Every August, the Missouri heat and humidity have me curled up in a fetal position, whimpering, “Lord, have mercy.” I simply cannot wait for Fall to mosey its lazy way to Missouri, so I get up, wash my face, and start planning a trip to the mountains.
This Fall found us at our favorite cabin in Dubois, Wyoming. Last year I spent several days out here alone when I was deeply depleted, but this year we came looking for some fun in the wild. Our deck overlooks the Wind River and faces Warm Springs Canyon. We share the space with local deer, who acknowledge our presence with just a twitch of one ear, then go back to their grazing. Our equine neighbors run to the fence for nose rubs and a whisper of sweet nothings in their ears.
With a population of under 1,000 and not a single stop light or fast-food restaurant, Dubois provides a perfect escape from the world. It’s wild here. Head out of town in any direction and encounter a smorgasbord of topography including desert prairie, red-striped badlands, forested mountains, granite peaks and alpine lakes. To grizzlies and wolves, it’s home sweet home.
And if that weren’t enough, Dubois is an easy drive to Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, and Yellowstone National Park. Wildlife abounds and the aspen put on a spectacular show. Let me show you around, but first, here’s a little local color from my journal on Day 1 of our trip.
Now, come see the local color through my camera lens. We’ll start close, then venture out to the national parks.
The old Shippen homestead is one of our favorite places to explore. It’s a gizzard-jarring drive across 15 miles of prairie, but worth it. The original homestead had at least three cabins and an outhouse. It’s a fun place to poke around, but we monitor the animal tracks and keep a finger on the trigger of our bear spray at all times. Nothing but a lot of moose tracks this year.
I love the rough bark of the cottonwood tree and all the berries. Don’t know what kind of berries these are, but I call them Bear Berries. This time of year, bears go wild for them. A large bleached bone makes an awesome souvenir for one of the grandsons!
Whiskey Mountain east of town is the winter habitat for big horn sheep. It’s been so warm, we thought the sheep might still be in the high country, but we spotted a small herd of ewes, lambs and juvenile rams. They kept a cautious distance, watching me from the top of a ridge, until they decided I was no threat and started moving toward me. The thrill of watching wildlife do their wild thing just never gets old.
Grand Teton National Park
Most of our wildlife chasing happens in Grand Teton National Park. We have our favorite places where we know we are likely to see moose or bear, as well as our favorite scenic spots.
My photos don’t begin to do justice to the flamboyant aspens. You may wonder just how many aspen photos does a person need? The answer: just one more!
The same question applies to the majestic Tetons. Really, how many photos does a person need of the Tetons? Just one more. Always.
The grand prize in my wildlife quest is always a grizzly bear, but we came up empty this year. We did see several black bears with cubs, but you’re mostly going to have to take my word for it. One bear was sleeping way at the top of a pine tree; another was eating berries with her cub in the thick undergrowth along the road. Trust me, there are bears in the photos below! 🙂
It’s mating season, known as the “rut,” for elk. The bulls bugle to attract a mate, and their piercing whistles echo across the meadow. It’s an otherworldly sound that never fails to give me goosebumps. What a thrill to witness!
We love taking side roads off the beaten path. On one of those detours, we watched this hungry coyote stalk his dinner for about 15 minutes before he leapt high in the air, dove into the ground, and came up with this unfortunate rodent. Ah, that circle of life thing…
We just missed moose several times in all our wanderings, but finally, we spotted a young bull and cow munching their lunch without a care in the world. I have a soft spot for moose. Isn’t this fella just the cutest?
Yellowstone National Park
We continued our wildlife quest in Yellowstone, hitting the back roads instead of the geyser basin. We had Rawley with us, and dogs are basically restricted to the parking lots in the park, so that added to the appeal of the back roads. Dense morning fog finally lifted on a perfect day.
Trumpeter swans migrate from Canada to winter in the warm Yellowstone rivers. The Madison and Firehole Rivers never freeze, no matter how cold it gets in Yellowstone, because they are fed by hot water from the geothermal features. We watched this beauty preen for several minutes, then spread her wings in a graceful bow, only to resume preening!
What we lacked in wildlife variety, the bison tried to make up in volume. The fluffy cows were everywhere! Such massive animals….still amazes me how many people get hurt every year because they get too close. Wild animals are, you know, wild!
We’ve found autumn to be the best time to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. No crowds, stunning scenery, and much better odds of seeing wildlife. Nothing nourishes our souls like time in God’s wild country. The local color from this trip will stay with us for a long time.