Father and Son Wyoming Winter Road Trip. Cherished Moments.

Morning solitude with a moose. Perhaps these moments don’t teach us anything intellectually in particular, but they sure do spur our sense of being and wonder…enriching our core and etching their way indelibly into our human experience shaping our perspectives. Connecting with the land and the animals…even if only for a brief few moments.

Visual musings from my flawed and human cerebral.

Attempting to navigate away from the daily inundation and upheaval.

Not willing to accept myriad narratives promoting evil and the deceitful.

Run for the hills seeking nature’s guaranteed reprieve.

Solace and peaceful.

Basking in the dreamful.

My Dad taking in that magical afternoon light.
Those ethereal moments when the mountains reveal themselves.
Windblown. Appreciating the land and the light. Oh to feel present and alive. To attempt to capture the austere beauty and authentic harshness, you ,must revel in discomfort and get out in it. -25 wind-chill and 40mph winds.

I’m forever grateful for my time spent with my Dad.

He’s the most generous person I know. There isn’t a pretentious bone in his body. Humble to his core. A PhD in Molecular Biology, one of the most prominent minds of Baculovirus (pathogens that attack insects and other anthropods…yep I had to Google it), yet down home and happy as can be working on his tractor with a shirt from the thrift store ridden with holes and his pants halfway hanging down. A man that can break down a genetic sequence but also quips “I’ll see ya tomarra.” Someone who is ALWAYS looking out for others. An awareness that is infectious and filled with selflessness. Reliable, of service and always present. He will always be there for you putting others ahead of himself. He won’t gloat about it or tell you the deeds he did, but he just does them and lives that way.

A Dad with never wavering patience and is truly happy taking a seat on a bench and watching the world. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve spent together bonding, just sitting and watching the world from a park bench or a coffee shop or airport terminal. We could sit for hours upon hours just taking it all in.

One who’d prefer to take the backroads versus the interstate and eat in a down home restaurant versus a fancy restaurant. Happier shopping at the thrift store. Would prefer to watch a Youtube fix-it video and try his hand versus calling for help. One who got up with me this year at 3:30 am and rode his bike alongside me up the highest paved road in North America (14,200 ft).

First or Last views of the Grand Teton from Togwotee Pass.

We’ve made it tradition of sorts to take a winter road trip up north to intentionally enjoy the quieter moments in life.

What better way than to head to the least populated state in our country? Wyoming. Population roughly 580,000. That’s 6 people per square mile yet the 10th largest state in land area. The name “Wyoming” hails from the Lenape Indian word mecheweami-ing, which translates to “on the big plain.” Some might call it “God’s Country.” An introvert’s island.

What better place to for some extreme social-distancing?

The solitude. A milieu that beckons us to take a deep breath. A cathedral where we can practice the art of observation paired with the finest of aged wines…patience. A chance to cleanse the palate with just a taste of the harsh beauty of winter in the open country…to embrace and absorb the penetrating cold. A corner of our world to appreciate the land and the light along with the culture and the wildlife.

Our trip consisted of covering miles and miles of backroads…way before the sun and out into the unbridled and humbling starry night. Milking the sap of each day with curiosity, passion and presence. We bond and share those special necessary unspoken moments of fleeting beauty which are forever etched into those Father and Son memories.

From pondering how different life must be in some of the remote outposts to thinking about our own more urban life. Watching the wildlife for hours, gaining a deep sense of empathy for the fortitude and will to survive.

The polarities into the reservations and experiencing some of the most poor areas of our country to seeing a $60 million dollar home for sale on the outskirts of Jackson. From Carhartt country to North Face magazine covers.

Trudging in a couple feet of snow beneath dramatic peaks to looking out into the golden fields as far as the eye can see.

Just as anywhere, travel shows us all of the contrasting realities. It deepens our perspective. It guides our wisdom…a wisdom that the more you see, the less you realize you know.

I still believe in visual poetry and the art of storytelling. We can re-program our brains to delay that gratification and expand that attention span and sense of childlike wonder.

“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”― Wade Davis

This piece could find a happy home in a straightforward travelogue format, but I prefer to let the selected images and choice word marinate. If you’re looking for an itinerary and ‘best of’ list, this isn’t the place. What I’ll say is this…get on those backroads, get up early and stay out late. Feel into the place deeper. Express gratitude everyday. Stay present. Stay curious.

“People say to me how do you get through life or each day, it’s the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” -Jimmy Valvano

Greeting the day with my dad above Rock Springs.
Steamy nostrils bathing in the frigid morning air.
The sun’s first dance ascending the mountain horizon
Warming the hands just enough to render them supple
Discomfort is the allure
Feeling alive, connected and unbridled
Tending to morning duties
Confidently and laconically readying the horses.
Unwritten code of the American west indelibly embedded into the soul
Wide open spaces whispering as if to say
You’ll never tame this land
Urging you to get lost in order to find yourself
Wild and free

I hope you take a bit of focused time and feel into these photos and perhaps connect with some of them in a moving kind of way. Let your intellect drift into an inspired, creative and curious realm. Travel photos at their very least are pretty to look at it, at their best inspire us to explore deeper and get out there.

My wish… that your thumbs take a break from our habitual flicking and scrolling through feeds, photos, blogs and memes….pausing for a bit letting the imagery plant new seeds. Your mind and soul deserve more exercise than your thumbs. Ultimately, I hope it inspires you to take a bonding trip with a special someone…to get out there and experience the world. Cherish those moments with loved ones. They are the moments that will stick with us forever. It’s perhaps one of the most meaningful parts of the human experience.

