Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Hiking the Taggart Lake Trail 2023

Each year we must hike the Tagaert Lake Trail. Its trail head is easy to find, just drive the Teton Park Road and look for the traffic jam. It’s one of the spots that’s so loved that the parking lot is full before nine am and this day was no exception. Our friends Becky and Fred got the last spot, and we ended up parking alongside the road. Grabbing our bear spray and day pack, we met them at the trail head and up the trail we went. While we hike a lot, Fred and Becky are in better shape and so we were in our usual position at the tail end. Becky patiently stopped Fred until we caught up and they only had to stop for us four or five times until we reached the top of the terminal moraine, (that’s the pile of rocks that marks the lowest elevation the glacier reached and forms the dam for the lake.
The lake was perfectly calm, and they shared the above picture of the reflection of the Tetons in the still waters, (Fred posted it on his photo sharing site and at last count he had over five thousand likes, one of his highest totals). There were quite a few other people, and we took turns taking pictures of each other. Crossing the foot bridge, we parted ways as our friends were on a time constraint, (their dog was at home alone and sometimes has an accident). We loved having our dogs but decided that we will not get another as dogs are not allowed on the trails as they attract bears. Our friends returned down the trail, and we continued up and over the high point. Renita posed at the high point for a picture.
The leaves had not turned yet and so the image was not as colorful as last year. Suddenly we heard an elk bugle, and it was close! Stopping, we scanned the forest but did not see it. Another elk bugled in answer to the first and we hoped to see them fight but we never did. The elk are in rut right now and its one of the reasons we hike the trail, so we can hear them challenging each other. We passed the spot where in the past, we had encountered a bear. The bear was so close that it almost ran over Fred and he was staking its picture! As usually happens the bear fled when he stood up, he is over six feet tall. If you encounter a bear, get big, always carry bear spray and do not run! We have only been charged once and that bear stopped before we had to use it but still….
Look for the two sets of ears As we walked along the trail section, we noticed moose tracks. Another hiker told us there was a cow and calf moose very near the trail and sure enough there was a moose jam as other hikers stopped to take their picture. They were too close to the trail for comfort, and so we continued past them before taking pictures. Both were watching us and at one point I thought the cow was going to stand up, a scary thing as moose kill/trample more people than bears. We finished the hike and Renita saw that Becky had texted us.
She wrote that a large bull moose was at our favorite pond and so we drove there to join the crowd. It was where we had seen a bear before but no bears just a bull who was pestering a cow and calf moose.
From there we drove to other bear spots, but we didn’t see any, (our friend Vicky was also looking for bears and ended up taking pictures of three black bears and one grizzly bear! Talk about a lucky day)! It was time to head home, we could now check the Taggert Lake hike off this year’s list of hikes, to do in Grand Teton National Park. Clear skies

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Hiking to the Periodic Spring. on Swift Creek Trail

One of our favorite hikes is near Afton, Wyoming. Its name is the Periodic Springs Trail, which is along Swift Creek, (which happens to be the water supply for the town). On or about June 15th, a mud slide started slowly moving down a side canyon but then accelerated when heavy rains caused it to threaten Afton’s water supply, (source Jackson Hole News and Guide). The mudslide also endangered small two hydroelectric plants and the trail. The town of Afton provided heavy equipment and quickly repaired the damage. While an alternate trail was available, we waited until the usual route was reopened and the repairs completed.
Fred and Becky and their dog joined us for the easy hike, and in several places we could see the remnants of the mudslide. It had poured down a steep and narrow canyon and it had taken quite a bit of work to reroute the stream. The road to the trailhead is filled with large potholes but by carefully picking a line, our Subaru did not bottom out, (our friends were driving their four-wheel drive truck).
There were quite a few vehicles at the trailhead, and I armed myself with bear spray, (the chances of encountering a bear were remote but grizzly bears have been photographed in the area). There were also some unleashed large dog’s, and one of which was a pit bull. Heading up the trail, it’s only three quarters of a mile, we reached the slide and shortly the bridge which spans Swift Creek. I was the only one who wanted to climb up the trail to the springs outlet as the others had already been there and did not want to traverse the slippery rocks and sandy mud, (we are all over seventy years young).
At first the trail was easy but in places it was gradient increased and so I was forced to fourth class several spots, (fourth class means you use your hands to provide balance and security. As I neared the springs the flow in the creek dramatically lessened and so I hurried up the final bit as the flow almost completely disappeared.
I took a couple of images of the change in volume, as did Renita who was taking pics from below.
One of the changes I noted was that the board, which prevented people from entering the spring, had been replaced by brass plates, (during a normal water year the spring completely stops for about fifteen minutes, this is not a normal year).
Heading back down the trail was more challenging than the hike up and in one place my foot slipped but I had firm handholds and safely passed the troublesome stretch. The trail was also more challenging as it was wet and I don’t have the balance I used to have. I finally reached our group who were taking pictures of the temporally dry stream bed. From there we watched as a group climbed the trail. They did not seem to have any problems although at one point the mother grabbed her two-year-old toddler, (oh to be young again and ignorant of the dangers involved). In a side canyon two others were climbing the cliff face without ropes and at one point dislodged a rock, unaware of an older person sitting below. No one yelled rock as a climber would do to warn any person at the bottom, and I realized these were either not climbers or people that spent most of their time on manmade climbing walls. We decided to head back down and passed many people starting the hike. It had been a great day, but I decided I would not hike the wet and slippery trail again. That night I discovered that I had pulled a muscle and could not go down any stairs without pain. (luckily I recovered and four days later was able to hike the four mile Taggart Lake Trail in Grand Teton National Park. That’s the next Blog…… Clear skies

