Dark Skies in New Mexico

Looks like I’m going to have another go at the Bisti this weekend. It’ll be the first real road trip of 2017 and I’m excited. After recently getting the 645 dialed in I’m feeling ready for whatever happens.

Dark Sky is a great weather app for the iPhone. At first glance it’s simple, easy to use and understand. But there’s a lot more power under the hood, like the satellite tracking map at far right.

I’ve been watching the weather and depending on how you see things, it looks great. When we were down in October we had – by most accounts – fabulous weather. Clear, sunny days, no clouds, warm temps. Who but a photographer would complain about such weather?

Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico, February 2017

Researching the Bisti before our October 2016 trip I came across a variety of images, many of which seemed to be made under the same conditions. It’s easy to see why. Most people target nice weather (who can blame them?) and therefore come away with the same pictures. This trip I’m hoping for something a little different: rolling, dramatic, billowing skies, maybe even some frost, a little snow, and that gorgeous earthen color only emerging in the soft, diffused light of blue hour beneath overcast skies.

To hit such weather patterns means skirting the edges of the habitable. In my research I found a great web site, weatherspark.com plotting annual average temperature, cloud cover, precipitation, snow, humidity, dew points, wind… you get the idea. It’s a gold mine for determining the most statistically probable time of year to experience one weather pattern instead of another. Not surprisingly, October is one of the highest probable times of year to experience perfect, blue bird weather. Not such great news if you’re looking for the drama fringe weather provides.

Dreaming of the Bisti, Fort Collins, Colorado (2017). It’s one thing to plan a trip in the warm comfort of home with a good cup of coffee. Quite another to be out there in the elements.

I began looking for those times of year in the transitions where things happen. Early in the year (January/February) is one of those times. The down side is, it’s cold and possibly rainy – which unfortunately means mud. Mud is no friend of a car, or hiking boots. Getting stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere isn’t a best case scenario. Hopefully it’ll get cold enough the mud will freeze, allowing firm footing – which will present its own challenges. My sleeping bag is rated to 0 degrees and if worse comes to worse the heater in the car has brought cold appendages back to life more than once already. As I write this the wind howls outside my window in northern Colorado. Weather-wise I can take just about anything – except the wind.

At the moment it appears Friday night and Saturday morning are my highest probability of success. Looks by noon Saturday things begin to get wet and stay wet through Sunday night. I can work with that, as long as I’m on gravel roads. I have 15+ rolls of Chrome film and more C-41, as well as plenty of Pan F and Delta 100. I’m ready to go. Oh and I almost forgot: this Friday night is a full moon. So ideally what I’m hoping for is brightly moon-lit badlands beneath dramatic skies before the rain makes everything too muddy to get out. When all is said and done you just have to roll the dice and hope for the best. It’s impossile to know what the weather will do. Be there and f8, right? But if you’re not there – you’ll certainly get nothing.

Picked up a new headlamp earlier this week in preparation, a Black Diamond Storm. A good headlamp is worth its weight in gold. Late last year Tecla dismembered the old Petzl I’ve had for years, along with my favorite, tattered Lowe Pro gloves. I guess she was after the salt soaked into each of those items. These gloves are thin and therefore not that warm – but highly usable with the fine controls of something like a camera. After checking around, they’re no longer made. Fortunately my wife had a spare pair I’d given her years ago but she never used. The Storm headlamp is a significant step up in terms of Lumens and will more than light my way on long returns from shooting sunset deep in the badlands.

More to come.

 

Southwest Color

Milky Way over the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, San Juan County, New Mexico (2016)
A moonless, cold night in early October proved an excellent time to hunt for the Milky Way in southwestern skies. Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, San Juan County, New Mexico (2016).
The San Juan mountain range from Geologic Overlook, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado (2016)
Last light overlooking Cortez and the San Juan range from Geologic Overlook, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado (2016).
Morning vista, Valley of the Gods National Monument, Southern Utah (2016)
Southern morning vista with Monument Valley in the distance, Valley of the Gods National Monument, Southern Utah (2016)
First light in Alamo Wash, Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, New Mexico (2016)
First light in Alamo Wash, Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, New Mexico (2016)

 

2016 Autumn Walkabout: Monument Valley, Utah

We’ve just returned from the annual fall walkabout, this time to the American Southwest in search of perfect light. We found it in Monument Valley, Utah one morning. This first of a series of entries won’t be a linear description of the trip, but instead snippets surrounding given images, memories or thoughts.

