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               Day 2 October 7, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013
Jackson, Wyoming

   Early morning frost sparkles on the deck outside Randolph Cabin. The roads are, thankfully, pretty dry. The Santa Fe Sport climbs Togwotee Pass winding through the Bridger Mountains, past Turpin Meadow Recreation area. A dark shadow steps slowly across the road - a bull moose quickens to a trot stopping in the snow at the edge of the road. Orange lights flash: "Caution. Wildlife crossing next four miles."
   The road winds up and over the pass, through meadows covered by new snow to the south and deep, green forest to the north. It feels wilder than Grand Teton with its open meadows of golden grass. A cow moose paws bare patches along a stream and nibbles grass poking through the snow. She watches us, but stays where she is. A few vehicles are parked off the road, tucked back near the trees. Hunters.
   We turn around and make our way back over the pass; snowmobile tracks crisscross the snow. A bull moose crosses the flats far below us, walking through a marshy area, clumps of snow clinging to tall grasses. He walks deep into the meadow until only his antlers are visible, bobbing up and down above the willows.
   We drive into Turpin Meadow on a dirt road descending through pine forests. A great gray owl soars across the road toward the floor of the forest. We look for him among the lower pine branches, but he disappears as quickly as he appeared. The road leads to a camp built with corrals and long log cabins. A bridge crosses Buffalo Fork River to a campground filled with trucks and trailers. More hunters, some of them with horses.
   As the road winds back toward the Tetons it turns to pavement, climbing above green pastures that line the highway. Below us horses graze undisturbed by a pack of coyotes running across the fields. Aspen are in all stages of change from lime green to gold to faded yellow and brown, leaves trembling in the breeze. Looking over the valley we hear a gunshot and then another, reminding us of where we are.
   Rangers drive the roads in Grand Teton, but ignore people stopped at turnouts and pulled off to the side of the road. A cow moose stands quietly in tall, golden grass near Gros Ventre Road, turning her head from one side to the other. She stands for what seems like hours; crowds pulling up and taking photos. Visitors are grateful for this moose, a tiny piece of what they came for. The poor cow was trying to cross the road, but there were too many cars, leaving her stranded in the field.
   At Menor's Ferry three otters swim against the Snake River's current. Like dolphins, they leap above the water in arcs, up the middle of the river. When the current becomes too strong, they swim close to the edge, climbing up the bank, first playing and then slipping back into the water. The otters disappear around the bend while a fourth "straggler" follows, swimming the same route.
   We stop to explore old cabins and outbuildings on Gros Ventre Road. The road curves high above Gros Ventre River past ranches, base camps and horses - hundreds of horses. Sailboats cruise the dark ribbon of water. The views are magnificent, but the dirt road is long, narrow, riddled with holes and leads to a dead end. It is a new discovery for us, all this beauty hidden behind the Park.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2013