My What Grand Tetons You Have

yellowstone  141 Grand Teton  001Grand Teton National Park was our last summer stop before heading to Denver for our annual visit. It was our second visit to the park.  We had great memories of the place and couldn’t wait to see the beautiful Teton Range once again.Grand Teton  038

Grand Teton  002The story goes that “lonely French Canadian trappers” named the mountain range Grand Tetons – meaning big breasts. The name obviously had staying power.

Our plan was to stay in a dispersed camping area (not a developed campground) in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, adjacent to the park. Grand Teton  003

Our friends Leigh and Brian gave us GPS coordinates and detailed directions to a very special spot on Shadow Mountain, which allows free camping for 16 days.  The area is near the Cunningham Cabin in the national park.   As always on back roads to unknown public lands, we scouted the area in the Subaru before taking Island Girl up the road.

Grand Teton  004When we reached the area that matched the coordinates, the view took our breath away, we were looking over the valley directly across at the Teton Range.  A few tents and trailers were camped on a couple of “sites” (designated by a flat area and a fire ring), but several sites were available.Grand Teton  005

We found a perfect spot at the very end of the road on the edge of the cliff. There was the minor inconvenience that we couldn’t turn around and would have to back out on the short road when we left, but that was no big deal.

I drove Hector back down to Island Girl and drove up the forest service road past the entrance to the dispersed camping area to stop traffic coming down the mountain. Island Girl came up the road easily, but there was no room for any other vehicles going the other way.

As Hector drove Island Girl up to our perfect spot, he noticed several signs saying the area was reserved for a wedding on the following Saturday (we arrived on Tuesday). The signs listed a phone number for further information. Hector called, turned out it was the groom’s phone number, who said he had a permit for several sites that were located in an area at the center of the field where the tents were (with an even better view of the mountains on the other side of the cliff) but that it was OK for us to camp in our nearby spot. Yes!Grand Teton  007

Grand Teton  029So we perched on that very last site on the top of the cliff. And, a few hours later, we were welcomed by a beautiful sunset. We were in heaven.Grand Teton  006Grand Teton  008Grand Teton  009

Grand Teton  011This was our sixth national park in six weeks (they were all on our way back to Denver) and we were pretty tired. It was time to hang out and we were in the perfect setting.Grand Teton  013

Grand Teton  010So we took it easy the first couple of days, just enjoying the area. Early the next morning, we had a view of horses as they were rounded up to head to the corral.Grand Teton  012

Grand Teton  030Grand Teton National Park protects 485 square miles vs. 3,468 square miles in Yellowstone National Park. There are several visitor centers inside the park and two main roads cross the park.  Although there was also some construction, it was not as extensive as in Yellowstone. Grand Teton is much easier to navigate than Yellowstone.Grand Teton  027

yellowstone  142Grand Teton  067We took a couple of dawn and dusk drives in search of wildlife. And visited Mormon Row, various structures that were built by Mormon homesteaders establishing new communities in support of their population expansion. There are a couple of picturesque barns there that are iconic images seen in many photographs of the park.Grand Teton  046Grand Teton  017Grand Teton  045

Grand Teton  026We also visited Oxbow Bend, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the park located by the Snake River. There we spotted a bald eagle, American white pelicans, and river otters (too fast for photos).Grand Teton  019Grand Teton  023Grand Teton  025Grand Teton  020Grand Teton  022Grand Teton  018

Grand Teton  057Next we signed up for a “wildlife caravan”, one of the great programs the park offers.  The group met before dusk, and participants followed the ranger in their cars as she drove to various spots known for wildlife sightings. Angel came along with us to help.

Grand Teton  039Grand Teton  016Grand Teton  040Grand Teton  200We initially did not see much wildlife (those pesky animals don’t always cooperate). But what made the program interesting is that because it’s a fall program, it focuses on how the animals survive winter. Ranger Julie was an enthusiastic leader and had lots of “show and tell” props which were lots of fun. And she was adorable!