Milky Way, Artist's Point, Monument Valley, Utah
Milky Way, Artist’s Point, Monument Valley, Utah. The park doesn’t open until 7am, but we were able to get in earlier and set up for this.

After spending a windy night at The View Campground we rose at 5am and slowly bumped our way over rough, dirt roads for a half hour in the dark to Artist’s Point. After shooting a few star shots to dial in the cameras it was a matter of waiting.You’re never sure what’ll happen when the light arrives, especially when setting up and trying to compose in the dark. In the shot above you can see a hand rail to the lower left that wasn’t visible in the viewfinder when I made the frame. We’d been holding out for first light but the best shots came just before sun-up, producing no direct light source, instead a high level of warm, ambient light. But this was day 4. Or maybe 5… I don’t remember. These are just a few digital shots before I begin processing film.

 

Milky Way, Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico
Milky Way, Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico. One benefit of this moon cycle was how early the Milky Way appears low on the horizon of the western sky. Taking advantage of the extreme darkness of the region produced some nice Milky Way shots.

Back to the Bisti

Night one was spent in the Bisti Badlands, south of Farmington, New Mexico – and man let me tell you – it was cold. The car said 33° when I turned it on at 5am the next morning to get the heater going – but I’m sure it was colder durning the night. My Marmot Never Summer down bag is rated 0° and I was cold. We set up a quick lean-to using a tarp and the car’s cargo roof rack.

I’ve been reading up on the Bisti and been intrigued. Lots more to come regarding it – a unique, beautiful place for sure. I mostly shot film there and will begin processing shortly. Meanwhile I did make a few night shots with the digital camera. This is the Milky Way looking south west, taking advantage of the no moon cycle. As we arrived that a evening the cloud ceiling was low. But the sky parted revealing this slice of outer space later that night.

At the end of the day when the light is done it’s time to sleep. Setting up impromptu camps along the way or scoring a cheap hotel once in a while to freshen up is a great recipe. This happens to be one of the most popular times of year in the area and hotels are a premium. Finding a decent, reasonably priced place to stay for the night is difficult in the larger, hub towns like Durango, Moab, etc. In the smaller outlying towns it’s a different story. The world needs more places like the Mesa Verde Motel in Mancos, Colorado. Clean, simple, safe, well-provisioned and affordable are welcome features to weary travelers.

When the light's over it's time to sleep. We dream of finding that best-kept secret combination of clean, safe, well-appointed and affordable. The Mesa Verde Motel in Mancos, Colorado is one such place.
When the light’s over it’s time to sleep. We dream of finding that best-kept secret combination of clean, safe, well-appointed and affordable. The Mesa Verde Motel in Mancos, Colorado is one such place.

We didn’t take much in the way of perishable groceries, just a few staples so we could eat in the middle of nowhere if necessary. Bananas, sandwich fixings and Fritos, with lots of water and a couple beers in the cooler got us through. When we hit town we found food.

Oh yeh, that's right... we forgot to eat. Where's the closest plate of eggs?
Oh yeh, that’s right… we forgot to eat. Where’s the closest plate of eggs? Mexican Hat, Utah.

For the most part a very successful trip, covering 2,000 miles and crossing too many mountain ranges/passes to name, traveling through too many towns to remember, popping a few Aleve and drinking too much french roast between sun up and sun down to keep us going. I’m thankful for my good friend Dan. No one but another photographer, or my wife, would put up with all the stops along the way.

Shooting sunrise with 3 Besties, Monument Valley, Utah.
Shooting sunrise with 3 Besties, Monument Valley, Utah.

After a rather lengthy silence, finally… lots more to come.

Chicago Lakes, Mount Evans, Colorado

Chicago Lakes from Summit Lake Overlook, Mount Evans, Colorado
Chicago Lakes from Summit Lake Overlook, Mount Evans, Colorado (2016). To view image as large as possible please click and you’ll be directed to the gallery containing it.

