Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Geocaching and Wildlife

I hesitate to say it, for fear of letting out the secret, but the first two weeks of September the weather has been simply glorious! That came to a halt yesterday when a cold, wet front moved in, but before that the days were sunny and warm, with cool evenings. Simply perfect.

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.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Tour Guides Are Done

After a whirlwind 17 days of visitors, we have settled down to our normal routine. It has taken me a while to go through all of the pictures we have taken, and we are finally getting caught up on our chores. We had a wonderful time hosting our family and friends, and did a lot of tourist activities that we haven't done since we arrived here in beautiful Moran Wyoming. It's the first time some of our family has been able to come and visit us in our summer location, and I think its pretty safe to say that they quite enjoyed their time here :-).

Jim, Judy and Clay left on Sunday 8/16 to continue their journey on up to Yellowstone, and after working that day we ran into town to do grocery shopping and get prepared for the arrival of Al's sisters Ginny and Susie and our best friend Patti on Monday 8/17. Between touring the parks, doing some "touristy" activities and dining out, it was a really busy 10 days!

We decided to take a driving tour of Grand Teton National Park on their first morning. On our way to breakfast, I received a call from our boss, Brad, that he had just seen a grizzly bear nearby on Buffalo Valley Road. I didn't even hesitate, we turned around and headed right there.
Driving slowly along the road, we spotted this little black bear ambling through the meadow. I was a bit confused as I know Brad wouldn't tell me a grizzly if it were a black bear, but it was still a cool sight for the ladies. Just as we started to pull away, Ginny spotted the grizzly!!
He was coming slowly over a ridge, and seemed like he spotted us! He slowly ambled off out of view, behind a thicket of aspens and willows, but we drove further up the road and spotted him again.
He was absolutely gorgeous!
Pretty cute as well, although I wouldn't want to get too close...all these photos were taken with a 300mm telephoto lens, we were not near!
So the first day the ladies are here they were able to see a grizzly bear in the wild, something I've been waiting for almost 2 years!

We spent the rest of the morning at some of our favorite places in the park: Breakfast at Buffalo Valley Cafe, Signal Mountain, Jackson Lake Lodge, looking for elk along River Road. After an afternoon siesta, we headed down to Dornan's for some pizza before our next adventure, a sunset float trip on the Snake River. Even though it was a bit hazy from the fires to the west of us, it was a wonderful experience.
The float trip starts at Deadman's Bar landing, and travels several miles downriver to Moose Junction.

We saw a few bald eagles, both adults and juveniles.

We easily saw at least a couple dozen beavers, busy at work.

A highlight for us was a trio of river otters. they tumbled down the river bank, and proceeded to follow us for a couple of minutes, before scurrying away on the opposite bank.
We got excited when we spotted a female moose....

but the biggest thrill was spotting this beautiful bull moose at the end of the trip!

Wednesday was another full day, with a morning trip across Jenny Lake to do a short hike to Hidden Falls. Its really pretty and we encouraged the ladies that if we went slow, they would have no problem doing the hike. Plus, our friend Judy had issued a challenge!

You can see it was a cooler morning, but they were ready to go.

I told them this is getting up close and personal with the mountains. The closer we were, the less hazy it was as a bonus.

The scenery is so pretty on this walk.

Making progress....

I knew they could do it!

After arriving back at the Jenny Lake marina, we took a scenic drive through String Lake, and then up to Colter Bay for some lunch from the General Store there. Once again, we had an afternoon siesta, and then headed into Jackson to have dinner at Sidewinders (a Triple D spot) and then headed to the fairgrounds to see the Rodeo.
It was a really nice evening.

Bull riding...

Bucking bronco's....

and calf roping were on the schedule. There were several other events, especially cute were the peewee's bull riding and the kid's "mutton-bustin" event, but I ran out of space on my camera card! I'm finding this new camera with its higher resolution doesn't allow quite as many pictures on my memory card as the old camera. I'm learning.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday we were working, and the ladies spent their days exploring the Visitor centers, looking for bison (found a huge herd at Antelope Flats), and window shopping in Jackson. Thursday night we met Jim, Judy and Clay for dinner at Flagg Ranch, which is on the southern border of Yellowstone National Park. Saturday night we had a hamburger cookout here on the ranch, and Brad and Joanne joined us, entertaining the ladies with stories of their life on the ranch. A rousing game of "Uno" then followed, with our co-workers Steve and Teresa joining us. We really enjoy playing card games, and it has been great this summer as Steve and Teresa also like to play games!

Sunday we had our all-day excursion to Yellowstone National Park planned, and it did not disappoint :-).
Old Faithful was, well, faithful!

We did a short walk to some of the highlights of the geyser basin, like Heart Spring with a view of Castle Geyser in the far distance.

We strolled over to the Old Faithful Inn after lunch.

Continuing the south loop drive, we stopped at Grand Prismatic Spring. The very best shot of this spring would be from high atop the ridge on the far side, but I think this eye level shot came out pretty good.

We found a bison along the road from Madison to Canyon Village.

The north rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone showed us some beautiful views.

Even with the haze and the late afternoon rays the Lower Falls are an awesome sight.

After our long day in Yellowstone, there wasn't too much activity the next day until late afternoon, when we had booked the Dinner Cruise on Jackson Lake. We had done this last year and thought it would be something nice to do again this year. It was a beautiful night, and our co-workers Gale and Ronda joined us as well.
Our happy dinner group. The cruise takes you across Jackson lake to Elk island, where you disembark and have a camp cookout on the beach.

The views of the mountains are truly spectacular.
On the way home, we were lucky enough to spot this female elk along Oxbow Bend.

Another beautiful sunset.

Our last day of adventures with the ladies, Tuesday, we decided to take them to the Bar J Western Dinner and Show, with a stop at Teton Village along the way. For anyone not able to summit these mountain peaks on foot, the Aerial Tram is a fun way to get to the top for some breath-taking views.

It's a 12 minute ride 4000 feet up to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain.

 A panoramic view once at the top! Spectacular!

Also at the summit is Corbett's Cabin. This is a popular ski run here, and the cabin serves hot and cold drinks, as well as waffles...boy were they good :-).

We spent a little time up there having our waffles and checking out the views, before getting back on the tram for our descent back to Teton Village.

Can you imagine skiing off this??

Wednesday was their last day here, and we had a final meal of chicken parmigiana and another rousing game of Uno to send them off on. It was a really fun time, we're so glad they could come out and visit with us. I think they had a good time with us as well :-).

Our time here is getting shorter, less than a month left before we start heading east again. We are heading back to Amazon in Campbellsville for our fifth season, but are planning a week's "vacation" in Minnesota at Grand Marais on Lake Superior. After that will be a quick stop in Indiana to get our slides adjusted at the Grand Design factory. And there are still things to see and do here! I better get busy :-)! Plans to make and things to do. Stay safe and have fun...until next time!