A few interesting facts from the ranger talk:

Antlers grow as an extension of the animal’s skull as a single structure, made of bone, usually found on males, and shed once a year.

Horns consist of an interior made up of bone covered by a sheath grown by specialized follicles similar to our fingernails which are not shed and continually grow (with the exception of the pronghorn’s horns which they do shed).

Pronghorn are the fastest animals in the U.S. because their original predators were American cheetah. In winter, they have a mass migration of 150 miles but cannot jump fences, so the park works to create underpasses and overpasses along their “migration corridor”.

Moose’s long legs keep them out of the snow, and they can lift their legs to chin level to walk through deep snow.

Buffalo shake their bulky heads sideways in the deep snow to clear paths for themselves in the winter.

Bears eat up to 20,000 calories in the fall to help them survive winter hibernation  The best place to spot bear in the park is Moose-Wilson Road but because it was full of hawthorne and chokecherry bushes, it was closed due to bear activity. Darn.

Our final three stops were fruitful. We walked over to a group of people looking up through binoculars and found a great-horned owl. Even our ranger was surprised to find one there. The owl was sleeping, and didn’t seem to be bothered by all of the photographers.Grand Teton  042

Grand Teton  094Then we drove over to Schwabacher’s Landing and walked a short way to a beaver pond, where we found a very fat beaver and some of his friends and family. The beavers were busy storing food in their lodge for the winter.  Love those little guys!Grand Teton  092

Grand Teton  100Last on the tour, we saw a group of elk in the distance, a bull elk and his harem of cows. All of a sudden, the bull elk started to bugle. Rutting (mating) season was just beginning and this is one of their mating behaviors. So cool to hear the elks bugling.

Grand Teton  069During our various drives we also spotted several herds of buffalo, not as many as in Yellowstone, but quite visible throughout the park.  And one lonely coyote.Grand Teton  068Grand Teton  070

Grand Teton  032Grand Teton  031We took a short side trip to the town of Jackson, which I’d never visited. It’s a cute ski town with quite a few shops and restaurants. So we made our one and only touristy stop for lunch at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, pretty cute but probably a lot more fun when there is live music playing.

A couple of days into our stay our friends Leigh and Brian arrived in their beautiful Airstream trailer. We met them last winter on the coast of Oregon, spent a couple of fun evenings together, and when we realized we’d both be in the Jackson area in September, agreed to meet again.  And so began a few days of social outings and gatherings.Grand Teton  085

Grand Teton  047Angel took quite a fancy to their dog, Curtis. Although Curtis was not quite so smitten, he was a perfect gentleman.

Grand Teton  056Leigh and Brian were expecting a fellow Airstream fulltimer. They “met” him through their blog, Aluminarium. Vince arrived shortly thereafter in his Airstream with his friend Spencer (a cool lady with a great name).  Cocktails and sunset ensued.Grand Teton  055Grand Teton  048

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Grand Teton  065We now headed out at dawn and dusk in groups looking for more wildlife.   One evening we finally spotted a bull moose, who was sitting in the grass and never moved while tons of photographers surrounded him. And, on our way home spotted a red fox – beautiful!Grand Teton  066

Grand Teton  053Grand Teton  054One morning wildlife drive we didn’t have much luck but we did see osprey and more American white pelicans at Oxbow Bend. Mr. Eagle did not make an appearance.Grand Teton  052Grand Teton  051Grand Teton  044

Grand Teton  071Another morning, Hector and I  finally spotted several moose. A bull moose sat in the grass surrounded by photographers. We waited for what seemed like forever then he finally got up, raising his head and curling his lips.  Moose do this to gather and interpret female scents during rutting season, which was just beginning.Grand Teton  073

Grand Teton  072Then he headed slowly up to a hill where he stood motionless facing away from us for another long stretch of time.  A couple of moose cows were grazing nearby. The photographers circled the bull moose, and I noticed two that got awfully close to him.Grand Teton  074

The bull then started arching is back and curling his lips.  Grand Teton  077Grand Teton  076Grand Teton  075

I'm too sexy!

