I had my first full day wildlife tour in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was full of surprises, lots of wildlife, great information, and breathtaking scenery. Can you ask for anything more?
6:30 a.m. Arrive at the Rusty Parrot hotel and wait in front. Taylor, EcoTour’s owner and guide, and Gwen, geologist and new guide, listen as I explain my dream about three over sized gray parrots.
7:00 a.m. Our guests arrive and we proceed to drive out of town. One of our guest notifies us that there’s nowhere to get a cup of coffee in Jackson before 6 or 7A.M., at least not close to the Rusty Parrot. Thank goodness we have coffee ready in the back, freshly ground with personal french press coffee to-go mugs. Pair that with some mean fresh muffins and fruit. Score EcoTour.
7:15 a.m. On our drive out of Jackson we pass the Elk Refuge on our right, like the 6A.M. coffee in town, the elk are nowhere in sight. They won’t be arriving until the cold weather does, when they’ll descend in the thousands. Our goal for now is to look for them in Grand Teton National Park, and hopefully catch a glimpse before they disappear into the forest with the sunlight.
7:20 a.m. Our first sighting: a herd of bison moseying across the field. We can’t stop yet though because the sun is quickly coming up over the horizon. The colors around us are soft and pastel; there is a lightly enveloping fog rescinding around Blacktail Butte and across the valley. The Tetons are gradually being illuminated.
7:22 a.m. We make the turn into the park and to our left, in the dewy morning, is a bull moose, a female and her calf. We stop to have a quick look with the scope. Beautiful. As we continue across the bridge, sitting atop a tree looking out over the Snake River is a striking osprey. He dives out over the river and then coasts out of view. En route to the forested moraines below the Tetons, we talk about the the endless possibilities of exploration that await them over the next week.
7:23 a.m. Stopping us in our tracks, we observe three elk cows are galloping across the road, making their way up and into the cover of the forest. Off in the distance, a large bull elk is chasing another female; it looks like they too would like to cross the road and head for cover. We pull over to admire the impressive antler rack and “the chase.” The female appears a bit skittish because of all the attention she has attracted from both visitors and the large male. We can see the measured clouds of steamy exhale in the cool morning air, as the bull trots to round up his temporary sweetie. He’ll vigilantly stay with her and the rest of his harem until the rut is over. We spend a few amazing moments watching the show and their daily routine. We move on.
8:05 a.m. As we drive through the park, we come upon two black bears, one is brown and the other is black. They are both cleaning berries from the bushes that line a beaver made habitat that the moose often frequent. Yep, and there are two moose standing in the water in the background. The browner of the two black bears waddles from the bushes down to the water, his rump is so large it obscures his hind legs. It’s hard to believe that a diet largely consisting of berries can plump a bear so. He heads for the bushes again and we move out of the way.
9:05 a.m. After a long time with the bears, we move on. We decide to go in search of some of Grand Teton National Park’s elusive wolves. On the way we run into a large group of pronghorn antelope lounging in a field. Off to the right of them, we watch as a reddish gray coyote pounces on what we can only guess to be a rodent of some sort. His continuous struggle to unearth the critter is a.m.using and fascinating.
9:45 a.m. We reach our destination and with our scopes on shoulder and binoculars in hand, we take a short hike in search of the wolves. Out to our right is a small reservoir with trumpeter swans and waterfowl resting on the surface and a beautiful vista of the Tetons in the distance, their silhouette slightly altered from the different angle.
10:15 a.m. Unfortunately, no wolves today. However, as we all snacked on granola bars and bison jerky, there was a pretty entertaining yet contentious debate over bison in the distance. We spotted a resting bison; Taylor claims it was a rock. The jury is still out.
11:00 a.m. We stop to admire the fall foliage at Oxbow Bend; the colors are arresting. Blues juxtapose bright oranges, which are set off by the mountains in the background. It is next to impossible to snap a less than agreeable photo out here.
11:30 a.m. Cruising past Jackson Lake, we catch a glimpse of a migrating loon. Neat, not something you see everyday.
12:00 p.m. Lunch, just in time to rescue our grumbling stomachs. The food is spectacular once we decided what to have; the menu tantalizes with its local and sustainably produced fare. Like the view out of the the restaurant windows, the break for lunch does not disappoint.
1:15 p.m. We make our way to Mormon row to have a look at the famous Moulton Barn. The vistas never get old.
2:00 p.m. It’s time to head back to the hotel, a little behind schedule but no one’s paying much attention, most especially, the herd of bison blocking the way. We stop to let the animals meander past, taking the opportunity to open the roof hatches and have a better look. We watch as several little yearlings awkwardly gallop through their elders, looking to play. Time stands still for a moment. After largely determining our day and whereabouts, we are humbly reminded that in the big scheme of things, there are other rules at work.
For a similar yet always unique experience, join us on an EcoTour Adventure, where you never know exactly what you can expect!