Teton Winter

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is one of our more impressive National Parks. Dominated by the soaring Teton Range, the park stretches the length of it, encompassing and protecting this environment. In addition to the mountains, the Snake River flows through the park, and there are numerous lakes, making for a wide and diverse ecosystem. For me, that means opportunity, regardless of the time of year.

This year I made the journey there in the winter months. Much, if not most, of the park is closed to vehicles in the winter. The snow depth is not trivial, and measured in feet, not inches. An average snowfall can add a foot or more to that depth, and clearing the roads which are seldom used in the winter just doesn’t make sense. They keep one main road open as best as they can and the rest is left to nature. This is exactly how I prefer it.

Teton's Winter

This panorama, Teton’s Winter, shows the mighty Teton range as I encountered it. The fresh, unbroken snow started at my feet, creating the perfect foreground, and ended at the top of Grand Teton (which is the tallest peak in the center of the image; it has a slight crook to the right). As I stood there, absorbing the vista before me, letting it all soak in before I made this image, I was struck by how massive these mountains are. Moreover, they do not have foothills to speak of, and they start unexpectedly from the flat plains. The Snake River runs from right to left in this scene, and is in the line of trees.

Speaking of the Snake River, this scene, Teton Afternoon, also called to me.

Teton Afternoon

As Mary Beth and I were driving through the park I looked out the window and saw this. I was immediately, and I mean instantly, transfixed by it. The way the Snake River flowed in front of the mountains, and the frost still covering the trees spoke volumes to me. Unfortunately for Mary Beth there was no viable place to stop and photograph. Remember above when I was talking about how deep the snow was? It applied here, as well. I stopped our vehicle in the middle of highway, much to her consternation and considerable alarm, grabbed the camera gear I thought I might need, and suggested that she might keep driving and come back for me in a bit. She took this advice, luckily, before any other car came along. Unfortunately for me, I was so caught up in the scene that I completely forgot about small things like a coat. At least I had my camera.

As I stood there on the side of a highway in the snowbank, camera in hand, in just a T-Shirt, I made this photograph, one of my favorites. A few cars whizzed by–I couldn’t help but wonder what they were thinking. At last Mary Beth came along, too, and retrieved me, which was good since my teeth were really chattering by that moment. Still, the result was well worth it.

Grand Teton National Park held something else for me as well–a couple of red foxes!

I had been looking for a red fox in the snow for quite some time, and my patience, such as it was, was finally rewarded. I encountered this beautiful female deep in the park and was able to spend some quality time with her. She was skittish, as is to be expected with any wild animal, but she also tolerated my presence. As I stood there, still as a statue, she finally relaxed and went about her day. She walked across the snow ever so lightly! Even though the snow was fresh, she barely left any tracks, and I spent the longest time just watching her. Fox Stride was made during this encounter. I love the way she is looking ahead, staring at a spot where perhaps, just perhaps, a meal awaits below the snow.

Fox Stride

I saved the best for last, however.

Fox Curl

I also encountered this beautiful male red fox, curled up on the snow, just looking at me. For me, this photograph, Fox Curl, is destined to become one of my all-time favorite photographs. We looked at each other for the longest while. He was comfortable, and not bothered by me in the least, although I was quite a ways away so as to pose no threat. He was enjoying the sun while it lasted, and I was enjoying him. All in all, it was a very good moment for the both of us.

Grand Teton National Park is winter is a magical place.

Teton Winter can be yours

You can purchase Teton’s Winter, Teton Afternoon, Fox Stride and Fox Curl and always enjoy these winter scenes of Grand Teton National Park.

 

Stallion Battle

Stallion Battle

Often, we look at a horse and think that they are such gentle animals. And indeed, in many cases, that is exactly the case, especially when it comes to domesticated ones. Even if we see a horse trying to buck off a cowboy, or racing across a field, we still think of them as completely “tame” animals. But when it comes to wild horses, nothing could be further from the truth. And when we consider the instincts and traits of the stallion, the results are spectacular to behold. When two stallions fight, it is a true battle, a contest of strength, will and cunning. These battles have been going on for as long as horses have been horses, and it is a part of them.

This stallion battle began in the Red Desert, located in southeastern Wyoming, and managed by the BLM. The Red Desert’s low rolling hills stretch for endless miles, as we chatted about in Desert Trot,  without anything except the low sage brush growing to any appreciable size. There isn’t a lot of water, so there aren’t any trees, and there certainly isn’t any grasses. If you look from the top of a hill, you can literally see for miles. The horses know this, too, and they use it to their great advantage.

