March 11, 2023
Many work campers have arrived here at Yonder over the past week while Luke has been away in Massachusetts doing projects with Caroline’s Cannabis. He also made her website, isn’t it beautiful? I was glad to have some people to help get me out since we are back at the campground and Luke took our truck. I wasn’t about to drive 10 hours to take him the airport and it’s not so hard to go a week without transportation. Curtis let me borrow his truck to finish a quick shoot I did for a local hotel, what a guy. Sara drove me back and forth for my volunteer days at the visitor center this week because she is also a wonderful friend. It turned out to be a busy week rather than the quiet week of doing projects around home that I had expected.
The town of Boulder had these large wooden sculptures of an elk mom and calf in the town park and on Sunday night they burned them and had a little ceremony. Of course, a bunch of us piled into Sara’s truck to go. Sara had me cracking up. I invited her to an elk burning and she thought it was an event where elk was cooked so she offered to bring a side dish! It was very cold and a bit windy, but still a wonderful event. We didn’t want to miss any of it so we didn’t make any stops along the way, but we did see the most spectacular sunset. I nabbed this photo out the window of the moving car with my phone.
The event was interesting and also a bit pagan for this mormon community. The artist who built the sculptures talked about how he made them and why. There was someone playing the Native American flute and a drummer. They gave out free hot chocolate and paper and pencils so everyone could write down something we wanted to let go of and place it in the elk before it was lit. I brought my camera and tripod and did my best to capture the action without being in anyone’s way which was a bit of a challenge. They had archers light fire arrows and shoot the elks to start the fire. There was some chanting while they lit the arrows. Here is our elk family before and after the lighting. The blowing wind made for fun sparks and smoke in the photos.
I had Emma and her fiancee Jordan pose for a photo for me to show off the pagan feel of this event.
The mud has been pretty intense at the campground. It’s not quicksand, but it is deep and sloppy. Curtis did some work on drainage which did improve it a lot. The mud inspired me to suggest that Russ may want some mudding photos of his Side by Side so we made plans to go out to do this on Tuesday. Tuesday came around and he decided to just take me out for a fun ride to a place that can be tougher to get to instead. Mid ride we decided to go to the Cosmic Ashtray. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining so I was very grateful to be outside heading to a hike that’s been on my wishlist for a while now. Russ and his brother hiked into the ashtray and they climbed to the top of the rocky bit in the middle while I stayed up on the slick rock and took photos. I could scarcely believe that Russ made this climb wearing his cowboy boots. I don’t think I would have done it even with perfect equipment and a guide. Here is a shot with Joseph making a victory leap at the top and another with him and his brother Russ at the top.
It was a super fun day. We ran into a ranger out there who was making his rounds checking for trash or rock graffiti and talking with visitors on the trail. Aside from him we only saw a mother and daughter out there. We talked to the ranger about the importance of protecting this amazing wilderness by not drawing too much attention and too many people to it. He advised me to use my judgement in where I posted photos from out here so as not to draw too many people who may not understand how to best preserve the land. This place is listed on AllTrails and photos of it are not hard to find. Also, I don’t believe my reach is very far so I fell comfortable sharing these here. I think this spot would ideally be photographed earlier or later in the day to manage the light and shadows better, but I was super happy just to be there. The Cosmic Ashtray is pretty far down some rough roads so it is well protected just by its location. We did not see any evidence of trash or graffiti while we were there. If you visit this place be sure to observe the 7 tenants of leaving no trace. Our ranger reminded us to also be mindful of noise you make in these places. Your music might be awesome for you and get you pumped on your climb, but someone else may be visiting and looking for peace and the sounds of nature so you’re better off using earbuds or leaving it turned off.
The slick rock we had to hike up to get to this spot was also beautiful with bands of white and red striping the rock. You can see this in my cover photo.
It’s still pretty cold though the days are getting warmer. The pub in town has provided us with a nice place to gather and socialize since we all live in trailers that cannot accommodate a crowd easily. We have had a game night there and tonight is their music jam night so we have a crowd going for a little reunion party. Work starts for me next week so my winter of freedom is coming to an end. I’m excited about it though. It’s been getting busy at the visitor center with tourists coming in for hikes and this has been fun for me. I have gained more confidence talking to people about the hikes and features out here though I am still passing off those asking about overnight backpacking routes as I have not tried to do any of those yet.
Russ gave a few of us a quick ride in the side by side down Smokey Mtn road another day when the sun was shining and he was scheduled to work the late shift. Its was a fun ride, but super muddy on that road. I snapped a couple of quick phone pics when we got back and then we all parted ways to shower and visit the laundry. Not pictured here is my ass which was covered in mud. It really looked like I had shat myself. Russ realized he would need to get a plug for the hole in the floor of the backseat.
Luke had difficulties during his travel home. He was sitting in Logan airport stuck for over 8 hours as JetBlue did not announce when his flight schedule changed. He made a fun little video and this ad to work out his frustration and posted them everywhere. Don’t waste the time of the talented guy with his own media company. The video he made featured planes crashing and exploding in animated motion graphics. He was still all fired up when he boarded and showed his video to a fellow passenger he sat next to. He says that she looked very uncomfortable with the exploding planes image. He felt a little bad as he believes he may have left her with having a nervous flight. Sometimes we all misjudge our audience a bit…oops.
Jennifer MacNeil is currently traveling the US with her husband and two dogs. She loves to have adventures, explore, meet fascinating people, and see amazing places. She strives to learn every day and spread kindness to others. She documents her journey through her photography and blog to share with others.