Sunday, October 3, 2010
   The day begins at Oxbow Bend with a haze in the west obscuring the majesty of the Tetons hidden behind. Still, the aspens are glowing in early morning light, and as the fog lifts and the sun shines, they turn to flaming yellow, their reflections mirrored in the green brown water of the Snake River. The name Oxbow Bend comes from the curve of an ox yoke. In the years around 1862 when the Homestead Act allowed new settlers to establish farms in the Jackson Hole area, it was an appropriate name.
   It's about 32-37 degrees, colder than I expected. We rush out of our room, anxious to reach the Oxbow at sunrise, so I grab my coat, but no gloves. I look for otters at the Oxbow, hands jammed into pockets. Trout come to the surface to catch bugs. The fish rise to the surface in ripples, occasionally sticking a nose out of the water.
   The sun is shining on the Tetons as we drive around the bend and up a gravel road, following a very large bull moose as he makes his way from trees to sage and back, his almost black form moving like a great shadow in front of green and gold trees. Elk bugle in the distance. A bull elk and his harem graze in a meadow just east of Oxbow Bend. He prances back and forth across the meadow that slopes to the Snake. People visiting the Tetons are so excited about elk. They are not as numerous as in Yellowstone, scattered in the marshes and willows behind Jackson Lake Lodge with its tall glass windows overlooking the deck and beyond.
   The road through Grand Teton passes the tiny town of Moose and dead-ends into 89 east. North of Moose is a group of old weathered barns, houses and outbuildings called Mormon Row. After the Homestead Act of 1862 a group of Mormons settled this area and formed a community. Some of the buildings are over 100 years old. Rusted farm equipment lies in the grass near a pale pink stucco house. The row runs east-west crossing the highway where horses graze in the tall grass. The barns are broken down, swaying. If these buildings had voices, what would they say?
   We take advantage of the warm fall weather and hike around Jenny Lake, a 6.8 mile loop that is mostly level, with a few steep climbs. The trail is wide, easy to follow and runs along the shoreline through woods. A doe, peeks at us through aspen. Almost halfway around the lake, we reach a gray wooden bridge and watch a man ride a gray horse across, bareback. The horse balks at first; the man backs her up and legs her on. She steps on to the planks and trots forward.
   The trail seems longer than 6.8 miles and we stop to drink water and watch a kayaker glide across the lake's glass-like surface. The trail bends and rises above a stream while an osprey watches us from her nest and calls - to whom? Her mate?
   The trail passes a boat dock where hikers can ferry to trailheads, but it is the end of the season and the dock stands empty. A diversion in the trail leads us to Hidden Falls, crashing down through the rocks, about 1 mile up the trail. The rest of the trail curves around the lake. Paddlers hug the shore and canoes lay beached waiting to be loaded onto the roofs of SUVs.
   I am beat, sunburned, and plain tired. We see another moose in the meadows north of Jackson Junction near the trail to Two Ocean Lake and two cow elk. There is good wildlife watching from this hill overlooking Christian Creek. We return to Moran in the low light of early evening passing horses in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, gracefully bending their long necks to the grass.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2010