What can I say, it was quite a week!
I could write a whole post about waterfalls. Yellowstone is full of glorious waterfalls. Some of them are off the common thoroughfares, and I bet a lot of tourists never see the most beautiful. We likely missed most of them, but we did take a side-road one day, and ended up seeing the prettiest little waterfall nestled in a canyon beside the road.
I tried and tried to capture it, but it was one of those things- a photographer’s foil. And I’m not upset, because there’s beauty in this world you just can’t take with you. The pictures are a flat, two dimensional representation of a breathtaking place. The pictures won’t sing to you or convey the quality of shade or the cool of the air rising up from where the water splashed down. This is a spot you’d have to see, and I’m not entirely sure where it is.
That wasn’t the only waterfall, though. A Yellowstone writer whose resource page linked to my travel post wrote a philosophical musing on the nature of waterfalls. The subject of his article was Union Falls, which is deep in the back country, and rarely seen. We did see some of the famous falls- Tower Falls, and the Upper and Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We even took the steep, 328 step hike called ‘Uncle Tom’s Trail’, to the bottom level of the massive Lower Falls. The descent made my knees weak, but I’m glad we saw the power and beauty of it that close up.
And if I couldn’t capture the waterfall, at least I captured a rainbow.
Heh. The landscape of Yellowstone- the brown hills and jagged canyons, are either something your eyes love or something your eyes grow tired of. My eyes kinda ate up the land. When we went to Jackson Hole, we had that perfect experience of the Tetons that I guess you can’t have again, once you’re expecting it. You’re driving along, probably right under the mountains skirt, and then the road circles out along the edge of water, and you’re suddenly blinking up, discovering the mountains as they rise straight from the sparkling lake.
Again, I’m a disappointed photographer. With my point and shoot, no number of angles could help me Ansel Adams out a fantastic Tetons shot. They are always hazed in the background. My camera would not and could not believe that the distant mountains could be the sought after subject.
But it’s been done. I can convey their shape if not their grandeur.
In Jackson we did touristy sorts of things: Browsed the shops, ate more ice-cream, took a whitewater rafting trip. I was worried about that, but our guide was skilled, and other than a couple volatile spots, it was a surprisingly peaceful trip. In fact, the rapid bits were fun. I could actually have gone for a more volatile ride, save for the fact that Sierra was along, and I prefer her on solid ground.
The other stand-out in Jackson was visiting the National Museum of Wildlife Art, up on the bluff. This museum is across from the National Elk Refuge where some 5,000 elk will winter over. The building is built to blend into its surroundings, so it looks like a low, earth-toned castle, kinda.
I really liked it there. Though small, it is a serious museum with works from Picasso to Rosseau- and all the subjects of the art are wildlife.
They were featuring an artist in their two main galleries named Robert Bateman. I have never heard of him before, but I will look out for him now. The more I learned, the more I liked. Many of his paintings are crazy real-looking animal works. But he has other art, too. Experimental environmental pieces, oils and rough line drawings that express tremendous versatility.
My favorite was a picture that employed the particular violet blue you see at the zenith of dusk. (Robin captured that color in her yellow moon picture). A moon hangs high in the sky, and beneath it birds are doing a dizzying, aerial display. And down, down on the ground is a dilapidated train, a circus train in ill-repair with Barnum’s infamous claim, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth!’.
It is clear from the observer’s viewpoint just which show, the natural or the man-made, the artist feels is the truly great one.
I was thrilled to later recognize an enormous Bison-head print in The Mammoth Hotel map room, and point out to my party that it was ‘A Bateman’.
The National Museum of Wildlife also had an amazing children’s section, with a reading room and a dress up space with trees and background and cut-outs to play pretend, and a discovery room where children could practice art the way artists do, or try out japanese picture writing, or study the difference between the eye and bill sizes of wildlife creatures. I highly recommend the National Museum of Wildlife Art to anyone.
I’ll close this post with a thought from Langford. I’ve jabbed a good while.
” I hardly know where to commence in making a clear record of what is at this moment floating past my mental vision. I cannot confine myself to a bare description of the falls of the Yellowstone alone, for these two great cataracts are but one feature in a scene composed of so many of the elements of grandeur and sublimity, that I almost despair of giving to those who on our return home will listen to a recital of our adventures, the faintest conception of it. The immense cañon or gorge of rocks through which the river descends, perhaps more than the falls, is calculated to fill the observer with feelings of mingled awe and terror.”
-Nathaniel Pitt Langford of the Washburn Expedition, August 31, 1870