Yellowstone Peaks

Yellowstone Peaks – West Yellowstone, Montana

A few days ago I posted what was in my plein air watercolor painting field kit, which you can read all about here. Within the article, I included an ancient throwback photo of myself actually using my existing field kit at the time – but I didn’t show you what the finished end result was. That completed watercolor painting is the one above, a painting that I’ve always loved and that we have hanging on our living room wall as I type this. It’s important to me for two reasons… a) I painted it near one of my favorite places, Yellowstone National Park, and… b) I painted it during our honeymoon.

Cindy and I were married in the summer of 1990, and our honeymoon consisted of our first epic road trip – driving from the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, through the Mid-West, and staying for a week of hiking and mountain biking in Winter Park, Colorado. Then driving up through Wyoming, exploring Yellowstone in the process, and wandering through western Montana and eastern Idaho, before finishing up tent camping in the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness, in central Idaho.

While we were meandering around in the Rocky Mountains, we would occasionally stop and I would break out my painting field kit for some plein air time. We have two paintings from that trip that I cherish, and this is one of them. This one is also the only one with accompanying photos of me painting, and the subject that I’m rendering on paper, which you can see below.

Subject I was painting – near West Yellowstone, Montana
Me and my plein air painting field kit in 1990

One other memory from this plein air session… I received a painful sunburn from sitting in the high altitude sun for so long. But it was worth it… oh so worth it!


Painting info:
Yellowstone Peaks
West Yellowstone, Montana
July 1990
Daniel Smith Extra Fine watercolors
Schmincke Horadam Aquarell watercolors
Lanaquarelle 300 lb cold press paper
5”x7”

Photo info:
Mountain peaks
Me while plein air painting
West Yellowstone, Montana
July 1990
Kodak Ektachrome 100 film
Olympus Stylus Epic point-and-shoot 35mm film camera

Not This Year

The Mt. Washburn fire lookout tower – Canyon Junction, Wyoming

It doesn’t seem possible that as much time has flown by as it has, but here we are. While exploring Yellowstone National Park, Cindy and I hiked up to the Mount Washburn fire lookout tower back in 2014 (2014!!! Jeez, it seems like yesterday!), and had a marvelous time doing so. As hikes go, it’s not terrible – unless you’re out-of-shape flatlanders, which we were at the time. The views from the trail are beautiful both on the way up and down, there are lot of critters to view both up close and through binoculars, not a lot of fellow hikers on the trail, wonderfully crisp air, and an absolutely spectacular 360° panorama at the top.

However, the Mt. Washburn trail is closed this entire year, due to the following road construction:

Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Junction

Improvements: This segment of road remains largely unchanged since the last improvements in the 1930s. This construction project will widen the road and provide additional/improved pullouts; create a larger, safer parking area at Tower Fall General Store; and improve the trail and overlook for Tower Fall. To fund this project, the park received a grant through the Nationally Significant Federal Lands Program and will match it with fee dollars collected in the park.

Access: The road between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Junction will be completely closed for the 2021 season, which includes Tower Fall Campground and Tower Fall General Store. There will be no access to hiking trails in the closure, including Mount Washburn, Calcite Springs Overlook, and Tower Fall. From early November through March, Tower Fall and trails in the vicinity will be open for skis and snowshoes, snow-permitting (follow all closure signage posted at Tower-Roosevelt). The anticipated completion date for this project is May 2022.

The National Park Service

We hope to hike this trail again in the future, but it’ll have to wait until road access is reopened.


Photo info:
The view from the fire lookout tower
Mt. Washburn, Canyon Junction
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
September 2014
Voigtländer Heliar 15/4.5 ASPH lens
Sony NEX-5N digital camera

My Road

Big boy – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Lest anyone think otherwise, this bad boy owns the road when he gets on it. And – you guessed it – this is from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, where the bison frequently take to the road and get really irritated by stupid touron drivers really quickly. I think Yellowstone is one of my favorite places in the entire US – certainly in my Top 10 list and probably in my Top 5 list. To me, a visit there always gives me a fresh shot in the arm of all things related to the American West – wood bison, gray wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, bald eagles, badgers, elk, deer, geysers, mountains, fumaroles, glass mountains (obsidian), stupendous waterfalls, amazing canyons, on and on.

We always go when it’s best to avoid crowds, so we generally aren’t impacted by buffalo-jams and the like. Sometimes we even have the place pretty much to ourselves, which is just a matter of knowing where to go and when to do so.


Photo info:
American wood bison (Bison bison athabascae)
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
May 2021
Apple iPhone 12 Pro