Day 4: Yellowstone

When you show up at Yellowstone without plans, you run the risk of waking up in the morning, wandering aimlessly out of your bus, and having breakfast with the friendly Mormons cooking bacon and french toast on the next site over. These genial Latter Day Saints struck up conversation first with Justin, as he headed down to the lake shortly after daybreak, and then with me as I groggily appeared from the bus hours later in the previous days pajamas. It was their last day in the park, so they insisted that there was food that needed to be eaten, and we obliged them. The bacon and french toast was a vast improvement over the oatmeal we were going to have, and also meant that I got to have bacon. As they were headed back home they pawned off some of their unused supplies in trade for a small pile of cookies baked by Justin’s mom. (It’s probably for the best that we bartered those cookies, considering I’ve had more than one all-cookie meal in the last few days.)

Reflection of the sunrise on the placid water in Bridge Bay.

Reflection of the sunrise on the placid water in Bridge Bay.

Shortly after breakfast, we wandered down to the marina where I’m writing from. We should probably be deep in the woods enjoying the scenery and seeking the wildlife. Instead we’re sitting at a picnic table next to a dumpster and an aging soda machine, because that’s where we found an outlet. Oddly enough, hanging out by the dumpster is where we’ve run into the most incredible character of the journey to date. Standing near the dumpster, in full camouflage, with a massive 600mm lens, waiting for the perfect shot, was Kevin. We noticed Kevin shuffling his telescope-sized rig to multiple locations near the bear-proof trash bin, squinting into the trees, hoping to catch a look at god-knows-what.

After a number of fruitless minutes of this he wandered over to our table, and asked if we could ‘watch this for a minute’, referring of course to his photographic artillery, worth well over ten thousand dollars. Justin said “Sure! What is it, a 600?” Which led to a good 15 minutes of talking before we realized what he really needed was a bathroom break, and we relieved him to relieve himself before we continued the conversation. Apparently Kevin is a photographer (no, really), who has been in the backwoods of Yellowstone for the last 39 days capturing wildlife up close. We heard some fascinating stories about him spending days at a time traveling with (not behind, mind you) a group of goats, only to be trusted by the matriarch to watch the younglings while she and the other adults went off for food. He’s been shooting wildlife for decades, and had stories like this for dozens of different species. At the moment he was waiting (quite bashfully) for a somewhat elusive bird that likes to hang out by the dumpster. He seemed a little embarrassed to even be near the dumpster looking for a shot, but given the story he told us about hanging out with a den of wrestling wolf pups, I won’t hold it against him.

Kevin – science teacher, wildlife photographer, living legend.

Kevin – science teacher, wildlife photographer, living legend.

He was a very humble, yet clearly talented and passionate guy. Multiple times he offered to let us use his images if we happened to be doing something non-profit for the environment, or to educate children, or adults for that matter (he’s been giving these images to magazines like the Audubon Society for years.)

Meeting Kevin reinforced a notion that Justin and I were discussing during the long drive yesterday. We were talking about the difference between “work”, and “a job”.  Kevin’s full-time position is as a science teacher, and a helluva teacher at that. He teaches middle-school, and said 14% of his students that graduate college have environmentally focused degrees, and 25% have science related degrees. That’s an incredible accomplishment. On top of that he spends his summer embedded in the wilderness for months at a time, co-existing with “critters”, and capturing world-class images.

He works his ass off 365 days a year, far beyond what a normal person would consider overtime, and he wouldn’t change a thing. He’s given himself to his craft, and lives a rich fulfilling life. As Justin and I embark on careers in freelance work, we find ourselves often working more than twelve hours a day, and on occasion through the night. Meeting people like Kevin helps keep it all in context. Our work is our hobby, and we love doing it. We’re pursuing a craft, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

(And yes, this experience is how I’m justifying not going into the woods today. Deal with it.)

Dusk over Bridge Bay Marina.

Dusk over Bridge Bay Marina.


23 Responses to Day 4: Yellowstone

  1. Tyler Bliss

    Currently a couple of days behind but have enjoyed getting caught up! What a great post! Amazing the people you run into while on the road! Puts things into perspective! Beautiful pictures as well!

    • Hank Butitta

      It’s always the unexpected bits and people you meet that are the most fun! Thanks!

  2. Tim

    Does Kevin have a website for some of his photography?

    • Justin Evidon

      Unfortunately Hank and I both failed to get his full contact info, so we are hoping he gets in touch with us once he resurfaces from his time in Yellowstone. Once we have that information we will be sharing it on this post.

