Yellowstone, Idaho, and Oregon Coast Trip
July 24 to August 9, 2014

I did a very thorough job of photographing Yellowstone National Park back in June 2000, my first year using a digital camera for panoramas. Unfortunately, those panoramas just don't meet my standards any more - resolution is marginal, the color is never quite right, and the vertical field of view is limited (the geometry is cylindrical rather than spherical).

I set out to re-photograph this northwest corner of Wyoming last summer, early July 2013, and got as far as the Grand Tetons, but then stupidly ventured into Yellowstone on the 4th of July weekend. It was so mobbed I couldn't camp, or park, or even pull over at any of the viewpoints. So I moved on, to the Dakotas and Saskatchewan.

I did better this year. The campgrounds were full but I camped just outside the park each night, only a minor inconvenience. There was rain almost every afternoon, and one entire day, but that is to be expected in the Rockies. On the way to Yellowstone I revisited southeast Idaho, and on the way back crossed northern Idaho. At the end of the trip I enjoyed some beautiful weather on the Oregon coast.

The Yellowstone panoramas on my website are now a mix of old and new, the difference painfully obvious to me. Maybe next year I will swing by and update a few more.

(Click any picture to open a larger version.)

July 23, 2014

This trip started with a leisurely afternoon drive across the Sierra to the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, just north of Reno.

Pyramid Lake is beautiful but relatively unknown and under-appreciated, which keeps it unspoiled.

July 24, 2014

I took my time getting out of camp in the morning, cruised across Nevada on I-80 as far as Wells, then north to Jackpot at the Idaho state line.

As I travel I am aware of all those who have gone before me, of their routes and their landmarks. This subtle token of the Lincoln Highway, the first to stretch all the way across the country, is typical.

An unusual camping choice for me - the RV park run by Cactus Pete's Casino in Jackpot.

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Panoramas of Pyramid Lake

Panoramas of Wells and Jackpot, Nevada

July 25, 2014

Another relaxed day, I used the interstates to get to Pocatello in the southeast corner of Idaho, then explored around a bit on back roads. I was heading for Soda Springs but did not quite make it before dark.

A milestone of sorts, my odometer passed 50,000 miles near Idaho Falls. All but a few hundred of those were miles travelling with the pop-up camper, and in less than two years.

Red Rock Pass is where vast Lake Bonneville, ice-age predecessor of today's Great Salt Lake, overflowed to form a major tributary of the ancestral Snake River.

A "sportsmen's access" sign led me down to the shore of tiny Oxford Lake. It wasn't a campground - but it didn't say "no camping". So nice to have a self-sufficient camper.

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Panoramas of Red Rock Pass and the Bannock Range, Idaho

July 26, 2014

More back roads brought me up the Bear River Valley to Soda Springs. An interesting area, historically and geologically, which I first documented with panoramas fourteen years ago. Good weather and a relaxed schedule allowed me to update them.

The rich irrigated farmlands of the Bear River Valley date from pioneering efforts to divert the river, including this concrete arch bridge and tunnel built in 1916.

The carbonated springs and rich pastures at Soda Springs were a popular rest stop on the Oregon Trail. This geyser was accidentally man-made in the 1920's while drilling for hot spring water. It erupts every hour, on the hour, and has built a large travertine terrace.

There are lots of camping possibilities in the mountainous parts of Idaho. The only problem here was the kids riding noisy motorbikes and ATV's around the campground all evening.

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Panoramas of the Bear River Valley, Idaho

Panoramas of Soda Springs, Idaho

Panoramas of Formation Springs Reserve, near Soda Springs

July 27, 2014

There is a great distant view of the west side of the Teton Range from the Teton Basin in Idaho, and I discovered that there was a road leading up the ridge to a ski resort. Unfortunately only the ski lifts crest the ridge and afford a view to the east. Clouds were building rapidly, so I put Grand Targhee on my list to come back to another day, and camped in the valley below.

West side of the Tetons from just north of Driggs, Idaho.

A beautiful campground in the glacially carved Teton Canyon. It never did rain.

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Panoramas of the Teton Basin in Idaho

July 28-29, 2014

Upper Mesa Falls is a spectacular waterfall on the Henrys Fork of the Snake River. The sky was overcast, so no rainbows, and by early afternoon there was thunder and hints of rain.

The Forest Service has built a remarkable network of viewpoints and catwalks at Upper Mesa Falls.

I hurried to the park entrance at West Yellowstone only to find that there was no hope for camping in the national park.

Just skip to the bottom line - "All lodging and accommodations are full". I should have known.

