After a long drive yesterday, John and I arrived in the Grand Teton area around 6:30 PM. We left the prairie-like terrain of Carlile and the further west we traveled, the more the landscape resembled what you see in Wild West movies. We traded long waving grasses for sagebrush, and verdant fields of grazing cattle for stark expanses populated by pronghorn antelope (they say there are more pronghorns than people in Wyoming, and after driving across the state, I believe it).
As we drew closer to the Grand Teton area, the terrain became more and more spectacular, as mountains loomed up in the distance. We passed through a valley where there was actually snow on the ground. Finally the Grand Teton range was before us – breathtaking.
We headed south into Jackson, Wyoming, where we were booked for two nights at the Cowboy Village Resort. Once again, we’re living in a cute little cabin, although this one is more homey than the one we just left in Carlile. We have a queen bed, a sofa, a little bathroom and a kitchenette. I made dinner in the cabin and then we had a quick dip in the resort’s hot tub before hitting the hay in anticipation of a busy day.
This morning we got up early as I had booked us on a two-hour trip down the Snake River with Solitude Float Tours. We headed back up toward the Moose entrance to Grand Teton, where we met Larry, our river guide, and boarded a van to take us upstream to where the big floating raft we towed behind us would be put into the water. On the way, we had our first encounter with the area’s wildlife; ahead of us traffic had come to a dead stop as a large male bison crossed the road, as slowly and grandly as a Roman emperor.
At Deadman’s Bar (a picturesque name with an equally picturesque story behind us), we put on our life vests and watched as Larry and the van driver put the raft in the water. There were ten of us plus Larry, and it was an education watching him (he’s a wiry little guy) manhandle the raft into the middle the Snake River. The river seemed to be running pretty fast to us, but Larry said that the water level was below normal and consequently not as fast as it usually is. There was a pretty stiff wind, though.
We went down river at a good clip, which was a little frustrating when I tried to sight on birds with my field glasses. Other than the birds, we didn’t see any wildlife (everyone was hoping for moose, but we didn’t even see a beaver named Jabba that normally hangs around the riverbank, and the residents of an eagle’s nest were out of sight as we sailed by). However, the scenery was so gorgeous and Larry so entertaining that I didn’t really care.
Ten miles and two hours later, Larry brought us in to shore right where we’d parked our cars. We climbed into the CRV, consulted our map and decided to drive up to the Colter Bay Visitor Center (which is at the upper end of the Grand Teton National Park) and then return by a different route to Jackson. There were plenty of turnouts to park and take photos of the spectacular scenery. We stopped at the Jackson Lake Lodge for a quick lunch (that’s the Jackson Lake Dam with the Teton range in the background), then reached Coulter Bay and turned back.
On our way back we decided to take the road up to the summit of Signal Mountain, which I’d read had the most spectacular views in the area. We weren’t disappointed. To the east was the stunning Snake River Valley; west was the Teton range. By that time the sun had come out in force and we got some beautiful shots.
From Signal Mountain we headed toward Jenny Lake, stopping on the way to observe some elk in a distant meadow. We decided to take the Moose Road on to Jackson. The road is paved only part of the way and very narrow, so not too many people take it. However, we’d been advised that it was a good place to see moose, and indeed, it was. As we drove along, we observed a couple standing on the side of the road, looking downward into a thicket. As we passed, the gentleman looked at us, pointed into the near distance, and said that magical word: “Moose.”
We pulled over posthaste and hustled back to join them. Just past the thicket was a boggy area, and in it were two moose. One appeared to be a cow and was sitting haunch-deep in the water; the other was a young bull moose and was standing with its nose deep in the water. We watched in silent delight as the pair went quietly about their moosely business. A few other cars pulled up for a look, and I was pleased that no one made a rush at the moose for a closer look; it’s a problem in Grand Teton as well as Yellowstone that people get so excited and anxious for a closer shot that they push the boundaries of safety and the animals’ personal space. After we watched them for about ten minutes we got back in the car, happy to have seen two such enormous animals undisturbed in their natural environment.
A hint: if you haven’t already figured it out, clicking on the photos will make them much bigger and easier to see.