Teton Alpenglow from Signal Mountain, August 1988
Teton Alpenglow from Signal Mountain, August 1988

About the photograph...
Teton Alpenglow from Signal Mountain, August 1988

The day I took this picture, I awakened at 2:30 a.m. This was the day. The weather was good and the smoke drifts from neighboring Yellowstone Park fires were blowing the other way. This was the day I would do it.

I donned my warmest collection of layered hiking clothes and my well-worn-in boots, lugged the preloaded pack with photo gear, coffee thermos and breakfast to the car. Stealthily, (so as not to disturb or harm any creatures that might have been lurking nearby) I drove the long, gravel inner park road from Teton Village, where I was staying, to Signal Mountain. I went as far on the road as possible, then donned my pack and set out on foot toward the pre-selected location near the summit with only an electric lantern lighting my path. Twice I encountered wildlife on the trail: first, a male moose who took surprisingly little notice of the intruder (me); then, an alarmed porcupine which grunted and loomed ominously in the seeming enormous shadow of its extended quills. My hair was standing on end, too…I waited for it to saunter off before proceeding.

Once my destination was reached, I set up my gear and, with butterflies in my stomach, (I knew this was a special moment) sipped the rich, delicious coffee, watching the steam rise in the lantern light while I waited with anticipation…and waited…and waited for the sun to start illuminating the peaks of the Teton Range with magenta light. I had never seen a complete alpenglow.

Patience paid off. Good things do often come to those who plan, work hard and, then, wait. The film images from this amazing morning show may someday deteriorate, but the images and experience are permanently etched on my heart, altering me and, also, the possibilities I see.

I sat and watched the show until the reddish landscape had morphed into the more usual range of colors, then began to notice that the wildlife was restless. A deer came close and stood beside me for a moment, then ran away, as if to gesture it was time for me to go, too. I did, and as I descended the mountain I began to smell smoke and see haze drifting from the other side of the mountain. In fact, that day there was a forest fire on Signal Mountain, and many other fires throughout both Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks in the coming days. With all the haze, this was likely the last Alpenglow seen there for quite some time.


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