Yellowstone and Grand Tetons

I just returned from a quick trip to two beautiful national parks. I wanted to take advantage of my proximity to these places because I don't expect to return to this corner of the country any time soon. Owls are slowing down again (though i suppose they never really sped up in the first place), and my partner graciously agreed to cover for me while myself and two other field techs took a 3-day vacation from Lucky peak. We drove all night, arriving in the Tetons at about 3am. We woke to a beautiful sunrise (see below) and a dozen moose/elk browsing in the willow and sage thickets nearby. We drove casually through the park all day, admiring the stunning views and impressive animal diversity, and arrived in Yellowstone that evening (the two parks are connected by a forest corridor). We hiked about 10 miles across ridges and through canyons in each park, but most of the trip was spent necessarily inside our vehicle due to their sheer enormity and our desire to see as much as possible in our short time there. Wildlife highlights included close encounters with deer, elk, moose, coyote, bobcat, pronghorn antelope, bison, bald eagles, northern shrikes, red fox, great horned owls, and pikas.

Yellowstone Hotspring

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone. Home of two world-famous wolf packs with black alpha-males.

Sunrise in the Grand Tetons

Grand Teton

In my liberal arts environmental studies education, we often discussed the Hudson Valley School style of painting made popular by the first truly American artists. Enamored by the novelty and beauty of the New World, their paintings depicted landscapes categorized as "beautiful," "picturesque," or eventually "sublime," depending on the emotional and aesthetic qualities of the subject. The artists followed America's expansion from the pastoral and bucolic valleys and forests of the Northeast into the frightening and grandiose western landscapes like Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. My own travels have mirrored the westward expansion of young America and its artists. Encountering these the immense and intimidating mountains for the first time, I realized that the distinction between "picturesque" and the "sublime" is more than academic. painter Thomas Cole and environmental legend John Muir both referred to these breathtaking environments as cathedrals, God's domain, epitomizing the fear and the power of the Creator while evoking in an individual the feeling of complete insignificance. If you have never been entirely arrested and reduced to nothingness by Earth's design, I suggest you start driving westward.

On another note, things are wrapping up at Lucky Peak, and the next order of business this year is an epic road trip with Jason from VT to California. This will be the first of several installations in this "National Park Series" of blog posts. 


  1. I love love love your photos, you have a great eye. I also cannot wait for the real NPS! Ken Burns-Shmurns.

  2. LOVE THE PHOTOS! also, i LOVE the Tetons. Aren't they the most beautiful mountain range you've ever seen??


  3. So, the wolves have got black alpha-males, now, eh? Nice to hear that they, much like the humans of our country, are making progress towards racial equality.

  4. I liked your distinction between sublime and picturesque. I was thinking that after the westward movement of painters, they seemed to start using descriptors like "pastoral" to describe the East. Glad to see you're getting some good mountains in.


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