Highs From a Low
You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to deduce that the foliage in Grand Teton National Park would be late in turning this autumn. Spring was cold and lengthy; it didn't begin to warm up until well into May. Then an extended heat wave at the end of the summer dragged on into September. Those are two key factors that impact the timing of autumn's "big show." (Just how late is late? Separate question. Maybe you do need to be a rocket scientist to address that one.)
This leaves the issue all foliage aficionados wonder about: How will the color be?
One never knows.
Having just returned from working in the park, I'd rate 2022 as average in terms of vibrance with some areas in the southern end sub-par. The progression of color, though, has been odd. Unconventional. Apparently the trees decided this time around to be individualists, each one marching to the beat of its own drummer.
As of last Sunday it was still something of a pot-pourri; you could find a little bit of everything. Swaths of green - trees unwilling to let go of summer. Others had begun to turn but were maybe 4-5 days from peak. There was a lot of fiery peak color. Some trees were past their prime. More than a few were already finished; bare; leaves on the ground.
Weirder still, this mix could be seen in relatively close confines: expanses of intense foliage a few hundred yards from trees that had only just begun to turn. Very unusual.
While it hasn't been a prime year for color in GTNP, this has still been a special autumn for photography. Mother Nature has been finding other ways to show off.
I was gifted with a low pressure weather system that turned out to be quite a performer. It moved in and stalled over the region just as I was heading over to the park, remaining for days. The unsettled conditions delivered a little bit of everything, most of which was quite good. Superlative, actually!
A few of the highlights:
In a park that's stingy with sunsets, it served up three of them - on consecutive nights, no less.
One overnight thunderstorm blanketed the mountains with snow - the first significant high-elevation snow of the season.
There was beautiful, dense fog on multiple mornings (also courtesy of overnight precipitation). More on that in another post. The fog in the park is something to behold.
The stationary low pressure delivered in a big way. This was one of the best multiple-day shoots I've had in Grand Teton National Park. I almost had to pinch myself. I'll admit the camping was a little on the nippy side and I was rained on quite a bit - but the low temperatures and precipitation were instrumental in creating the magical conditions.
As for the color? I've seen better, but that's the way the ball bounces. Not every year yields a "bumper crop." Every foliage show is unique, and each is lovely in its own way.
Odds and Ends
The Inner Loop Road at Jackson Lake Dam will be closed for construction beginning Tuesday (October 11th) and continuing through much of October. During that time you'll have to access the Signal Mountain area from Moose.
In Yellowstone, Old Gardiner Road (providing limited access between Gardiner, MT and Mammoth Hot Springs) will open no later than November 1st. All other entrances will close to vehicle traffic on November 1st in preparation for the winter season. Now is a great time of year to visit the park (far fewer people!) but be advised some services may have already closed. It's a good idea to bring food and water so you don't end up wasting time driving around looking for somewhere to grab a snack. Also note that some businesses in West Yellowstone close for a few weeks between seasons, so the further we move into October the more likely it is you'll find slim pickings there.
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