I’m too sexy!

Grand Teton  079Grand Teton  080Then, suddenly, the moose started running full speed after the cows all across the field.  It was amazing how fast and agile they were.  The three moose all ran around changing directions, easily hopping fences and sagebrush.Grand Teton  081

They were running in all directions, startling all of the photographers.Grand Teton  082

Grand Teton  084In an instant the bull moose turned and ran towards the two photographers, who quickly scattered. Hector shouted out a comment to the two guys, when the moose turned and ran towards us, but we were further. Still a bit scary. I think this was the moose’s way of saying “I knew you all were there all along, take this!”.Grand Teton  083Grand Teton  015Grand Teton  014

Grand Teton  088Grand Teton  089That evening we went in search of Mr. Owl with some of our friends but couldn’t find him. Then we visited Schwabacher’s Landing once again to look for the beavers. And there they were, once again busily working (and eating).  They are such fun to watch.Grand Teton  098Grand Teton  099Grand Teton  096Grand Teton  095

Grand Teton  097Grand Teton  091Grand Teton  090Grand Teton  101The next morning we bid farewell to our friends and headed out. I drove down to the bottom of the mountain road to block traffic coming up while Hector drove Island Girl down. Easy peasy.

Although we didn’t go hiking or paddling in this park, our week at Grand Teton was wonderful.

A campsite with a stunning view, good times with friends, sunrises and sunsets and abundant wildlife.  What could be better?

~ Brendayellowstone  140

31 thoughts on “My What Grand Tetons You Have

  1. Outstanding! I was drooling over the wonderful photography, wildlife and landscapes. All breathtaking but my fave is the 3D capture of the clouds hanging over the tetons!
    That was a sweet spot you had, perfect for everything, socializing, photography and solitude and more.

  2. Brenda this is such a lovely, interesting and educational post… I sit here in Africa and feel as though I was there with you… love the photos … and love the name of the park.. a mountain range named after mans favourite toys…

  3. Perfect in every way! Looked like a wonderful time with friends. I loved the wildlife photography! I’m too lazy to get up that early in the morning. When I see any wildlife, it’s totally dumb luck. The effort you put into it really shows!

    • Hector loves sunrise because of the light, and there are more opportunities to see wildlife. Although it did take some persistence, they are on their schedule and not yours. The best example is that after about four or five days of dawn and dusk outings, we never saw bear, though we heard of other sightings. So luck counts too.

  4. Wow! What an amazing wildlife show you saw. The moose were impressive, but the beavers beat them on the cuteness scale for sure. Sounds like you had a wonderful time in your scenic spot with friends. Thanks for sharing so much beauty.

    • The moose were very cool, we’d never seen them run like that. But you’re right that the beaver are just too cute, and hearing them chomping and seeing them busy working is so entertaining. And having friends with us made it the best.

  5. Oh, Grand Teton is at the top of my “must visit” list! I can hardly belive you saw beaver during the day! Another animal on my list! The animal activity you witnessed just blows my mind, I cannot wait to go there!

    • Hope you checked out the link on hikes, there are tons! We just didn’t make any this time. We were so happy with our animal sightings, overall a great summer of national parks.

  6. Such amazing wildlife sightings! We’ve never seen moose — you certainly had an exciting encounter and great photos to show for it. And although we often see beaver lodges while kayaking, we rarely see beaver. Such fun captures of those little cuties!

    • Well our blog post was so long, I didn’t mention that the moose were actually at the Gros Ventre Campground – we went there twice and saw moose twice, Leigh and Brian saw moose there last year. It would be cool to stay there. Beaver are also hard to spot, we too see lodges frequently. The Schwabacher Landing apparently is home to several, and another spot that is a pretty sure bet to spot them. They are just adorable!

