October 10, 2002: We have just returned from a delightful trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to attend the wedding of my nephew Carlton, Lynette's son. Jene and Farris and I elected to drive, as we wanted to see the scenery between here and our destination. Along the way we took side trips to Wildlife Refuges, to scenic routes over the mountains instead of through them and following rivers, and we were rewarded continuously with "first" sightings of birds and animals and exquisite views, for the aspens were at their peak of color. We live in such a majestic land and I felt quite patriotic and proud to call all of it my country. We toured Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone Park ("Old Faithful," the geyser about which I studied in the fourth grade, is still quite faithful), and we came home through Taos, New Mexico, staying over an extra day to visit some of the art galleries and to drive a scenic loop through the mountains there.
Believing that pictures are worth more than words, I am going to list some of the "firsts" that we saw and then show you some of our documentation. Jene had previously been in some of the areas we visited, but Farris and I had not. We saw a lot of antelope with their beautiful exotic markings, looking more African than American. Our first Golden Eagle and our first moose were seen at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming. A mule deer buck presented himself there, and we added the American Wigeon and the Sage Sparrow to our bird list. We were not very far north of this Refuge when we saw a group of white pelicans feeding in a reservoir and stopped to get pictures, but they were hidden by the bank where we had to stop. However, and this is quite a coup and a rare occurrence, while stopped there we saw five Whooping Cranes fly up from the reservoir! We had an excellent view of them and there is no doubt that is what they were. Their plumage was clearly seen. I checked the bird list at Seedskadee, and sure enough, they are listed there, though rarely seen. This is one of three of our greatest wildlife sighting thrills during the trip.
At Raton Pass we saw the lovely mountain bluebird and magpies. Well, magpies were everywhere. In the Tetons we saw the ubiquitous Canada Geese, ravens, added a female and male moose to our wildlife list and saw several bison herds and several majestic elk both there and in Yellowstone. Elk are among my favorites, for although they are massive they are so graceful. We were treated to the spectacle of three male elk facing off and clacking their antlers together over some females right in the middle of a town square in Mission Hot Springs in Yellowstone. It was thrilling to be so close and hear the sounds of their antlers clashing and to hear the dominant elk "bugling" and to watch how he nudged a younger challenger away and herded the females where he wanted them to go. Traffic was snarled and stopped until the fracas was over. Another bird we added to our list at Yellowstone was the huge and beautiful trumpeter swan; we saw three of them just at dusk. In the late afternoon we saw three black bears, a female with two cubs! This was our second great thrill sighting of the trip. We took the long loop around Yellowstone and were on the mountains late, and at almost 9,000 feet it began to snow and the temperature was 34 degrees. I was tense about the possibility of the temperature dropping further and the road icing while we were traveling a twisting mountain road with a precipice at my side, but it didn't happen and before too long we were at lower altitudes where it merely rained some. Our third, and for me greatest wildlife sighting thrill came in this area. Two gorgeous gray wolves ambled across the road just in front of our car, about three miles apart. One of them paused at the side of the road and looked back at the car, which we had stopped, and then plunged over the side into the grass. We had excellent views of each of them for they were not running fast and were right in front of our car in the lights. We got back to Jackson late that night, tired but exhilarated over the Nature gifts we had been given over the weekend. I had to give thanks for the beauty of our country and its wildlife and for the gift of eyesight to be able to see such magnificence.
I had to cull out so many lovely photographs for your sake and the sake of download times and space, but here are some of my favorites:
This male antelope was strutting by and paid no attention to us.
Note the baby bison in the herd. The fellow on the right was right at roadside and he stopped traffic, of course.
Elk family. Note Big Daddy at upper right and Baby at lower right. Below is close-up of the baby:
Baby elk up close
This is the dominant elk that was clashing with those who challenged him for his females in the middle of a town.
The Three Bears. Note the cub on lower left.
Golden Eagle at nest box. The Refuge attendant told us the babies had fledged about a week before.
Male and female moose. They are usually found near water where the willow bushes grow, and not many had come down out of the mountains yet as the snows were late.
While traveling in Wyoming we saw a cloud of dust that made us curious. As we approached we saw that it was a sheep herder herding the largest flock of sheep we have ever seen. We saw two such flocks, actually. I couldn't even get them all with my wide angle setting. They were being brought down from the high pastures in the mountains. Since so much herding of cattle is done with three wheelers nowadays, I was happy to get this picture of the sheep herder on horseback with his sheep dogs working the flock. We could see four dogs working the group.
This shows only part of the flock. Note one of the dogs lying down at the right.
I included this close-up so you can see the black and white dog working at the left, and because there is the proverbial black sheep in the lower middle!
I have broken all rules for download time, but hope you find the following scenic photos worth the long wait.
Color in the Tetons on the left. This was a most beautiful spot. Note the geese near the shore in left lower middle. I wish I could show you some of the other pictures. It was here that we saw the female moose above. On the right, color in another part of Wyoming.
This was a double rainbow that went all across the sky. I got a close-up of it that shows its brilliant color, but I like this picture showing the sunlight and shadows on the land as well as part of the bow.
Leaving Jackson Hole. It snowed during the night and the peaks were gorgeous. The tall poles along the road are guides for the snow plows, so that gives an idea how high the snow will get in winter.
Mitch and Tresa came home from Antwerp, having found an apartment, but the day before they left there, a new boss came on board in Belgium and slashed the budget and they wanted all the workers coming from America to agree to a huge pay cut, to live in temporary housing and give up assurance of severance pay upon termination, thereby taking away any incentive for the group to go to Belgium, so it appears they are not going to be moving there, after all. So he has joined the masses who are now looking for jobs.
Last revised: November 26, 2010