One of the commonly cited demerits of 35mm film is its lack of resolution when you want to print really big. It’s true. This is a physical limitation; a wall unclimbable by any camera or any lens combination. Leica, Nikon, Canon, Zeiss… it matters not. A frame of 35mm film is a fixed size: 24mm x 36mm, and only contains so much data when exposed. Being a strong advocate of film photography – especially 35mm and medium format film photography – has pushed me outside of conventional use of these cameras looking for something a little different. This 5-foot wide panoramic image was stitched together from 5 vertically exposed frames shot with the Nikon F2AS – a camera made approximately 40 years ago – on Ilford Delta 100 35mm film. A ‘normal’ 50mm lens was used to minimize geometric distortion. Exposure is the same on all frames. The film was developed in Ilford’s Ilfosol 3 developer, then the frames were scanned using the dedicated Nikon film scanner. During scanning the exposure was locked to maintain consistency across all frames – something that aids in the software stitching process.

pano-options

To blend the images together into a panoramic shot, Photoshop was used. Photoshop has an excellent tool under the File\Automate\Photomerge\ menu allowing you to load a sequence of images and allow the computer to determine the best configuration. Options include the Layout of the finished piece,  Blend Images Together, Vignette Removal, Geometric Distortion Correction and Content aware Fill Transparent Areas. I select Auto for Layout, Blend Images Together, Vignette Removal and Geometric Distortion Correction.

pano-dialog-box

From there Photoshop will run a series of procedures producing a blended version of the frames you’ve selected. It does an outstanding job. It uses Layer Masks(see image below – layer masks are the black and white shapes to the right of each layer in the palette at left of the image) to obscure the irrelevant portions of each frame, and heals the edges allowing them to blend more seamlessly together. So the process is non-destructive to the pixel data in each frame. You may go back and re-work by hand what the computer suggests – which I’ve found seldom necessary as long as each frame is exposed properly and overlapped enough during shooting.

A valuable feature is the Geometric Distortion Correction. Each lens has a varying inherent amount of geometric distortion to it. Depending on the lens and its design, this will either be a large amount or small amount – but some distortion is unavoidable. What’s nice creating such wide images this way is the ability of the computer to go through each frame and minimize such distortion so the resulting image is as “true” as possible. I wonder if a lens were available to make such a wide exposure in one frame to avoid the panoramic stitching – if it would suffer due to the extreme distortion such a wide field of view would introduce. In some respects then, I wonder if one obtains a truer image using this 5-frame method with a normal focal range lens (50mm) – than attempting to do one shot with a super wide-angle lens? Just a thought.

Once the image is assembled, typical scan-retouches are all that’s usually required. Removing dust and scratches, making sure the black and white points are set properly, then cropping/framing the final image. Below you can see the original results of the merge. The final image is cropped to straighten out the top and bottom of the frame – indicated by the light blue guide lines. This is where using a tripod comes in handy. The straighter the images are while panning during the actual exposures, the less waste there is at top and bottom. In the image below you can see to the left of frame there’s more white space on frame top. I was hand-holding the camera which prevented a more precise alignment.

pano-results-screen-shot-1

I get such a kick out of this process is it demonstrates – once again – what a unique period we’re enjoying in the history of photography. Years ago when 35mm film was available but software was no where near its present level of sophistication – this would have been impossible to accomplish. Today, using old school tools and new digital methods of processing, creative floodgates have burst open allowing so many different ways to blend these two schools of thought together. What a wonderful time to be a film photographer.

Thanks for reading.

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

I have had the privilege of living in Colorado since 1981 when I moved to Fort Collins to attend Colorado State University. Having moved from Illinois, I’d literally do anything to get into the mountains. At first a poor college student with no car, I once borrowed a friend’s bike – two sizes too large – to pedal up Thompson Canyon from Fort Collins, backpack with ice axe and all. I remember a sleek, streamlined peloton of cyclists in fancy gear and even fancier bikes whizzing by up the canyon, looking at me and smiling. Like they knew… ‘yeh, I’m new here and I’m not going to let anything stop me from getting up into those hills.’

