Grand Teton National Park: Day 2
August 16, 2011

I planned to start early and see the sunrise, but overcome by laziness, I slept in. By late morning, the warm sun had established itself and I was on my way to the Teton Park Road. I made a few stops along the way to see the slightly changing landscape defined by the jagged peaks. The first stop was Taggart Lake, home to a supposedly beautiful lake at the foot of the southern-most peak. The sun's intensity made me think twice before commencing the short mile hike.

The path was comfortable, ever-increasing in altitude but providing shade when necessary. Rivers and small rapids rushed below neatly crafted wooden bridges. Short breaks along the way provided beautiful views of lush plant life on the side of the mountain. Unfortunately, the clouds had been even lazier than me and delayed their trip across the Tetons from Idaho.

The trail opened into an undulating rocky landscape. From atop a fallen tree propped up against a rock sat an American robin. I stayed to take a few pictures of the brave bird that only gave me a few looks before returning to preening. I moved on into a short eerie forested section. Here, the trees seemed too quiet and the fine soil resembled the color and texture of ash. I was soon comforted by the scuttering of lesser chipmunks. More hikers came along and their presence made it difficult for me to photograph the shy rodents.

I had to take a break under a lone tree's shade once out of the forest again. Loud visitors happily chatted amongst themselves notifying bears and every other animal of their presence. Fortunately, one lazy yellow-bellied marmot cared little for the noise pollution and basked atop a rock like a lizard. If something peaked its interest, it raised its head from the small rock pillow, looked about, and returned to relaxation.

Finally, I reached Taggart Lake and it truly was beautiful. The glistening peaks and tree-lined landscape reflected along the water giving an illusion of an infinite depth. Additionally, the clouds decided to emerge slowly and strut their puffy white selves in the sky as well as in their reflection. Wildlife cautiously thrived alongside the lake in the constant human presence. A wandering garter snake sunbathed on a rock in the lake and chipmunks collected salty orange goldfish left by hikers.

With a greater influx of visitors, I decided to head out. The trip back was more difficult as my weary-self complained as it lugged the photographic equipment back down the mountain. In retrospect, I realized that there were no mosquitoes during this whole trip and I was thankful for that.

My next stop was Jenny Lake. Along the road to the trailhead, I made several stops attempting to compose a balanced image of the stream of clouds atop the green and gray mountain range. Soon I arrived at the second lake. Unlike the first, the lake required no hiking. The trail instead circumscribed the rather huge lake. Landscapes of the water were not so ideal as the midday breeze canceled much of the reflection. Waves also originated from the water taxi that took hikers to the base of the mountain. I took this opportunity to explore the wildlife that inhabited the lake's fringe.

A bit hopeful, I waited a while at a small beach in hopes of seeing some bird of prey. I might have been at the wrong part of the lake since nothing happened for a while. Within the trees sounded the calls of many birds and my attention was drawn away from the water. Unlike the open areas I was accustomed to photographing in, the heavily wooded forest posed many challenges for me. Light was scarce and I had to increase my ISO. On top of that, the close-knit trees limited my opportunity to photograph the birds before they flew further into the foliage. After missing a male western tanager, I focused on a quicker reaction time. Nearby, I managed to photograph a mountain chickadee as well as a female Audubon's yellow-rumped warbler feeding a crane fly to its juvenile. I hiked further but the initial abundance in avian presence diminished and every trail seemed to ascend making the hike far more taxing than I had planned for.

The sun was still out and so I decided to go for a drive further north to Oxbow Bend. I had read that there was plenty of wildlife there. In actuality, the Oxbow Bend featured crazily aggressive mosquitoes that hardly made the distant wildlife worth viewing. I decided I would return some other time after I had an opportunity to apply mosquito repellent. On the way back south to Jackson, I made a short stop by Elk Ranch Flats to watch a massive herd of elk grazing in the distance. Canada geese and pronghorn also shared the space and protection of the herd.

The day was as long as this post was, and I was exhausted. The last stop was at Snake River Overlook with a grand view of the of the river and mountain range. Ansel Adams has a famous black-and-white photograph from this overlook of the rugged landscape, and I hoped that I could also create something of the view. The clouds were present and ominous but I lacked the ability to convert the setting into something as amazing.

I missed the sunrise and was determined to wake me up even earlier the next day.