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On the next morning, I decided to get up before sunrise and try my luck with some landscape photography of the various geysers as the sun first breaks the horizon. Based on some pre-planning the night before, it looked possible to position myself with Old Faithful lined up with the rising sun, and a small creek in the foreground. This ended up being quite productive, while also making good use of my graduated neutral density filter to better balance the exposure between the sun rising through the mist and the foreground. It was interesting to note how dramatic the lighting became in this 30 minute window from sunrise as more of the moisture in the air temporarily condensed into fog. I was surprised to find only myself out there to take advantage of this more unique composition and lighting conditions. After some further exploration with some other landscapes under these conditions, I walked away feeling more satisfied with the results for this second half of the trip.
At times I felt time that without alternative transportation (such as a snowmobile) and mediocre snow, somewhat trapped during my stay at the snow lodge. Many visitors tended to take some of the full or half-day excursions via snow coach or the smaller and older half-track, half-ski vehicle that is going to be decomissioned the end of this season (see image 96). I heard mixed results on the satisfaction of these day trips, being relatively expensive and with the smaller vehicle being quite cramped and exhausting after a full day of travel. Given this situation, it was a good thing that I only reserved two nights at the Snow Lodge, giving me ample time to explore the area on my own.
With a snowstorm moving in, that Saturday afternoon I caught the four hour ride on the snow coach back to the Mammoth Lodge. This was on the day before both lodges are shut down for the winter. You could tell that most of the staff tended to be in a more jovial mood, planning an employee-only celebration for that Sunday night, potentially planning on finishing off the lodge’s stock of yet to be used food and liquor. I asked my server Erik at lunch what he planned on doing next after winding up his tour of duty for the winter, and was surprised by his answer: he planned on moving to China and starting a business teaching English as a second language. Apparently he has been there multiple times before including a stint for a couple of years back in 2007, already knowing the language and several friends over there. This reminded me of just how big a world it is out there, the opportunities that exist and what you make of them, how important it is to travel and not get too comfortable in your own little box.
- Stephen Fischer