Monday, October 4, 2010
    It's real fall in the Tetons today. The day does not warm up so quickly and a cold wind wraps itself around us. Bright yellow aspen leaves fall to the ground and dance in the road. Most of the lodges are closed for the season and the weekend crowd has gone home. We start our day at the Snake River overlook staring at the Tetons as the sun comes up. This park is filled with breathtaking views. There is no way anyone cannot be taken in by the beauty of its landscape - the colors, the contrasts, the wide open areas.
    Mormon Row is crowded with photographers this morning. They scatter in the pasture like a softball team. The sky clouds over and a rainbow brightens the sky, hanging over the faded stucco house in the middle of the homestead. Rusted farm equipment lies scattered in the grass surrounding the slanting barn and deteriorating wooden outbuildings. Suddenly a weasel jumps out of the grass and scurries across the dusty road. We hurry to follow it, searching for the little critter in the grass and dirt ruts, but it has escaped. At Schwabacker Landing the Tetons reflect in the still Snake River, the sun rising behind the mountains. Aside from the half dozen photographers, it is a quiet place by the river with only the squawk of a young mallard swimming away from her family. In the sandy trails along the Snake a bobcat's tracks tell an unfinished story.
   Highway 89 borders the west side of Grant Teton, traveling along the western edge through working ranches. Horses graze in the pastures behind old wooden X fences, ranch horses with long manes and strong stocky bodies - bays and chestnuts, grays and paints and several blacks. There is one particularly unusual horse, a dun with black mane and black and white socks. His face has a long white blaze over beige and his most striking feature - two wide curving stripes on either side of his body stretching from his neck to his hindquarters. His eyes are very dark, almost ringed by black.
   The day stretches out in warm breezes and brilliant fall colors. People bike on paved trails and set out from trailheads. I am hypnotized by these mountains; they seem close enough to touch, even when driving by. They tower above the edges of the park, sharp and jagged, glaciers gray-white in depressions. We stop at the trailhead to Two Ocean Lake and climb the hill above the marshes looking for moose. Christian Creek curves in the bottoms past thick stands of pine trees and in between hills. It's after noon - no moose or elk now. Maybe next time we'll have the chance to take this hike.
    Clouds are rolling in. Before we leave we stop at Colter Bay to walk out to Jackson Lake. The trail crosses to the north of the bay and along the lake. Jackson Lake is huge - so much longer and larger than I believed. We jump off the trail from the wooded peninsula onto the rocky beach. The sun passes behind clouds obscuring the mountains as the wind gets stronger by the minute. A sailboat tacks back and forth in choppy water. A front is coming in and we hurry through the soft, wet sand to make it back to the visitor's center. Almost as we reach the Visitors Center heavy drops descend. Two busloads of Japanese tourists empty onto the beach, taking pictures while the wind blows aspen leaves and anything else it can around. We make it to our vehicle just as the rain crashes down and we head north to the Yellowstone entrance.
    It pours as we pass the end of Jackson Lake and drive the stretch of Teton wilderness between the two parks. Lewis River runs along side us on the east and Lewis Falls on the west. The southern part of the park is still mysterious to us, with thermals steaming at the edge of Yellowstone Lake. The rain comes down while the sun shines over the Lake and a brilliant rainbow appears - the brightest and most colorful I have ever seen - yellow, orange, red, lavender and blue. It's like a neon sign high above the treetops.
    It's drizzling when we reach Bridge Bay campground, now closed for the season. We hike the gravel trail leading to the campsites, bordered by thick woods, Yellowstone Lake and Bridge Bay. Cloud cover increases the darkness as we walk through the sites and past the amphitheater, breathing in the scent of wet pine. This campground has many sites carved into little wooded alcoves along the winding road. We feel like we're not alone. Bears have been here and I believe this campsite had some "incidents" over the summer. After scouring the campground looking for the bear box with my parent's names on it, we stop to admire a large mule deer buck standing in a clearing. The bear box is in the site behind him.
    By the time we reach Dunraven it's getting dark. The drive past Mt. Washburn is tense because of darkness and smoke and knowing this area has been badly burned by the Antelope Fire. We reach the cabin late, worn out, but glad to be "home."

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2010