Wildlife in the Tetons

As we continue on our journey to our winter job, I thought I would share some final photos from the Tetons, of our animal sightings this summer.

We have had good success this summer in seeing many birds and animals in Grand Teton National Park.  I wasn’t able to get pictures of everything, as I did not always have my camera with me.

Our first trip into the park, May 14, resulted in success when we spotted a black bear, and then saw two very small cubs running several yards behind her.  The cubs were hard to see, as they kept darting in and out of the woods.  One was brown in color, and one was black in color.

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Mama Bear

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Wait for me, mama!

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Another cub

Brad and Joanne, the owners of Luton’s Teton Cabins, own several horses.  One day on my walk around the property, I sensed something behind me, and turned around to see the horses sneaking up behind me.  Maybe they thought I had carrots or something in my pocket.  Sorry guys, no food!

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I’m not a ‘bird nerd’ so I’m not sure what these birds are.  I call this one a ‘yellow bird’

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And ‘purple/green bird’

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I tried all summer to get a picture of the Mountain Bluebird.  They are very jittery birds, and this was the best I could get.

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On an outing with Erin, one of our fantastic coworkers, we spotted a grizzly roaming around the side of the highway.  I only had my cell phone with me, so it’s not a good picture.

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Elk, pronghorn and buffalo roam about five miles down the road from the cabins.  Some days there are just one or two, other days, a large herd of them.

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Elk in foreground, Buffalo in background

 

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Hello, Mr Buffalo!

In the spring, you will see a lot of “red dogs,” which are the baby buffalo.  They like to run around and play.

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Thanks for posing for me in front of the Tetons

We always warn our guests not to stand near the fence to take pictures of the buffalo.  People don’t realize that the buffalo can easily jump over fences.  They may not look graceful, but stay out of their way!

Our biggest highlight, was “Moose-a-Palooza” when we found 10 moose in the Gros Ventre Campground when our friends Mike and Sue were with us.

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We were surprised to find two bull moose together.

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The one laying down on the left, had a “lady friend” hiding in the tall grass behind him.

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Eventually the one on the right laid down and started “chatting” with us.

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You’ve seen those “share the road with cyclists” signs…in Yellowstone, you have to share the road with buffalo!

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Unfortunately, the one animal that I have been specifically trying to find, continues to elude me….the porcupine!  Karen and Al must have felt sorry for me, as they surprised me at our last employee potluck meal with my very own porcupine!  I guess this will have to do for now.  I wonder if they have them in Arizona?

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Thanks Karen and Al!

Quote for the day:  “I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like, and I can’t say the same thing about people.” – Doris Day

Another week to go in Wyoming

I would like to say that it’s hard to believe the summer season here at Luton’s Teton Cabins is almost over but when you wake and it is a brisk 17 degrees outside, it just slaps you in the face and reminds you to start packing up the 5th wheel!  This has been a very busy month, as the cabins are full of guests, enjoying the active wildlife and fall colors in the park.

We have also had our own visitors as well, which we always enjoy.  Mike and Sue, our good friends from college, drove out from Wisconsin for a short visit.  Makena enjoyed showing them her favorite off-leash walking trail!

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Gary and Julia, Dan’s brother and sister-in-law, also flew in for a few days to visit.  It was Gary’s 60th birthday!  He informed us that we have to stop referring to this time of the year as the “newlyweds and nearly-deads” and add in the “empty nesters” as well!  We scheduled a float trip down the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, and they both enjoyed the relaxing 8-mile evening float.

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60 and still going strong!!

With both Mike and Sue, and Gary and Julia, we did our best to play tour guides of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.  With only limited time to explore, we did hit the high points.

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Jenny Lake at GTNP

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Grand Prismatic Hot Spring at YNP

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Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon at Yellowstone

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Old Faithful at YNP

Of course, it is Wyoming, and late September, so it’s not unusual to encounter a quick snow storm at Yellowstone!

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Both Mike and Sue, as well as Gary and Julia, took some time to enjoy the beautiful sunsets that we get to watch right here at Luton’s Cabins.  With the cooler nights, we have been getting a lot of colorful ones.

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We always enjoy having visitors, and are more than happy to show off “our parks” to others.  We have already committed to coming back to Luton’s next year, as well as everyone else that works here.  Brad and Joanne said this is the first time that all their employees will be returning the following season.  They are such wonderful people to work for.  So if you will be out in Wyoming next summer, let us know!!

Dan and Al have been busy fishing this summer, and have caught their limit many times.  We have had two potluck meals with everyone where they grilled the fish. These are native cutthroat trout – they look like a rainbow trout with the exception of an orange line under their mouth.

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I had a bit of an adventure with a wasp nest.  Makena was out on her leash and got stuck under one of the jacks on the fifth wheel.  When I crawled under to get her unstuck, I came face to face with this bowling ball sized nest!!  Dan has had an allergic reaction to bees in the past, so it was my job to get rid of this thing.  I waited until the morning when it was in the 30’s, so the wasps were less active, and used an entire can of wasp spray, plus I had a shovel to scoop up the nest and throw it into the creek behind our 5th wheel.  Now we look under the slides every week to make sure they don’t rebuild!  It’s one of the disadvantages of being in the same place for a long period of time.

