Yellowstone and Beyond

Location: Yellowstone National Park, WY

Let's talk about a road trip to Yellowstone National Park, shall we? Recently, Astro Bandit and I took the journey by car from our spot close to Los Angeles, CA.

Along the way we stopped at many locations that I'll go over in this post and perhaps you might use them as an example of how to plan your own road trip!

Stop 1 - Seven Magic Mountains - West of Las Vegas, Nevada.

First stop for us was the 'Seven Magic Mountains' just outside of Las Vegas, NV. There's a sign for it off the 15 freeway and it's a nice little break from the long drive. I've seen this on Instagram before but seeing them IRL up-close-in-person is a different story, they are massive and colorful stacks of boulders that seem to weigh around 10-15 tons each.

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If you look closely, you might see a man sitting between the rocks in the middle stack, this serves as a good sense of scale.

As usual, I brought my light-marker 'Night-Writer' just about everywhere in my pocket at all times.

Stop 2 - Valley of Fire State Park - Overton, Nevada.

We've been to 'Valley of Fire' a few times before and it never gets old, but it gets very hot as the name would suggest! This is a colorful geological marvel shaped by water, wind, and other natural forces occurring over hundreds of millions of years.

Here is a long-exposure creation using a new LED light called a 'Color-Caster' that I am in the process of developing. If there are any electrical / mechanical engineers or students in the audience that are interested in developing this idea, please send me an email! I will definitely need some help getting this design to a manufacturing level down the line.

Stop 3 - Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Utah.

The colors on these mountains were mind-melting, I decided I was going to draw a light unicorn in front of the psychedelic backdrop. I had seen a really cool graphic on a vintage handkerchief earlier in the trip at an antique mall in Las Vegas that came to mind.

Which one do you prefer? Blue Hour or Night Sky?

Here's an iPhone shot of the vintage handkerchief I saw earlier in Las Vegas, it was glorious:

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Goodbye psychedelic hills, until our next Southwest trip.

Stop 4 - Lava Tubes - Utah.

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At this location we hiked into some lava tubes for a bit, the weather was windy up top but rather cool and calm below. All was well until I noticed scurrying insects with every step, these turned out to be spiders, which gave me a shudder thinking about all the holes they could be hiding within the lava-rock. 

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A view from the belly of the beast:

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Stop 5 - Bonneville Salt Flats - Utah.

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When we first arrived at the Bonneville Salt Flats, it was on the trail of a major storm. The wind was very strong and it was raining in the distance. Salt collects all over your car here with the strong winds and moisture in the air.

As we stepped out into the water on the giant salt flat the winds eventually calmed enough for the most spectacular sunset I've ever witnessed.

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After a brief intermission for sunset, the wind picked up like crazy! I had to hold down my tripod for this 2 second shot below:

I went out again one last time when I saw some stars peak out from behind the clouds. It took everything I had (and a wind-breaker) to find the nerve to get out there, the wind doesn't just blow here; it blows through you!

The image above is perhaps the best example of what a 'Night-Writer Kit' can do. For these colorful skeleton characters I am using all of the color-tips that come with the NW kit. The image above took 731 seconds to freehand draw during the light-painted long exposure.

Alternatively, in the image below I am using just one color-tip for the pink dinosaur.

This location was truly epic and I would have stayed there all night if we weren't in such an ambitious state of travel.

Stop 6 - Buffalo Cafe - Twin Falls, ID.

I gotta add in this restaurant we stopped at because it was fantastic, I got 'steak and eggs' but I soon wish I would have gotten the 'Buffalo Chip' because it has basically everything a person eating breakfast could ever want.

There are home-made jams for the biscuits and the coffee is great also. Definitely a must stop when in Twin Falls, ID.

Stop 7 - A Quick Dip - Hot Springs, ID.

It was around 40 degrees outside and raining when we visited these hot springs. Inside, the water was a different story. It was a nice, warm, and relaxing way to break up the long journey we had ahead of us.

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Stop 8 - Yellowstone National Park - WY.

Our first stop when we got close to the park entrance was this historic hotel that was almost certainly haunted or at very least had a long and storied history of human presence within it.

Perhaps Theodore Roosevelt himself once stayed in the room we did, this was one of the oldest hotels in the area. I wonder what the 26th President of the United States would think and have to say about the current state of the nation?

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After we got our digs for the night settled we went straight into Yellowstone National Park for a quick evening trip.

What happened as soon as we entered the park caught us off guard, and as a result, I only have iPhone captures to show for it; the best camera really is the one you have on you.

By the time we got to Grand Prismatic Spring it was raining. The sunset added an eerie pink glow to the steamy environment which smelled of sulfur.

On a positive note, we had the place all to ourselves, which is perhaps more rare than a bison sighting!

The texture of the bacteria colonies surrounding the hot springs gave this area a surreal yet organic quality. As pretty at this place looks, make no mistake it is just as dangerous as it is beautiful.

Check out this list of deaths and injuries that have happened over the parks history and be warned to seriously, stay on the trails.

The crowds in late Spring were significant, we had difficulty finding parking around Grand Prismatic Spring during the day but by and large we found nice, peaceful and secluded places almost everywhere else we visited within the park. 

Stop 9 - Grand Teton National Park - WY.

During mid May (which was when we took this trip), there was still snow at the upper elevations of Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

Below you can see the views we were greeted with when they first opened the roads for the Summer season between the two national parks.

Stop 10 - Castle Rock Campground, UT.

Next stop for us after a considerably long drive from our pizza dinner in Jackson Hole Wyoming was a unique geological formation in Utah that is a campground called 'Castle Rock'.

It was around 2am when we showed up and the Milky Way core was visible for the first (and last) time during the trip. I climbed through some brush to get to the base of these cliffs and took my Color-Caster out for a spin before collapsing into a deep sleep.

Here are some of the color tests using 'Color-Caster' on the landscape:

Hope you enjoyed this post and find it useful in your future travels, stay bright!