Happy Trails

Happy Trails to you

Roy Rogers always signed off with the song Happy Trails to you, Until we meet again. That’s a western song, right?  It’s my last full day in Jackson. Happy Trails to me. My Wyoming adventure is coming to a close. I stayed by the condo most of the day doing laundry and packing. I like to take things a little easy the day before a long plane trip. My flight had been changed from 10:30 am to 6:30 am so I’d be heading to the airport in the wee hours of the morning.

TepeeOne Last Wildlife Search

As the afternoon rolled around I decided to drive up to Dornan’s. It seemed appropriate to finish where I started. I went to Dornan’s for lunch when I first arrived so I thought I’d do a little souvenir shopping there to wrap up the trip. They were having a big end of the season sale. Of course it was also a chance to take a last look around for wildlife. It was getting cold and there were occasional snow flurries when I headed out.

Mule Deer at Moose Junction

Did you get my best side

One animal that had been rather scarce were the mule deer. I’d only seen 2 my whole trip. There had been more bears than deer. On a whim I turned down Moose -Wilson Road when I arrived at Moose Junction. I’d no sooner made the turn than I spotted a deer right near the road. I drove past and pulled over. I got my camera and started to walk back to where I’d seen the doe. I really didn’t expect her to still be there but she was. She didn’t seem to be that afraid of me, wary maybe but she didn’t go running off. She even seemed interested in the sound of the shutter as I snapped some photos. She has two rambunctious youngsters with her that only showed themselves long enough to check me out then disappeared back into the brush.

Curious Deer

It’s Cold Out There

Mule Deer Doe

I stayed there by the side of the road as long as I could before the cold wind got to me. Leaving the deer behind I checked the bog overlook- no moose and the shrub where the little bear had been but that was empty too. As I drove back to Dornan’s I noticed the deer had gone. At least I had one last wildlife encounter.

 

An Afternoon Surprise

lunch of yummy berriesAnother afternoon Moose

The afternoon was waning so I left the little bear to his berries. I planned to continue checking for moose. There’s a swampy area right at the Moose Junction end of Moose-Wilson road. The parking area looks out over the bog. This is supposed to be a great spot for moose but so far I haven’t had any luck here. I pulled in to park for a bit but as the sun slid toward the horizon all was quiet. Time to wrap up for the day.

A Bit of Deja-Vu

Moose in the afternoonAt the end of Moose-Wilson Road I turned right past Moose Junction and the Visitor Center. Taking another right I was back on the main road to Jackson. I’d just passed the Jackson Hole Airport when I saw cars lining both sides of the road. Another critter jam. This time everyone was looking west toward the Teton range. The sun was angling right into my eyes. At first I couldn’t see what everyone was looking at because of the sun. Suddenly I got the angle right and I spotted it. It was another moose.

Moose watchingBull Moose

This was the same area where I saw the last moose but that time the moose was on the left side of the road. This time the road was above the marshy ground on the right side of the road. It looked a lot like the same moose. He was just as unconcerned as the other one too. This time instead of wandering along the side of the road he was meandering toward the road from across the large field. It was hard to get an angle where the sun wasn’t hitting the camera lens directly.

Here Comes Bullwinkle

Moose in the setting sun

As the big guy headed toward me I took as many pictures as I could. Since the field only had some streams and marsh I wasn’t going to get that iconic photo of a moose in a pond but I’ll take what I can get. For quite awhile it seemed Bullwinkle would head right at my car but when he was about half way across the field he changed directions. He was still heading for the road but now he was going to meet up with it way behind me. It was time to move on. My photo ops had passed.

 

Moose in the afternoon

Yellowstone Wildlife Adventure

ChipmunkBeware of the Wildlife

Wildlife watching is one of the top reasons people visit Yellowstone. Its thrilling to see animals in their natural habitat instead of a zoo. In every visitor center there are warnings and videos reminding you to give the animals their space. At the Old Faithful Gift Shop there’s a book titled  Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park. Have you ever seen the TV show called When Animals Attack? There’s a clip from Yellowstone showing a Bison tossing a tourist into a tree. That was being shown at the Old Faithful Visitor Center. Talk about a cautionary tale!

Watch the Wildlife from Inside Your car

As I followed the White Navigator toward Norris Junction the road narrowed to a single lane in each direction. To my right the mountainside dropped down the the road. There wasn’t much of a shoulder. My Gaperguide was chattering about the geography of the area. To my left the mountainside continued to drop off. As I rounded a curve the White Navigator came to an abrupt stop. I couldn’t see why. There was a pull off on the left side of the road. Suddenly the Navigator pulled across the oncoming lane into the pull off. Now I could see the problem. There were two Bison on the barely existent road shoulder. I didn’t dare pass them.  I was much too close as it was.

