And So It Goes

August 18, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Harvest TimeHarvest TimeIn the shadow of the Teton Range, this wheat field awaits harvesting
(Fremont County, Idaho)
Soon after moving to the Intermountain West I discovered an inevitability about mid- to late-summer: expect smoke.

Summer is, unfortunately, fire season. 

Even when there are no local wildfires, as has been the case so far here this year, there can still be smoke. Sometimes a great deal of it. As a result, it's generally not a very good window for landscape photography. (There are exceptions, though. If the haze isn't too heavy it can augment sunrise and sunset color.)

The summer of 2021 has been especially poor in terms of air quality. Most of the current heavy blanket hanging over the Snake River Plain has come from California, many hundreds of miles away.

I've been trying to work on both sides of the Tetons for over a month but the smoke and haze have often had other ideas. Some of what I wanted to capture involves wheat fields in eastern Idaho. Last week I had no choice but to go for it regardless of the conditions. It's harvest time: "now or never."

Much of what I'd hoped to accomplish in the sister Teton Counties over the last six weeks will have to wait until next year. That's the way it goes with landscapes. If you've ever wondered how it can sometimes take months or years to make a photograph...

Maybe the tide is about to turn. Rain has been moving through Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming since yesterday. Will it clean things up - or make the situation worse? So far it's been the latter but we'll see what happens after the front passes.

If the air does clear I may have another opportunity to capture a few additional images before summer takes its final bow and exits the stage. The calendar says mid-August but autumn comes early to the Tetons. This latest weather system is bringing with it overnight lows in the 30s in Jackson Hole. Rabbit brush in the park are already yellow, and when I was heading up to the summit of Fred's Mountain last week a lot of the low vegetation along the way had begun to turn color.  

Meanwhile, the hazy conditions have done nothing to slow tourism.

July numbers are out for both local parks, and they're staggering. 

For the first time in its 149-year history, the park saw more than one million visitors in a single month. They're calling it 1,080,000. I'm calling it mind-boggling. (If you wonder why I avoid Yellowstone over the summer, I'll give you a million reasons.)

Grand Teton
July 2021 was also a record-shattering month in Grand Teton National Park. 828,777 people showed up, which is the highest number of visits for any single month in park history.

Those are big numbers anywhere, but especially so here. Consider the sizes of the gateway communities: the population of West Yellowstone, Montana is less than 1,500. Gardiner, Montana has fewer than 1,000 residents. Cooke City, Montana? A few hundred. Cody, Wyoming's population is roughly 10,000 and Jackson, Wyoming clocks in at about 11,000. 

Busy, busy, busy.


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