Eventhough we’d hadn’t yet seen it all in Yellowstone we took advantage of the better weather to the south and headed to Jackson Hole for an overnight “day trip”. The plan was to get there by lunch, explore the town, do a little shopping and then go on a sunset wildlife expedition into Grand Teton National Park.
Town was fun. Most of the shops were open eventhough it’s between ski season and summer season. We walked and ate our way though.
It’s an artsy community with lots of galleries and jewery stores. And a few that specialized in stuffed critters. One shop owner assured me the animals weren’t killed just to stuff and sell. I struggled with all the stuffed animals. Fortunately most of the statues outside were bronze.
|Jaye took this one|
And then there is the antler archways – there are 4 on the main square. The elk shed their antlers every year so I guess there are a lot of them laying around. What’s a better way to put them to use than to make a gateway….
We stayed at the Alpine Inn. We were booked into a regular room but they bumped us to a 2 bedroom cabin. It was a beautiful place to stay! Had a full kitchen, the most comfortable beds you can imagine and a great view. I highly recommend them if you are going to Jackson Hole.
Going on Safari
At 5:00 pm we were picked up at our cabin by our guide, Brad. We’d booked a sunset safari with the Teton Science School’s Wildlife Expeditions. They are a non-profit group dedicated to educating the public about the local wildlife.
The tour started in the National Elk Refuge just outside of town.
Elk have been wintering in the area around Jackson Hole since back before our recorded history. They winter in this protected valley then migrate back into the mountains during the summer when the snows have melted and the grass is growing. As the town of Jackson Hole grew up around the elk people realized that the animals needed this place if they were going to survive – so the refuge was established in 1912. This 25,000 acre refuge is 1 of 548 across the country.
Besides being a winter safe haven for the animals it is beautiful country!
There are upwards of 12,000 animals that winter here. Look close. Do you see any?
Maybe a little closer?
How about now?
This is only a fraction of the elk was saw. They were everywhere.
Don’t Forget to Look Up
Also in the Elk Refuge are herds of Bighorn Sheep. I’m not sure how many there were but there were quite a few. These guys watched the van we were traveling in closely but they weren’t afraid of us at all. They didn’t particularly like the joggers on foot but vehicles weren’t a problem.
With a good long telephoto lens I could get pretty close while they were intent on eating dinner.
For the Birds
One of the birds we were fascinated by was the Kestrel. We saw quite a few of these guys flying around hunting. The kestrel is a type of small falcon. But they can hoover like a hummingbird. According to Brad these guys can see in the infrared light spectrum so they can see the urine trails from the mice and voles that they hunt. They fly around until they see something promising then they hoover high overhead until the time is right —- then dive. The mouse doesn’t know what hit him. It’s quite a sight.
Next Stop – Grand Teton National Park
On the way we saw …
A Yellow-bellied Marmot
A lot of Mule Deer
|these guys were hanging out on the side of a hill along the road|
|This guy was in the park|
Then of course there were tons more elk!
Saved the Best for Last
But the best part was the MOOSE! I (we) finally found a MOOSE and not just 1 but 19 MOOSE. Back last May I went looking for moose in New Hampshire. I’d heard there were a lot of moose up there in the National Forest so I took my camera on a day trip while out in Boston for work one weekend. It turned out to be my great “wild moose chase“. I saw 1 moose as I arrived in the area – and that was only his butt as he walked down into the forest. At the time I figured great, I’ve been here 5 minutes and already seen a moose – I should be able to get some good shots. BUT NO! That was the only moose I saw all day!
So this time was different. First we saw 1 moose from a far distance. And further up the road we saw 2 more. Then JACKPOT – 14 moose all in one area munching on the grass near the road. They are just starting to regrow their antlers so they don’t have that characteristic profile we all know. The sun was starting to set behind them and the mountains were in the distance….. priceless.
And then it was time to head back and call it a night.