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.