There and back again, Sept. 26-Oct. 3, Part II

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There and back again, Sept. 26-Oct. 3, Part II

Post by Dorothy »

Second half of our report:

Monday, Oct. 1<br/>
Up early the next morning, figuring to get to Moose-Wilson by around sunrise ... BUT, we decided to turn up Gros Ventre when we got there, and it took some time to get to Moose-Wilson because we were deeply involved in seeing moose! A mom and this-year's baby in the sage flats a little ways up the road. Another moose heading through the trees, and a mom and two babies in the trees -- then a BIG bull moving through the trees. Lovely sunrise on the Tetons, and some Pronghorn on the hillside. Went along Mormon Road and found more pronghorn -- a few females on the side, and a buck pursuing another female back and forth across the road. SUCH fun to watch! Turning from Antelope Flats road back toward Moose Junction, there were two moose up in the sage flats, so turned around and headed over to the Blacktail overlook. The moose (it turned out there was a cow, a BIG bull and a smaller bull) ended up in a gully, with the big bull chasing off the smaller bull and the cow watching. I went over to the gully's edge and watched for awhile. Great moments! <br/>
FINALLY made it to Moose-Wilson -- and MORE moose! What a moose-y morning! A BIG bull watching on the side of Sawmill Pond as a cow and one of this-year's calves fed in the pond. Wow! Up and down Moose-Wilson sloooowly a couple of times, no-go with bears. Moose still around, however, so watched them a bit longer. Up the inner loop, nothing going -- a sage grouse going up Signal Mountain, and more beautiful leaves (Cattleman's Bridge area was awesome). Nothing up Pilgrim Creek and moose again at Sawmill Pond but no bears. A fun moose-y day, but not very bear-y!<br/>
Tuesday, Oct. 2<br/>
Headed to Moose-Wilson early, but nothing going on. There were a couple of moose in the river above the bridge near the visitor's center. They looked like statues -- didn't move at all until finally at least moved their heads. They were in the river (in the same pose) for at least 20-30 minutes. We finally just gave up on seeing them move and headed around the Antelope Flats road loop -- ANOTHER big bull moose, and then the moose family at Sawmill again. But STILL no bears up Moose-Wilson (a cow elk running across the road, however). Gave up and headed up to the top part of the park. Nothing at Cattleman's or Oxbow, so headed up to Pilgrim Creek and ... as we turned onto the road, would you believe, ANOTHER bull moose. Don't know where he came from (the little swampy area where the willows are was pretty much dried up, and anyway, he was on the other side of the road heading toward the highway). Whatever, we couldn't believe ANOTHER bull moose! He headed up the treeline nearly to the highway, then turned and trotted along the treeline there before disappearing into the trees. Wow! But no grizzlies (sigh) -- didn't see any grizzlies this trip.<br/>
Nothing up Two Ocean Lake road (such a pretty, peaceful drive, tho' -- just love to go up there and did so about 3 times this trip). Stopped at the Cunningham Cabin on the way back down (have never been there) and enjoyed a windy walk around. Stopped at Schwabachers and walked up to the second pond (or was it the third?) and ... ANOTHER moose. Female moose standing in the water watching upstream. Very much "at attention" but really never moved anything but her head. Eventually another female came out and almost immediately laid down while the other kept watch. Never did see what she was looking at, but some great shots of a moose in front of the Tetons. Gorgeous!<br/>
Went around Antelope Flats road and up to Teton school and up the gravel road behind it. When we got to the ranch, we decided to go on and went on for quite a while on a VERY bumpy dirt road. Finally turned around to come back without seeing anything but scenery, but always interested to find new territory. Back to Moose-WIlson -- it was beginning to rain, and the rain came down pretty hard for a bit. That doesn't discourage us -- we find that many people tend to leave the park (or at least the "wildlife hunt") if the weather turns bad with rain or snow, so we have less traffic, but still often see quite a bit, especially right after the rain stops! So we kept going. and as the rain was slackening off to an occasional drop or two, we saw a big buck elk in the trees and visible for a few minutes. but nothing else on the lower part of the road. As we were getting ready to cross the one-way bridge we noticed a ranger's car on our side, and as we crossed, there was a car stopped ahead of us with a ranger on the road just over the bridge. Turns out there WAS a bear, but we couldn't see it and weren't allowed out of the car. I got a brief glimpse of it as it ambled down onto the road and went around the corner, but but the time we were allowed to drive past, it wasn't visible. Rats! A bear, but not able to see it. We went on up to where the paved road turns into the gravel portion. We turned around (with several other cars) to head back to see if the bear was visible on the way back. Caught a quick glimpse of some brown fur on the hillside before being sent past by the ranger. OK, a glimpse of a bear -- better than nothing!
BUT, coming back down and there was a bear in the berry trees by the LSR turnoff -- in fact, the very place we FIRST saw a bear in the berry bushes many years ago. This was a cinnamon black bear. There was quite a line and nobody was moving, but as the line grew, people were stopping in their cars and taking photos, then politely moving on for the next car to come and take a few shots (the tree began below road level, so the bear moving around the top branches was at a great level for photos from cars). We took our turn and then came back through the line a time or two, taking a few photos and moving on. No rangers in sight, but things were working quite nicely until just as the rangers arrived (the other guy up further must have finally gone into the trees). Someone decided to open their sunroof -- a lady stood up on the seat and ended up just a few feet from the bear. If that wasn't enough, a guy decided to get out of his car and run down to the berry tree, and HE was only a few feet from the bear, and the rangers gave a quick beep of a siren to get everyone's attention. That was enough for our photo subject -- the little guy (at least, he appeared rather small when he crossed the road) quickly exited the tree, crossed the road and disappeared into the trees on the other side. Fun times, but over too soon (and bear maybe still hungry, which I felt bad about -- he was really going to town on those berries and it seemed he'd have stayed quite a bit longer had he not been spooked).
We decided to leave Moose-Wilson for a time and head to the Jenny Lake scenic drive for a change of scenery. As we headed toward the Moose entry station, a moose, aptly enough, trotted across the road and took a few bites from a tree by the side of the road before trotting toward the trees on the other side of the next roadway. Moose everywhere! This is FUN!
A bull elk way in the distance a bit before we entered the scenic drive one-way portion, and then a BIG one as we drove around (he was in the trees and moved further in and disappeared as we stopped to watch). No other action, just beautiful territory, so we returned to Moose-Wilson for one last pass before dark. No action on the trip up, but a black bear with a cub in the trees below the LSR turnoff on the way down. It was nearly dark by then and so just a few glimpses of a black shadow followed by a smaller black form as they exited the tree and headed up the side of the hill. Still, a bear, and it was a great way to end the night -- well, the evening REALLY ended with a gorgeous sunset -- just beautiful!

