I am behind on my posts because of our trip to Jackson and Yellowstone. We left here last Friday in 50 degree weather and had great conditions until we reached Dubois. From that point on we were back in winter and it was an experience just getting up and over the very icy Togwotee Pass. This seems to be the year of the coyote. I have heard many people say they have seen a lot of the dogs and we counted eight separate sightings on our way into Jackson. We also saw two cow moose and I got some photos but they aren't great. We were staying at the Teton Science School campus in Wilson for two nights with Ken's sister and her husband. Joyce purchased the package in an auction to benefit their local nature center several months ago. Ken and I took out Wilderness First Responder course for two weeks from the school last year but it was held at the Kelly Campus. The school in Wilson is brand new and very comfortable. I think the package was to include a four hour wildlife watching expedition but we opted out. I am sure it is wonderful for people who come from elsewhere and don't know where to look or what they can see but for us to sit in a van for four hours while someone pointed out the moose and coyotes didn't make a lot of sense. On Saturday Ken and I went to the big hill to do some downhill skiing while Joyce and Will opted for a little cross country. Jackson Hole Ski Resort has a reputation for having some of the toughest skiing in the country and I think it is deserved. If I am going to ski a managed area it is certainly one of my favorites as it is huge with lots of variety and challenge. Ironically enough, I had my best wildlife sighting of the whole trip on the hill. We were coming down a catwalk when I heard two ravens going ballistic. Ken was in front of me and other people were zipping by but I slowed way down because I knew something was bugging the ravens. Just as I came to a stop I looked over and saw, not five feet in front of me, face-to-face, eyeball-to-giant eyeball, a great horned owl. The ravens were on either side of him trying their best to harass him into leaving. Of course I didn't have my camera but that is one of those images that will be a mental picture for a long time to come.
After the ski we went for a hike along the trail that follows the Snake River. The waterfowl were fun to watch and I got some nice shots of three trumpeter swans that were enjoying the day. On the way back to the Science School I spotted this bald eagle in a tree by the road. I thought it was very kind of him to pose in the sun for me like he did!
On Sunday we drove to Flaggs Ranch and boarded the snowcoach for Old Faithful. This is the first time in several years I have been in this area of the Park in winter and I have to say the reduced number of snowmobiles was a real treat. The snowcoaches were built in the 60's and 70's and provide an interesting way to travel over the snow. They are noisy and bumpy and I wouldn't choose to travel in them any more than necessary but they do get you where you want to go. They carry ten people maximum and travel at about 30 miles per hour. The luggage all gets loaded on the top under the big yellow tarp. There are two hotels at Old Faithful; the historic one that is pictured in most of the literature and the Snow Lodge that is used in the winter season. The last time Ken and I stayed there was almost 15 years ago and the Snow Lodge was pretty old and tired. They have since torn that building down and are now in their third year with a beautiful new comfortable hotel. Of course we had to go see Old Faithful do his thing. What a change from the summer months when the people surrounding the famous geyser are stacked ten deep all around the perimeter. There might have been 20 other people besides us watching the show.
On Monday Ken and I strapped on our skis and headed for Lone Star Geyser via the Howard Eaton Trail. It was a beautiful day and the 9 mile ski seemed pretty effortless. Even with the new emphasis of the Park on non-motorized travel and the large number of people we saw on skis around the Lodge, we saw almost no one on our trip. This is the second time we have skied back to Lone Star and in both cases it decided to erupt within ten minutes of our arrival. The amazing thing about that is that it blows on average about every three hours and is quite unpredictable. The photo to the left is the geyser letting off steam. On Tuesday we took the snow coach back to Flaggs Ranch where we retrieved our vehicles and headed home. Once again we changed seasons as soon as we reached Dubois, going from winter wonderland to spring conditions.
Once home we discovered we missed the real excitement that took place right here while we were gone. We had a phone message from the Federal Wildlife guys saying they had captured and collared the wolf that has been hanging around our place. We knew they were going to do it, we just didn't know when. I was surprised to find out it was a female. All along I have been picturing a male, probably because of the size of the track. They also said that the collaring process is often so traumatic for the animals that they will change their location because of it. If that is the case we may have seen the last of the big dog, at least for now.