Every fall, my siblings, father and I get together for a family trip. This year, Chanthee also joined us. For most of the last 15 years, our favorite haunt has been the Greater Yellowstone Region, comprising of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. However, as money has been a bit tighter this year, I began to push to do something closer to home – perhaps Acadia or Great Smoky (both of which are about a 12 hour drive for me). This would mean no car rentals, no airfare and no hotel as I would be camping. I cannot think of a better way to vacation. Gone. Affordably.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, one of my siblings was not going to be able to make the trip, so we decided to go back to Jackson as it was more centrally located for him. We opted to go out after the first of October, which is also very convenient because all of the hotel rates plunge on the 1st. As usual, we stayed with our friends at the Buckrail Lodge
. We have been staying with Janet Colonel at the Buckrail since our first year out there in 1996. She not only runs a very clean hotel, but she 'salt of the earth' good people to boot. As I hate pretty much everyone, I hope you understand that this is high praise. OK. That last statement might be a bit of an exaggeration. Janet still rocks though. : P
This trip was about a week later than we would usually go and I was anxious about losing the foliage. The foliage in the Tetons is typically one of the highlights for us - though it is short (typically about a week). The leaves drop very quickly once peak occurs. Sometimes it seems like you only get 2 or 3 really awesome days. My experience has been that it usually starts around the 26 or 27th of September and peaks around the 1st. Obviously, that is not categorical – and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the trees had not yet begun to change color in any significant way when we were coming in at the airport.
This year was different in that we had rain and or snow for most of the week. It made for a wonderful opportunity to photograph some places we know a bit too well in a different way. ‘Peak light’ may have been limited, but we still got some nice landscapes. Also, rain provides other opportunities as well – including rainbows.
Moose were everywhere this year…and easy to find and access. They were around the airport, along Moose-Wilson road and along the Gros Ventre campgrounds. The moose were so plentiful that we decided to not head as far up into Yellowstone as we normally would go. We understood that there were some wolves feeding on a carcass in Lamaar, but decided that the availability of the moose was too tempting. Also, as my pop likes staying in Jackson, it makes for a pretty long and exhausting drive – particularly if you are hoping to see wolves in peak light. I had the opportunity to sit and photograph this moose for some time on several different days. In the Sigma 120-300 F2.8 OS Review
that we wrote earlier this month, I showed crops of the moose that shows rain water on his antlers. He was an impressive specimen and we really enjoyed watching this guy. At one point, I sat with him in the rain for several hours waiting for him to stand up. What a treat!
At the end of the week the rain turned to snow. This was awesome because the foliage was in full force. I wish I had 24 more hours because I am fairly positive the Tetons would have cleared out, leaving an amazing vista with beautiful foliage and snow. Alas, it was not to be. Having said that, I have never had snow in any real amount in Jackson during the Fall and I was excited when we got pummeled with snow in the last 48 hours of our trip. We drove up through the Tetons and into Yellowstone trying to make the most of our limited time left.
Photographing the moose in the snow was also a lot of fun. These shots were tough. It was really cold and my hands were having difficulty with the extreme change in weather. Also, at one point it was snowing so hard that the AF crapped out on me. I had to focus manually in order to get anything.
Unfortunately, we were not able to pack in all we wanted to do in that 48 hours, but it was a real blast trying. The rain and snow really made the park a very different experience for us. It is one that I hope we will again be allowed to enjoy.