Wednesday, Oct. 3
Our last day -- wahh! It's always hard to head home, as there's always more we'd like to do and see. Figured we needed to head out of Jackson by no later than about 1 or 1:30 p.m. to try to make sure we're home before dark. Got up early to try Moose-Wilson a couple more times in search of bears. Resolutely ignoring the turnoff to Gros Ventre (moose vs. bear -- well, we'd seen more moose than bear, soooo ... but it was hard not to turn off!). As it turned out, we could have tried Gros Ventre in the morning, because our first couple of trips up Moose-Wilson netted nothing but a couple of elk on the hillside (oh ... and another moose across the road as we came in -- so we did at least see a moose!).
But as we started up again, we came to a dead stop a little ways up -- long line of cars. We figured it must be a bear, but this line never moved. So, I pulled off as best I could (at least making sure there would be room for someone coming the other way to get past -- nobody was moving on our side, and nobody coming the other way) and got out to find out where the front of the line was. Came to a solid line of big cameras stretched across the entire road and several other people without the tripods walking back and forth or established in the grass on the side of the road. I didn't want to get any closer, as I didn't know where the bear was (yes, it was a bear) and didn't want to get in front of anyone's camera, but got confirmation it was a bear up in the bushes on the "mountain" side of the road -- then heard there might be one on the other side, as well. I decided I shouldn't be out of the car in that case, but about that time someone said one would be crossing the road. I got behind a couple of cars, figuring I'd be far enough back to not disturb the bear and there was a small slice of space I might actually see the bear as it got to the other side -- and that would have worked except some lady with a huge lens jumped in front of me just as the bear crossed. Oh well -- once it was on the other side I was able to get back to my car and wait for things to clear. Someone on the other side (also in a long line) finally got out and demanded that the cameras get off the road so he could get his car past -- they made a "hole" for him to get through, and eventually they got their cameras off the road and traffic began to move again. We got a quick glimpse of a couple of bears in the bushes as we past, but didn't stop to look much, as the line was VERY long behind us. This was a case where a ranger would have been welcomed! We went all the way up the road and came back, but the bears must have left because there was no line and no problems.
We decided to head over to the visitors center for a few minutes, then decide what to do with our last couple of hours. Figured one last trip up Moose-Wilson, then perhaps over to Gros Ventre on our way back to pack up our room near Jackson, head out for a quick trip to Miller Butte, a quick visit to a nice little thrift shop we like in Jackson, then head for home.
Well ... we did get the first part done. Back up Moose-Wilson, and a bear jam in progress. A cinnamon sow with a couple of cubs in the berry bushes. This time, there ARE rangers in place, sending cars past in both directions, giving each carload a few moments to take pictures, then move the on. At times, they were making the traffic into one-way at a time, when the mom or cubs got out of the trees and too close on the ground for the cars to pass close to that side. But again, this worked fine -- we went through the line 2-3 times and got a few moments each time to watch the bears (especially while waiting for our turn, as the cubs were well up in the bushes and we could see them from a ways back, and eventually mama got up in the top of the bushes, too, so she was visible from quite a ways back). Anyway, a LOT of fun to watch the bears up and down in the bushes and eating from the ground, and everyone got their chance to see -- really appreciated how the rangers handled this. Some fun photos of bears among red leaves (OK, can't always see the bears' faces, but the whole thing was really wild and lovely looking). It was a GREAT way to end the trip. We finally had to leave in order to get back in time to check out on time.
Did make a quick trip out to Miller Butte, but no bighorns gathering there yet. Still, a nice drive.
Another great trip to the parks! When I enter the parks, I immediately relax and feel happy. When I exit, I am a bit sorry to be rejoining the "real world," but always feel better about life because of my time spent there.

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