Saturday, June 10, 2006

The agony and the ecstasy

Well, I finally have reliable internet access- so am able to post again.

What a last several days- from the high of seeing Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks to the low of completely messing up two chase days where we could have seen the best supercell structure of the trips. First the highs: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons were awesome- we spent half the day Wednesday photographing the still-snowcovered Grand Tetons, then made our way to Yellowstone, where we were fortunate enough to see Grand Geyser erupt- it is the tallest (mostly) predictable geyser in the world- much better than Old Faithful, which was actually somewhat disappointing. We then toured a lot of the other thermal areas until dark, and made our way to the night's lodgings at the Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge.

The next morning we got up early, toured the Mammoth Hot Springs (not as impressive as in years past, a lot of the bigger springs are not flowing right now).

Then we did a quick tour of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone area (the falls were very impressive due to the high water levels in the rivers).

Photos here

OK, those are the highlights- on to the comedy of errors/blunders that have characterized the last two days.
We rightly decided to head east from the northern section of the park to try and catch some storms in southern Montana. However, as we wended our way from Cody east into the Bighorn mountains to a position north of Sheridan, we continued to have limited cell phone coverage and therefore limited internet access. So when we drove up the interstate to southern Montana, we did not realize the real weather situation in that region- which was in reality very well set up for supercells. As we approached the Little Big Horn area from the south, the thunderstorms in that area looked very junky and outflow dominant from our vantage point. So I made the fatal decision to blow off the storms and head south. BAD mistake. As it turned out, a massive supercell developed not 30 miles from where we turned around, and the photos from chasers that in the area show that this storm was the best of the latter part of the season, structure-wise. DOH!

OK, that was not very good, but there is always tomorrow, right? Yes, always another opportunity to mess up badly, which we did yet again. We should have paid more attention to the possibility of more good storms back in the higher terrain of the western NE/eastern WY area, but NOOOO, we were suckered way to the east into SE South Dakota and eventually far NW Iowa, where we were rewarded by a cluster of crappy high based junk, not anywhere close to being worth the time, effort and money involved. I did get a couple of very nice rainbow shots. The really kick in the a#$ was that yet once again, the smart chasers that decided to stay out west were rewarded with two really great supercells, one in eastern WY, another in Cherry county, NE. I should have realized that this season, due to the extreme lack of moisture, the only real play is to stay in higher terrain, where moisture is maximized. Therefore for what is most likely our last chance before heading home, we will attempt to get at least ONE good supercell in western Nebraska today, before calling it a (crappy) season.

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