Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 12 - Colter Bay to Jackson

Weather: rainy and mid-50s, as per usual
Steps: Shaun - 6,642; Shannon - 6,622
Varmints: a red-letter day! We saw beavers, a toad, a tadpole with back legs but no front legs, bald eagle, uinta ground squirrels, bison, red-tailed hawk, white pelicans, tree swallows, yellow-rumped warbler, yellow warbler, Barrow's goldeneye (a kind of duck), and we heard bullfrogs, though we didn't actually see them.
Points tally:  Shaun - 22; Shannon - 21

Today we moved from the north end of the Grand Tetons to the south where we'll stay until the end of our trip. On the way, we stopped at Oxbow Bend again and saw a bunch of white pelicans and another bald eagle.  He may be the same one we saw the last time we were here, but we're very glad he likes us.

We ended up pulling into the very same Snake River overlook from the start of our trip (even though we didn't know it until after I took the picture above....which is the same one that Ansel Adams made famous...too bad I didn't make as much money on mine as he did on his!

I know.  I've included too many pictures, but this place, Schwabachers Landing, was so beautiful, I just couldn't limit my choices any more. The Landing is at the end of a road off the main drag, and it's on a tributary of the Snake River. We were initially just going to go down to the water and take some pictures, but then we saw a beaver dam, and walked a little down the trail. Then we saw the beaver swimming around the dam. Then we saw more dams down the river, so we walked further down the trail to check them out, and before we knew it, we had reached the end of the line, maybe a mile down the river (and I hadn't even locked the car)! 

Along the way, we saw lots of different kinds of birds, including the yellow warbler, tree swallow, and Barrow's Goldeneye, as well as a ton of uinta ground squirrels, which had built burrows along both sides of the river. The weather cleared up while we were on our walk, and the water was so calm that it reflected the mountains, and just about everything else, wonderfully. This ended up being our favorite stop of the day.

We finally left Schwabachers Landing and continued on our way. Before long, we made the turn onto Antelope Flats Road, which goes through an area of flatlands with sagebrush frequented by pronghorns, buffalo, and elk. We saw a few pronghorns, but not much else, since it was the middle of the day, but we did take the opportunity to take some artsy shots while we were there. The barn above is one of the most photographed structures in the park because of its beautiful dilapidation. It's part of Mormon Row, a line of barns and other buildings that were part of the first settlement in the valley. Shaun didn't understand the appeal, but she took a picture of it anyway. Shannon utilized the macro to take some shots of the larkspur and this yellow flower we don't remember the name of.

Just before we reached the town of Kelly, we stopped at the Kelly Warm Spring. It's a pond warmed by  geothermal activity below, so it's constantly bubbling and maintains a warm temperature throughout the year. Because of this, tropical fish that were released into the spring by former fish tank owners have managed to survive and reproduce. There are signs all over the place telling people not to release fish or amphibians into the spring, but what's there has managed to survive. It looks pretty gross with all the algae and whatnot, but it was pretty fascinating to watch all the fish. We even saw a partially transformed tadpole and heard bullfrogs talking to each other across the pond.

From there, we took the Gros Ventre Road back to the main highway, but rather than turning onto it to head back to Jackson, we decided to take another side road. This would take us to Jackson at a more leisurely pace through unexplored territory. The road went past neighborhoods and ranches, and as we were passing one of the ranches, we saw the beauty above sitting on a fence post. We're pretty sure it's a red-tailed hawk, and his coloration is just wonderful. 

We eventually got to Jackson, and we spent the rest of the day relaxing, shopping, and piddling around town. Our hot air balloon ride is scheduled for tomorrow, though we don't have high hopes because the forecast has called for rain. Fingers crossed!

Day 11 - Colter Bay to Jenny Lake

Weather:  Same as usual.....50's with spots of rain, but when we were out in it, it was lovely
Steps:  Shaun - 16,221; Shan - 16,372
Varmints:  White Pelicans, bald eagle, sandhill crane, chipmunks, elk, bison, mule deer, a ton of pronghorns, which is new for this area, northern shoveler (a duck that looks like a mallard but has a big shovel on its bill
Points total:  Shaun - 20; Shan - 20.....oooooooo, we're neck and neck folks......who will pull it off in the end?

