This is one of the most expansive views that I've ever seen (from the ground, that is), stretching about 100 miles to the Absaroka Range that you can see on the horizon just beneath the cloud line. I'm standing on a grassy hill about 9,400 feet above sea level looking down into a short valley that leads to the edge of the mountains that fall off dramatically down the Basin, itself at about 4,500 feet. That's a drop of about 5000 feet and that's just from this point. Behind me there are higher peaks still.
I have returned over and over to this relatively small selection of photographs from our trip out north and west this past summer. As I explained at the time, I found this place to be a little magical. It's easy to understand just from the feel of the place just why the Apsáalooke natives of the region regard the hills as a sacred place.
I say hills and that's quite deliberate. When you are on top of the range that is how it seems. Rolling hills that remind me very much of the South Downs in England, but with patches of crisp white snow rather than white chalk. However, the soil is not that far removed from chalk, being crumbly and sedimentary in nature. No sea, though, and an altitude ten times higher.
I was standing on one of those vast gently curving Down-like hills as I took this photograph. The compressed image that the camera gave me does not really do justice to the scale of the scene – this is one photograph that needs to blown up as large as possible to be remotely effective. I've tweaked this monochrome image considerably to bring out the contrast – it was taken under the least helpful midday sun. It's better than it was.
Certain places – and this is one – have the ability to bypass all my mental processes and connect directly with my soul. The fact that I spent no more than perhaps 45 minutes in this region is irrelevant. 45 seconds would have been enough. I can never predict just where such a spiritually connected place will be. Some of the ancient mounds and sites here and in Europe affect me similarly, but some do not. Only by being there can I know. There's a forest in the Pas de Calais region of France that I only drove by that struck me similarly. Likewise a remote Highland valley spotted in the far distance from the road from Inverness to Ullapool.