All these years later that same drive hasn’t diminished one bit. Living along Colorado’s Front Range, any opportunity to get deeper into the mountains usually involves at least one trip over Trail Ridge Road. For those unfamiliar with it, Trail Ridge Road (also known as U.S. 34) is a 48 mile stretch of road connecting Estes Park, Colorado with Grand Lake, Colorado by traversing Rocky Mountain National Park at a elevation high point of 12,183. If I can’t get up there for sunrise (leaving Fort Collins by 4am usually) – then I try to time the return trip with late afternoon/evening light. Many times I’ve gone up and just spent the night on the road, sleeping in the back of the truck. Coffee on the tail gate in the morning at 12,000 watching the sun rise over the Mummy Range, Gore Range, and the Medicine Bow’s is pretty tough to beat with a hot cup of french roast.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The above view is accessible to anyone who has made the journey up Trail Ridge to the Alpine Visitor Center. This view looks down what I call the Fall River Valley – the prior route up to the Visitor Center years ago. There is a one way, dirt road buried in the trees at left that winds up from the valley floor – an alternative to the paved Trail Ridge. A common route is to go up Old Fall River Road, then down Trail Ridge Road. Often time elk may be seen grazing in this valley, high above treeline. If I were an elk I’d sure elect to eat dinner here.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
A distant storm forms over the Gore Range, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Ypsilon Mountain and the Mummy Range, RMNP
The Mummy Range from Rainbow Curve, RMNP
Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge, RMNP
Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge, RMNP

And finally, the Monarch of Colorado’s northern Front Range, Longs Peak and Keyboard of the Winds on the upper left horizon recedes into the east flank of Glacier Gorge, surrounded by high, wild country in beautiful light. The views on Trail Ridge Road are constantly changing, largely driven by weather and of course time of day. Storms move in fast – and often are gone just as fast. If you’re not prepared you’ll be soaked and freezing – for a time. Then the sun will come out and the high altitude mountain air will whisk away the water and leave you dry and chilly.

We recently had family from North Carolina visit who had not yet been up Trail Ridge. I was excited for them with anticipation knowing what a thrill that first trip over can be. Several times since moving to Colorado, when I’ve found myself temporarily living in other places, the realization that I can’t hop in the car and – in an hour be up in Rocky Mountain National Park – is a cold smack in the face. I’m humbled to realize that others save their vacation time all year just to spend a week’s vacation in Colorado. And I wake up here every morning. Even after all these years I will never take living in Colorado for granted.

Spieker Wedding
Longs Peak, with the lesser peak Mount Lady Washington along the ridge line in front. Mount Meeker can be seen to the left of Longs Peak’s “knob” like appearance from this angle.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Alpine Visitor Center Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Spieker Wedding
Medicine Bow Curve, with the Never Summer Mountains in the background.
Spieker Wedding
Upper reaches of Forest Canyon
Spieker Wedding
Hayden Spire looms over Forest Canyon from Forest Canyon Overlook.

Elk Mountain, Wyoming

South Brush Creek, Snowy Range, Wyoming
South Brush Creek, Snowy Range, Wyoming

At first it looked like a dead animal – a brownish, furry lump in the middle of the dirt 320. The wind blew and late morning sun peeked in and out of an active sky. Through a dirty windshield it was tough to make out. As the car slowly rolled closer, the profile of a small head emerged from the fur, then turned a few times trying to get her bearings and let out a cry. As she began struggling to rise my first thought was she’d been hit by a car . Once erect I could see new, young legs, thin and delicate wobbling as they tried to support her tiny mass. She couldn’t have been more than a few days old. The baby antelope took a few steps then stumbled, her front knees dropping to the dirt road. I wondered if she’d have bruises or abrasions on her bony, new skin. She struggled to get up again, now in a panic. “I’m not gonna hurt you… just calm down” I said to no one.

Elk Mountain, Wyoming
Elk Mountain, Wyoming

Out of the corner of my eye to the left I picked up a flash moving fast across the sage. I turned to watch momma hurtling towards us full tilt. She was strong and powerful, leaping 8 foot spans each stride until she appeared heroically 10 yards in front of the car – between baby and me. She turned and looked squarely at me, then swiveled her tan and white head towards baby who was continuing to stumble in a panic down the road.

Pass Creek Road, Wyoming
Pass Creek Road, Wyoming

She stood for a moment – which itself is remarkable – out here antelope have learned to fear vehicles; rifles emerging from a slowed truck’s rolled down window. After a moment she took off for baby who had continued to run. Momma took the lead, baby trying to keep up, her head turning this way and that attempting to assess the threat. Momma led the way until they both crossed the road again and bounded up the hill.