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We are ready for new adventures, and look forward to hitching up and heading south next week.  We will have about 10 days to get to Yuma, Arizona, where we will be working at Westwind RV and Golf Resort.  It will be our first time working at a campground.  With all new adventures, I will have more to blog about.

The other morning, the moon was setting West behind the Tetons, as the sun was rising in East.  It made for a colorful morning photo.

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Quote for the Day:  “Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall.  It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events.  Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” – Sharon Draper

 

Exploring the national forests

While Grand Teton National Park offers many excellent hiking trails for all levels of abilities, we have decided this summer to spend more time away from the crowds on the trails of the US Forest Service.  The trails, while still being well-maintained and most have vault toilets near the trail head (something that I prefer), are seldom used by the tourists.  If you only have a limited amount of time in the park, most visitors will do the “popular” park trails.  But if you have more time in an area, or want a more “serene” experience, then check out the forest service trails.

Our first hike, with our co-workers Shawn and Erin, was a trailhead behind Togwotee Mountain Lodge, at an elevation of 8654 feet.  Brad, our boss and life-long resident in this area, recommended this trail to us, and said it’s “about 6 miles,” and “all downhill.”  Since this was going to be a one-way, downhill  hike, we left one vehicle down near Turpin Meadows, and took the other car up to Togwotee.

The wildflowers were in full bloom, which made the hike extra special.  Even the vault toilet at the trailhead was surrounded by flowers.

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The Grand Tetons, about 45 miles away, are peeking out over the forest, with wildflowers covering the hills.

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Erin, Shawn and Dan, on our “downhill” hike…

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We made it down to the river.  You can see where we started, by the red X in the photo.  Dan checked his elevation app that he has on his phone, and it said we were down to 6800 feet, from the 8600 feet when we started.

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But once we made it down to the river, we realized the trail did not follow along the river, but instead went straight up a hill.  Brad and Joanne don’t go hiking, they take their horses and go riding in the forest.  That should have been our clue when he said it was all downhill…..!

So off we went up a steep hill, only to realize once we were at the top, there was another one we had to climb as well!  It was a bit of a struggle, as I checked my Fitbit, and we had already hiked over 6 miles.  Once we made it to the top of the second hill, Dan’s app read 7800 feet.  But we could finally see the end in sight.  In the photo below, our car is where the red mark is.  Only a few more miles…

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All together, the “6 mile, all downhill” hike that Brad recommended, was 8 1/4 miles, with 1800 feet downhill, followed by 1000 feet uphill and another 1000 feet downhill.  When we mentioned to Brad about the uphill portion, he said “oh yeah, but it’s only 20 minutes,” to which we replied “if you’re on a horse!”  But the spectacular views, and seeing the wildflowers in full bloom, was well worth it.  And we were the only ones on this hike.  We had the forest to ourselves!

BROOKS LAKE/JADE LAKE HIKE

Dan and I spent another one of our off days taking advantage of another forest service hike, at Brooks Lake, which is part of the Continental Divide Trail.

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The loop trail starts at an elevation of 9100 feet, and is relatively flat for the first 1/2 mile.  Then you climb 700 feet in one mile, which may not sound like much, but when you are starting out at such a high elevation to begin with, it really gets your heart rate elevated. We had to go up and over the tree line in the photo below.

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We took it slow, and stopped several times.  Dan asked if I wanted to turn around, but this time we knew that once we made it to the top, the remaining five miles would be relatively easy.  After 40 minutes, we finally made it to the top.  Then it was just a another mile until we got our first view of Upper Jade Lake, which was spectacular.

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The trail gradually descended down to the lake.  The wildflowers were just past their peak, but still pretty.

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We had to cross over the river between upper and lower Jade Lake, and the trail wound around lower Jade Lake.

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The trail crossed over the river two more times, before going out into a meadow for the last mile of the trail.  I managed to make three of the four river crossings without a problem.  On the last crossing, one of the rocks that I stepped on moved, and down I went into the river!  The water was cold, but it was so hot out, it was actually refreshing.  And on a positive note, I discovered the hiking “fanny pack” that I use, is waterproof, as everything inside the bag was dry.

Since the last mile was out in the open, I was able to dry out a little on the way back to the truck.  We had a nice view of Brooks Lake on the way back.  Our truck was parked on the other side of the lake.  I usually bring a change of shoes/socks when we hike, but from now on, it will include a complete change of clothes!

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WORK UPDATE

We continue to be busy at Luton’s Teton Cabins, at least for another week.  Then we enter the “change-over” of the summer, when kids are back to school, so the family vacations end, and the “newlyweds and nearly deads” begin their vacations.  We will have about one week when our occupancy is light.  It will be a much appreciated break, as our cabins are full for the month of September.  The downtime will give us time to clean and prepare the truck and fifth wheel for our trip to Arizona for the winter.