  7. Your photos, and Brenda’s excellent narratives brought back memories of my long ago trip to the Teton Valley, a true heaven on earth. I found the valley much closer to it’s historic background then Yellowstone, pristine and full of ghosts and memories of the past.
    Keep the fantastic pictures and narratives coming, it’s great living vicariously thru your blogs.
    Be Well My Friends
    Miami Bob

    • Hi, there! It really is a stunning place. Pristine is a great word to describe the valley, and it sounds like you had a great experience there. So glad you are staying with us on the blog, we really enjoy having you along.

    • We had tons of fun with you too! We are in Taos, going back to Albuquerque Monday (having some repairs done, see next post). Then the only other plans we have are Lake Powell at the end of October (our anniversary) and Tucson on the 7th of November for two weeks. No other plans and we are open to options. Do you have plans for the rest of the year?

  8. I was so excited to see this post because I knew I was in for a special treat of landscapes and wildlife. WOW!!! Those images you captured of the moose on the run were amazing and the clouds hanging over the Tetons were fabulous. 🙂

  9. Nothing could be better than that! Yeowzer! You sure do capture the spirit of a place with your wonderful writing, Brenda, and Hector, with your beautiful images. I feel like I’m right there with you!

    The Tetons and Jackson also bring back a lot of good memories for me with my Aunt Carolyn and Grandpa. We used to take the horses up there when we camped. Except back then, Jackson Hole was teeny, tiny. All I remember was a gas station and a little store. Time sure flies!!!

    Sending you both a big smile and a warm hug, Rebecca

    • Hector loves those yeowzers! What wonderful memories you have – I never did anything like this when I was a kid.

  10. Sigh! Definitely marking this for my next fall’s trip with my trailer and the kayak! Don’t suppose you’d share your camping site?? (wink) I may only be 300 miles away but haven’t been to the Tetons proper since I was a kid so looking forward to it for next year! Keep sharing the adventures and the AMAZING photos!

  11. GORGEOUS!!!! Loved the moose shots — truly unique. And we can soooo hear Hector’s voice in this blog title…

    Godspeed, Friends Three!

  12. Hi Brenda, Hector, and Angel

    Great action shots of the 2 moose and the moose and very brave, or foolhardy, photographers.

    Any chance you could give me a map location of your boon docking spot ? By email, perhaps ? Unless you were sworn to secrecy of course. I usually stay at Gros Ventre but would love to take a look at where you were on my next trip to the Tetons.

    Still planning on Alaska next summer ? I have spent time with a couple of different Alaska natives recently and have picked their brains for travel tips for my own trip north next spring.


    • Hi, Bob! So nice to hear from you. Watching those moose run was amazing. We briefly chatted with the two photographers after their scare, one of them was talking excitedly but the other one was speechless and a little pale 🙂

      Here is the link for the boon docking spot Let me know if that doesn’t work.

      Yes, we are still planning to head to Alaska. We haven’t quite figured out our routes to and from there, but think we might start heading up in May and stop in Yellowstone to see baby animals. We’re in Albuquerque and will spend winter around here, Arizona and California, maybe go to Texas in the spring for a wedding. Where are you spending your winter? Maybe we can catch up and share Alaska information (and maybe plan to rendezvous on the way there or somewhere up there). Let us know.


      • Thanks Brenda, map worked just fine.

        I am presently working my way south to the desert for the winter. Currently at Cathedral Gorge State Park (Nevada) for the weekend and heading to Overton to boondock and wait til it cools down a little farther south. Probably heading for BLM areas above Yuma since I have never done that before. Probably will check out Quartzite, definitely will do Sierra Vista for hummingbirds sometime during the winter.

        I did Anza Borrego a few years back and may also return there. All in all, who knows, but I will keep in touch to see if we end up anywhere at the same time.

        Thanks, again.

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