Grand Teton National Park / by Mark Andre

Everything I hear about the area surrounding Jackson Hole made it sound like a mini paradise in the west. All the outdoor activities gave me some very high expectations for the second half of the trip. I was looking forward to seeing Yellowstone, but not nearly as much as I was looking forward to Grand Teton National Park.

Views obscured by the haze of smoke from Western wildfires

I was a little nervous for this part of the trip. All the wildfires that have affected the west meant that smoke was drifting all over the mountain west. Arriving in Jackson and seeing the haze in the skies admittedly had me a little down. However, I was not prepared for how it might actually make for some great photos.

The images above and below were both made on the haziest evening of the whole trip. It goes to show that even when you think conditions are not ideal, its still worth it to head out.

Sunset over Jackson Lake

Grand Teton National Park is all about the views to the east. Sunrise at the numerous view points along the various streams and rivers made for some amazing moments early in the morning.

Sunrise at Schwabacker’s Landing

I’ve always been a sunrise person, but the crisp and cool mornings in Teton National Park were special. Waking up and driving out to the park to watch the sun wash across the landscape was vastly different than sunrises I’m used to in DC. The mountains reaching up and grabbing the first orange light in the morning is one of the memories I’ll keep with me.

Snake River Bend

While we didn’t see nearly as much wildlife in the Tetons as in Yellowstone, we did catch some distant views of Moose and Buffalo. Its probably a good thing that they were always quite far off. The hiking we did tended to be in places where coming across a moose might have been rather terrifying.

In many ways, the Tetons were a contradiction. The landscape was vast and intimate. The closer you get to the mountains, the more intimate the landscape became.

Elk Flats Ranch

Moving from the grandeur of the overlooks to the tight trails of the Aspens and Lodge Pole Pines to the lakes in the shadows of the mountains, It leaves you looking around each corner for more. Given more time in this amazing place, moving up into the mountains in the next logical step.

Taggart Lake Loop

Bradley Lake

While we took a hike partially up into the hills, I can only imagine what lies a few hundred feet further up.

Aspens with their fall colors

Sunrise from Oxbow Bend

Towards the end of the trip, I felt like I was just getting started. The routine or sunrises, hikes, and sunsets quickly dwindled into packing for the flight back home.

Sunrise at Blacktail Ponds

This place left me wanting more time while not having enough of it. The rich golden yellow tones of early autumn with the deep greens of the pines created beautiful contrast to the orange first light on the mountains.

Its not hard to understand why this place is so popular and so steeped in the historical movement to preserve public lands. The tectonic shift of the mountains up and the valley down has created that special hole in the middle of Wyoming. Who can’t imagine people 150 years ago trodding across the empty landscape - in size not beauty - of the great plains up into the mountains only to come across this amazing valley rife with rivers, sagebrush, pine and aspen groves, and glacial moraines all in the shadow of the dramatic peaks.

Dead tree at Blacktail Ponds

Stay tuned for a post soon about how I plan my trips and tips to make your next vacation to the wilderness a quieter escape from our daily lives.