This trip to Grand Teton National Park & Yellowstone was definitely not on cards for this year although it happened, thanks for unavailability of desired accommodation at Yosemite! We couldn’t be more glad, as everything was just perfect… the beautiful sunrises & sunsets, the mesmerising fall colours & landscape views, crazy snowfall & lovely flurries and last but not the least – Wildlife at its best! From bugling Elks to a mighty Grizzly Bear with cubs, we couldn’t have asked for more…
We planned our trip from Jackson hole, a beautiful town few miles away from the Grand Teton National Park. We were greeted with some ‘rainy’ worries when we landed at the Jackson airport. The worries only intensified as we checked into our hotel (Super 8) since the temperatures dropped further and showers increased. We had a total of 4 excursions planned with Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures – 1 full day trip to Yellowstone, 1 full day trip at Grand Teton National Park & 2 half day trips to Grand Teton National Park. All we could do is pray & hope for the climate to improve over next few days.
It was 1530 hrs and time for our 1st excursion – a half day sunset trip to Grand Teton National Park. We were greeted right on time by our guide – Colin. The showers were still on and as we travelled on wet roads exploring for any form of wildlife, we couldn’t sight anything apart from few American Robins perched on dry trees under the cloudy skies. It was just the Aspen trees that added some colour to the dull appearing landscapes, especially with Grand Teton peaks not visible at all.
An hour had passed and thankfully the rain stopped. We entered the flat ranches – a huge open area with sagebrushes and thats when Colin spotted some wildlife – 4 Pronghorns and around over 50 mighty American Bisons! We spent the next hour photographing these two species along with the numerous Black-billed Magpies.
The light was dipping fast and after clicking to our heart’s content, we came to an overlook point. It was getting darker by every minute and slowly the clouds over the Teton range started disappearing. We enjoyed the lovely sunset till the Teton range disappeared again – this time in the dark.
Day two started at 0700 hrs with our guide for the day – Mariah and for the 1st time we could see some blue skies. This was a full day excursion to Grand Teton National Park and as soon as we entered the park, we got a lovely view of the Teton range with the mountain peaks being kissed by the sun rays! We continued our journey and soon came across a bull Elk bugling. The weather was very pleasant – sun shining through few clouds against clear blue skies, thats when we decided to do a small hike. The hike was rewarding as we came across a pair of Elk, not close but got some lovely views and habitat shots in the dense woodlands of Pine & Aspen trees.
We got back to the vehicle and the skies darkened, followed by flurries which soon turned into a snowfall. We drove to a road trail where the activity of Grizzly Bears was quite high and were looking around for these magnificent creatures but it ended with some disappointment as the road was closed due to heavy snowfall in morning. We returned back to main road, still looking for the bears – no luck though and the snowfall also increased. We were told that wildlife generally hunkers down in such heavy snowfall, so chances of spotting any form of wildlife was very low. Good thing being it was for the 1st time we experienced such heavy snowfall, so we took a halt at an overlook point and just enjoyed the crazy snow flakes. The Aspens & Pine trees were also looking beautiful in the snowfall with the ground completely covered by the snow.
After a delicious lunch we started our way back, still looking around to sight any form of wildlife. The weather had not improved with the roads covered in snow, so much that the route which came through was closed and were forced to take an alternate road. We came back to the overlook point we visited yesterday, and thats when we saw some Elks again and also the beautiful Mountain Bluebird.
We were back to hotel by around 1500 hrs and after freshening up we realised that the weather was clearing up, at-least in the Jackson town. This was a good opportunity for us to explore the town and also a small lake that I had seen while coming from the airport. By the time we reached the lake, the weather had cleared up and we saw numerous species of birds – the American Wigeons, Gadwalls, American Coots, Ring-necked Ducks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Ravens, Black-billed Magpies, a pair of Hawk sp. and lone Northern harrier. After spending an hour or so, we spent rest of the time exploring and roaming around in the beautiful town of Jackson.
The Day three was almost entirely spent in Yellowstone National Park (read it here -> the amazing Yellowstone! ) except for the last 3 hours or so, which gave us our best moments of the enter tour. Mike was our tour guide for the day. It was around 1600 hrs when we exited the Yellowstone National Park, the evening had just began… time of the day when the wildlife gets active. As we drove through the dense woodlands and meadows, we came across couple of Mule Deers, some Elks and numerous Red-tailed Hawks. There was a car stopped ahead of us and as Mike reduced the speed, I spotted a Grizzly! Hardly saw it for few seconds as it was moving away from us into the woods and this is all that I could manage!
As we drove ahead, we came across a huge patch of open meadows where we saw few cars parked to the side of the road along with few park rangers. Mike parked the vehicle perfectly behind one of the cars and soon we couldn’t believe our luck as we saw this magnificent mama Grizzly Bear with 2 of her cubs, busy digging up the ground hunting for hibernating Ground Squirrels! This went for the next 30 minutes or so. We finally sighted and photographed the Grizzly Bear to our heart’s content!
As we drove back, all we were discussing was about the Grizzlys! The sun had just started to set, when were arrived at the beautiful Jackson Lake. We got some beautiful sunset images at this point along with a lovely scape image of the graceful Trumpeter Swan. We had not yet seen a Moose on the trip and even that wish got fulfilled as we came across a Moose & her calf ending this superb day!
Here is video of the Grizzly bear
Being the final day for the tour, we checked out from the hotel early. Shaun was our guide for today and our 1st halt was the overlook point where we sighted an Elk Harem and a Moose. We went on exploring and soon came across the Mule Deers, around 11 of them and also saw yet another bull Elk on the ridge. Soon we were driving through the dense woodlands, when out of nowhere a young Black Bear appeared right in-front of vehicle! It crossed the road and hugged a tree before disappearing into the woodlands. All this happened so quickly and so up-close that I hardly had anytime to pick up the camera. We came across some birds as well – Red-tailed Hawks, a Bald Eagle, Mountain Bluebirds, American Robins, Common Mergansers and the beautiful Barrow’s Golden Eye. It was about time and just as we started our return journey, a Pronghorn propped up. Walking in the beautiful sagebrush scape with the Teton Range in the background. We took few more halts to capture some beautiful landscapes and finally got dropped off at the Jackson Hole Airport.
Coming to Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures, we have been absolutely blown away by their service and knowledge! All of their guides – Colin, Mariah, Mike & Shaun were fantastic when it came to spotting wildlife or evening sharing knowledge about the wildlife, geology and even history of the place. What impressed me most was their care for wildlife and environment. 5 stars for their excellent service all round and would highly recommend them. Stay at Super 8 was also decent, especially if you are going to spend most of the time exploring the parks. To sum it up, this was the Best trip of our life till date 🙂 Signing off with one of my favourite images.
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– Rudraksha & Shraddha