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Looking for bears in all the wrong places

also known as “When do you let the animals out?”

letter to family — 23 May 2016

Lots of humor in today’s adventures. The forecast was 40% chance of rain, so we didn’t set the alarm for sunrise. Umm, yup. Cracked my eyelids and saw sunshine on bright shiny mountains against a blue sky at the foot of the bed. Ah well. How could I complain??

After consulting the map over coffee we decided to drive some of the back country roads we’d never been on before to look for wildlife. Many of the nice flat trails I would be interested in are closed due to moose and bear activity. So we packed up the car and headed north to check out Pacific Creek and Two Oceans.

The sky was bright blue and crisp with cold on the drive up. As soon as we turned onto the dirt roads the clouds rolled in and everything from the sky to the woods turned a dull gray. We bounced our way through terrific bear and moose habitat, covering about 40 miles of rutted road over the course of the morning. 

At one high spot there was a truck pulled over. One fellow had a spotting scope and the other had a giant lens on his camera. They thought they had seen wolves earlier in a copse of Aspen, but they hadn’t seen them again in a while. We waited and watched for twenty minutes or so, but we were getting chilled and decided to  move on. After four hours of keeping our eyes peeled and the car out of ditches, we had seen: two elk, one sandhill crane, and a yellow bellied marmot.

Sandhill Crane
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Quaking Aspen just starting to leaf out

 Dave wanted to scout around Colter Bay — some of the hikes there looked promising. Turns out they were pretty long — almost 9 mile round trip and I had a headache coming on. None of the tourist facilities (like restaurants) were open at Colter Bay yet so the plan was to go to Jackson Lake Lodge so I could pick up some aspirin, hang out in the lobby and Dave could go  hike. Just as we got to the car, the folks in the car next to us popped over to Dave’s window and asked if we wanted a sandwich! They’d picked up two sandwiches at Dornan’s and hadn’t realized how big they were. We made a donation and enjoyed the “plain jane” turkey sandwich. It really hit the spot and was the best surprise of the day!!

 I settled into a couch in front of the big windows, posted a few pictures — as I haven’t been able to get my computer to connect to the internet, especially Facebook in 3 days. I tried mailing yesterday’s journal for 2 hours an gave up at 11pm with the mail program still running. I was surprised to see it had gone out sometime when I slept. Anyway, Dave also was taking advantage of wifi and ended up working for the rest of the afternoon. There were a lot of showers in the mountains all afternoon but many did not make it to the Lodge.

In the middle of our relaxed afternoon, some Asian tourist woman was fiddling with a fire alarm and pulled it. The poor staff was interviewing guests to see if they could identify her, but I’d guess her bus was already gone by the time we all went back inside.

our weather observation location for the afternoon

 Heading home we saw some bison close to the road — we hadn’t seen them in a few days and not this close. So I made Dave pull over and I tried to take a few quick snaps across the highway with the five o’clock commuter traffic heading south and the late-to-the-campground RVs heading north. 

a quick stop to admire the Snake River with the sun out

The sun broke out again about the time we got home. It felt soooo good out on the west side of the cabin, soaking up the sun’s warmth reflected off the dark boards of the cabin that we ate our dinner out there. We were listening to the birds — the magpies were arguing over something and a sparrow was making music. And studying crepuscular rays lighting up the valley when all of a sudden a bird zoomed straight at my face, came to a hover about 12 inches away and then took off. It was a broad-tailed hummingbird! Such a bright red throat and a funny sound to its wings.

Once the sun went behind the mountains we decided to take a little post dinner stroll to the end of the street and see where the old ranger path went. As we got about a half mile from the cabin I saw three pronghorn heading for the cabin! My camera’s zoom showed them right outside the cabin kitchen window. Drat! Eventually we turned around as it was getting cold, and despite being down wind and walking an oblique angle back to the cabin, we spooked the pronghorn and off they went. Double drat!

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