TeePee Rock Adventure
– Drew Nash, Landscape Photographer
When I first came across the teepee rocks out in the Sawtooth National Forest I went speechless. Found out past Oakley Reservoir these gems are pretty well hidden if you’re not familiar with the area.
Competing for space alongside dozens of ATV riders on the narrow and winding Trapper Creek Road slowed my pace, but not my enthusiasm. It was a beautiful day and I didn’t have any must-have photos to take for a few hours.
After several miles I pulled off Trapper Creek Road, and drove down a rutted out trail used mostly by ATV’s. I came to a small clearing and parked. Having checked the lightpollutionmap.info website I knew the area was considered a class 2 rating on the Bortle Scale, meaning there should be minimum light pollution to disrupt my view of the Milky Way Galaxy.
After grabbing some gear I jogged off to see these intriguing cones a bit closer. The wind and water erosion was incredible. Completely on par with anything I’d seen at the National Parks I’d visited over the years and there I was, all alone on a sandy trail taking it all in. I could hear the sounds of ATV’s off into the distance, I wondered if they had any clue what was back here just off the main road.
The teepee rocks were part of the supervolcano hotspot that erupted long ago. The North American Tectonic Plate has moved westerly since then and today we know the hotspot as Yellowstone National Park. Shawn Willsey, geology professor at the College of Southern Idaho wrote the white rocks near Oakley are tuff, ash deposits from explosive eruptions in the Twin Falls volcanic field 8-10 million years ago.
Eventually other people showed up, I counted three different groups that would come and go as I hung around these fascinating formations. Still, the foot traffic was nothing compared to seeing the famous Delicate Arch in Utah and easily just as awe-inspiring in my opinion.
I checked the augmented reality of the Milky Way Galaxy with my PhotoPills app and began to plan where I’d take my dark sky photos for the night. I came up with three scenes, two would be shot around 3:30 a.m. and the final one at about 4 a.m. because I would be facing mostly south.
There were no ATV’s rumbling around, only the sounds of owls in the distance when 2:30 a.m. rolled around. I grabbed my gear and walked up the steep sandy trail to get set up. I watched the Milky Way envelop the night sky as I tripped my shutter. It was going to be a good night.
Remember to take only memories (and photographs) while leaving only footprints. The area is a stunning look back into time millions of years ago so please DO NOT DAMAGE OR WRITE ON the tuffs or the area around them!
To learn more about geology in the area pick up Shawn Willsey’s book Geology Underfoot in Southern Idaho at https://shawn- willsey.square.site/
Drew Nash is a fine art photographer and educator based in southern Idaho. His work has been published by Clif Bar, Nike, New York Times, the Associated Press and many others. To see more of Nash’s work visit www.flyphotography.photos or follow him on Instagram @drewnashfineartistry.