.  I finally hit a “road closed” sign that I’m sure a neighbor put up just to keep people like me from driving past their house.  I turned around and ambled back down the mountain, back onto the pavement, then rolled the dice on another National Forest road that said it lead to some lake.

This road was a bit easier, but stretched on for many miles up and around mountains that looked like they’d endured a huge fire not long ago.  There weren’t many places to pull out and camp, so I kept on, hoping to find the right spot.  I went a long, long way.  Got to the top of the mountain and came across a sign marking the Continental Divide trail that I imagine runs along the ridges of those mountain ranges.  The road continued down the other side, but was clearly in super shitty condition, only usable by high-clearance 4wd vehicles.  It was cold and windy up there too, so my option was to turn around. 

I walked around to stretch my legs and take a few photos, and a young couple in a truck pulled up to ask me about where the road lead to.  I admitted my ignorance, explaining I was just cruising around looking for a place to park.  They said they were just cruising too, and said if I didn’t find a spot up there I should go to the campground they’re staying at a few miles away.  Right then, that sounded appealing. We parted ways and I found another road to explore, but I was overcome with the feeling that I was way too far out on this mountaintop, and at that very moment it made me uncomfortable.  Nervous, even.  Sometimes that happens, me thinking I want to be as far away from other humans as I can be, then kinda freaking out and not wanting to be THAT far away from other humans.

Back down the mountain I went, and once back on pavement I came to a little campground next to a rushing creek.  It was only $5 a night and there was a nice space waiting for me, so I said fuck it.  Settled in for the evening, cooking some dinner and enjoying a book before doing some more photo editing and putty my ass to bed.

 

Fire In the Mountains

6/30/18 Saturday

Woke to find it rained heavily last night, and the steep driveway leading into the festival grounds was a slick of mud, not allowing anyone to get up or down without a heavy duty 4wd vehicle.  Made me worry about more rain and potentially getting stuck here.  Eventually I clomped my way over to the campgrounds to take some photos and saw some sadly soggy people and tents.  But at least the morning was magnificent and sunny, even though it was still pretty cold out.  Spent the morning wandering and taking photos, chatting with a few people, and editing photos from yesterday.  Around 2:00 they started serving their farm-to-festival meal, and I was stoked to find that media and bands ate for free.  It was pretty frickin’ good too.  Music was due to start at 4:00, and the crew had still been trying to finish building the stage all morning.  Not sure why they didn’t do it yesterday, but whatever. 

 Aerial Ruin

Aerial Ruin

Things started a little late, and the show opener was my old friend and former Epidemic bandmate, Erik Moggridge, who performs as Aerial Ruin.  It’s mournful acoustic music, with layered vocals that bring to mind monastic chanting and mideval hymns.  With the Tetons in the background and a cool breeze blowing over the assembled audience, it was quite a beautiful moment.  There were a slew of Black/Doom/Whatever metal bands playing throughout the day, and though sometimes they can be interesting to photograph (sometimes they’re boring as shit to photograph), the music does absolutely nothing for me.  I wandered back and forth from the van to the stage throughout the day, feeling grateful I had homebase so close by.  I wish I’d had a pedometer running today, because I probably walked a dozen miles between the ranch (where I had a little cell reception), the stage and the van. 

The evening culminated with my longtime favorites Wovenhand, playing just as the sun dipped behind the western hills (if only they’d started 30 minutes sooner the lighting would have been perfect).  David Eugene Edwards is mesmerizing to watch, and his performances are never, ever faked.  His music took a stylistic shift a few years back, going from  a beautiful and melancholic goth-folk to driving hard rock, and I hate to say it but I can’t connect with the new music at all. His older work lives in my bones and has been the soundtrack to the last 20 years of my life, but I suppose that musical era is over now.  I appreciate his sticking to his creative drive and doing what feels good, but I’m a bit sad that his new stuff doesn’t move me.

As it got dark, the cold settled in and I retreated to the van, the heater, and a good book. 

 

7/1/18 Sunday

I was awakened at 1 AM to someone knocking on the van door.  I didn’t answer it, feeling a bit freaked out and not knowing who the hell would be knocking on my door.  The cops would have identified themselves, but all I saw was a flashlight beam bouncing off the windshield and two male voices talking.  Probably just drunk assholes.