Bison right next to the road

Bison are Unpredictable! 

The bison were clearly getting agitated. In an attempt to give them more room and diffuse the situation I pulled into the same pull off as the Navigator. I could see a narrow bridge ahead with no room for car and bison.  As the bison moved closer the lead animal began huffing and shaking his big head. As the pair approached our cars they focused on my little Toyota. It was as if the Navigator wasn’t even there. The big guy in front started to cross the road toward my car.

Before the Charge

Almost the Next Chapter in Death In Yellowstone

I was trapped! I couldn’t go forward and there was a drop off to my left. My first thought was to wonder if my rental car was covered for damage by bison. My 2nd thought was that if that 1500 lb animal hit my car I was going over the edge. I wouldn’t have to worry about the rental car. I’d be another chapter in the Death in Yellowstone book!

Getting ready to pass by

A Close Call

Just as I was saying my goodbyes to this world, the Navigator took off. This gave me room to move my car forward. When I did it was like I’d waved a red flag! Heads down the agitated animals  charged my car and I didn’t wait around. I slammed that gas pedal to the floor and headed for the bridge with both bison stampeding after me. Once I crossed the bridge the bison gave up. Heart  hammering I was happy to put some distance between those bison and me!

Too Close for comfort

 

Waterfalls of Yellowstone

Waterfalls are everywhere!

So you want to see waterfalls? The concierge was waving a map at me. If it’s waterfalls you’re looking for you have come to the right place he went on. We’re better than Niagara Falls! He handed me a map with the best spots all circled and marked for me. I’d seen geysers and animals. Now it was time to concentrate on the water features, waterfalls.

Grand Teton Waterfalls

His map started with Yellowstone so I asked him if there were any waterfalls in Grand Teton National Park. He said yes but most were only accessible by hiking to them. The Yellowstone waterfalls are often near the road with parking  areas and look outs. Since my back injury makes hiking difficult Yellowstone became my destination again. They pulled my car around and I got started. It’d be a good hour before I reached the southern entrance to Yellowstone. I was determined not to get side tracked.

Horses at Elk Flat Ranch

The Elk Flats Distraction

I was hustling along pretty good until I got to Elk Flats again. There were photographers pulled over taking pictures of the horses grazing in the pasture to the left. They paid no attention to the 2 pronghorn antelope frisking around in the field to the right. Yes, I had to stop. You have to take these opportunities as they present themselves.

Prong horn at Elk Flats

The Bison are back

Bison in the morning

Just over the rise I found the bison herd. No elk this morning but the bison had moved much closer to the road. They were even jumping over the rail fence. The bison paparazzi were brazen. They were right up to the fence the bull had just jumped. Too close for my taste. In front of me two bulls were head butting, getting ready to spar. A bit of Nat Geo Wild right in front of me. As much as I was enjoying the show time was passing and I hadn’t reached Moran Junction yet, much less Yellowstone. Time to get back on the road. 

 

Jousting BisonGet ready to fight

Mormon Row and Antelope Flats

PronghronMormon Row and Antelope Flats Turnoff

Back on Route 89 I passed Airport Junction and Moose Junction before coming to the Antelope Flats turn off to Mormon Row.  Just before I reached the turn there was another pulloff with views of the Tetons. As I pulled in I noticed a herd of Pronghorns getting ready to bed down for the day.

Mormon RowMormon Row

Mormon Row, so named for the members of the Church of Latter day Saints, who  homesteaded the area in the 1890’s is a photographer’s destination. Photographers from around the world stop by T. A. Moulton’s barn to capture this iconic historic structure with the Teton Range in the background. According to Flickr this is the most photographed barn in America. Of course I had to join the crowd and add my photos to the many others taken here.

 

Moulton Barn with Tetons in the background

Antelope Flats

Mormon Row in located in Antelope Flats. My Gaperguide was stressing this often overlooked area. Antelope Flats Road is a spectacular route that takes you through sagebrush flats and over rolling plains. This tract of land lies in the path of a primary migration route for pronghorn, bison, and the largest elk herd in the world. As you view the old homesteads you can feel like you’ve been transported back in time. You gain a glimpse of the Old West.

Old Homestead in the shadow of the teton Range

Wildlife of Antelope Flats

The list of wildlife to be seen here is long and varied, wolves,  badger, coyotes, and fox as well as the bigger animals. It was quiet as I drove slowly along searching. I spotted more pronghorn in the distance and at one stop two chipmunks played in the dry grasses by the side of the road. It’s amazing how completely they blend in with their surroundings. They seem a darker color than the cinnamon colored rodents of New England. I only spotted them because they moved!

Wyoming Chipmunk

Wyoming Chipmunks

New England Chipmunk

New England Chipmunk