Thursday, October 10, 2013

Big Pointy Tetons- mid September

Checking my rear view mirror to make sure Yogi Bear wasn't chasing after my picnic basket as I left Yellowstone I wandered down towards its neighbor's yard otherwise known as the Grand Tetons ( The buffering property between the two drew me in for some reason and caused a days delay. Perhaps it was Grassy Lake which seemed 'oxymoronic' enough to cause me to have a look, but in any case I spent the evening camped out in Mr. and Mrs. Caribou-Targhee's yard, otherwise known as a The Targhee National Forest

Setting up shop at the damn reservoir... ah.. I mean.. at the dam which creates a reservoir, I spied another Bald Eagle soaring in the sky. That encounter was followed by a sunset rain shower  that set off a double rainbow!  With two pots of gold up for grabs I thought to myself, if only the Bald Eagle had been a Golden Eagle I would have hit the trifecta!

Gotta be some of the cheapest dockage around!
After emerging from the woods I went a procured Teton backcountry permits for two nights. My first choice of campsites was at Signal Mountain on the southeast corner of Jackson Lake which incidentally appears to be very low. You'd be forgiven if after seeing the marina's floating docks at the visitor center resting on dry ground you jumped to the conclusion that the lake was low. In point of fact, Jackson Lake is full, but a thirsty population has drained the reservoir dry and it is the added wet area that the volume of reservoir water creates where those now dry docks usually would be floating. 

With plenty of daylight left I drove out to Oxbow Bend which is a hot bed for wildlife activity. Occasionally those rowdy, wild humans settle down enough and you can also catch some animals traveling through the area. Someone in the gathered crowd with eagle eyes spotted a pair of Bald Eagles way off in the distance, however they were far enough away that you'd need a telescope or a lens worth more than your kids college education to capture a snapshot.  As a consolation, we got to see some ducks and a Japanese wedding. 

My poor impression of Ansel Adams.
Moving on down Rt. 191/26/89 (why does one road have 3 different designations?) I 'serpentined ' down to the Snake River Outlook where my intention was to set up and get the shot which has become one of Ansel Adams most iconic photographs.  They say that imitation is a form of flattery. Well, I can tell you I had no intention of flattering Mr. Adams, I was there to outdo him and put his wildly popular photo to shame! And such are my world class photography skills (kidding) that I have no doubt that I would have accomplished my goal of obliterating Ansel's work if fate hadn't conspired against me. You see, due to the natural growth of a few trees and the not at all natural growth of the parking lot and barrier structures it is no longer possible to get that particular shot anymore. You might be able to set up the same shot if you brought in a 50 foot hydraulic crane and then chopped down some trees. I considered that, but in the end I decided to let Mr. Adams continue to have his 15 minutes of fame. 

Jackson Lake Sunset
Setting up my camp for the evening I made sure to stay up wind and maintain a little distance between me and my Dutch neighbors just in case they intended on using those infamous "Dutch Ovens"! I realized when I woke up in freezing conditions the next morning that perhaps I had overreacted. Maybe one could modify those gas ovens to keep oneself warm! In lieu of any other natural heating methods I got dressed and draped a sleeping bag over my shoulders like a shawl while meandering with my camera equipment over the often submerged, but currently exposed rock garden down to the water's edge in the pre-dawn hour. The slight wind combined with the crisp morning temperatures made it challenging from a comfort point of view to wait for the warm sun to rise and bath the area in its glorious light. In the end though, my hope of capturing the scene with steam rising from lake won out and while tolerating physical shivering for aesthetic beauty I managed to get some shots before retreating back into the tent for a few more winks.

A room with a view!
Forty winks later I packed up my pack and on the hike out got to shoot a doe and two Bambis. Making my way south I drove Jenny Lake Scenic Drive, but it actually is less scenic than just about every other part of the park so it's obviously cleverly named simply to manipulate traffic flow. Jenny Lake itself, of course, is picturesque and is where many photos are taken. String Lake and Leigh Lake next door are also lovely, but smaller in scale. 

If you drive out to Antelope Flats and Mormon Row Roads you most likely won't see any antelope or Mormons for that matter. You will, in all likelihood, recognize two often photographed iconic barns built way back when the Mormon's were spreading out and decided to have a go of it here were they could escape persecution. While in the saying while in front of the Moulan's barns I threw my camera into the mix and had a go shooting the barns. 

Of course there is more here than just lakes, barns and the old footsteps of the once vibrant Mormon community. I suppose it's time to write about the hither to unmentioned main attractions, the mountains. They are large and easily spotted from everywhere, but for your convenience you can make stops at locations such as Ponds Overlook, Glacier View Turnout, Teton Point, Cathedral Point or any number of other pullouts to take in some breathtaking views of the Grand Tetons. Normally another great iconic spot to drive to is Schwabacher Landing, but the road leading to it has been "sequestrally closed" due to the incompetence of our so called elected representatives and I use the term "representatives" as loosely as logic and reason will allow. Hell, who am I kidding, apparently logic and reason are no longer welcomed, at least in government!  

Great shot except he blinked!
Fortunately, although you can't drive, if you are willing you can hike a mile down the road and take in the view, which I did. Once there I quickly noticed that I was standing in the middle of what seemed to be a dragonfly Nascar race with these colorful creatures zipping around the track. Frustrated that my  camera's autofocus was too slow to capture these flittering insects I decided to give it a shot focusing manually. I'm stoked to say I got some really great shots and I could swear a couple of them paused specifically to have their photos taken. 

After a few days rain clouds moved in and since there wasn't any chance of them dropping snow which would have been cause to stick around, I decided to head south to Rock Springs, Wyoming which is home to one of the country's largest herd of wild horses. Contrary to the Rolling Stones lyric, "Wild horses could drag me away!". Even from something as majestic as the Grand Tetons.

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