The glorious Grand Tetons (Part 2)

Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
Trip End Oct 03, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Friday, June 20, 2008

We were amazed enough as it was with the northern section of the Grand Tetons and were ranting to each other how beautiful it was, thinking THIS was the main Grand Tetons, completely oblivious that a few miles down the road, we would come over a rise in the hills and through a clearing in the forest to see the REAL Grand Tetons... the four or five mountain tops that come together to form the section of the Grand Tetons that... well, that left us breathless and speechless.


It's no wonder that having set out from Cody at about 6:30am with the hope of reaching our Grand Teton campsite by 8 or 8:30am, that we found ourselves still miles short of our destination with the time ticking towards mid-afternoon. And we really were trying to skip most of the stop off points, saying we'd come back to visit them later in the day but with views like this, seeing animals unlike we'd ever seen before, amidst such glorious sunshine and gazing up at such magnificent mountains, it was impossible not to stop... often.

It was no surprise then when we eventually arrived at Jenny Lake campground at about 3pm to be told that the campsite was full so we wheeled around and raced back up to Signal Mountain campsite where we set up camp as fast as humanly possible before jumping back in our car to cruise through the park.

We headed south to Antelope Flats road where huge herds of bison can be found. Within a few seconds of turning off the main road and stopping to photograph a huge herd of bison and their young, we were spun around by the arrival of a coyote that was jogging a short distance parallel with the road. Again, it was completely unperturbed by the few tourists who stopped for photos... it spent a time searching for prairie dogs to hunt but didn't seem too interested in hunting and eventually crossed the road and bound off into the distance.

It took a couple of hour to complete the drive back to the main Grand Teton ring road and along the way we made numerous stops amid these stunning flowering fields and again for various herds of bison. This section of the park was actually used for private farming so we were also treated to the view of a beautiful farmhouse, barns and other and outhouses which provided a stunning foreground setting in front of the Tetons and which I came back to photograph the following morning at sunrise.

As the sun sank beyond the mountains we settled down to a delicious pizza meal at Leeks Marina where we got ear of a fantastic wildlife opportunity at Colter Bay. Apparently a fox and her cubs had set up their den right near the visitor centre at Colter Bay so we raced straight there after finishing dinner. The area where the fox den was located was cordoned off from the public by police tape and the little guys were all tucked away and not making a peep.

So on we drove and drove and drove, spotting loads of wildlife along the road as the sun made a stunning exit, smothering the clouds in a reddy-pinkish hue. We ventured to a number of beautiful locations around the park as the sun set slowly before cruising back to our campsite as darkness descended and went to bed amid a relative chorus of animal sounds and wind whistling through the towering pine trees.

This far north in America, the sky doesn't go completely black until well past 11pm and it gets light before the clock ticks past 5am so sleep was an extremely rare commodity during our time in Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

While Kirilee kept on sleeping soundly, I eagerly arose at a little past 4am and drove in the relative darkness out to Snake River which we had discovered the evening before for sunset. As you can see from the pictures, it was a truly stunning scene and wonderful experience being there at sunrise. Along with a number of other keen photographers, we all watched the sun rise over the hills behind us and drench the mountains and trees and lake in a beautiful yellow glow that produced more and more colours as it got higher and higher.

Eager to see the fox and her cubs at Colter Bay, I whipped up to the site without luck before racing back to pick up Kirilee and in the course of the day, we ventured back to Colter Bay four times, each time being told we had missed the foxes by as little as half an hour. It was infuriating and we really felt luck wasn't on our side.

After another great day of cruising around Grand Teton, seeing various sights, watching the wildlife and generally just taking it easy enjoying the park, with the sun having long ago set beyond the mountains and in virtual darkness, Kirilee suggested that what could it hurt, making one last trip up to Colter Bay to see if we might finally see the foxes. It was well past 10pm when we went up there, rolling into the car park, towards the cordoned off area and Kirilee hurriedly exclaimed, "THEY'RE THERE!!!".

Kirilee had spotted one of the young cubs that had ventured up towards the walkway and had scurried back down among the trees as we arrived. With absolutely no one else around, I hurriedly parked the car and we both ventured tentatively over to the area, desperate not to scare the cubs back into their den.

To our astonishment, not only did we see the three adorable cubs playing around for over an hour and a half but one of the especially inquisitive cubs came up within a foot of us on a number of occasions. He or she was obviously keen to explore the surroundings and we were absolutely gob-smacked that it would be so bold as to come so close to us.. it obviously knew we meant it no harm. The flash of my camera scared it away a few times but it kept coming back and we still had plenty more incredible close encounters. During the whole time we were there, the fox mother was also there, she arrived with a fresh kill for the cubs to snack on (a small mouse) before sitting guard for predators a short distance away. What an amazing experience... words can't possibly describe how special it was.

The following morning, on our way up to Yellowstone, we popped back into Colter Bay and along with a huge group of other tourists, we watched the cubs come out and play yet again, racing around the trees, fooling around with their mum, just playing around for about an hour or so before diving back into their den for another long nap.

We left Grand Teton with such a spring in our step, so excited for what lay ahead in Yellowstone and feeling so incredibly fortunate for all the astonishing sights and experiences we'd seen and had in Grand Teton.

If you thought that blog was long... just wait for the novel I wrote about Yellowstone... the most fun and excitement we've had in a long, long, long, long, VERY long time.
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