Autumn in the Tetons & Yellowstone - p 1 of 2

 

26 Sept 2015

When the Cook-Folsom-Peterson        expedition stumbled upon the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in 1869, they had the place to themselves.  Today, however,  one must stand shoulder to shoulder with hordes of tourists at the various overlooks.  The Japanese all carry selfie sticks, of course.
   Charlotte and I actually began our own expedtion to the Tetons and Yellowstone several days ago, making a leisurely 2-day drive from Chama, NM to Jackson, WY.  We're hoping to see the autumn foliage, animals in their new winter coats, and all the other sights that make this area such a magnet for tourist.

 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

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22 Sept 2015

A paved road runs through Antelope Flats in the southern end of Grand Tetons National Park.  Lots of rodents hang out in the grass along the road.
   A young coyote figured this out, and walked along the road, oblivious to cars and onlookers.  His tactic worked.  We saw him nab a mouse and swallow it whole. 

 

 

We found this Dusky Grouse along the roadside near Lake Jackson.  Most birds with the word 'Dusky' in their name are rather drab, but this bird is handsome in its own way.  Like many North American grouse, it was not very shy. 

 

 

Dusky Grouse
Bison tussling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another resident of the Tetons who is not shy is bison.  They loaf near the road, walk across it, oblivious to humans.  This time of year we see lots of tussling among the males to establish rank in the herd.  Not the most graceful of animals, they push at each other, sorta like sumo wrestlers in heavy fur coats.

Strictly speaking, there are no buffalo in America - only bison, who are taxonomically distinct from African and Asian buffaloes.  Bison were called boeuf (ox) by French trappers, which may be one reason they later came to be called buffalo by the English.   

 

 

 

Just north of Jackson are the highly recommended National Museum of Wildlife Art and across the road, the National Elk Refuge.

In winter the Elk Refuge has thousands of elk and hundreds of bison, but they're at higher elevations now.  Bighorn Sheep live on a rocky butte on the east side of the refuge.  Today we only found three females grazing quietly along the roadside. 

`Bighorn Sheep female
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At Schwabacher Landing, along a tributary of the Snake River, a family of  beaver has built a lodge and of course several dams.  Just after sunset we saw this one swimming back to its lodge.

After photographiing it, we returned to our own lodge in Jackson and then made for the Snake River Brew-pub for a dinner of pizza and beer.   

24 Sept 2015

Now in Yellowstone National Park, we stopped for lunch along Yelllowstone Lake, then drove north along the Yellowstone River.  Trumpeter Swans have arrived to spend the winter here.  

 

Trumpeter Swan

 

Old Faithful  

 

 

No trip to Yellowstone would be complete without stopping to see Old Faithful.  It erupts every 90 minutes, give or take 10 minutes.  It's best enjoyed from the deck of the Old Faithful Lodge. 

South of Old Faithful are trails along the Firehole River and its many geysers, pools, and mud pots.  In fact, the southern half of Yellowstone is a vast caldera, the remnant of 3 major volcanic eruptions that have occurred during the last 2.1 million years.

As the geysers and hot pools attest, the magma is still there, a mile or so underground.   Yellowstone will erupt again.  When it does, it will be the largest volcanic eruption in human history.  The devastation will be world-wide.  As many as a billion people could die of starvation from its cooling effects on the atmosphere.   It's only a matter of time.

 

Geyser & pool
Beauty Pool The pools along the Firehole range in temperature from 110 to 170 F.  Much of the color comes from the 100+ species of thermophilic bacteria that live in the pool, each species adapted to a narrow temperature range.

The story is told of a group of tourists who pulled up in their car near one of these pools.  A little dog they'd brought along jumped out of the car, ran over, and leaped into a hot pool.  A friend of the dog's owner, without thinking the matter through, jumped in to rescue the dog.   Neither survived.

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