JUNE 2013 BACK ISSUE by Raymond Gehman For over 20 years my assignments with National Geographic took me to many of the world's most beautiful places. I repeatedly found myself traveling the Continental Divide, photographing the great western mountains of North America. From the majestic Tetons and steaming hot springs of Yellowstone in Wyoming, through the glaciered valleys of Banff and Jasper National Parks in the Canadian Rockies, to the northern wildernesses of British Columbia and the Arctic tundra of the Yukon Territories, I worked on numerous books and magazine articles. Whether hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, or flying in floatplanes, I explored and photographed almost every corner of this vast, great mountain ecosystem, one of the last pristine expanses of its kind in the world. This Yellowstone to Yukon corridor offers what may be the last best chance on earth to preserve intact a fully functioning mountain ecosystem.  This diverse region harbors the last vestiges of North America's great biological heritage.  The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative's aim is to keep it that way. The Initiative was conceived in 1993, and is a coalition of more than 100 Canadian and US organizations, plus a network of scientists and environmental advocates, all dedicated to preserving the native integrity of the "Yellowstone to Yukon" region.  Their mission is to restore health to the fragmented areas of the Northern Rocky Mountain Ecosystem by weaving a tapestry of already protected parks together with newly created wildlife migration corridors that are critical to the ecosystem's continued health. Part I I've always felt comfortable, and connected to something larger than myself in this vast, wild range of mountains that stretch 2,000 miles, from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming to Tombstone Territorial Park in the Yukon. To stand in a sagebrush meadow, and to feel the crunch of the earth beneath my boots, is to feel at home. To stand on the edge of the Rocky Mountain Front, and to see the great rock faces rear towards the sky, gives me insight into my purpose. The photographs I have made in the western frontier country have imbued me with a native spirit, and with a desire to share my vision of this land with the viewer. My hope is that my images capture this spirit of the native North American land as experienced through the eyes of those who came first. By preserving this in photographs, I try to slow down our often chaotic and spinning world…if only for a moment. GRAND TETON NAT. PARK, WY:  Sunrise paints the peaks of the Teton Range as the setting moon drops behind the spectacular mountain range. The Snake River winds through the park on its way to Idaho. YELLOWSTONE NAT. PARK:  When seen from ground level, Grand Prismatic Spring is a marvelous and mysterious sight. When viewed from the air, the large hot spring is one of the world's most colorful wonders (3rd largest in world) MONTANA:  The sign of a true rancher? Having his faithful Blue Tick Heeler by his side. WIND RIVER RANGE, WY:  Outfitter Jim Allen guides hunters, hikers and rock climbers into the wilderness of Wyoming's Wind River Range. The legendary "Cirque of the Towers" serves as his backdrop. FREEDOM WYOMING:  The local post office seldom sees a busy day in this remote ranching valley, best known for being on the "backside" of the majestic Teton Range. YELLOWSTONE NAT. PARK, WY:  The lonesome, eerie bugle of a bull elk signals autumn has settled on the park, that winter won't be far behind, and the cycle of life will continue. TAHOE NAT. FOREST, CA:  From his perch on a burned tree stump, a chipmunk surveys his world:  a meadow alive with penstemons and other native wildflowers.  MISSOULA, MONTANA:  A cloud of dust raised by corralled horses is set ablaze by the setting sun on a ranch north of Missoula. TRIPLE 7 BISON RANCH, SD:  The world inside my car is familiar. Beyond my windshield lies a land that wants to be the way it used to be. Pristine. Untouched. PONDEROSA PINE FOREST, MIDNIGHT:  Wildfire is nature's way of regenerating forests. Left to burn naturally, fire plays a crucial role in the life cycle of these Ponderosa Pines.  YELLOWSTONE PARK, WY:  The cold temperature of an October day raises a cloud of steam from a backcountry hot spring.  Mineral-laded water slowly builds geyserite, a silica based rock formation, around the pool's edge. YELLOWSTONE NAT. PARK, WY: A trumpeter swan swims through the cold blue shadows of twilight while the Yellowstone River reflects a fiery sunset. YELLOWSTONE:  Old Faithful Gyeser. ARLEE, MONTANA:  Pablo is from the Flathead Indian Tribe, whose reservation is centered in the Mission Valley. BIG HOLE VALLEY, MONTANA: A sudden spring blizzard sent this rancher out into the storm to search for lost calves separated from their mothers. BANFF NAT. PARK, ALBERTA: A climber descends from Sentinel Pass into the Valley of Ten Peaks, high above Moraine Lake. This range forms part of the Continental Divide.
BANFF NAT. PARK, ALBERTA:  World-class climber Barry Blanchard scales a 100-meter quartzite cliff above Banff's famous turquoise gem, Lake Louise. BANFF NAT. PARK, ALBERTA:  Bruno Engler, last of the legendary Swiss Mountain Guides, pays a visit to Abbott Hut, a climbers' way station high above Lake Louise.
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