Thursday, May 21, 2015

Day 2 - Jackson to Cody

Panorama of the entrance to the Grand Tetons National Park

Weather:  50ish and cloudy with scattered showers that looked very cool....from a distance!
Steps walked:  Shaun - 6,345; Shannon - 6,534
Varmints:  Great blue heron, yellow-headed blackbird, cinnamon teal, American coot, red-tailed hawk, lazuli bunting (maybe), uinta ground squirrels, marmots, bison x 12, el-shitload of mule deer, herd of elk, some other deer-like creature, a bunny (maybe a snowshoe hare?), and to round out the day nicely....a grizzly bear!

            Overlooking the National Elk Refuge

Today we started towards Cody by way of the National
 Museum of Wildlife Art and National Elk Refuge.  We had to temporarily say goodbye to Jackson and our awesome cabin at Cowboy Village (which we gave a 10 out of 10 on our lodging rating scale), and we ate at the world famous Bunnery Restaurant for a delightful breakfast (even for a vegan!).

As a point of reference, the drive to Cody is supposed to be four hours from Jackson going north all the way through the Tetons, across the Lower Loop in Yellowstone, out the east entrance, and then another 50 miles or so.  Naturally, the way Shan and I do things turned four hours into five and a half, but we saw so many animals that we were lucky it wasn't eight!  As soon as we got into the Refuge, we stopped at a turnout and saw a heron, some cool ducks, and a yellow-headed blackbird.  I just love seeing things I never knew existed!

Shan's favorite was the dragon even though she's really an ox!

A look at all 12 of the zodiac signs with Shan hamming at the end

     The massive bison bronze called Changing Seasons

          My favorite bronze

We got to the National Museum of Wildlife Art and were greeted by a bunch of bronze statues which are part of the museum's sculpture garden.  They were beautiful, and all featured animals native to the area. There were also heads that represented all the Chinese zodiac symbols done by a famous Chinese artist Shannon was familiar with named Ai Weiwei.

Our favorite painting from the museum called "The Chief"

A uinta ground squirrel we had a relationship with while attempting to take the picture above with the Elk Refuge behind us - he was witness to our insanity but we paid him to be quiet!

                     Snake River in the background

After we had lunch and played with the prairie dog, we headed north, stopping along the way to take in the views of the mountains and the Snake River (which we will be floating down in a week or so).

As part of our adventure, we're playing a game taught to us by my Uncle Rod and Aunt Phyl where we made a long list of stuff to look out for, and whoever sees an item on the list first gets a point.  Shan got the first couple points for seeing a person with a selfie wand and then a red-tailed hawk, and then I got a point for a heron.  Our next wildlife encounter was a couple of deer-like creatures we initially thought might be pronghorns but later decided they weren't.  We saw another one much closer but it was so fast that we still don't know what it was.

                           Bison spotting #1

Bison spotting #2 - the fog is from the hot springs nearby

Bison spotting #3 - the one that almost stopped our hearts

Still part of spotting #3, but these guys were down the ravine

                          Bison spotting #4

So, the first big excitement for the day was our first bison!  He was all alone and a decent distance away, but I saw him eating in a field (so I got another point!), and we knew we had really arrived.  We ended up seeing a total of 12 bison among 4 different sightings, one of which scared the crap out of us since we had just spotted our first mule deer (Shan's point) along with two other bison down the ridge when we passed one right on the side of the road!  We both swore pretty profusely, and after we re-started our hearts, we naturally turned around and went back to get his picture.  I was a good girl though, and I stayed the requisite 25 feet away from him since a 16-year-old girl got gored yesterday.  She was four feet from the animal, though, so she kind of deserved it!

                                  A marmot

          Shannon and the king of all the Ravens

   Two of many mule deer - and half of them are pregnant!

Our next excitement was a marmot, a big honkin' raven, and then started the mule deer extravaganza. They were absolutely everywhere off the road once we got over the mountains.  Hundreds of them.  We even saw some in town once we got to Cody.  It was nuts!  We started counting them like we'd been doing all the other animals, but we gave up once we got to triple digits.

           Yes Virginia, that is a real live grizzly bear!

We always kept our eyes peeled when someone else was pulled off the road, and at one point we saw a guy who just pointed as we slowly drove by him.  Never looking a gift horse in the mouth, we turned around and he showed us where there was a grizzly bear across the river rummaging around in the woods.  How did he see it that far away with so much brush around him?  No clue, but we're really glad he did, and we're also really glad that I have a 42x zoom camera!  By the way, no one got that point since it really belonged to the dude.

Our final spotting of the day was a herd of elk who were trying to get past a fence row.  Some of them were going over, but some really clever ones decided to go under.  It was really cool, and we were glad it happened when it did because we were almost out of light!  No one got this point either because we reacted to another person this time too.

The drive through the mountains was really pretty.  We went through all kinds of different rock formation areas as well as places where fires had burned all the trees down.  We also went through the mountain side, and the tunnel was really cool!

We finally arrived in Cody around 9:00, unloaded into our less than stellar cabin, and then tried to find food....we were successful, but just barely.  Tomorrow we'll be spending the day at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

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