Saturday, August 26, 2023

Hyperphagia, It's bear watching time

The bears are now in hyperphagia. That’s the time when they eat constantly preparing for hibernation, (as much as 22 hours a day). So, it’s easy to find bears, just look for trees with berries. Knowing such a place Becky and Fred joined us as we headed to the Grand Teton National Park. Arriving we saw quite a few people taking pictures at our favorite pond. They were all taking pictures of moose. In the pond below a cow and a new calf were feeding. The cow was grazing while the calf was waiting patiently for it’s nursing. After taking quite a few pictures we headed down our favorite trail. After a short hike we came upon a lady who said there were two bears below us. She said they were in the thick berry laden bushes.
Stopping for a bit and we could see a bush shaking but we continued on. The brush this year is the highest we have ever seen and so the bears could easily hide in the shoulder high vegetation. Besides the berry laden hack thorn bushes white snow berries were also along the trail in shorter bushes. Snow berries are another bear favorite but are poisonous if people eat them. Unlike last year we did not see any Oregon grapes, service berries, (also called June berries in other places), or choke cherries all three are good bear food. We walked further and encountered two other people who also said they had seen black bears. Waiting, we didn’t see any ourselves, so we returned to where the first lady still waited patiently. We could see brush moving and Renita said she could hear brush breaking. The bears have to be close to hear them especially with my bad ears. Finally, I heard an especially loud crack, and we spotted the black bear at the bottom of the hill.
As we watched, for nearly two hours, the bear fed nonstop.
We couldn’t get any good pictures as it was in such thick brush, but every so often we did catch a quick glimpse of black and the unmistakable black bear ears, The bear finally moved out from the trees and crossed thorough high grass. It never did look directly at us as it was completely consumed with hyperphagia.
It finally disappeared into the pine forest, and we headed back to our cars. Just before we reached the parking lot we saw another moose, this time a cow leading its smaller calf to the pond. As we watched a red squirrel ran up to Renita hoping for a handout, but we never give people food to wild animals!
Before we reached the parking lot, we spotted a thirteen lined chipmunk sunning itself in a bush.
It must have thought we wouldn’t se it and it remained on the branch it had selected for a siesta. A little further and a raven fed on a dead merganser.
Renita and I decided to drive to the LSR Preserve. There is a hike we love there but the parking lot was filled with cars. We decided to instead return to where Fred and Becky were waiting. We never did see any other animals, but it had been a great day with fou moose and a bear. Even if we don’t see any wild animals, it’s always a joy to see the beauty of Grand Teton National Park. Today we had seen four moose and a large black bear! Clear skies

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Kayaking the Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

I once canoed the Oxbow in Grand Teton National Park. Then, I was a chaperone with Paul Lussow’s High School class. It was at least forty-five years ago, and I ever since then I wished to paddle the myriad channels and Oxbows backwaters again… Finally, we got our chance, and we loaded our kayaks, bought the necessary permits from the state of Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park, (thirty dollars total) and unloaded the kayaks at Cattleman’s Bridge. As we got ready to launch, an immature bald eagle hit the water and rose with a large fish in it’s talons. It carried it across to an island near us and proceeded to feast on the fresh and flapping fish.
We could see it ripping strips of meat. Tossing them up, and then catching them in its mouth. As it fed a mature bald eagle flew overhead and called to the immature, as if to say, well done. We got into the kayaks and pushed off. As we floated in a gentle current the eagle flew over Renita’s head and she could hear its wing beating in the air. It landed in a large pine tree carrying the skin and head for a latter snack.
Passing under the bird we took the first channel to the left, it narrowed and wound past an island before opening into a larger channel. Ahead of us we spotted American White Pelicans looking for their own meal, but we did not see them dipping their large sagging bills into the water.
A family was also exploring the Oxbows Bend, but they were on paddleboards and in an inflatable raft. Continuing we next headed to three small islands which then opened into the main bend. From there we could see the highway and even some people at the overlook. Paddling into another channel Renita spotted a bear track in the mud that made up shallow botto
m. We decided to stay in the kayaks as we did not relish encountering a bear, wolf, elk or moose, (if you ever get the chance to watch a grizzly bear swim, well I doubt we could out paddle one).
Spotting the takeout point we decided to paddle the long section boarded by the highway, and then paddling upstream in the main channel of the Snake River. The river’s current is controlled by the amount of water being discharged from the Jackson Lake dam and we knew that the released water was lower and slower than it had been. Paddling around the point of the largest island we encountered the river’s current, but it was doable, even with our limited ability. Val has a much better kayak, with a rudder and so she scoots along in a straight path while our yaks tend to crab. She paddled across the river and back in the time it took us to cross along the river’s edge. It was a very deep hole, and I did spot a large snake river cutthroat! It was much bigger than any I had ever caught!
Renita and I were tired and so we all paddled up current to our takeout point. As we approached our takeout point a friendly lady from Australia, Marissa, helped us out of the boats. We talked a bit, and she told us she was house sitting and asked us how difficult the Oxbow was. We told her that if she had ever kayaked, she wouldn’t have any problem and that the float was a beautiful time in a beautiful place.
It was a great day on the water with Renita and Val. Just after we loaded the boats the wind came up and whitecaps formed. Perfect timing, and a perfect ending to a great day on the water. Clear skies

