Wyoming’s Periodic Spring


Star Valley south of Afton, Wyoming

Star Valley south of Afton, Wyoming

Post-Eclipse Relaxer
After escaping the eclipse, we drove to Wapiti Village RV Park in Alpine, Wyoming and took a deep breath. Then we thought about dinner. A little online searching turned up the Old Yellowstone Garage – prompt courteous service with spicy chicken wings, a stack of steak fries, and a glass of Riesling or Grand Teton Brewing’s Teton Amber Ale. We had a relaxing experience on the restaurant’s back deck with our dogs.

Stack of fries, Old Yellowstone Garage

Stack of fries, Old Yellowstone Garage

After a good night’s sleep and a bit of local driving around to see the sights along the Snake River the next morning, we wanted something a bit more active. We love Wyoming’s mountains, and were looking for a hike that wouldn’t be too taxing on our Bernese Mountain Dog Daisy. We found it just 50 minutes south of where we were staying.

On to Periodic Spring
The almost unknown Periodic Spring is near the end of a 5.3 mile drive along Salt Creek, east of Afton, Wyoming. You need to know where to find it, since it’s easy to miss the turnoff east on 2nd Avenue / FS 10211 at the north end of town.

There’s not a lot in Afton, home of the world’s largest elk antler arch. As we discovered later, there is a pretty good traditional Mexican restaurant there.

Along Salt Creek on the way to Periodic Spring

Along Salt Creek on the way to Periodic Spring

The 1.5 mile out-and-back Periodic Spring trail seemed to hit the sweet spot of short distance and level hiking with great scenery. It ended up taking about 20 minutes to drive to the trailhead. Green forest and rocky outcrops framed blue sky with a few puffy clouds as we drove the almost traffic-free access road, which turned to dirt after the first couple miles.

Mountain background, Periodic Spring Trail

Mountain background, Periodic Spring Trail



Pat with Buzz and Daisy before the turnaround

Head for the Source
There were several other small hiking parties on the trail, everything from young families with children to older couples. We swapped eclipse-viewing stories with a few of them, and reached a bridged creek crossing about a mile down the trail. After spending some time playing with our dogs in the shallows, Pat turned around to lead them back. It was a good thing she did. A short distance after the bridge crossing, the trail became narrow, steep in places, and rocky – no place for dogs.

Up the trail at Periodic Spring

Up the trail

I carefully scrambled up to the source, stopping along the way for pictures: roller-bearing loose rock with slivered sky between steep cliffs to either side. When I finally reached the end, I was disappointed to see the spring trickling out of a concrete-enclosed rectangular portal. I didn’t catch the 15 to 20 minute periodic flow followed by minutes of near shutoff – it appeared to flow continuously while I was there.

But it felt good to walk along a creek in forested mountain scenery, shooting in late afternoon light.

From the bridge over Salt Creek - standup view

From the bridge over Salt Creek – standup view, 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar ASPH
Compare to foot-level view below

Back in Afton, Los Cabos Family Restaurant was packed. We waited 30 minutes for a table. Severely understaffed service was slow, but the enchiladas and Negra Modelo were worth the wait. Or maybe we were just really hungry.

Shot Notes
Low viewpoints may give a unique perspective, but the standing eye-level view sometimes shows more. I typically shoot both crouched down and standing up when there’s time to capture an unchanging subject. That gives me shot choices later, after I have a chance to think about the story I’m telling and which pictures tell it best.

Starting out in the 1960s, I used to shoot both horizontal and vertical pictures of the same scene. After 45+ years, I’ve developed a good feel for what will work best. I’ve never been too lazy to turn the camera.

From the bridge over Salt Creek - low foot-level view

From the bridge over Salt Creek – low foot-level view, 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar ASPH

I’m also walking with the least amount of gear I think I can get away with on the trail. A Leica M or Fuji X-E2 body with small fixed-focal length Leica lenses will usually do all I need.

More Information
Wapiti Village RV Park, retrieved from https://www.wapitivillage.com/

Old Yellowstone Garage, retrieved from http://oldyellowstonegarage.com/

Periodic Spring Trail, retrieved from https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/wyoming/periodic-spring-trail

Periodic Spring, retrieved from http://www.americansouthwest.net/wyoming/periodic-spring/

Heading back to the trailhead, Periodic Spring Trail

Heading back to the trailhead

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