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Another day of sharing our love of Grand Teton National Park with Friends

It’s been ten days since I last wrote a blog entry. My excuse is that it has been a busy time with bear watching with friends, selling at a new show, and looking to purchase a park model, and hiking to the Periodic Springs. One of our dear friends Betty, who lives in Iowa, has been wintering at our rv park in Texas. There we have met her family including two of her daughters, Melanie and Alana. This spring Melanie mentioned to us that she was planning on taking a trip to Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks. Renita and I love to have visitors and told her to call us and set up a time to meet at the park headquarters in Moose Wyoming.
They told us that they had seen elk, antelope, deer, and a mountain goat but had not seen any bears or moose. The pressure was on! Renita and I talked it over and decided to take them to Sawmill Pond. The men rode in one vehicle and the women in another so Renita and I could regale them with our stories, mostly true. One of our favorite places,it was was not very far away, and as we neared the spot we saw cars, pickups, a large crowd of people and the parks wildlife management group. A bear jam in progress! Finding a place to park we joined the throng and had several people point out the black bear. It was under a tree, behind bushes, and difficult to see.
As usual I had the camera on autofocus. The bear was basically a black smudge in the dense brush. IT started to move, and I got one shot as it walked across an opening. Of course, the autofocus took a great picture of a branch and a blurry picture of the bear. Before I could change to manual focus the bear was gone from sight. Our favorite trail was still closed and so we continued along the road looking for more bears. While we didn’t see any bears, we did spot a cow moose feeding in a small pond.
In the first picture taken with a 75-600 mm lens you can see the bugs, (little specks), that are bothering her.
The second picture was taken by Melanie with her cell phone and the third by Renita with her 75-300 mm lens.
From there we drove the Teton Park Road without any success. Still we pointed out the places we had seen grizzly and black bears, and the rockslide on the mountain. Other points of interest were the Potholes where ice was buried during the last glaciation. It had melted during the last five hundred years, and settled forming depressions, which filled with trees, (not the same as sinkholes which form above cave systems) These depressions are places where the elk calve and are frequented by grizzly bears in search of an easy meal. From there we headed to Coulter Bay for lunch before driving past the dump road, Pilgrim Creek and one of our favorite trailheads, No bears, moose. elk were posing for pictures and so we next stopped at the location of Cattlemen’s Bridge, (long since gone).
Looking down the Snake River we could see American white pelicans, double crested cormorants, and common mergansers. All the birds were resting after feasting on fish. They must have a fishy breath as they tend to hang together!
A mature bald eagle perched on a tree but did not provide us with a clear shot! From there we drove to the Oxbow and then returned to where we had started. No bears were visible, and we took a last ride down the narrow road. The men’s car took the lead and soon after we had passed a spot the women had to stop to let a bear cross the road.
It ignored them and started to feed on the berry laden bushes. It was so close they had to keep their windows up! The bear was so close that the best picture was taken by Melanie with her cell phone. Driving further they spotted a moose, and a bull elk. We never got a good pic of the elk and when we turned around to see the bear, we only saw moving bushes. A Bear management person told me to roll up my window. The bear must have been in the ditch but none of us could see it. Our last meeting was at the Sawmill Pond, where a moose had appeared for more pictures. Our last wildlife enbcounter was of a herd of cow elk on the ridgeline and ended our great day in the park!
Everyone had seen black bears, and moose so now our friends had checked most of their animal boxes. They had not seen any grizzly bears, but we later learned there were two feeding alongside the Towgotee Pass Highway. Perhaps next time! Thanks for the visit, we love sharing our knowledge of Grand Teton National Park! Clear skies

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Trail closures and new restrictions due to the concentration of bears

We always look forward to the fall. That’s the time the bears are in hyperphagia and are relatively easy to photograph. Last year they fed on hawthorn and choke cherries and as the berry trees and bushes are along the Moose-Wilson road the road and associated trials, are alive with bears. (mostly black).
This year major changes have taken place. The road was repaved and the spots where you could pull over are closed, (most of them). No standing or stopping is allowed, and you are not allowed to walk along the road, (although biking is still permitted, (and we see pedal and electric bikers), there is no way we are stupid enough to ride our bikes along the road). In addition, our favorite hiking trail is closed.
Some of our other trails have seen idiots carrying in coolers and packs which they have left untended. and the bears have gotten food rewards. A fed bear is a dead bear! With warning signs on many of the trails reminding people to carry bear spray, we often see families hiking without it, (most of the people we meet do not have bear spray).
The final problem is that the heavy rains have resulted in the heaviest berry crop we have ever seen. It has also resulted in the tallest grasses, flowers and plants and in many places their height can completely hide a walking bear. Taking a good picture of a bear un the heavy brush is nearly impossible. Since our last post we have spent three days in the park. The first of the three resulted in us not seeing any bears, (but lots of other wildlife), in the second we did spot a large black bear but it ran across the road so fast that we could not stop the car in time before it disappeared into the forest. The third trip was the most successful but that’s going to be the next post. We did take a short hike on atrailwe have never trod. No bears but Renita, (who I refer to as our pioneer woman), did spot one probable partial bear track).
We understand Grand Teton Natonal Parks new rules and closures. Unlike my other posts I am not posting the pictures in sequential order. Finally, always carry bear spray and keep your food with you. Clear skies