DAY SEVEN - Wednesday, July 6


I am the first one up at Roosevelt, so I try to be as quiet as possible as I pack up.

Off east I go, through Little America and into Lamar. I meet up with Rick at the Confluence. He has signals for 755 in the Chalcedony fan area and suggests I scope from Hitching Post while Doug starts to climb up Confluence Hill.

I join Jeff and Kathie on our favorite muddy knob. Instead of wolves, we find two grizzlies out in the rendezvous. While we are watching them, Doug calls from Confluence Hill, warning us there is a wolf right behind us!

We swing our scopes to the hill just behind the little comfort station. There he is! The Dark Gray yearling has swum the river and heading back to the den area. He stops a moment right at the crest, posing delightfully, surveying all the cars and people in his way.

I am nervous that someone will run to the hill for a closer look, but no one does. A hundred people in the pullout are treated to a very close sighting of this charismatic young wolf, backlit by the rising sun.

He leaves the hill and trots across the road and up the other side. Oh, how many times have I seen a wolf on that hilltop! He makes his way toward the eastern side of the "den hill" and we are tense with anticipation that the pups might come out to greet him.

But alas, they do not.

Laurie comes up to our knob to say goodbye - she is heading back to San Diego for a while. We all wish her well.

I have decided to make a side trip down to Teton. But first I head up to Antelope, where I can get great cell reception because I have to check in with my office. Once I get the work news out of the way I hear a real shocker: that Casey Anthony has been found not guilty of murdering her daughter. She is, however, found guilty of lying to police. It's a memorable moment of tawdry vs beauty.

As I am finishing my call, Big John pulls in and introduces me to Ranger Amanda, who seems to me far too young and pretty to be a ranger! 8~)

I head south, following the many winding turns, seeing breathtaking combinations of wildflowers. I just have to stop for photos, knowing they will not really turn out as I see them.

While I am crouched down next to some violets, four elk cows appear on the hill above me. They want to cross the road but are understandably skittish about passing cars. Finally, there is enough of a break and they come quickly down, cross the blacktop and disappear before my eyes into the burned, whitened trunks on the other side.

I drive on, past Canyon and into Hayden Valley. Little did I know that at this moment, a man had been killed a little over an hour ago by a grizzly on the Wapiti Lake trail.

I visit Le Hardy rapids and the day gets hot. I stop again just north of Lewis Falls, where I find a shady spot to have a bit of lunch then a nap. I find I have forgotten how beautiful the Lewis River is, and the Lewis Canyon, too. And then I get my first view of the glorious Tetons!

I really enjoy seeing the Snake River, in flood - or at least it looks flooded to me. All its tributaries are very muddy and several access roads are closed.

I reach Colter Bay and get a spot at the campground. The temps are hotter than in Yellowstone - it's 89, not humid, thank goodness, but there is less shade here, too, so I begin a search for shade.

The one thing I find disconcerting in the Teton area is how fast people drive here. I think the straighter, wider roads encourage it. I prefer the windy roads and slower speeds of Yellowstone.

One one straight stretch, some bison come down a hill, attempting to cross the highway. I stop in plenty of time but the bison are quite reckless. I wonder if they would have crossed in front of a big R-V? There are signs all over saying SLOW DOWN and "Wildlife on Roadway" but people still go between 60-65. That is just too fast to stop in time.

But the scenery is gorgeous, and there are not as many people here as I expected. I explo re several side roads I've always wondered about.

I stop at Willow Flats and Oxbow Bend and figure out my last visit here was four years ago in late May of 2007!

I decide what I need to see is a moose, so I set out to try to find one or two. When I finally see the entrance to Teton Park, it really looks different to me. I don't remember the large River Rafting building and what looks like dorm rooms. The new VC looks really nice inside but the lot is very crowded, so I decide to see it tomorrow intead.

Then I see the beautiful Cottonwood River and recognize its quaint bridge. This area looks exactly as I remember it. Alas, I find no moose. But I figure, it's so hot, they are sure to be hiding somewhere. The Tetons themselves are full of snow and just as spectacular, well even more so, if possible, than I remember them. They are truly the most beautiful mountains ever.

