Mining for Gold
AwakeningBright autumn foliage punctuates the Willow Flats landscape at daybreak while the twilight wedge tints the sky pink. With temperatures below freezing, steam rises above distant Jackson Lake as Mount Moran waits for the sun to rise and warm its face. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) 15 magical miles.
That's roughly the distance between Willow Flats and the Buffalo Fork of the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park's north end. Hang around that general area in autumn and you might feel as if you've struck gold. Aspens are plentiful and they like to put on a real show. Some of them dare to go Splendor on the SnakeGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming further than marigold and honey yellow, venturing into apricot and orange territory. A few of the truly adventurous flirt with almost-red.
The mother lode.
It's always a beautiful sight, though of course you never know exactly when it's going to occur or how long it will last. Wyoming wind is real; it can wreak havoc on the autumnal display in the blink of an eye.
This season color throughout the park has been, for the most part, vibrant - better than the past couple years, though a little sporadic as far as the timing. The wind has (mostly) behaved. As for those north end aspens? They pulled out all the stops.
Each autumn, though I wander around the entire park and surrounding forests looking for potential subject matter, I can't resist that Willow Flats/Oxbow Bend/Pacific Creek/Buffalo Valley corridor. Maybe it's the oh-so-subtle nod to the colors I left behind in New Hampshire that beckons me...
It's a relatively compact area but spending all that time there is far from boring. Familiarity is a good thing.
There are always new ways to visually convey the story of the season. Figuring out how is both the appeal and the challenge.
You never know what might catch your eye. Especially in autumn the appearance of the landscape changes dramatically within just a few hours; foliage looks very different depending on how it's lit. Then there's the color progression. Things shift significantly, sometimes in a matter of days.
The conditions this time of year can also really change things up. Late September days might begin with temperatures in the 20s but reach into the 70s later on. Wild swings like that often create interesting things (like thick morning fog).
There might be early snow on the mountains, or lingering haze from wildfires, or a turbulent thunderstorm. Anything can happen.
My kind of gold rush.
Current foliage status: the peak display has mostly passed but you can still find color. Be prepared to do some searching. Remember, you can make interesting images past peak. Don't forget to look down. There's also mountain snow in the forecast.
Keywords: aspens, autumn, Buffalo Fork, foliage, Grand Teton National Park, Tetons, Willow Flats, Wyoming
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