Friday, October 20, 2006

Best Laid Plans

Elk near Teton Village

Moose in Gros Ventre
We had a very organized plan for our trip to Wyoming. Our first full day, Wednesday we decided to hike in Grand Teton National Park. Thursday, we had a phone conference at 3:00, so we decided to explore the Gros Ventre area and Grand Teton by car. This left Friday for a full day for Yellowstone Park. To make the most of it we had booked a trip with Wildlife Expeditions, a part of the Grand Teton Science School. This was to be a 14 hour Yellowstone Loop Tour leaving at 7:00 AM. The guide, Tenley, arrived on time. We were pleased that no one else booked the trip, so we were going to have a private tour of Yellowstone with a wildlife expert.

We started out, Tenley pointed out some elk on a hill side. We made it to the main entry gate of Grand Teton Park. To get to Yellowstone's South Gate, you drive for about 50 miles through Grand Teton. The ranger at the gate informed us that Yellowstone had been pelted with snow over night and the roads and gate were closed. Our trip to Yellowstone was snowed out by an early season storm. So, instead, we did a half day wild life tour of the Grand Teton area. Quickly, Tenley found some moose at a distance across a plain. She had a high power scope that allowed us to see the moose. I had never seen them in the wild, but it would have been nice to see them closer with the naked eye. Our guide then proceeded to an area where there was a herd of prong horned antelope. She also spotted a carcass that coyote were feeding on. We hiked across a field and up a hill where she set up the scope for us to observe the antelope and coyote.

Next she headed back to the Gros Ventre area where we had been yesterday. This is where we saw the herd of buffalo, but they were gone today. She quicky spotted several moose that we were able to get close to. This was fantastic. We watched them for quite awhile and took great pictures. We also saw a warm spring. Several years ago someone wanted to get rid of their tropical fish, so they dumped them in the warm spring. The fish survived and multiplied. Now the spring is teeming with small tropical fish.

After finishing the tour we went into the town of Jackson. While my wife focused on shopping, I read about the town. Jackson was incorporated in 1914, so it's less than 100 years old. This seems strange compared to our visit over the summer to Italy. Jackson started in 1914; a 100 year old building in Rome would be considered new. One would think that the old west wouldn't be an area of women's rights, but the town of Jackson was founded by women and in 1920 an entire slate of women was elected to govern the town. Jackson also had a woman sheriff.

On the way back to Teton Village from Jackson we saw an enormous herd of elk just off the road. It was funny, previously we were with a guide as were many other people, looking for herds of elk. The guides worked hard to find the elk, but we found a much larger herd right off the road across from the ski resort.

For weeks we were planning to visit Yellowstone in the Fall when few people would be in the park and the animals would be active. We thought by going on Friday, when we had the most time and going with a guide, would give us the best opportunity to see the wildlife and natural beauty of Yellowstone. The unpredictability of nature made it impossible for us to get to Yellowstone, but on the other hand we had even more time to see wildlife in Grand Teton. Some have called the area the Serengeti of America.

Hopefully we will have an opportunity come to northern Wyoming again in the future. We will probably have to plan a trip solely to Yellowstone. I would still plan the trip for Fall or Spring, so as to avoid the crush of people in the summer. We would have liked to have seen bear and a wolves, but it was really amazing how much wildlife we saw and how easy it was to spot it.

Jackson, Wyoming

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prong horned antelope

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