Woke to a grey, quiet morning feeling pretty burnt out and not that excited about spending another day watching bands I don’t give a shit about.  There wasn’t anyone on the bill today that I felt psyched to watch.  After breakfast I took a walk up to the lodge to get some cell service and check texts/emails, then back to the van to edit photos from yesterday.  What I really wanted was a goddamn shower, seeing as I haven’t had one since Monday.  It’s not a huge deal, as I’m not much of a sweater and don’t really stink ever, plus the weather has been on the cold side which is helpful.  Unfortunately, there aren’t any facilities available to non-ranch guests, so I’m gonna have to figure something else out. Maybe actually have to shell out cash for a real campground with real showers.  Yuck. 

Early afternoon they fired up the farm-to-festival food situation, and again it was really good.  Got to spend some time hanging out with Erik and catching up some, then the Black Metal resumed.  There was actually a country-metal band who were interesting, but that was about it. I feel kinda bad I’m not a bigger fan of this particular brand of metal, but oh well. 

Just before the last band started I had a guy come up to me and ask me if I was Bobby.  When I responded I was indeed Bobby, he replied that he’s inspired by the photography work I do and he has to try hard to not copy my style.  It was an incredibly wonderful thing to hear, to know that other photographers appreciate what I do and find inspiration in it.  Panopticon was the last band, and the audience was pumped to see them.  The sun finally went down behind the mountain and the mosquitoes came out in full force, but didn’t last for long because it soon got pretty damn cold.  Just as the band started their last song, a bonfire was lit in the middle of the field and people swarmed around quickly, warming themselves and soaking up the undeniable pagan vibe.  Pretty spectacular.  I decided it was a good time to wrap up the evening and headed back to the van for some food before snuggling up into bed.

 Panopticon

Panopticon

Wyoming & Heart Six Ranch

6/29/18

Slept in sweet silence that only the wilderness can provide and woke feeling refreshed.  Awoke to find I’d camped in a spot with a sweeping view of the Tetons on one side and forested mountains on the other.  It was windy and much colder out than I’ve experienced in weeks (months?), so I put on my warm weather clothes and ran up a nearby hill to make some photos of the stunning scenery.  After breakfast and coffee, I decided I needed to drive to the top of the hill to see what Jeremy was talking about.  The van demanded I drive at a snail-like pace due to the ruts and boulders and potholes that crowded the road, but I was rewarded with a most spectacular view.  Spent a good, long time soaking it in, making some photos, and just enjoying the silence. 

I spent some time walking up the steeper roads and trails, wanting to explore the mountains and get back into the wilderness, but I’m not physically able to do that yet.  My Lyme disease (and other complications) provide me with quite small and inconsistent amounts of physical energy, and I’m just not able to hike.  This made me sad, but it could always be worse.

I slowly ambled back down the mountain and into town in search of a place to get online and some chow.  Midday Friday in Jackson is a clusterfuck of tourists, filling sidewalks and jamming roads with massive RVs and utility vehicles.  Downtown is a mass of tourist shops hocking old west curios and souvenirs, expensive jewelry and jewel encrusted clothing with a smattering of shops catering to the many outdoor activities this area has to offer.  The cafes in town were jam-packed so I let go of the idea of getting online and went in search of a good burger.  Found one, stuffed my face, then took a short walk around town. The town square has four identical arches about 20 feet tall and placed in each corner, made solely of elk antlers.  This reminds me of the old photographs I’ve seen of buffalo skulls piled in massive pyramids, a testament to the wholesale slaughter of the herds that used to roam unimpeded across the plains.  Again, my disdain and resentment of white settlers and the mindless destruction left in their wake filled me with sadness.  I had to laugh at the busloads of tourists who swarmed and jostled for photo ops in front of the arches, determined to photograph as much as humanly possible in a short amount of time. 

I went back to the van to edit some photos and take a nap, then drove the 45 minutes to Heart Six Ranch where the Fire In The Mountains festival was to be held.  Massive rainstorms dumped on the surrounding mountains and scattered showers across the valley and I couldn’t help but wonder how this rain was going to affect things on the ranch.  I arrived and attempted to find Jeremy to figure out my parking spot for the weekend, and once I did I was slightly dismayed to find my options were not as I’d expected.  It was also obvious that there was a lack of organization and people-power to help guide arriving attendees to their camping and parking areas.  I’m glad I had my self-sufficient little unit to stay in, even though I didn’t know where I’d end up parking.  I lingered as the day wore on, watching people hump their camping gear up a significant hill, only to have to park their cars a half-mile away at the event grounds.  To travel between camping and music, you have to hike 20 minutes across a muddy field.  Made me glad I wasn’t camping. 

