9.1 Lost History
I’m on my way to rediscover a bit of personal history. As a young man I embarked on a road trip with my best friend Rich McMartin. We were college students with little experience and even less money, but Rich owned a functioning car, and we set out one June to see the Rocky Mountains. It was an adventure that left many lasting and wonderful impressions but, like many of my life experiences, the details of where we actually traveled and when and how we got there have been lost to the decay of aging synapses.
But some of the memories are so permanently etched that there are valuable clues to follow. One in particular has held a certain fascination for me, as it is the motivating inspiration for many of my startrail compositions: I am trying to capture the feeling Rich and I shared after we drove up a mountain pass one night, stopped at the top, and looked out at a sky that was so dark and deep and star-filled that we couldn’t find our favorite constellations! The dome of jewels that filled our eyes extended even beneath us as we momentarily lost our balance at the invisible shores of an alpine lake that mirrored the sky.
In the years since that powerful experience I have often wondered where we were that night, and now whenever I summit a mountain road, I look around to see if a familiar lake is nearby. On this day, leaving Yellowstone and its road construction behind, I realize that there is a famous pass on a road that would not be on any of my usual homeward routes, but it is not very far from here. Beartooth Pass! I’ve not been over it for many years; maybe this is the location of our nighttime trance. Even if it isn’t, it may hold a place for me to setup my equipment and take pictures in a remote alpine setting.
The forecast is for winds, and the clouds are intermittent at medium height. They aren’t the puffy cumulus blobs that evaporate at night; this is a troubling indicator. But I’m here, I should keep going. It may not turn out in my favor, but if I’m not there to try, there’s no chance at all. My task is to place myself at the right place and time, the weather is beyond my control.