Thursday, October 1, 2015


Rifle, Colorado:

In 1882, Abram Maxfield and Charles Marshall traveled along the Colorado River, then called the Grand River, looking for places to homestead.  On the banks of Rifle Creek, Abram found a spot that suited him.  He filed a claim and brought his son, Clinton, with him to build a cabin.  The following summer he moved the rest of the family to the new homestead.

Moving the family was not easy.   There were no roads and the way involved some rugged territory.  At one point, the wagon had to be dismantled and all the goods unloaded to navigate a tough spot.  Reloaded, they continued their journey.

It was good there was a cabin waiting for them when they arrived.  Ten days after they arrived, Flora Maxfield delivered a son.  Roy (or Bud as he was known to the family) was the first non-Native American child to be born in what became Garfield County.

In time, the Maxfields laid out a town, sold lots, built the Winchester Hotel, and owned and managed cattle yards when the railroad extended to Rifle. Rifle was the largest shipping center in Colorado for several years.   Actually, the selling of lots and the town layout were largely the work of Flora.  Later, widowed, she and her son Bud ran the cattle yards.  She was clearly a woman of independent mind and ahead of the times.   The Maxfields donated the land for the first church in town and their cabin, when they moved to a newer house, became the early school.

And between all these activities, she also gave birth to other children, including a daughter, Gail Hamilton Maxfield.   Gail was my grandmother.  Roy\Bud was the grandfather of my cousins, Bonnie, Sharon and Glende.

The town was named for Rifle Creek.  During this trip to Rifle, I discovered a link to Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, the man who surveyed and explored the region which is now Yellowstone National Park.  I talk about Hayden on my tours in the park.   It turns out Hayden also surveyed this area in 1876.  It was then  that the name Rifle Creek was first published and shown on maps.

 There seems to be some discrepancy about where the name came from.  The accounts in town today generally say that it was a soldier who left his gun by the creek and when he returned to retrieve it, dubbed the creek, Rifle Creek.  The other story that they claim is unlikely is that a rusty gun was found by someone by the creek.  They claim that guns were too precious for someone to have left it behind.  However, the story my mother told, handed down from her mother, was that the creek was named for a rusty rifle found there.   True, guns were valuable, but perhaps the owner suffered a calamity, or the gun was stolen.  Who knows, but when the Maxfields came to name the town, they chose to use the creek name for the name of the town.

From the Tetons (see previous entry), I traveled south to Lander, then down Colorado Highway 13 through Craig and Meeker to Rifle.  I have heard much of these towns as my second cousins grew up in this region. Craig and Meeker were towns where they lived before settling more permanently in Steamboat Springs, then a small cattle town.  At Rifle I stayed at the Rifle Gap State Park, a peaceful spot during the week, close to both town and the Rifle Falls.  My site was large, well distanced from the next site, and overlooking the reservoir.  This was the site of one of the Christo temporary art works, a huge orange curtain across the gap in 1972.

Here are a few photos from Rifle.  Unfortunately the old Winchester Hotel, which my great grandparents built, is no more.  It was here when Lin and I visited over 18 years ago.  But it was torn down to make way for the new city hall and library complex.

Rifle Falls, a few miles from town and quite close to my my campsite, provided a nice  spot for some photography.  Family stories tell of picnics here in the early days.

Flora's'gravestone is in the foreground.  Next to her's is a step daughters, the tall stone with the ball sphere on top lists Abram and three children who died before the age of 5.  To the right is the stone for Flora and Abram's oldest daughter, Louise who died at age 22, wife of a man named Gilliam.  My mother was named for that aunt.

End of the Season

Mineral deposits and thermophile  mats at Biscuit Basin

Suddenly it was the end of the season, time to pack up, put the motorhome back on the road, and say "so long until next year" to all my Yellowstone friends.   The evening before departure I went back to Biscuit Basin to do a few more shots of two spectacular scenes, the textures and colorful mats in the photo above, and the colors of aptly named,Sapphire Pool below.    To enlarge photos click on one and you can see them as a slide show in larger size.

More colorful mats of thermophiles, this time at Black Sand Basin.

During my last week in Yellowstone, Bill and Millie came for a short visit in their tiny little "motel 2" trailer which Bill designed and built.  They parked beside me in the employee RV trailer park, where fortunately the construction worker who had the site moved shortly before their arrival.  Besides riding my photo tour and doing some exploring with me in my free time, they headed out for locations around the park.   I did manage to schedule a spectacular rainbow for them.  I met them through the reunions of the USS HAGGARD.   Bill's dad, Angelo, and my late husband served together on the ship.  They also both attended Berkeley High School.

The end of the season always means the elk rut.   The sound of bugling ( a misnomer; its more of a high pitched squeal) is heard throughout the park and sometimes we witness battles between bulls.
This bull, near the Madison River lost out.  He had no harem and was hanging out by himself.

 On Wed., Sept 23rd, I did my final paperwork and hit the road, not that I was going far.   Several times, pre- and post season, I have stayed at Gros Ventre Campground in Grand Teton National Park. I only saw one moose in Yellowstone this year, a magnificient bull who favored the guests on my tour by walking in good light across a meadow, in front of us, and then crossed the river.   But I generally do better seeing moose in the Tetons.  This year was no different.  The moose, and all the wildlife photographers are quite an attraction.

Bull and cow at the edge of the campground

All the photographers who show up before sunrise are almost as much fun to watch as the moose.  Although it wasn't cold by September standards, it was cold enough to see the steam from the cow's nose above the grasses and for the photographers to be well-bundled.  I was in the campground.  These folks had walked is not good for the animal, or for people's safety to surround and animal.  And some of them were too close....I saw some even closer.   I don't trust moose.  Not only was I in the campground, there was a car in front of me and plenty of places to seek cover.

This cow was feeding on aquatic plants along the Moose-Wilson Road.  Her calf was in the reeds with only an occasional flicker of its ears visible.  A few times she called, checking on it.  
Fellow photographer, Doug Hilborn came down to the Tetons for his weekend.   He couldn't handle all the photographers around the moose, and he'd rather do landscapes.  But we did get together for a day of shooting and checking out where there was good fall color.  His two favorite spots were past their prime this year, but we found a couple new spots.

I can't let an admission from Doug that I was right, he was not, slide by.   We found some good color with the Teton peaks in the background.  He said he was going to return there for sunrise.  I said the light wouldn't be as good on the trees as it was in the afternoon.  But the next morning I photographed moose while he returned to the spot, way out past the Kelly slide.  He called me later to admit that I was right about the lighting.

That's okay, Doug.  Love you anyway and appreciate how you restored my interest in photography a few years ago, encouraged me to upgrade my camera and to become a photo guide in the park.
Here is the fall color, in the afternoon from our new spot

Here is Doug checking out another angle.

Fun photography in the aspen grove.

This forest service cabin is staffed by a couple of retired park rangers.  It is off the grid, in a quiet spot where they enjoy a summer watching wildlife.  The barn, shown here, was built by the C.C.C back in the Depression Era.

After all the fall color shots, Doug was driving me back to my motorhome and car at the campground when he spotted the Bald Eagle in a tree beside the road.