Moments before this battle began a mare was in the paint’s, the stallion to the right in this photograph, band. It was clear she wasn’t happy where she was, for the moment she spied two fine-looking stallions in the far distance, the grey and red to the left in this photograph, she took off towards them. As stealthily as she could, she tried to give her band the slip, but they paid attention, and saw her leave. As she sped up, they sped up, following her, doing their best to persuade her to stay. Her mind was made up, however, and she continued on to the new stallions. Soon enough, everyone met everyone. It was not an overly pleasant meeting.

The stallions eyed each other, and sized each other up, all without giving a hint to humans of what was to happen. Before you could even blink the battle was enjoined; one fighting to keep the mare and the other to claim her for his own. Dust flew everyone, and it was a very confusing situation. They reared into the air, time and time again, and the dust clouds roiled in protest. Hooves were flying, the stallions were calling out, and the battle raged on as each tried to best the other. Eventually, however, the stallion on the right decided to acquiescence, and as quickly as it all started, it ended. Just like that, the horses stood around together for a moment, deceptively peaceful. The red, however, left with the mare, and they trotted off into the distance. No one was hurt, thankfully.

The wild horses of the desert remain just that: wild and free. It is up to us to ensure that they remain so.

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Desert Trot

Desert Trot

The Red Desert of southwestern Wyoming is a vast, featureless desert, devoid of anything, except the miles upon endless miles of desert sage. If you stand on top of a low rise you can see for something close to forever, if not a little farther, and you won’t see much. This doesn’t mean that the Red Desert is completely empty, however. It actually teams with life, as most deserts do. And sometimes, if you are lucky, you can see some of the residents trot on by.

Such as this fine fellow. This stallion is trotting alongside me as I made this photograph. He is a true wild horse in every sense of the word. He, and his band, fend for themselves, without the want or need for human intervention. For generations, wild horses have lived comfortably out in the desert, and they know the life and true meaning of freedom.

This area of the Red Desert is called the “checkerboard”, so named because of the land ownership. Public and private lands are interspersed and intermixed throughout the area, making figuring out who owns the exact piece of land you are on a difficult task. Oddly enough, this situation came about when the railroad came through, since much of the land needed for the railroad was acquired by land swaps. In any event, the checkerboard is a confusing hodgepodge of ownership. What makes it an exceptional area for wild horses, however, is the complete lack of fences, or any other barrier. Mile after mile of unbroken desert await our equine friends, and they are free to live wherever they choose. Encompassing hundreds of thousands of acres, they have quite the environment in which to live and flourish in. However, not everyone is completely pleased with this arrangement, and we’ll continue the tale of the wild horses in Stallion Battle.

The stallion continued his trot on his never-ending journey.

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Artist’s Waterfall: Waterfall in Yellowstone

Artist's WaterfallThe lower waterfall of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, has sparked amazement and wonder for as long as they as they have been viewed. The waterfall is just over three hundred feet high, and is the tallest waterfall in the Rocky Mountains. The power of the water pouring through the falls is staggering, and the constant roar underscores that constantly. Naturally, they are a highlight of any trip to Yellowstone.

This view is from Artist Point, a classic view with a classic name. This view was originally named in 1883 by Frank Haynes to honor the painter Thomas Moran, who originally sketched the falls. It was Moran’s work that brought to life the compelling imagery of Yellowstone, which in turn fueled the desire to make the trek to Yellowstone, the end result being it becoming a National Park. However, as it all turns out, Moran’s view of the falls wasn’t from this point, or anywhere near it. By the time this was realized, however, the name was firmly established. What’s in a name, anyway?

I personally find this view of the falls inspiring. I’ve been to it many times, and each time come away with a new sense of wonder. I settled on this photograph, however, as my favorite view. I like the roiling clouds as a mid-summer’s day thunderstorm begins to form over the park and the falls. I like how the turbulence of the clouds reflects the turbulence of the water below them, mirroring, echoing and amplifying the raw chaos of the scene. I like the deep colors of the sky reflected by the deep colors of the beginning of the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone,” for after this point, the Yellowstone River has carved its way one thousand feet down, forming, indeed, a Grand Canyon. For me, the photograph captures well the ferocity of the falls.

In any event, it is easy to enjoy this fantastic view for hours on end.

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