Awesome

February 08, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

WEST SIDE STORYWEST SIDE STORYFollowing a chilly spring, early summer kicks off with substantial snowpack remaining

Western Slope - Teton Range
Alta, Wyoming
awe·some
(adjective)
Arousing or inspiring awe; filling someone with reverential fear, wonder, or respect.

Colloquially, especially in the U.S., the meaning of the word awesome has drifted away from the OED's definition noted above. It's now more frequently used as a term of approval, as in "That movie was awesome!" 

One bears little resemblance to the other.

That word, though - as originally defined - often comes to mind when I'm out in the field with my camera, because nature is filled with sights that most definitely are awe-inspiring. 

What deeply moves each of us might differ: like beauty, awe is unique to the beholder. It can be difficult to define. We know it when we experience it, though. 

Jaw-dropping sights don't have to be big and bold, though it's hard to deny the commanding and overwhelming presence of, say, the Teton Range. I don't know how you can stand in the shadow of those towering mountains and not be awestruck. That said, witnessing something on a much smaller scale can touch a person just as deeply, and you don't need to travel great distances to find sights that evoke strong, meaningful emotions. 

How fortunate nature photographers are to be so often in the presence of things that are so extraordinarily awesome. Radiant Red White Mountains New HampshireRADIANT REDVibrant autumn foliage can nearly always be found in this spot at Bear Notch. The season this image was made, however, the crimson leaves outdid themselves. Mount Washington, often cloud covered, is visible in the distance - entirely in the clear.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Whether or not you're a photographer, I hope you spend time with nature. It's not just aesthetically pleasing; it's good for you - both mentally and physically. It strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress. You get vitamin D when you're outside. Spending time in nature leads to both increased cognitive function and improved quality of sleep.

How many hours do we spend staring at screens each day? Is it any wonder people are feeling depressed?

There's a simple antidote and no pharmaceuticals are necessary. Just put the phone down and spend some time with the natural world. 

"Nature is doing her best each moment to make us well. Why, nature is but another name for health."
Henry David Thoreau

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
John Muir

Not only does the natural world often engender a deep feeling of awesome reverence in me, but it has also soothed, comforted and healed my spirit on so many occasions. Nature is powerful. 

From grand landscapes to diminutive scenes, anything can evoke a strong reaction, and you don't need to seek out some exotic destination to reap all the benefits that nature has to offer.

Experience the natural world. Often. 


Pictured here are the Cathedral Peaks of the Tetons as seen from the "quiet side" - the western slope - along with the view looking north from Bear Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On this day Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast and notoriously often cloud covered, was completely in the clear. 

Awesome. 
 

Odds and Ends

As predicted this year's El Niño weather pattern has greatly reduced snowfall here in this part of the Rockies. It's a welcome break from last winter but the pendulum has swung perhaps a bit too far in the other direction.

Over the past week quite a bit of snow has fallen both in the mountains of Central Idaho as well as the Tetons, but precipitation in the valleys over that period has been a mixed bag. Some snow, some rain. Snowpack at high elevations is in good shape, though. 

The annual Sled Dog Derby is coming up next week in Ashton, Idaho so we're crossing our fingers for some help from Mother Nature between now and then.

In Driggs, Idaho the annual snow sculpting competition was moved from mid-January to mid-February due to light snowfall in the Teton Valley. (30+ tons must be harvested from nearby roads to provide the artists what they need to create their masterpieces.) As of this week it's still a "go" so here's hoping they're able to pull it off.

There's plenty of snow at the local resorts.

Grand Targhee season-to-date: 247 inches. Current summit base depth: 89 inches.

Jackson Hole season-to-date: 242 inches. Current summit base depth: 85 inches.  

Backcountry avalanche danger is considerable.


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