Quote for the Day:  “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

Summer 2017 ‘a bear-y good time’

We have finished our summer work camping job at Luton’s Teton Cabins, just east of Grand Teton National Park.  Dan feels the summer flew by, but I think it was just the right amount of time.  There was snow when we arrived in May, and snow when we left in October…a lot of snow!  We were the last ones to leave, as Dan was busy steam cleaning the carpets in the cabins. Although the weather was supposed to be 50s, we ended up with about 7 inches of snow!  It was pretty though!

IMG_3128It did make for an interesting drive over Togowotee Pass, at 9600 feet and a steep grade! And this is after they had “cleared” the pass!  Normally we like to leave early in the morning when we are in travel mode, but we had to wait until late morning for the road to improve.

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We had another hard working crew this summer, and six of us will be coming back next summer.   Last summer, with my broken foot, we did not get to do as much hiking as we had planned.  This summer, we did many hikes, and even got our bicycles out.  The Tetons and Jackson Hole are very bicycle friendly areas, with miles of paved paths.

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Dan and Al had a great summer fishing (and catching!) trout.  After a slow start due to the spring flooding, they were able to get enough to have a pot luck fish fry for everyone.  Al brought his inflatable Sea Eagle boat, and they floated down the river many times.  The boat folds up into a small bag, and is strong enough to hold both the guys, and all their gear.

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The highlight of the summer, for me, was seeing (and experiencing) the Solar Eclipse.  You can read about that here.

A close second was watching a grizzly and her two cubs, feasting on berries.  (a special thanks to our co-workers Karen and Al for texting us when they spotted them in the park – about 2 miles from us).

 

We also had a bull moose run right across the road on our way back from the grocery store.  I have learned to always carry my camera in September, as the wildlife is very active.

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After we left Wyoming, we had a long travel day and stopped at the Cabela’s in Rapid City, South Dakota, which lets you stay overnight in their parking lot.  We were woken up very early to an alarm going off.  We though it may have been our carbon monoxide detector.  We both woke up in a panic, and started searching, only to discover it was our temperature gauge, which has an alarm clock.  We have had this for over 8 years, and never knew it had an alarm clock!  Apparently when we packed it up and put it away for travel, a button must have been pressed to set the alarm.

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And 10 minutes later…we discovered it has a snooze feature!

Since we were up early, we just got on the road (it was 5 am), and watched the sunrise as we traveled east.

IMG_3144We are now back in Wisconsin.  Originally, we planned to be here a few weeks, then head down to Amazon in Kentucky.  However, our friend Mike’s bar and grill that we had helped remodel is not yet open.  He was very busy this summer with his landscaping business, and did not finish the remodeling.  So we are back helping him out, probably through Thanksgiving, and then we will head south for the winter.

Quote for the day:  “You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.”  Joyce Meyer

 

 

 

 

Cousins come a callin’

First off, thank you for all the wonderful comments, e-mails and telephone calls from our last blog post.  It really meant a lot.

Dan’s cousins, Roni and Jodi, made a long road trip from the Twin Cities to come out and visit with us for two days.  We tried to pack as much as we could in the short amount of time they had, and we think we succeeded.  The only thing they were not able to check off their list was seeing a grizzly bear.

We spent the first day on a quick tour of Grand Teton National Park, trying to stop at some of  the highlights: Colter Bay, Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain, String Lake, Jenny Lake, Lupine Meadows, The Chapel of Transfiguration, Schwabacher Landing, etc…

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Dan, Jodi, Roni

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After seeing some of  the highlights, we stopped in Moose for a little pizza at Dornan’s.  While sitting outside we were briefly entertained by a fox walking near the deck.

DSC04474 (2)The next morning we headed up to Yellowstone, making a few stops in the Tetons to view a herd of Elk,

P1000307 (2)followed by a mama and baby moose!

P1000363 (2)And no morning is complete without a stop at Oxbow Bend, with the low-lying clouds covering parts of Mt Moran.

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Yellowstone was pretty busy, but Roni said she had “positive vibes”, especially after our wonderful start to the day.  She was right, and we never had issues finding parking spots!  Our wildlife sightings continued, with an Osprey in a nest,

P1000516 (2)and a lone buffalo taking a nap along the side of the road!

P1000500 (2)The cousins were impressed with the view of the Lower Falls.

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I think Roni and Jodi may have a new future career in the park service!

P1000472 (2)No stop to Yellowstone is complete without a visit to Old Faithful.  It was Roni’s first time seeing the geyser go off.  Despite its name, it did not erupt until 25 minutes after its scheduled time.  The crowd of thousands was growing very restless, and a lot of cheers erupted when it finally went off.  Roni said it was worth the wait!

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Although their visit was very short, we had a wonderful time and are thankful Roni and Jodi decided to venture out west to see us!  Our door is always open for our family and friends to visit!

Quote for the day:  “Nobody will understand the craziness of your family better than your cousins.” – unknown