  3. Beth muether

    Loved your journal about on the road in the bus. It brought back such fond memories of going cross country with my family back in the early 70s in our blue and Volkswagen van. It’s four cylinder engine struggled up logging roads in Montana, but it brought us in close proximity to some spectacular scenery. Your bus is a lot roomier then that van especially with a car sick dog that never raised her head while we were in motion. Thanks for bringing back memories of my trips. Do you ever plan to come to Long Island, N.Y.? I ‘ll throw some things together and hitch a ride! Safe journeys.

    • Hank Butitta

      Riding with a sick dog sounds like an adventure I’m not quite ready for! And we’re thinking East Coast next year, so who knows! Thanks!

      • VLLasher

        If you do the east coast, swing by Delaware. I’ll trade a home cooked meal for a tour of the bus and a chat about residential architecture, storage, and the like.

  4. Charlene Pursey

    Hi, I love this whole concept. I hope you’re listening to Steve Earle’s newest cd (The Low Highway) while you’re on the road. wishing you & all with you well

    • Hank Butitta

      We’ll have to look him up! Thanks for the well wishes!

  5. Michael Rybin

    Fantastic idea! Daily ~ please write a brief comment about your experience regarding the architectural design and functionality of the bus. What do you like the most or the least about the chairs, the cushions, the windows, the bed, etc? What would you keep the same or what improvements would you make?

    I guess you are giving people all around the country tours of your bus. Please include their comments in your daily blog.

    Most importantly, anyone who spends a day or more traveling or sleeping or eating on the bus will have a totally different experience and perspective. Please include their comments too. The challenge will be to ask effective and objective non-leading questions. I call this the “Voice of the Customer”. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Kyle Hansen

    I am a lowly Tech in Silicon Valley. I grew up in the far northeastern reaches of Minnesota. A friend clued me into your trip. I am thoroughly interested and involved from here. If you are ever near Alameda California (San Fran) let me know. I will help in any way I can.

    Thanks for the good reading material as I rebuild Macbook Pro’s late into the night.

  7. patricia boyd

    Still playing catch up , just found your blog on day 12. This is such an exciting adventure for you guys. Love reading about your travels. The interesting people you meet along the way is priceless. Keep the stories coming and I ‘m back to playing catch up. Safe travels.

  8. Judy

    Oh, the places you’ll go! What stories you’ll tell. Keep in touch. Traveling mercies.

  9. Judy B

    What a fantastic voyage your on! I just found your blog and I am so enthralled with it. I sent this to my son to follow, this is right up his alley. Keep the interesting stories coming, I enjoy reading them, safe travels!!

  10. Andre

    Good idea, well done, unforgettable project of your life.

    Andre from France

  11. Jim

    Hey I’m one of those Mormons you met at Yellowstone! We were happy to share breakfast with you guys, and it sure was a pleasure to meet you both. Looks like your inspiring a lot of people! Glad to hear your travels are still going well. And we’ll be praying for you guys to have a safe journey! 😉

    • Justin Evidon

      Hey Jim, glad you were able to find us on here! Hank and I have both been recalling some of the earlier parts of the journey and can’t believe it is all part of a single trip – it feels so long ago. Hopefully you guys were able to enjoy the rest of the cookies!


      • Nelda

        Totally bummed that Jim beat me to this! Saw you in the Daily Grist. When I got back home, I started working with an AmeriCorps VISTA from Wisconsin who also does design work, and now I’m conflating you all. Hope all is well!

  12. Brandy

    i am playing catch up and looking at pics still at day #4.. What an amazing adventure.. I remember as a kid, living in Illinois and traveling to California and back. There were 16 of us.. My family and my cousins and their family..
    Went on almost the same route as your on.. Bring back great memories..

  13. Brad H

    Ha! I literally just got back to MN from roadtripping last week to Yellowstone and camping at Bridge Bay. The friendly Mormons on the next site over, and their bacon – I didn’t realize It was a quintessential Yellowstone experience.

  14. Great Grandma Ginny

    Hi guys,

    Yep, I am still here. Reading as much as I can to get caught up. Hank, you are an amazing writer and your style is very engaging… Keep on keeping on, I will catch up soon…

    GG Ginny

  15. Ann

    I’m so glad to have found this blog– having a BLAST catching up. Do write a book about it and include the changes you make in response to having lived in it.

  16. Deborah

    I love reading about all of your adventures keep on posting.

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