The rain cleared as the afternoon turned to evening, and the sunset was spectacular.  The weekend kickoff was an acoustic performance by Austin Lunn, the founder of the pagan/black metal band Panopticon.  He’s a humble and amicable guy, and he laughed and joked with attendees as they circled up around a campfire to listen to him play some country classics and original folk songs.  It warmed my heart to see all the metalheads sitting quietly and thoroughly enjoying the intimate performance.  

I took a moment to grab my van and drive it down to the performance grounds, where I figured it would be flat and close enough to all the activities to not require I hike a great deal.  As I made my way back to the campfire I ran into the members of Wovenhand, a band I’ve loved for years and the headliner of tomorrow’s show.  I’d met the guitar player Chuck a handful of times so we chatted a bit.  I met David Eugene Edwards, the singer/songwriter/bandleader whose music I’ve long admired for the last 20 years.  I wanted to gush like a teenage fanboy about how much his music has meant to me over the years, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself nor lose the professional decorum I need to maintain as a photographer.  Maybe at some point I’ll be able to convey to him the effect his music has had on my life, but maybe I’ll just have to keep that to myself. 

As the sun went down, I retreated to the van for some dinner and more photo editing, enjoying the comfy warmth as the air cooled rapidly outside.  I even had to break out my propane heater for a bit, which I haven’t had to do since early April.  I hoped to be able to take some long-exposure nighttime shots, but the moon is almost full and rose so bright it almost looked like daytime.  Fun to do anyway.  Off to bed.

Heading East

6/27/18 Wednesday

Up bright and early today, managed to eat and get myself on the road by 6:30.  Drove through a part of Lake County that’s on fire, and can’t stop thinking this is how it’s gonna be from now on.  Fires all summer long.  Headed up the 5 to Redding, then cut over the 299.  There’s nothing about the landscape in that part of California that interests me, so I never photograph it.  Maybe I should just so people who’ve never been can know how completely uninteresting it is. 

As I got deeper into Shasta County, then Modoc County, I drove through tiny hamlets that for all intents and purposes, look like ghost towns.  There are the little farm towns, and the little towns that must be there for a reason but that reason was probably forgotten long ago, and the sporadic homesteads.  There are abandoned farms, decaying bridges, railroad tracks overgrown with weeds, and long stretches of highway bisecting them.  I kept telling myself to stop at one of these places to make some abandoned building porn, but I had to make miles today and didn’t have time to snoop around.

I drove past a huge lake that looks manmade, but I can’t tell. It was kinda pretty though. I passed from California into Oregon, winding down a long stretch of highway (The Great Basin?) that looked eerily like Nevada… places where the highway pointed arrow-straight across long valleys, nothing but scrub brush, dust and hills off in the hazy distance, hot.  I guess as the crow flies I wasn’t that far away from Nevada… maybe about 100 miles?  Well, climates don’t give a shit about state lines anyway.   

I had a worrisome dash light come on (not out in the desert, please!), so I pulled over and looked it up in my book, then called my mechanic.  He said it might be nothing, but it might be my oil pump malfunctioning.  I’ll just have to spend the next however many hours driving with the paranoia that I might have to stop driving and have the van towed to Boise, about 140 miles away.  That would suck.  I drove on and the light never came back on, but I abandoned my plan to drive 20 miles off the highway to camp at a lake tonight, just in case. 

I pulled off the highway on a little dirt road that wound alongside a river (the Ogden?), took a walk around trying to find a place where the river was accessible through the weeds and rocks that lined the bank.  Finally did and gave myself a good splash-off to get rid of the sweat and grime from the day.  Did I mention it’s hot here?  It’s probably in the mid 80’s at 9 PM.  Luckily Wyoming will be cooler. 

I made myself some dinner and took a walk, realizing there are some hot springs nearby.  Do I want to sit in hot springs?  Nope.  There are some people there too, and I’m not in the mood.  I’m parked just off the road that leads to the hot springs, so I’ve had a couple cars drive by and stare into my open door which makes me feel oddly exposed.  But I imagine there won’t be many more, so I’m probably OK.

The plan tomorrow is to top in Boise and find a European car mechanic to run a diagnostic on the van to make sure I don’t have some bomb waiting to explode under the hood.  I’ve got too much good shit going on to be waylaid by car problems.