Milky Way Above String Lake

Milky Way Reflected in String Lake
The Milky Way Galaxy rising above String Lake as the clear waters reflect the surrounding stars. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The summer of 2022 was quite a memorable one. In hiking over 700 miles, primarily in Grand Teton National Park, I spent the summer fulfilling a dream that still has yet to be realized. I was busy getting as many good shots from the trail system of the park as I could. As such, I hiked numerous trails multiple times to see them in the changing seasons, and in the changing conditions of the daylight.

In fact, I had gotten so comfortable with the trails of Grand Teton National Park, I had even begun hiking out after dark, the fear of unwanted encounters with wild animals dissipating with each mile I added to the season’s total. On one occasion, I had hiked up to Holly Lake to catch it at sunset, which, from a photography standpoint, wasn’t as dramatic as I had hoped. As such, the hike out became much more of a highlight.

Fall colors on the ground vegetation were spread out in a dazzling array of color across Paintbrush Canyon. I took my time capturing the landscapes in a fading blue sky. The color looking out toward the northeast from the canyon accented the autumn colors in sublime landscapes. And then it was quickly gone. Dusk was settling in as I reached a long stretch of forest on my way out.

With the only light hitting the trail coming from my headlamp, I made a brisk pace downward. Here and there, I’d see a pair of eyes staring at me from within the black. Fear would take over until I heard the sound of hooves thundering away. Elk were coming out now that people had (mostly) vacated the area.

Then at last I reached String Lake. The night sky had completely come out by the time I crossed the large footbridge at its northern end. The Milky Way was shining over the Teton Mountains and reflected in the calm waters. Now void of people, the landscape was serene and calming. I took my time around the lake’s eastern shore trail, capturing the Milky Way above String Lake in ways I had never been able to before. The experience inspired me to get more shots of the Milky Way from other trails that didn’t have camping areas around them, but alas, the season was nearly over. It’d have to wait for another season.

The memory of seeing the Milky Way over sights that I normally only see in daytime still lingers though. It left an impact bigger than expected, as the Milky Way often does.

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