Jackson the rain!

Fairy bells....aren't they cute?

Shannon feeling up the hairy moss

Today was a hiking day.  We started out with a 1.8-mile hike around Jackson Lake.  Most of the time it was raining, but it wasn't too bad.  We saw all kinds of wonderful flora but not much in the way of fauna.  We did see a cute chipmunk that was about twice as big as he should have been, but he wasn't marked like a what do we have folks?  Another conundrum!

As we headed south towards Jenny Lake, we did see this sandhill crane who was close enough to get a picture.  I know he's not as exciting as some of the stuff we've seen, but he's still cool!

Also on our drive south, we stopped to climb Signal Mountain.  Even though the skies were rather gloomy, it was still pretty, and we ate our picnic lunch up the car.




Our next stop was a place just north of Jenny Lake that had two lakes connected by rapids, and the second one could only be seen by hiking to it. The first lake was called String Lake, and the second was called Leigh Lake.  The weather actually started turning nice just as we had completed the 2-mile hike, so we got to play with the reflections in the water.  Aren't they cool?  We also happened upon a female mule deer relaxing in the meadow who wasn't bothered by our presence at all.

As the skies cleared over the mountains, we got some pretty spectacular shots of the clouds.

We also came upon a herd of pronghorns right near the road.  These are all females, and they're actually a little freaky when they're looking right at you, don't you think?

We had passed the Jackson Lake Dam on the way out, so we decided to stop there on the way back, and we're so glad we did for a couple of reasons.  First, they were drawing the water down while we were there, so that was seriously cool.  Secondly, there were thousands of swallows gorging on insects all over the place.  There's no way to capture them in a picture, but it was so crazy to see them all swooping and flitting around in the sky.  We said thank you to them and headed out.

Our final stop of the night was back at Jackson Lake Lodge because we wanted to catch the sunset over the Willow Flats and hopefully see some animals.  Unfortunately, we saw some elk on the way, but we were denied both the sunset and any other animal sightings. We thought there was a moose there, but we never definitely saw it, so we called it a night.  We did decide to eat in the famous Mural Room Restaurant with its incredible view, so it was a wonderful way to end a wonderful day. Tomorrow we leave Colter Bay and head back to Jackson.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Day 10 - Colter Bay Village and Jackson Lake Lodge

Weather:  50's and mostly sunny with a couple of popup showers
Steps:  Shaun - 6,768; Shannon - 5,522 (I have no idea what she was doing when I was walking!)
Varmints: Red fox (oh yea, another point for Shaun!), bull moose, elk, great blue heron, bald eagle, muskrat (another point for Shaun), and barn swallows.  We also heard an elk bugle from the overlook at Jackson Lodge.
Point totals:  Shaun - 20; Shannon - 18

View from the lake....incredible isn't it?

Red fox that looks more yellow to me!

Since we were totally wiped out, we slept in today. Shaun woke up first and took a little trip to the shores of Jackson Lake to check it out, relax...and meet a new animal. As she was sitting at a picnic table, the red fox in the picture above came out of nowhere, peed on a pole, dug in the dirt in front of the table she was at, and then walked away, all while ignoring her presence. She got photographic evidence, so she got a point, even though Shannon wasn't there (dang it!).

When we finally got going for the day, we decided to get the lay of the land around Colter Bay Village and Jackson Lake. We visited the general store, visitor's center, gift shop, and activity center, and at the last, we signed up for a scenic cruise around Jackson Lake. 

We were a bit disappointed by the cruise because the person giving information about the lake and park was not very good and the information she gave was mostly stuff we already knew. Still, the views of the mountains were incredible, and we got to see some things that aren't visible from anywhere but on the lake.

We left Colter Bay Village after lunch and went to Jackson Lake Lodge, five miles down the road. It's another historic lodge, built in 1955, and it sits on the Willow Flats, which is a prime elk and moose- viewing area. The lodge has gorgeous windows and a patio overlooking the flats, and we ended up eating on the patio, in between watching a bull moose munch on vegetation and following a muskrat swimming around a pond.

We checked out the rest of the lodge, including the stores and Indian artifacts on display, and then headed back to our cottage to end a nice, relaxing day.