I take the inside loop road, past Jenny Lake. I find it a nice, slow road, with lots of shade, which is really nice.

Next I drive north to Jackson Lake Dam and see a line of cars, full of photographers and wildlife watchers, and I know why they are here. They are anticipating the appearance of the legendary grizzly families that frequent this area, 399 and her offspring.

One friendly guy tells me people are getting in place now, but the bear usually doesn't show until perhaps 8PM. He says she and her cubs are out of sight at the moment, in the willows north of the road. This is exactly where I saw 399 four years ago, with her yearling cubs. Now, one of those cubs, a female who is now grown up and collared as 610F, has her own set of cubs.

I notice that the willows on the north side are really high, in fact, way too high for short little me to see over. I'd have to be on top of my car and there is no way I'm climbing up there with my scope!

So I drive on to the Willow Flats pullout and set up there. I see all the "bear closure" signs meant to prevent people from walking out into the meadow beyond the pullout. Hmm, that was where I meant to set up.

Then I notice cars lining the road down between this pullout and the road to the dam so I head there. The land slopes down, so it offers a pretty good view of the willow area where the bear is likely to appear. But it's only 6:00PM so I drive back to Oxbow Bend to see what I find there. It's very buggy and the willows are quite overgrown since I was here last.

Nonetheless, I see two sandhill cranes, a muskrat, a swan, geese with goslings, a brown duck with 7 ducklings, cormorants, pelicans, and a white duck with a black bill, that looks somewhat loon-like.

I do not find any moose nor elk nor deer. But I am fascinated by the brown ducklings. For some reason, her ducklings are really fast on the water. They seem to zip here and zip there, much speedier than other ducklings I've seen. Mama keeps them nearly hidden in a small cove, overhung with willows. They dart here and there like tiny rockets, making me laugh.

I get back to the bear area around 8:15 and get a good spot. I set up Layla about 6 feet into the sage and wait. There are two couples travelling together who also have scopes and seem animal savvy. We chat a bit about the history of the bear we don't yet see. And from them I hear the awful news of the fatality in Yellowstone - a man killed by a Grizzly on the Wapiti Lake trail; the first death by grizzly in the Park in 25 years.

While we wait we find a pair of cranes, then several elk. First only two, then several more, which turns into a small herd with several calves. The elk come stealthily out of the willows and cross a meadow, move through another line of willows and into the next meadow. They move quite warily. They know the bear is there.

We find more elk with more calves. This group begins to cross a gully and one of the calves tries to jump it. He misses! He tries again and makes it this time. Two cow elk get feisty with each other, rising up on their hind legs and boxing each other with their front hooves.

It is really buggy now and I'm wishing I had not forgotten my spray. A little after 9PM I decide to pack up and walk my scope over to my car. Just as I open the hatchback the couple calls out "the bear's out!"

Isn't that just the way it works! 8~)

I close the back and hurry back to my spot. Suddenly the bugs don't bother me! I see a big beautiful grizzly mom - she looks just like 399 but I'm told this is 610 and I smile thinking I saw her as a yearlings in 2007!

Then I see cubs! Well, I see two small, dark shapes racing back & forth, running to mom, tussling with each other, disappearing in the willows. I see two cubs, but I think she actually has three.

I watch with binoculars a while so other people can see her through my scope. Then she moves into the willows and out of my sight. The two couples and I watch a while longer but we don't see her again. More elk come out of the willows, following the earlier two groups. We see more calves and they all cross the gully.

Finally, at about 9:40 it gets too dark for me to see. There is a huge amount of traffic heading back to the Lodge and to Colter Bay, as if a ballgame just let out! Some people are stopped on the right, looking intently into a field. I know I can't see in light this dim so I keep going.

I make it back to my campsite with no trouble, and soon I am snuggling into my sleeping bag on my therma rest in the back of my car. I leave the windows open a crack on both sides which lets in the delightfully cool night air, as well as the lovely night sounds of nature.

Today I saw: bison, 5 grizzlies (including 2 coy), elk, geese, ducks, deer, pronghorn, swan, pelican, cranes, cormorants, muskrat, 1 wolf of the Lamar pack, and the spirit of Allison.

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