Friday, August 11, 2023

Friends: A day In Grand Teton National Park with Joe, Peggy, Kim, and Tom

We love having visitors and we were blessed to have Kim, Tom, Joe, and Peggy meet with us for a day in Grand Teton National Park. The original plan was to meet for lunch and then hike an easy trail. Plans changed, however, when the forecast was for rain. They had just arrived from Montana and a strenuous hike with their son Kyle and his fiancĂ© Rose. Leading the hike was our son-in-law Eric and our daughter Jen who played the part of trail boss in keeping the group intact. They all did have bear spray as the berries were ripe and the bears were in hyperphagia, (it’s when they feed for twenty hours a day fattening up for hibernation). Arriving a little early we put our name on the reservation list at Noras Fish Creek Inn, if you go there have the breakfast menu, it’s the best! Not long after, they arrived and during breakfast, we discussed the weather forecast. Our plan for a hike went south with the rain so we changed the itinerary into a guided tour of some of our favorite places. Kim and Tom have been to the park quite a few times and so it was more of a, “Let’s look for bear 399 and cub”, at some of 399’s favorite areas.
Our first stop was at the Jackson Lake Dam, and we took the short hike down to the water. As we looked at the dam and Jackson Lake, an immature bald eagle wheeled overhead.Tom and Joe closely watched the mergansers as the birds’ chased minnows in the roaring water.
All four of them gathered for a group photo. The women also smiled for their photo, in order from the left are Peggy, Kim, and Renita.
Having separated into two cars Renita and I discussed the Potholes, Willow Flats, the Grand View Trail and Pilgrim Creek. Later we met a bear watcher who said 399 and her cub had been at Pilgrim Creek that morning, but we never saw her, (there’s definitely an element of luck when bear searching). Driving to our last stop, at the Sawmill Pond, we pointed out the huge rockfall which had changed the Tetons Skyline.
Just to the south of the Grand Teton you can see what is left of the mountain top. It looks like a hand with the middle finger extended to greet any visitors from outer space.
Driving past the Chapel of the Scared Heart,
a bull elk in velvet tried to take a nap as people got way to close!
Arriving at the pond, the cow moose and her calf, that had been there the day before, were gone. Everything is so green, unusual for August. The berries are almost ready for the bears to start gorging on them, so it won’t be long till its bear time. Some of the trees are turning yellow and there is talk of an early winter. Not spotting any bears, the day ended at the Sawmill Pond. We separated there with the usual hugs and farewells and our favorite traveler’s goodbye by saying, “We will see you down the Road”. It had been a great day and so much fun to be with them. Clear skies and safe travels

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Tough Fishing

We told Jen we would take her to three of our favorite rivers, hoping to have her catch three of the four species of cutthroat trout required for the Wyoming Cut Slam award. The streams had finally receded and cleared up so we hoped the fish would still be there. The first day we went to a stream that holds Bonnieville cuts. It’s a stream that can be great if no one else has fished it, (that day). Reaching the stream, we saw fresh tracks along the stretch we had planned to fish.
Little fish after little fish tried to take our flies. They were too small to hook. Working upstream we had a few rises of catchable fish but they shied away from actually taking our offering. We drove upstream to a stretch we had never fished. Jen did a good job of roll casting in the dense willows and had several larger fish hit her fly. We could not understand how she could have missed the fish until she checked her hook, it was bent almost straight back. Lesson number one, check your hook often!
The next day we headed to the stream where Renita had caught her first fish on a fly. Walking along with Jen she tried hole after hole. Finally, she had several rises and at the last hole she caught and released a Fine spotted Snake River Cut. Unfortunately, her picture did not show the details that would allow it to be used when she applied for the Wyoming Award! We then tried fishing the Greys River, but the construction crews blocked many of our favorite spots. Renita did have a large fish on, but it pulled free as she fought it back upstream. Still, it had been a good day and we discussed the fishing, and the beauty of the Greys Valley. Jen, Val, and Renita had all caught and released fish. It’s not the first time I have gone fishless, and I am used to be out fished by Renita, Jen, and Val.
Resting for a day we next went to the spot where Renita and I had caught out Colorado Cutthroat .To get there we had to cross McDougal Gap. It’s a fun drive that is on a fairly good road, one that did not require a four-wheel drive vehicle. Arriving, the stream looked good but to our dismay, the fish were rising but not taking. I changed my fly often and in frustration even put on a nymph, all to no avail.
A game and fish biologist stopped to survey our fishing and we all had missed risers but no takers. She said Game and Fish had electroshocked the stream and the fish numbers were down. She suggested another creek, but the road was a four wheel drive road and we were driving Renitas car. We did drive up it but decided discretion was the better part of valor, so we turned around. After lunch we had a strange encounter as two identical camouflaged jeeps/hummers with trailers drove by. At least we showed Jenny three of our favorite streams. We showed her many new places, many wild places. We did see wildlife and at one spot a cow moose walked out from a copse of trees. Jen also spotted a fawn black tailed mule deer. Jen is laying out line, which means she now has the skill she needs to casy a during flyfishing. She has already shared pics of the trout she has caught in Montana. Additionaly she understands how to fish small creeks, which are some of our favorite places as they are often passed by, because of their size. It’s always a special day when we are with Jen, and we have shared three days of fishing. wildlife, and the beauty of Wyoming Mountains. Clear skies