Self-Portrait

I must pack my short life full of interesting events and creative activity. Philosophy and aesthetic contemplation are not enough. I intend to do everything possible to broaden my experiences and allow myself to reach the fullest development. Then, and before physical deterioration obtrudes, I shall go on some last wilderness trip, to a place I have known and loved. I shall not return. 

~ Everett Ruess, letter dated May 2, 1931

Cimarron National Grassland, Kansas

(Much more on Everett coming up in next Sunday’s post…)

Loretta

Oh, sweetest at the break of day
Prettiest in the setting sun
She don’t cry when I can’t stay
At least not till she’s all alone
Loretta, I won’t be gone long
Keep your dancing slippers on
Keep me on your mind a while
I’m coming home, I’m coming home

Loretta” by Townes Van Zandt

Kodak Portra 160 35mm film

(This print and many others are available at gallery.ridingwithcarl.com.)

Pause

Since 2015, my road excursions have felt a little off as compared to adventures of years past…like some spark has been extinguished. I’m confident that this is due to the time and mental energy consumed each night by sorting through photos and connecting (or trying to connect) to internet. In the old days, I would wait until I had returned home before editing and sharing my pictures.

After a long day of driving, hiking and exploration, it’s good to wind down by doing nothing more demanding than staring at the night sky. So, I plan to be offline for the next few weeks. Rest assured that I’ll return with plenty of new photos from the road.

Enjoy the month of May, everyone!

The Great Trout Creek Adventure

Many of our photos from the Buffalo Peaks Ranch, like this one, offer a glimpse of Reinecker Ridge across the valley to the east. Through the middle of the valley, Trout Creek runs southward to join the South Platte River a short distance from here. Since I did not get to explore the eastern section of the ranch during my 2015 visit, Jay and I thought we should head out there and get some photos of the property from a new angle. Leaving Sarah behind to study the buildings in greater detail, we shouldered our cameras and marched off across the valley floor.

I certainly want to look back at the ranch from the top of this ridge someday, and I’d love to get there by hiking eastward through the valley. However, I was pretty sure we were not going to cover that distance on this particular trek. Experience has taught me that when you are traveling under the big skies out west, large landmarks are, in reality, much farther away than they appear. Consider this more of a scouting mission.

We were really enjoying the silence and the openness of this big, beautiful space. Through the final fence, the grass became taller…and taller again as we reached the center of the valley, where the creek was keeping the soil moist. At this point, the hike jumped several points in degree of difficulty, as we discovered that Trout Creek is surrounded by a braided network of small channels, carved out over the years by the caprices of the flowing water. The tall grass hid these rivulets from our view, so each step forward was a new adventure; would my next stride place me on firm ground at my current level, or would I plunge twenty inches deeper into a pocket of mud?

Laughing and cursing loudly, we hobbled a few steps closer to the main channel and immortalized our heroic journey with these photos. We knew that this would be the apogee of our excursion, and we both felt lucky that neither of us had broken an ankle or blown a knee up to this point. We turned back to the west and started for home, taking in this view as a low, light rain settled over the ranch…

 

Where the Trails Don’t Go

The opportunity to roam freely in the wilderness is, unfortunately, a rare occurrence is this country. One is usually relegated to established trails in established parks, and to sharing those trails with other visitors. That takes a lot of the “wild” out of the experience. But once in a while, I get lucky enough to meet a landowner who will let me wander across his property to enjoy the unspoiled scenery and genuine silence. That happened this week in eastern Montana. Here are a few images from that excursion…

I love it when the evening sunlight finds that one special pine cone…