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Grand Views

Sunrise. A time of day I am usually asleep for. The colors of the morning are soft, baby hues of pink, orange, purple and more rest upon the landscape. After a full night of darkness, a cool air rests upon the earth. A chill sweeps across the land carried loosely by whatever breeze happens to stir. Otherwise the air is still. A peaceful calm that is unmatched by any other time of day. Sunsets happen when the world is still moving, just winding down. Sunrises pour light over a sleeping world. Only a few stir and move in the early hours.

At the feet of the Tetons, the morning stage is surreal. An ethereal calm rests before the majesty of seemingly indomitable mountains. These rugged peaks rise from the valley floor in grand chorus illuminated, before anything else, by the rising sun. As I sit and watch the sun kiss Mount Moran, I feel at peace. I am at rest.

The drive to the Tetons was a spontaneous one. What was planned to be a leisure drive on Sunday morning became a race against time and the fast-setting sun Saturday evening. I first arrived at the sand dunes north of the Juniper hills Saturday afternoon. There I hoped to watch the peak of the Perseid Meteor shower in the clear skies above east Idaho. I quickly realized August in the dunes is bug heaven. Thousands of flying ants, ground wasps, flies, and beetles swarmed me as I walked on the drifting sand. I couldn't stand the thought of laying in the sand for minutes, let alone hours. I looked east. The grand peaks of the Teton Mountain Range beckoned me home. That was all I needed. I checked the time, decided on the northern dirt route through the mountains following the Ashton-Flagg Ranch road, then I raced off to the wall of mountains before me. The sun was setting quickly as I navigated the rough back road. Phoebe (my Rav4) handled the roads well, but the faulty sensor in the wheel well struck again. I woke Sunday morning to several warning lights on my dash -- reminders of the previous night's race through the back country. Saturday's setting sun illuminated the hills and waters of Yellowstone. A reservoir, with glassy waters, perfectly reflected the evening light enveloping the world around it. Trees shone orange, clouds pink and blue, the scene was perfect. A photo so good, I plan on using it as a screensaver!

I tested my hand at astrophotography this weekend. With a small tripod and my trusty Canon Rebel T7, I took to the plains of Wyoming to watch the shower commence, and capture the Milky Way in its glory as it marched across the night sky. As I snapped shots of the silhouetted mountains, I noticed single lights dancing on the face of the mountains. Hikers and climbers fitted with headlamps and flashlights managed to appear in the long-exposure photos. You can even see the lights of a camp at the saddle below the Grand, by noon Sunday, these climbers were on top of the world, atop the Grand Teton, more than 13,700 feet in the air!

It is summer, the height of tourist season. Campgrounds across the park are full, roads packed, and trails well traveled. I managed to find a pull off outside the park (it is illegal to camp in pull offs in the park) where I could sleep in my car. Forest service roads in the Bridger-Teton National Forest east of the Tetons offered some refuge from the biggest crowds. Still, people were everywhere. I was quickly exhausted by this, and ended my trip a day early. But, before leaving, my goal was to find another spot to add to my list, and a fantastic spot it is! Grand View Point, elevation 7823 ft., sits in the northeast corner of Grand Teton National Park. With several trails leading to the overlook point, the view from the top is not only worth it, but mostly accessible! I chose to reach the point by beginning at the trailhead at Two Ocean Lake, a beautiful glacier-formed lake with gorgeous wildflower meadows and dense forests lining its shores. The name is a misnomer as the lake only flows into the Snake River, then to the Pacific Ocean, but its proximity to the Continental Divide allows for the confusion. The ~9mile loop I hiked began along the southern shore of the lake, up to Grand View Point, then back along the northern shore of the lake. The view from the top offers a panoramic vista with the Tetons to the west, and the rolling hills and mountains of the Gros Ventre Range, and others, to the east. I sat for more than 30 minutes on exposed rock to take it all in. For 15 minutes, or so, I was the only one up there. It was perfect.

Elk, deer, and a majestic moose made appearances this weekend. I only snagged photos of a few elk in a distant field. It was dark and I was in a hurry to get to the park when I saw the moose standing in the middle of a river, its dark silhouette contrasted by the off-white and grey-blue flowing water. The animals are in the hills and forests this time of year, Yellowstone has sported more bear and bison sightings than the Tetons. That's okay though, I have my fair share of wildlife photos from out there, and I'll be back for rutting season to get more. Instead, you'll see lots of photos of my favorite peak: Mount Moran, plus all the other photos of nature and scenery you could ever want. Note the scratch marks on the tree trunks; evidence of black bears excellent climbing skills!

All in all, another wonderful trip to one of my favorite mountain ranges! I prefer the off-season there, but there is rhyme and reason to why so many people like to visit these grand peaks during the summer months. Their beauty says it all! Enjoy the pictures folks. 'Till next time, stay safe out there.

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