Saturday, October 2, 2010
The drive from Bozeman to Teton National Park is a long one, even on a day when the weather and scenery are perfect. The head start we got when we landed early disappears in negotiations at the rental car desk. Why would anyone think we could use a Camaro to drive through the Park? Before we know it, we are walking out of Albertsons in Livingston at 12:30 p.m. and heading down the road in an Outback.
The day is glorious autumn - golden with shades of red and orange. Aspen are turning yellow and peach, a stark contrast against the deep green pines sprouting around them.
The warm temperatures sing Indian summer. Visitors run from geyser to bison in shorts and flip-flops. We pass a coyote mousing in a meadow near Gibbon Meadow.
He hops three times in succession before pouncing, his back turned toward us and the road.
We have not been to the Tetons in several years and the southern tip of Yellowstone is somewhat of a mystery with its heavily wooded areas and steaming landscape. It is a land of lakes - big lakes - Shoshone, Lewis and Lake Yellowstone. In the Tetons, Jackson Lake stretches out forever under the mountains. Grand Teton borders the Thoroughfare, the deep wilderness of Yellowstone, true bear country.
We pass a trailhead filled with official Park vehicles. A ranger looks serious and busy among the crew preparing for - what? Two dogs sit, waiting near the trailhead - a golden retriever and a German shepherd with an orange and yellow vest. Not good. We never find out for sure, but later in the trip we run across a K-9 unit in Yellowstone and learn the only reason dogs are used in Yellowstone is for search and rescue.
We cross into Grand Teton about 5 o'clock.
So far the Tetons are everything I expected. The aspen are flaming yellow and orange.
Oxbow Bend curves through willows, pine and aspen. Two beavers crisscross the water and dive at the edge of the banks. The great mountains themselves are jagged shadows looking down upon us. A chocolate colored moose steps slowly through the Snake River to the tall grasses on the other side.
Turning east at Moran Junction Highway 287 weaves through golden pastures and sage covered mountains. Horses and cattle graze near and far from the road. Ranches have names like Pinto Ranch and The Buffalo Creek. We reach Moran before 7, check in and go back to Oxbow Bend where the sunset has left clouds swirling in a pink sky. An elk herd gathers in a meadow overlooking the Snake River while beavers zigzag across the water, ripples fading to the shore.
The sky is clear and star studded tonight and after a warm day, the evening cools down slowly. The room is small, but we'll manage, and the personnel are friendly. There is also a good restaurant where waiters with southern accents take our order and John Prine sings in the background. Bizarre and yet comfortable. We are both dead tired. Austin - Bozeman - Moran. Almost too much for one day.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
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