The Grand Teton in all of its glory as the storm clears. On of the youngest mountain ranges in North America…only uplifting for roughly 10 million years, the Tetons are unlike most ranges found across the continent. Most of the Rockies are 50–80 million years old and the Appalachians being roughly 300 million years old. Erosion has been minimal thus far which creates such dramatic and jagged peaks.
(L)Moose Face-off at Dawn near Kelly in the Tetons. (M)Did you know Red Foxes only typically live 2–4 years in the wild. Life isn’t easy for these guys. They often look to us humans for food in the winter as it becomes so tough to hunt in the deep snows… but it’s best we leave them be and acknowledge their struggle and appreciate their beauty no matter how alluring they might be. I gave this guy a deep soulful empathetic look before heading back for town. (R) Readying the horses for a day’s work at the National Elk Refuge just outside of Jackson.
A prevalent themes in western rural towns. Old trucks and dogs in the back of em’.

As we head deeper into 2021, let’s utilize the never-ending and ultimately fully unattainable opportunities for growth and introspection. Let’s get back to appreciating the simple things in life. Connection, presence, community, health, humility and a sense of wonder. Inspiration is infectious. Let’s pass it on.

To those of us who have lived this year in relative comfort and are not worried about where our next meal will come from, or where to seek shelter and a modicum of comfort…or don’t have a loving support system, or haven’t been on the front lines tirelessly working, or lost a loved one…we need to check ourselves and look to see how we can be grateful and utilize our very real privilege to better be of service and a steward in our community locally and globally.

(L) Apparently Bison do jump fences. (R) This famous spot deemed the Snake River Overlook was made well known by Ansel Adams when he took a famous photo here. I’m sure it was tougher to get to when he did it.
Solitude. Mornings with the Moose.

We’ve collectively been dealt so many tools to improve our toolbox, but we have to practice honing in on our craft. I know I have a lot of work to do…

For 2021, let’s fail forward. Let’s grow together. Let’s care for one another and our planet. Let’s be more curious and compassionate than ever. Let’s check ourselves when and why we complain. Let’s continue to gain perspective. Let’s continue to look inward so we act more outward. Let’s observe and feel the world around us daily.

Let’s not just put 2020 in the rear view mirror…that’s sluggish and too easy…let’s utilize what it’s given us to forge ahead.

(L) Country Creativity. Saratoga, Wyoming. (M). Pilot Butte outside of Rock Springs just before Sunrise. (R). Teton Range as seen from Gros Ventre.
(L) An Elk Herd on high alert outside of Walden, Colorado. (M) Old Homestead Relics along Gros Ventre (R) Sleighs arriving in the morning at the National Elk Refuge. You can see many of the elk here in the background. Thousands of them descend to this valley outside of Jackson for protection and food during the harsh winter. Visitors head out on these sleighs to get up close and personal with the elk. It wasn’t really my thing, but I loved sneaking in and capturing the behind the scenes moments as they got ready for the day before all the visitors arrived.

Sometimes, we need a bit of quite space to fully realize these things. We have to actively take steps and stop making excuses.

So what are you waiting for? Go explore your neighborhood. Go for a hike. Park yourself on a city bench. Spend time outside. Take time and go get lost to find yourself.

Puple Mountain Majesty at Dawn along the Gros Ventre River.
Austere and brutal winter beauty outside of Pinedale.
(L)Ranch Horses seeking that morning sun. (M) Not a bad view. If I was a homesteader, I’d have done the same thing. (R) Trumpeter Swans take flight on the Gros Ventre River.
Morning light as a Bull Moose Grazes along the Gros Ventre River.
Dad taking in the Tetons at Dusk
Split Rock, Wyoming. A famous natural landmark used by Indians, Trappers and Emigrants on the Oregon Trail. It was also a outpost for the Pony Express from 1860–1861. It’s said that Buffalo Bill Cody set a record in this area while carrying mail for the Pony Express. He covered a total of 322 miles in 21 hours and 40 minutes using 21 horses.
The controversial gravesite of Sacajawea in Fort Washakie, Wyoming. Sacajawea was famous for being the 19 year old interpreter for Lewis and Clark along their 1804 expedition. She accompanied them for 2 years from North Dakota thousands of miles to the Pacific Ocean. Today, two locations claim to be her official gravesite. This and another near Mobridge, South Dakota. To this day it’s still up in the air as to which one is the official gravesite.
Classically Western scenes. (L) Wagon Wheel in Lander, Wyoming. (M) A timorous puppy greets me in Walden, Colorado. (R) A motel office lodge in Lander.
Overlook from the top of Dubois, Wyoming.
Austerity. Outside of Pinedale.
(L) Foggy sunrise from near Kelly, Wyoming. (M) Chasing Footprints at sunrise along the Gros Ventre River. (R) Gros Ventre River in all of its winter glory at sunrise.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”-Mark Twain

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Be Curious. Be Compassionate. Mental Musings and Visual Meanderings. Home is in Colorado. Guide in Peru. www.ryankostphotography.com

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Ryan Kost

Ryan Kost

Be Curious. Be Compassionate. Mental Musings and Visual Meanderings. Home is in Colorado. Guide in Peru. www.ryankostphotography.com

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