Thursday, July 30, 2015


Family Vacation with a 15 mile hike!

     I have been wanting to return to photograph Union falls at the bottom west corner of Yellowstone national park. Everything I have read says that it's sixteen miles, however according to my Garmin GPS it was a 15.2 mile round trip and we accomplished it in just under seven hours. My Son and I arrived at the Grassy Lake trail head after a long hour and half drive from Ashton, Idaho. The majority of the road is dirt and some of it is very rough, making it necessary to drive slowly! No permit is necessary according to the nice Ranger I spoke with at the park headquarters the day before, unless you plan on staying overnight. Our plan was a quick hike in to take pictures and maybe swim in the hot pools near the falls. The sun was out when we arrived so we had high hopes of a nice hike.

     My first trip was four years prior and at the time I had just recently picked up photography and was stuck in auto mode. This time however, I had a plan to do a few long exposures and bring out the true beauty of the nearly three hundred foot waterfall, and if my memory serves me right, is the second largest waterfall in Yellowstone. It was eight thirty when we started our hike and a quick quarter mile hike to the park boundary. The trail starts off level and has a few ups and downs before reaching the Falls river a mile in, at this point you are required to ford the river to continue on and follow the Mountain ash creek trail. About five miles later you reach the junction to the Union Falls trail while passing a really cool old Patrol cabin. I made to mistake of believing it was a great idea to hold off taking picture until I was on my way out. This turn out to be a bad idea as I'll explain later on. We arrived at Union falls overlook at about ten minutes to noon; not too bad of a hike of seven plus miles, even with the switch backs right before reaching the falls!

     As you can see it is quite the sight to behold and below is one of the original photographs I took almost four years to the day. Of course this was taken in auto, long before I even understood how to take it out of that mode, let a lone, knowing what a neutral destiny filters, aperture, and shutter speed! As you can see in the below picture, there was quite a bit more water four years ago including the sun!

     After finishing our packed lunch and taking the pictures I wanted, the skies began to dump all of the rain they contained. My plan was to take all those shots I skipped, as we headed out. Well, when you have heavy rain, hail, and howling wind, taking pictures is the last thing on your mind. So we boogied back down the trail as fast as we dared, trying not to burning ourselves out. Here is the cabin I mentioned above taken on my first trip. It looked exactly the same other than the lack of sun and presence of mud, I assume that it still in use and makes a great place to take a breather for the Rangers.

          We made it back to my truck just before three thirty, after leaving the falls at twelve fifty. We covered over seven and a half miles in less than three hours. We were moving so fast the mud flying from the bottom of our boots was caked on our pants. of course, the rain stopped right after reaching the truck. After wringing ourselves out, we began the long muddy drive back to camp. I would have rather seen the sun on the hike and maybe a little more water volume to the falls, but it was still worth the trip in to see Union falls, despite the long miles. Not sure I would like to stay in a high traffic bear area overnight, even with bear spray. Ironically, even with the threat of running into a bear, I was more worried about the long miles. Thankfully, this treasure is far away from the nearest road and should stay pristine for future generations. There are quite a few waterfalls in the same area, however they will have to wait until next time to get their picture taken!

     Since we were in Yellowstone, we did manager to spend a little time in the main areas of the park and I took quite a few pictures. so enjoy!

     Lewis Falls.

     Old Faithfull area.

     The only ferocious animals we encountered!

     Gibbon Falls.

     Elk at the park headquarters.

     Tower falls.

     Not sure the name of this one, I found it on the trail to check out Upper falls, however the trail was closed due to unsafe conditions, not sure what they considered unsafe. There were quite a few trails closed through out the park.

     The brink of Lower falls.

     Lower falls.

     We spent two days checking out the park and other than one Bison, a few elk at the headquarters, and the close call with the chipmunks. We didn't see any other animals, maybe they were closed due to unsafe conditions. On the last day left Ashton and we stopped by upper and lower Mesa falls, since they are absolutely beautiful, before hitting the park one more time.

     We took the scenic route through the park and out the south entrance thought Grand Teton. Along the way we stopped by Schwabacher's landing to use the rest room and saw this little family.

     One last picture before hitting the road!