I went back into town and stocked up on groceries, then made an early camp at the Forest Service campground north of town. I was positioning myself for an early start into the park the next day, but it rained from mid-afternoon until late at night, and again most of the next day, so I just stayed put for a second night.

I was once again very grateful to have a warm dry camper with electricity and light.

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Panoramas of Henrys Fork and Mesa Falls

Panoramas of the Madison River

July 30, 2014

My first stop in Yellowstone was the Middle Geyser Basin, and it was not a good beginning.

The entry road to Middle Geyser Basin was jammed up with a line of cars inching along, waiting for people to leave. But after ten minutes of frustration I got a place to park.

There was smoke from distant wildfires in the air and the light had a funny orange cast to it, which annoyed me. But once I started shooting I began to enjoy it, not so much the natural wonders as the human spectacle of this world famous destination.

The challenge here, and almost everywhere in Yellowstone over the next three days, was how to cope with the constantly moving people all around me, individuals and groups, slow seniors and hyperactive kids, stopping for selfies or to photograph each other in front of the famous sights. I had to capture six shots around in a circle that would neither repeat people, nor capture only parts of them. I got pretty good at it, and with lots of duplicate shots and careful masking in the stitching phase, I think my panoramas convey the reality of summer crowds in Yellowstone pretty well.

This is one of my favorite people pictures in Yellowstone, two fashionable young ladies taking turns photographing each other on the boardwalk at the Great Prismatic Spring.

Camping in Yellowstone was out of the question, but the previous year a ranger had tipped me to this tiny campground just off the Rockefeller Parkway - not well signed, up an unpaved road, and with conspicuous grizzly bear warnings.

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Panoramas of Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park

Panoramas of Geyser Hill, Yellowstone

Panoramas of Old Faithful

July 31, 2014

I re-entered Yellowstone from the south, so the first major attraction I reached was West Thumb Geyser Basin. From there I circled the west side of the lake up to the Yellowstone Lake Hotel and Fishing Bridge. It clouded over and rained a bit, then cleared. I eventually exited the park at its northeast corner, into Montana.

West Thumb Geyser Basin was a major destination a century ago, but the geothermal sites have cooled and lost some of their drama. The light was good, it wasn't too crowded, and the hot pools and lake views were great.

That afternoon I practiced my crowd photography techniques again at Artist Point. At one point I counted 128 people at this viewpoint, but with careful photography and editing I managed to reduce it to a dozen or so.

In late afternoon I drove northeast through the rolling landscape and notable bison herds of the Lamar Valley. My favorite shot of the trip was a pleasant surprise. In an effort to get away from the crowds and obtain a 360° panorama without an obvious road in it, I parked where there was only room for one vehicle, then hiked a short distance away over a hilltop, in an area known as Pleasant Valley. When I looked down the other side of the knoll I saw a small herd of bison (buffalo).

For just long enough to take a panorama I was the only one there to see them - it was my own personal buffalo herd.

The small herd of bison kept moving until they were right by the road, where they created an instant traffic jam.

Although the native bison of Yellowstone were reduced to a mere 23 individuals by the end of the 19th century, it has rebounded. Here in the Lamar Valley I estimated that maybe a thousand bison were in view at one time.

The campgrounds around Cooke City and Colter Pass are prominently signed for grizzly danger, which may explain why they were almost empty.

I wondered why there were floodlights on the campground restroom buildings, then realized that they were aimed at the garbage cans. Wouldn't want to run into a bear in the dark on the way to the bathroom!

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Panoramas of West Thumb Geyser Basin

Panoramas of Yellowstone Lake

Panoramas of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Panoramas of the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park

August 1, 2014

There were clear skies as I retraced my route through Cooke City and the Lamar Valley into the heart of the Yellowstone National Park. I shot panoramas from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, and hiked down to two waterfall viewpoints. The light was perfect and the crowds manageable.

There are thrilling viewpoints right at the brink of both Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls.

The road over Dunraven Pass from Yellowstone Lake to the northern parts of the park offers inspiring views of grassy valleys and ridges.

To camp I had to leave the park, as usual, and ended up at Eagle Creek, just outside Gardiner, Montana. I arrived in a blinding downpour with thunder and lightning.

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Panoramas of the Absaroka Mountains

Panoramas of Tower Falls

Panoramas of Dunraven Pass

Panoramas of Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls

Panoramas of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

August 2, 2014

I wasn't really finished with Yellowstone, but I couldn't face up to dealing with crowds again, so I headed north along the Yellowstone River. Then I drove west on Interstate 90 for 200 easy miles.

