Part V: Lessons learned – For my next trip. . .
Well . . .I have enjoyed sharing my experiences, and sincerely hope that someone might benefit from them in a way that will make their future trip easier, more enjoyable, and more productive. Just some last thoughts here on what I will do different next time.
There were many places I opted to not try and get to in the rented vehicle. It was a Chevy Traverse; and while it held all our gear, a Suburban or Expedition would have been better. Also, it did not have 4WD. On my next trip, and there WILL be a next trip, I will probably have my own 4WD Suburban or 5 passenger pickup with a weatherproof bed cover. With a rugged 4WD, there are many more back roads available for exploring.
I will also drive cross country to get there. While flying is quicker, there is also the limitation of luggage and carry-on. I was carrying my camera bag with my two cameras and wide angle lenses, plus a 600mm, f4 lens. I sweated every airplane boarding call. I was afraid that due to the cattle-car packing of the airplanes now-a-days, I would be told that I had to check one of my carry-ons, which almost happened on the flight home. Shipping the 600 mm lens was an option, and even though I had insurance on it, getting a replacement in time was not very practical. By driving, I can carry everything with me and know it is going to be there in good shape when I get there.
I will include at least one pair of thermal underwear and gloves, along with a good waterproof coat. My wife and I always use the rolling method to pack, and can get everything we need into one medium sized suitcase. However, that does not include parkas and similar cold weather gear. By driving, I will be able to bring everything with me and not have to worry about shipping it ahead of time and hoping it will arrive within the 5-day window that FedEx will hold it.
Although I was in pretty good physical condition, I will do more to prepare for the next trip. Being in shape for 300 feet altitude is not the same as being in shape for five thousand feet and higher. Walking and jogging are about the only ways I know of to prepare for this. Oxygen intake is crucial when hiking at higher altitudes, and our bodies here in Georgia are just not acclimated to the thinner air. At least six months prior, I will ensure I have done everything physically to prepare for the higher altitudes and traversing the steeper grades. That will include more jogging as well as weight training for legs and upper body.
I think I will focus more on the wildlife, except for the time shooting the Grand Tetons. The geysers are fantastic, and make for some great photos; however, my personal preference would be to spend more time on wildlife. That means more off-road shooting, more hiking, and perhaps more driving on secondary, lesser maintained roads.