Smoke Gets In My Eyes

July 13, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

In Full BloomIn Full BloomSticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum) and Twin Arnica (Arnica sororia)

Antelope Flats
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The period between late-May and late-July is a flurry of activity for me when it comes to working in Grand Teton National Park. There's a lot try to accomplish and it's always a race against time before the air quality deteriorates due to inevitable wildfires. Particulates in the atmosphere can produce more colorful sunrises and sunsets, but the mountains don't photograph well in it. 

First order of business is capturing green season: my favorite time of the year. As of this past Sunday it was - surprisingly - still looking quite green in much of the park but Forest OrnamentsForest OrnamentsAbundant wildflowers decorate the forest floor

Signal Mountain
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
it'll soon be on the way out. There has been little rain and temperatures have spiked. Daytime highs over the past week or so have felt more like the dog days of August than the first part of July (though it dropped into the mid-40s overnight where I was camping). Unusually warm.

Green will give way to gold and tawny brown.

(If you're wondering what unusually warm means, it was 87 degrees yesterday in Jackson; 99 in Idaho Falls; 100 in Pocatello. Normal highs would be 10-15 degrees cooler.)

Overlapping with green season is wildflower season. On the valley floor, both the Arrowleaf Balsamroot and Mule's Ear have come and gone - but we're now at the point where a wider range of plants are in bloom. There's still plenty of yellow: the Twin Arnica (Arnica sororia) are having a particularly good year, especially around Antelope Flats. See above. At first glance these might resemble the aforementioned earlier-blooming yellow flowers, but the Arnica are taller and present as single stalks rather than "bouquets."

Lupines are abundant right now on the way up Signal Mountain, paintbrush dot the landscape in many locations, and sulphur buckwheats seem to be everywhere. I saw some sticky geraniums at Antelope Flats along with Monument Plants which are just beginning to flower. Then there's field chickweed, phlox, Bolander's Yampah - and more. 

As for water, the bulk of the snow has melted so the rivers are running clear rather than brown from all the runoff. Much more photogenic.

Hidden Falls and Canyon Creek were running very full and fast over last weekend. Snowpack was below normal last winter; I didn't expect to see that kind of volume.


Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The water level at Jackson Lake remains very low. Colter Bay Marina isn't opening at all this season; that should tell you something. Leek's was still operating last time I went by there, and Signal Mountain Marina (pictured below) is also open.

As of the end of May the reservoir was only 25% full; it's projected to reach a maximum of just 45% this year.

Mirror, MirrorMirror, MirrorSignal Mountain Marina - Jackson Lake
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Bottom line, outside of the reservoir situation the park has been looking great but the clock is ticking: the first haze of the season (from the Washburn fire at Yosemite) reached Eastern Idaho last weekend. Thus far the Tetons have mostly blocked the bad air from moving into Jackson Hole but that won't last. 

So it begins...

Odds and Ends

The fire danger rating for Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest and the National Elk Refuge was elevated yesterday to high. Don't be deceived by how green the landscape looks.

The park has been far less busy than usual so far this summer. (At least it seems that way; I haven't seen the numbers for June.) I've got to think that has something to do with the price of gas, which is currently in the neighborhood of $5.50 in western Wyoming. It was actually cheaper inside the park than in Jackson the other day. Paying a king's ransom for fuel is crazy but the extra elbow room is nice. Silver lining. 

Campgrounds are filled but sites do open up. If you're hoping to snag a spot, keep checking I've seen the inventory situation change multiple times over a single day.


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