Gardiner is the main north entrance to the park, and the gateway for early tourists coming in by train. It was here that the Roosevelt Arch was built in 1903.

Officially this is just a river access point in the small town of Clinton on the Clark Fork River, but camping was allowed.

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Panoramas of Gardiner, Montana

August 3, 2014

Lolo Pass over the Bitterroot Range was a real challenge for the Lewis and Clark expedition, but for me it was an enjoyable, if windy, drive.

Definitely my kind of road.

Midway along the Lolo Pass/Lochsa River road there is an historic ranger station. Stations like this were, and to a lesser extent still are, bases for mule teams that supplied remote patrol cabins and lookout towers

My campsite here at Wild Goose Campground on the Clearwater River was one of the nicest ever, and I had an enjoyable evening with people in the adjacent campsites.

Stone stairs led down from my site to a sandy beach, where I took a most welcome dip as the temperature was in the high 90's.

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Panoramas of Lolo Pass and the Lochsa River

August 4, 2014

During the night heavy smoke from fires in eastern Washington spread over the entire region. Not only was the orange light poor for photography, but it was making it hard for me to breathe. So I just kept driving westwards until I got upwind of the source - all the way to The Dalles in the Columbia River Gorge. The temperature also dropped from a debilitating 105° to a relatively benign 85°.

The very civilized campground at Memaloose State Park west of the Dalles in Oregon. It wasn't too hot, no smoke, nice showers, but noisy because of its position between the BNSF railroad and the I-84 freeway.

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Panoramas of the Clearwater River, Idaho

Panoramas of Nez Perce National Historical Park

Panoramas of Umatilla on the Columbia River

Panoramas of the Dalles, Oregon

August 5, 2014

The next day momentum carried me onwards all the way to the coast. The overcast cleared as the day progressed, and I got some good panos in the resort towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach. I had dinner at Mo's, an Oregon (and personal) tradition, then started looking for a campground.

A statue of Lewis and Clark commemorates the "End of the Trail" at Seaside.

The KOA Campground opposite Fort Stevens - overpriced, overcrowded, and noisy - worst camping experience of the year.

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Panoramas of Seaside, Oregon

Panoramas of Cannon Beach, Oregon

August 6, 2014

Another day that started cloudy and cleared up to be beautiful. I made my way slowly down the northern coast of Oregon, stopping at small towns, state parks and waysides, and the Cape Meares Lighthouse.

The first stop of the day was the picturesque wreck of the Peter Iredale on the beach at Fort Stevens. Has anyone ever visited this area without taking a picture of this?

Ecola State Park has one of the most famous and familiar views on the Oregon coast. It was near here that William Clark first looked out over the Pacific Ocean - o! the joy.

I love to get photos of people doing things of local significance, either work or play. Such as this shot of oysters being unloaded at Garibaldi on Tillamook Bay.

The forest service campground at Sand Lake is very nice, except for the off-road vehicle enthusiasts, who tend to make a lot of noise.

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Panoramas of Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon

Panoramas of Ecola State Park

Panoramas of Garibaldi, Oregon

Panoramas of the Three Capes Scenic Loop

Panoramas of the Cape Meares Lighthouse

August 7, 2014

Sunny and warm from dawn to dusk, a perfect day. I have a fairly good set of panoramas of the central Oregon coast, so I took it easy and enjoyed the drive.

Cape Foulweather, named by Captain George Vancouver in 1778, did not live up to its name.

Finding a place to camp was tricky, all the parks were full, but I happened upon a private campground that was really very nice.

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Panoramas of Depoe Bay, Oregon

Panoramas of Cape Foulweather

Panoramas of Yaquina Head

Panoramas of Cape Pepetua

August 8, 2014

Another spectacular day, and I was right at the scenic high point of the Oregon coast. I re-photographed Heceta Head Lighthouse then continued south through the Oregon Dunes.

Heceta Head Light is considered the most scenic on the Oregon coast.

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Panoramas of the Heceta Head Lighthouse

Panoramas near the Oregon Sea Lion Caves

Panoramas of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Panoramas of Bandon

August 9, 2014

I really hated to leave the Oregon coast with such fine weather, but news from home indicated I was needed there. So I crossed the coast ranges to Roseburg then barreled down Interstate 5 all the way home.

A brief stop at the hamlet of Remote, Oregon, on the Coos Bay-Roseburg Highway.

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Panoramas of the upper Coquille River

Panoramas of Roseburg, Oregon

Panoramas of Grants Pass and Rogue River, Oregon

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