Day 209 – Cody Country

Day 209 – Cody Country, July 13, 2011

For a rainy day spent mostly in VANilla, I couldn’t have
wished for anything better.  There had
been reports of a mama grizzly bear with two cubs roaming around the Jackson
Lake Lodge area.  On our way to our hike
yesterday, a handful of cars and rangers were camped out alongside the road, so
this morning around 7:45 I ventured to the same general area along with several
others.  I was willing to wait up to an
hour, but much to my pleasant surprise, I only had to wait about five
minutes.  During the next 15 minutes, I
think I took 83 shots.  Every now and
then, I just set the camera down and watched both the bears and the spectacle
of photographers.

The bears mostly rummaged around in the wild flowers that
seemed to be waist high on the cubs, though it could have been my angle and
while mostly oblivious to the line of parked cars, every once in a while a car
door closing or the blink of lights from the car alarm alerted them, one time
enough to send then romping through the field right past my line of sight!

There had to have been at least 50 cars with photographers
sporting tripods and three foot lenses while camped out on the roofs of their
SUVs.  I felt like such an amateur,
wondering if some of these folks were freelancers that sold their photos to

Once the bears moved into the next clump of bushes, I moved
on.  I suspect I could have stuck around
for some more photo opportunities, but there was more to see!  I turned VANilla around, passed by the
campgrounds at Colter Bay and headed north to the southeastern corner of
Yellowstone on my way to Cody.

The burnt forest with substantial regrowth in the southern
section of Yellowstone was quickly overtaken by a deep gorge carved by the
Lewis River, sandy shore lakes, and steaming hot springs as the stench of
sulphur lingered in the air.  On my way
to West Thumb, a village in the park, I noticed a white marmot on the side of
the road…or at least that is what it appeared to be.  All the marmots I spotted previously had been
brown, so I was somewhat dismayed.
Instead of claiming I saw a white marmot when it was an opossum, I
decided to check with the rangers at the visitor center.  They were intrigued by my discovery and
wanted to know where I saw it and asked if I would forward my pictures so they could
pass them along to their biologist.  How
cool is that!!  I was really looking for
a bull moose, but an unknown white marmot will suffice.

Upon reaching Lake Village, I turned east on Hwy 20 and just
after exiting through the east entrance station, I spotted (with the help of
ten other cars at a standstill in the road) another grizzly bear slumbering
through the woods in Shoshone National Forest.

Shortly thereafter, the cars in front of me stopped again as
we watched a bison leading a procession of cars in the opposing lane of
traffic.  A few impatient westbound
travelers blew their horns unsuccessfully as the eastbound traffic stopped to
snap a few photos of the bison lead parade.

VANilla weaved along the hilly terrain, chugging up the
steep grades and speeding down them past numerous waterfalls where we reached
Pahaska Tepee, a hunting lodge built by William Cody, alias Buffalo Bill.  We didn’t stop for a guided tour, but instead
continued past spires, pinnacles and other rock formations that were identified
by road signs including the time period in which they were formed.  I felt like I was in Utah again.  As we followed the Shoshone River through
meadows of wildflowers, we eventually reached the Buffalo Bill Dam.  The dam was the tallest in the world without any steel reinforcement when it
was constructed in 1910.

After passing through Cody, the road led us by pastures of
farmland before we again climbed into Shell Canyon past pink granite and rosy
sandstone where we stopped to enjoy Shell Falls just as the sprinkles dropped
on VANilla’s windshield.  The paved path
to the viewing platform was very short and dogs weren’t allowed, so Petey and I
continued along the undulating road in VANilla. As we reach one high point, a
white substance floated in gusting winds…at times it seemed like cottonwood and
at other times it seemed like snow, but it felt too hot outside.

Eventually the sprinkle turned into a drizzle with sporadic
moments of heavy rain which helped wash the red dirt from Utah off
VANilla.  As we rounded the bend, we came
across a moose grazing by the roadside that jumped at each passing vehicle and
periodically shook the rain off its scruffy coat.

After a day of driving I reached the Wal-Mart in Sheridan
around 5 pm.  I noticed I’ve been remiss
in mentioning deer, elk, and pronghorn…all wildlife I’ve spotted in the last
few days, though the grizzlies and moose have garnered my attention!  ETB

Day 208 – North to Jackson (Part 5)

Day 208 – North to Jackson, July 12, 2011

Another lovely day in Grand Teton National Park!  We beat the crowds to the Spring Lake
Trailhead which we followed through burned forest, ferns, around a lake, and up
Cascade Creek to Hidden Falls.  The
falls were ferocious, splashing down the rocks and spraying us from fifty yards
away.  With the shade and the spray,
there had to be a twenty degree temperature difference from the direct sun.

We turned back toward the parking area, but not before
taking a short spur route up to Inspiration Point which overlooked Jenny Lake
and the valley beyond.  Countless ground
squirrels and chipmunks scurried across our path.  Many of the little critters were busy
carrying clumps of dirt and pine needles like they were planning on building a

We raced the dark clouds back to the parking and only felt a
few sprinkles from what appeared was going to be a powerful thunderstorm.  It’s currently just after lunch and we have
been waiting out the threatening weather before we take our final hike in Grand
Teton National Park until another visit!

There for a while, I thought our final hike may have been
this morning as a constant drizzle fell from the sky and thunder rolled in the
distance.  Soon, however, the drizzle
turned intermittent and around 4:30 we went for another hike.  We thought it would be only an hour to Heron
Lake and Swan Lake, but it turned out to be two hours.  Luckily, we were prepared with proper hiking
attire and water, though the mosquitoes were blood sucking demons.