Virga, The Medicine Bow, Wyoming
Virga, The Medicine Bow, Wyoming

In the distance they stopped; baby nowhere to be seen, having dropped in the sage somewhere. Mom and dad stood together 200 yards away watching the car slowly drive off.

Olympic National Park, Washington

HOH Rainforest Tryptich no.1
HOH Rainforest Tryptich no.1
Blue Hour, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Blue Hour, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Kalaloch, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Kalaloch, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Hall of Mosses, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Hall of Mosses, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park, Washington
Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park, Washington
Northwest Maritime Center, Port Townsend, Washington
Northwest Maritime Center, Port Townsend, Washington
Blue Hour, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Blue Hour, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

 

Blue Hour, Medicine Bow, Wyoming

I wonder how many things we intently search for, training every last bit of energy focusing our gaze – only to be met with darkness. Then I think about the times peripheral vision catches a glimpse of something unintended, and off we go alit, into the beautiful, dim blue.

“…the present is the most difficult period to apprehend; only with distance does the value of certain forms of photography and photo objects become clear.” – Joel Smith, curator of photography at the Morgan Library & Museum,

If only I were a poet. Or at least eloquent enough to convey thoughts and feelings regarding a photograph. There are some who feel to say anything at all about a photograph means it failed to visually convey a message. Others believe a photograph isn’t completely realized unless a snippet of information provides a point at which to enter and begin exploration. Then there are those who simply don’t care.

Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
John B. Crane in the Weminuche Wilderness, southern Colorado's San Juan range, 1985
In the Weminuche Wilderness, southern Colorado’s San Juan range, circa. 1986

If it’s possible to exist between these categories, that’s where I find myself.

“The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

The other night I let the dog out in the back yard. The porch light switch was broken and I listened as she ambled down the deck’s wooden stairs and stepped onto the lawn beneath a quasi-full moon. As I stood on the deck attempting to locate a brown dog against green grass with no light – I was unable to see her dim, hunched form when looking directly at her. As I looked off to the side, however, my peripheral vision was able to identity she was indeed there, and was indeed fulfilling the mission. I tried again, peering intently, concentrating my direct gaze at where I last saw her. Again I saw only blackness. Averting my eyes to the side confirmed she was there, now finished, and sniffing about as dogs do.

I wonder how many things we intently search for, training every last bit of energy focusing our gaze – only to be met with darkness. Then I think about the times peripheral vision catches a glimpse of something unintended, and off we go alit, into the beautiful, dim blue.

“…the present is the most difficult period to apprehend; only with distance does the value of certain forms of photography and photo objects become clear.” – Joel Smith, curator of photography at the Morgan Library & Museum.

Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins, Colorado

Special thanks to Denver Digital Imaging Center for their E6 expertise. #believeinfilm

 

Random•osity

Frozen hydraulic hoses on logging truck after snow storm, Fort Collins, Colorado (2016)
PUMPER 3, New Raymer, Colorado (2016)
PUMPER 3, New Raymer, Colorado (2016)
Heat shields from nose cone of space shuttle Atlantis, Cape Canaveral, Florida (2015)
Heat shields from nose cone of space shuttle Atlantis, Cape Canaveral, Florida (2015)
South Delaney Lake, North Park, Colorado (2015)
South Delaney Lake, North Park, Colorado (2015)
ELEVATION 7,360 FT. Granite, Wyoming (2015)
ELEVATION 7,360 FT. Granite, Wyoming (2015)
Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Denver, Colorado
Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Denver, Colorado
Church, Briggsdale, Colorado (2016)
Church, Briggsdale, Colorado (2016)
North Omaha, Nebraska (2016)
Bank, North Omaha, Nebraska (2016)

Medicine Bow, Wyoming

Sometimes when visiting a new place surrounded by such emptiness there’s a mild reservation about leaving the imagined security of whatever semblance of civilization there is – and striking alone into the void. With minimal maps and no idea what really lay out there I check the fuel gauge and tires, listen to the car carefully for any indication of malfunction and make sure a little food and water are close at hand.

