Day 3 October 8, 2013
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
This morning there are five moose at Moose Junction, including two young bulls who play flight, knocking antlers.
They are young and enormous. There is also a cow grazing with a calf and another moose hidden behind the aspens. A pink glow rises over the jagged peaks. By the time we reach Snake River turnout, clouds have muted the light. Across the river a herd of elk move south in a long curving line. There are a lot of elk - maybe 30 or more.
While at Snake River turnout, photographers chatter about the shut-down while waiting for the light.
A couple of cyclists were issued citations and fined $125 for sneaking into the Park. "$125? That's worth it." "They got in an enjoyed the Park, had it to themselves." "You spend $125 on lodging." We heard park rangers were told to make it very difficult for people to violate the shut-down, whatever that means. We also overheard ways to get in to the park and (probably) not get caught.
Up the road, just past the Triangle X, a chocolate brown grizzly is grubbing, our first bear ever in Grand Teton. A man from Idaho Falls who leads photography classes, says he thinks it is 610, who had cubs this year. 610 is 399's cub and both bears are very "relaxed." 399 has taught her cubs to be tolerant of people. 610 is now a beautiful, big bear with a fine dark shiny coat, maybe the prettiest bear we've ever seen.
It doesn't look like the parks will open soon, so we need to leave the Tetons and move on to Cody. We make a quick trip down the dirt road to Turpin Meadow, looking for the great grey owl. The circle of pine trees is still, silent. A Toyota Tundra crawls up the dirt road, letting us pass as the hunters inside scan the hillside for elk.
The bull elk is still at Togwotee Pass, grazing in the meadow. Construction workers watched the bull chase a cow that is not visible now. The hunters pull up along side us scanning the mountains with their binoculars and watching the moose. We wonder if they are considering shooting him.
At the bottom of Togwotee Pass a string of vehicles line the side of the road. A pair of chubby grizzly cubs are feeding in the grass near the road. They are alone, so they must be two year-olds, though they are not very big. Crowd-savvy, they ignore their watchers until one man with a camera opens his car door and sits facing them. One cub rears up and runs, then spins and faces the crowd. Even a truck pulling a trailer filled with cattle pulls over. The cows are quiet for a few minutes and then begin to bellow. The cows' cries disturb the cubs, who turn their heads searching for the strange sound. As the trailer pulls out, the cubs run into the trees. One lies in the snow putting its head down for a nap; the other ambles on encouraging its sleepy sibling to follow. It's the best bear viewing we've had for a long time.
Not far from Togwotee Pass is Dubois, an old fashioned western community, surrounded by green hills and red rocks. High desert, the land is semi-arid, filled with ranches. We drive through Wind River Indian Reservation, red rock buttes on one side, mountains on the other. Horses are everywhere in Wyoming. From Jackson to Dubois to Thermopolis to Cody, the terrain changes from forest and mountains, to rock mountains and red rock, sagebrush and back to snow-capped mountains again. After a long stretch of desert, we pass oil rigs on the Oregon Basin. Hundreds of antelope gather outside Meteetsie, the beginning of their annual migration.
Cody's main street is bustling as darkness falls, a healthy mix of shops, restaurants, bars and businesses. The edge of town is dark and quiet; here, too, hotels have closed early because of the shut-down. We are off to the North Fork Road tomorrow, Yellowstone's East Entrance and Silver Gate.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
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