The Deep Woods Off helped, but any part of our body not covered
with clothing or spray ended up with a welt.
They were relentless:  buzzing our
ears, flying up our nose.  Anytime we
stopped for a photo we basically jogged in place and waved our arms.  I’m sure we were sight to see.  If we weren’t, the lakes were.  They were just gorgeous – covered in lily
pads; geese, swan, and heron on the shore; and the Tetons reflecting in the
glassy waters – so serene!

Eventually we made it to the restaurant for a fantastic
final meal and later took Petey with us to watch the sunset…ETB

Day 205 – North to Jackson Hole – Part 2

Day 205 – North to Jackson Hole

I just noticed this day never posted…

After coffee with Carrie this morning, Max and I headed into
the park and took Steven’s suggestion to hike Death Canyon Trailhead.  The first 1.5 miles of the trail led us through
meadows of wildflowers with views of the Tetons to the west, across several
narrow streams which required leaping ability, and up to a shaded overlook of beautiful
Phelps Lake.

Upon admiring the lake, we continued on in the brisk,
morning air past a lovely waterfall and climbed steadily up toward the canyon
until we reached snow crossing the trail at approximately the 3 mile mark.  While there was only a slight incline across
the snow, we opted to forgo the risk of sliding forty feet down the
mountainside and turned around as we were coming to the middle of our 3 hour
turning point anyway.

As we stood there taking in the view, we heard a loud chirp
and all of the sudden a coyote came trotting down the trail toward us.  With nervousness in her voice, Max asked, “What
do we do?”  While I thought it strange to
see the small coyote in the middle of the day and considered it might be sick,
I just said, “Step back, they generally shy away.”  Thankfully, it hopped over a rock to the
downward side of the trail and continued past.
Had it been hot enough for sweat on our brow, we both would have wiped
it off with a “Whew”!

While we originally thought a bird chirped loudly at the
sight of the coyote, it appeared to be a marmot that hid itself beneath a rock
and poked its head out a few minutes later.
As we returned toward the trailhead, we ended up crossing paths with that
coyote three or four times.  It seemed
scrawny with a pitiful coat.  All I can
think is that it was looking for a place to die.  Though another family seemed to think it was a fox…it would have been one HEALTHY fox!

After our hike we joined Carrie, Steven and their wonderful
family for lunch at Teton Thai, one of their favorite restaurants and relaxed
for the afternoon.  Carrie is a long-time
childhood friend.  We attended the same
prep-school and rode horses together.
She and her husband Steven, who is from Boston, lived in New York City until
shortly after their second child was born when they moved to Texas where Steven
runs a hedge fund.

Ivy, their oldest daughter is nine and is a voracious reader.  Roome is seven and full of energy.  He chatted up a storm and was in complete
dismay when he had heard I had never seen a moose in the wild!  Gwendolyn, their youngest, while sometimes
defiant in her two-year old stage, is precious.
They all have Carrie’s beautiful eyes.

In addition to meeting Carrie and her family in Jackson, I
had also planned on visiting some of my father’s friends, Ron and Betsy, who own
a summer home in Teton Pines.
Coincidentally, Ron and Betsy’s house was only six houses down the golf
course’s eleventh hole from where Carrie and Steven were staying for the next
six weeks.  Ron and Betsy were hosting
their twin grandchildren who were nine, Grant and Jill.

Just before we began heading their way for a glass of wine,
Steven announced a moose and her baby were just a few blocks away!!!  We made a short detour specifically for me to
snap a picture of an entire moose versus just its antlers before we joined Ron
and Betsy for a glass of wine at their lovely home.  After a quick glass of wine, a crew of ten
enjoyed a scrumptious dinner at Q.  What
a lovely evening and it didn’t stop there!
Carrie and Steven introduced us to a card game called Oh Heck.  I loved it, and hope to play it again
soon!  ETB

Day 206 – North to Jackson Hole – Part 3

Day 206 – North to Jackson Hole, Sunday, July 10, 2011

With Sunday morning came another hike in Grand Teton National
Park.  This time Max and I took the
Granite Canyon Trailhead where we followed the Snake River, raging with
whitewater, through meadows of wildflowers and forests of pines and
aspens.  I found the hike intriguing
simply due to the different greenery found here compared to most mountainous
areas.  It feels unusual to pass by ferns
beneath a pine tree.

After our hike, Max and I found a shaded patio for lunch at
a café in town.  Petey happily got to join
us.  In mid-afternoon, we said our
goodbye’s and headed north to Colter Bay Village, one of several places to camp
inside of Grand Teton National Park.  I
wasn’t looking at my watch, but it probably took at least an hour to make it to
the northern part of the park.

On our way we passed by several turnouts that provided
fantastic views of Grand Teton, Mount Moran, and Jackson Lake.  Our campgrounds at Colter Bay are situated
beneath shady pines about half a mile from the Colter Bay Marina, a general
store, two restaurants, a laundry and shower area, as well as a visitor
center.  The Park has three or four
villages like this!  For a National Park,
the campgrounds are very nice – shade and running water.

Max and I started walking with Petey around Colter Bay, as the
path was wide enough for a vehicle, paved, and was not marked with a “no dog”
picture, but on second thought since the path was named Lake Shore “Trail” and
dogs weren’t allowed on trails, but were in paved parking lots we double
checked.  Petey didn’t get to go, but he
did get a good view of the lake.

To my surprise, the lettuce wraps, fried cheese, and cheese
burger were all good at the Village restaurant.
We will probably try it again tomorrow night. ETB