We have been fairly busy, almost full occupancy until a couple of days ago. The fall season is one where the demographics change and we get the older crowd, generally speaking. The Fall Arts Festival has also started in Jackson, which brings in quite a few people. And even though we don't get the eye-popping fall foliage that they do in the Northeast, the golden glow of the aspens are pretty inspiring in their own right. They have started to turn already, with peak color being right around the corner. So, of course, is snow; in the past two days there is fresh snow coverage in the higher elevations!
We've seriously neglected our geocaching this summer. Of course, physical caches are not permitted in the National Parks, but there are several virtual caches and earthcaches right here in Grand Teton National Park. So we decided to spend a couple of our days off enjoying the beautiful weather and gathering these caches, stopping at a few spots on the Park that we haven't explored yet.
Our first stop was at a favorite location, Jackson Lake Lodge. This cache required us to hike up to Lunch Tree Hill, the historic spot where Horace Albright, then superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, took John D. Rockefeller on a picnic lunch , the purpose being to convince him of the need to preserve this beautiful area. I always enjoy the view from this spot.
While there, we stopped for lunch at the Pioneer Grill, home to the longest continuously running soda fountain counter in the United States. Doesn't this huckleberry milkshake look awesome?
Our next cache was located at The Potholes. Potholes are depressions in the meadows formed by glacier activity, anywhere from 15 feet to 1/4 mile in diameter. The depressions tend to hold more water than the surrounding fields, causing forest "islands" to grow in the depressions.
The Mount Moran overlook is a popular spot, one that I've discussed before.
The summit of Mount Moran has some interesting geology. The black stripe is a "diabase dyke", formed by molten lava in the cracks of the softer gneiss rock. We saw these same dykes at Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park in Maine, how interesting is that? Just to the right of the dyke at the very top is a tan patch of sandstone, remnants of a prehistoric beach a very long time ago!
Our last stop that day was at the Teton Glacier overlook. There are several glaciers in the Teton Range, with this one being very prominent. The skillet glacier on Mount Moran is another very visible glacier. Teton Glacier is the largest of the visible, named glaciers in the range, but has had it's size diminish from 64 acres to 53 acres since 1971.
The next morning was beautiful, and our first stop of the day was at another favorite scenic viewpoint of ours, the Jenny Lake Cascade Canyon overlook. Cascade Canyon, which we hiked in last summer, is directly across Jenny Lake. From this viewpoint the mountains look like cathedral spires stretching up towards the heavens. After gathering our information here for the earthcache, we headed to our hiking destination, Death Canyon.
Along the way, on Moose Wilson Road, we ran into a bear jam, and found this guy happily chowing down on hawthorne berries. This time, yes, he pretty much was this close, right on the side of the road! We rolled by slowly, and was able to get a decent shot, although he wouldn't show his pretty face. But you can see the wicked claws on the branch, pulling it down to him. Pretty cool!
There is a virtual cache at the Phelps Lake overlook, about a mile down the Death Canyon trail. Or rather, I should say, a mile UP the Death Canyon trail :-).
We definitely had our bear spray with us, as this is a popular area for bears that are in their "bulking up" phase due to the various berry bushes all over. We didn't see any while hiking though...bears, that is. Plenty of berries :-).
We made it to beautiful Phelps Lake overlook, and took the required picture to claim the cache.
Really! A picture of ME! LOL.
Later that week we signed up for a Ranger led Safari Caravan. The National Park Service offers this Ranger Program in September, after Labor Day. Each night a Ranger will led a caravan of 10 vehicles out for a three hour drive to try and spot some of the wildlife in the area. It starts at 5PM and goes until roughly 8PM, just about dark. We called to reserve our spot, and invited our friends Steve and Teresa to join us.
We met at the Visitor Center in Moose, and joined our Ranger there. She outlined the route we were going to take, with the stops at certain overlooks and areas that are prime wildlife viewing spots. The caravan took off, with our first stop being the Gros Ventre River, hoping to see some moose. No luck there, although we did spot some fishermen in the river. Someone got all excited shouting they saw a moose, but it turned out to be a bush :-). We continued on down the road, finding a family of pronghorn, but they were pretty far away and I didn't really get a good picture. We were hoping for some bison over on Antelope Flats Road, but we had seen a huge herd at Elk Ranch Flats on the way down, and sure enough, the Ranger said the bison herd was hanging out in the northern regions of the park.
We finally had some luck at one of my favorite spots, Schwabacher's Landing. This spot is photogenic just for it's scenery, but we were really lucky and spotted several beavers cruising up and down the river.
These two were particularly cute :-)
Further down the river, just before it rounded a bend, we spotted a cow moose coming out of the woods. Awesome! She spent some time there, drinking at the river, but seemed a bit nervous, and kept glancing back at the woods. The Ranger took the opportunity to talk to us at length about moose, and then all of a sudden she started crossing the river. She got across, and then actually started running straight towards the group!
The Ranger started herded us together as group, telling us,"Don't be afraid to run into the water if she gets too close"! Really? Luckily, that didn't happen, as she looped around the group and then ran off. The Ranger felt something had spooked her, possibly a bear or more likely a bull moose. Being mating season, the bull moose are in the rut, and being that she looked on the young side, probably did not want any attention this evening :-). It did make for quite the interesting encounter.