At Mercy of the Sky…

SandersCo1

Whitefish to Redding

December 23, 2012

The moment we pulled into Whitefish, Big Mountain caught ablaze. Standing sentinel just north of town, the ski slopes glowed yellow and orange in the magical light of sunset. Instinctively I accelerated toward the nearest vantage, hoping if I raced to City Beach I might catch a shot. Unfortunately a pair of comically slow moving vehicles blocked the route.

“Settle down,” said Cris, sensing my tension mount and frowning at the expletives being hurled beneath my breath. “This isn’t how our return to Whitefish is supposed to be.”

“Watch,” I said. “We’re going to miss it by about three minutes.”

Five minutes later we pulled to a stop along Whitefish Lake. The flames extinguished and the sun dropped behind the mountains to the west. As quickly as I could open the car door, the mountain fell dark. I knew from experience that would be the only chance I got. As gorgeous as northwest Montana is, when that big sky decides to drop a heavy winter veil, sometimes it can be weeks before you see the mountain again.

Glacier was the same way. Beautiful as ever, but moody and overcast. Drama in the landforms, but a flat unresponsive sky.

A couple days later I went snowboarding on Big Mountain. The summit was fogged in and a wet slurry kept my camera mostly under wraps. For all my hopes of coming back to photograph snow ghosts and valley inversions, this time it wouldn’t be.

The next stage of our journey took us from Whitefish to Redding, California to join Cris’ family for Christmas. In route, we would pass some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. We were in the clouds through western Montana and a steady snow by the Idaho state line. Plans to visit Crater Lake were abandoned as winter storm warnings forced a detour around the Cascades. We spent the night in Salem, Oregon and the next day leap frogged along dodging chain restrictions, shifting with the elevation between valley rain and mountain snow. We arrived in Redding without trouble, but my camera never left it’s case.

Eight states and eight days on the road. A few decent photos, but nothing yet like I’d hoped. I remind myself that the weather is fickle, and conditions have been less than ideal. There is still plenty of time, and lots of country to see. Patience, patience I repeat in my head; the shots will eventually come. Yet every time I pass a scene and see potential in better light, I feel another opportunity slip away. The trip has and will continue to be dominated by the weather; unpredictable, severe, and thus far uncooperative.

I just hope eventually Ma Nature will toss me a bone.

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