Plan B

February 04, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

I was supposed to be working in Death Valley this week. Actually, I've tried three times this winter to get there; this latest effort was only the most recent. Why the slippery schedule? Good question. I'm not the one who keeps cancelling my reservation. Though the park remains open as do the all-inclusive resorts within it, this one property marches to the beat of a different drummer.

Since I'm not going to Death Valley to golf or attend a conference (i.e. I just need a place to sleep and shower), this non-resort option is where I prefer to stay, though they haven't made it easy.

I'm nothing if not persistent. The property cancels, then gives me updated options regarding future availability, and I rebook. Over and over. It's become kind of a dance. Unlike Audrey Hepburn, though, I could've danced all night is starting to feel like a bad dream. It's time to move on. Returning to Death Valley will have to go back to the end of the queue.

Fortunately, there is a Plan B. (There's always a Plan B!) It's right here in the Tetons. After all, I'm in the thick of a book project involving the twin Teton Counties (Wyoming and Idaho) and work remains to be done. 

It's been a quirky winter so far in this neck of the woods. The season arrived early with bitter cold in October and a spike in snowfall during November, but then there were extended dry stretches in December and January. Just a few weeks ago, snowpack at both Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee (on the western slope) was running below average. The valley was quite a bit lower at about 50%. 

Winter sports enthusiasts aren't the only ones who have been hoping for more powder. Nature photographers have been hoping, too. Last week Mother Nature delivered with a storm that deposited more than a foot of snow in Jackson and even more than that in the park. The valley now looks more like it should this time of year. Jack FrostJack FrostSub-zero temperatures and fog create hoarfrost overnight, decorating the cottonwoods along the Gros Ventre River in white. While the peak of Grand Teton is in full sunshine, lingering fog below heavily filters the light. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Timing-wise, the icing on the cake was the prediction of subzero overnight temperatures for Grand Teton National Park a few days ago. Very cold nights often yield foggy mornings. Thick fog - especially around the Gros Ventre River - creates wonderful hoar frost which coats the surrounding vegetation. It's spectacular. Eureka! Off to Wyoming.

Both the cold and frost materialized as had been forecast. Thanks to that recent snowfall, however, access within the park - always restricted in winter - was even more challenging. It was hard to find a place to stash my vehicle and then get to a spot where I could create the kind of images I had in mind.

Yes; I ought to know better by now what happens in the park after a big snow. Yet I'm always a little surprised by just how difficult it can be to get around. 

Pulling off at the last place I could think of from which there might be a way to access the fog-shrouded cottonwoods, I figured at least I could make abstracts featuring the hoarfrost while keeping an eye out for bigger landscapes. 

Moving further into the trees, I looked over my shoulder toward the Cathedral Group - and there was my photograph.

With fog still swirling over the river, the frosted landscape surrounding me remained softly lit. I used a few of the trees to frame Grand Teton's peak, which was in full sunlight. The blue sky provided wonderful color contrast. 

This isn't your "everyday view" of the park. Or of the Grand. It's always gratifying to find a new way of depicting these jewels.


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