For some reason Medicine Bow, Wyoming calls to me. In the late 1800’s Medicine Bow was a mildly prosperous stop along the transcontinental Railway due to its proximity to water provided by the Medicine Bow River. Later – it was a vibrant stock and cattle holding operation and a stop for auto travelers along the old Lincoln Highway. In the early 70’s Medicine Bow was effectively cut off when Interstate 80 was built 35 miles to the south. Medicine Bow is one of the windiest places in America, a fact I can attest to from my visits. Often times when opening the car door, the wind catches and violently cranks it against the hinges causing the car to lurch.

Medicine Bow River, Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow River, Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)

 

 

Rock River, Wyoming
Rock River, Wyoming

 

Rock River, Wyoming
Rock River, Wyoming
Rock River, Wyoming
Rock River, Wyoming

My first intentional trip to Medicine Bow was several years ago as I determined to follow 287 north as far as I practically could. Outside of Laramie there’s not much topographic relief as one travels along the bottom of the enormous Laramie River Valley, ringed with high, wild peaks in the distance. The car drifts sideways in ever present wind as you unconsciously pull to the left while heading straight North. All but empty enclaves like Bosler, Rock River and Como Bluffs distantly dot the highway – a mirage providing the hope of relief that vanish as you approach, then roll through with no visible sign of activity. For a large portion of the drive the highway parallels the railroad and trains pass in either direction, the smile of their headlights providing brief companionship. Beyond the tracks, hidden from site by the risen berm lies the Laramie River, winding its way down from Wheatland Reservoir, 30 miles to the north east.

“Let Them Know” Highway 287 north of Laramie, Wyoming

It’s the very definition of solitary.

Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)

Upon arriving in Medicine Bow I was struck by its sparse, barren landscape, wind, and intense, western afternoon light. Long, coal and cattle-laden freight trains regularly tear through the town’s center at full speed as I prowl around the tracks. Sometimes when visiting a new place surrounded by such emptiness there’s a mild reservation about leaving the imagined security of whatever semblance of civilization there is – and striking out alone into the void. With minimal maps and no real idea what lay out there I check the fuel gauge and tires, listen to the car carefully for any indication of malfunction and make sure a little food and water are close at hand.

Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)

On this most recent trip the emptiness is tempered by the presence of our one year old chocolate lab Tecla. As the sun begins to sink I start the car. 4 mule deer amble across the dirt road in front of me. Tecla erupts in the back seat, bouncing back and forth from passenger to driver side angrily barking at these large, four-legged invaders. Though the windows are up they glance briefly at the car, assess the threat, then pick up the pace as the rail road crossing sounds yet again. I drop the car into drive and head into the late, windy afternoon.

Lincoln Highway designation sign, Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Lincoln Highway designation sign, Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)

Coming home that night, topping the snowy pass separating Wyoming from Colorado the headlights catch a large, still shape sprawled across the road. It’s a deer. She’s been hit and killed and lay still, alone in the night. I stop. At the top of the cold, foggy pass visibility is low and I sit for a moment in the dark car deliberating. If another car hits her it’ll surely create problems for everyone. Tecla wakes up in the front seat and looks at me as I open the door and step into the night.

I grab the doe by the front legs and drag her across the road. She’s heavier than anticipated. ‘I’m so sorry, sweetheart’ I say as her head arcs back and the friction of the blacktop tries to prevent us from our task. The hair on her legs above her hooves is wet and my bare hands slip, then grab tighter. Leather gloves  are somewhere in the car but I couldn’t risk the time to find them. A trail of blood is left behind on the road pointing to where she lay, and a large, round organ the size of a small beach ball that’s been dislodged, sitting in the road like a rock cairn on a hiking trail.

When I climb back in the car Tecla is awake and smells the dead animals’ scent on my hands. She aggressively sniffs and licks as one arm shoes her away, while the other searches the console for something to clean up with. There’s nothing. I drive 20 minutes down the pass and stop at Ted’s Place for a $2 bottle of hand sanitizer, then wipe down the steering wheel. This is life in Colorado and Wyoming, I think to myself – knowing I can’t share the event with my wife. “How was your trip,” she’ll say as I walk in, hungry and tired of being in the car. “Good. Really good.” And leave it at that.

Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Lincoln Highway Garage, Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Lincoln Highway Garage, Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)
Medicine Bow, Wyoming (2016)