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Grand Teton Park Grand Teton Park

15th June 2010

A Grisly Bear, a Wolf, Signal Mountain and Taggart and Bradley Lakes

    A breakfast of porridge and coffee, followed by a hot shower, and I was all set for the day. It was a gorgeous morning, a tee-shirt and shorts day; to think 10 days ago I was walking up to my thighs in snow above Lake Louise. I went into the campsite grocery store to get some lithium ion batteries; they only sold alkaline. "Where can I buy some?", I asked. "Jackson", was the reply. I'd be passing through Jackson tomorrow on my way south.
Grisly Bear at a Safe Distance
    I had only traveled a short distance south of the campsite when I came across a traffic jam. As I crept forward I realised folk had pulled onto the side of the road for photo opportunities. When I got level with the mini-crowd, I could see they were all gawping at a grisly bear about 100m from the road. A sensible distance between crowd and bear, and within sprinting distance of cars if the bear should turn nasty.
    With Crosby, Stills and Nash blasting out of the CD player, I blissfully headed up to Signal Mountain 800' above the valley floor to get a good panoramic view of the valley and Tetons. The Jackson Hole plain below was covered with rock debris left by the retreating glaciers. Rain and snow percolated rapidly and water was unavailable to the overlying soil. Gray-green sagebrush identified this outwash plain.
Jackson Hole
    The constant supply of water supported a variety of vegetation along the Snake River's edge and its tributaries. Cottonwoods, spruces, and willows thrived along the banks.
    Where glacial moraines were deposited, the cobbly silts and loams held the moisture, making it available to the overlying soil. Dark green lodgepole pine forests identified these moraines.
    Turning away from the plain and looking across towards the Tetons, I was seeing the same view that pioneer photographer, William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) would have seen when he accompanied the 1871 US Territorial Survey Expedition led by Dr. F. V. Hayden. Jackson's remarkable photographs made the tales of the American West a visual reality. The Hayden Survey Report, together with Jackson's photographs and Moran's painting, convinced Congress to make Yellowstone Park the first National Park in 1872.
    At the summit of Signal Mountain I met an English fellow snapping away. He asked me if I had seen the grisly just off the road on the way up Signal Mountain. I hadn't but was interested to know there were quite a few grisly bears in the area. He seemed to have visited the whole of America, and knew all the places on my agenda. He fed me with extras about, "You must visit this or that", some of which was useful, some not. One useful tip he gave me about Arizona, they are hot on speeding offences. The man had had many trips across to the States, usually for 2-3 weeks at a time, and he would cover about 2,000 miles per each trip. On this trip he had started off in Denver, and worked his way across to Yellowstone via the Badlands and Cody. We wished each other luck with our journeys and parted.
Wolf at a Safe Distance
    I made my way down to Taggart Lake Trailhead to do some hiking. On the way, I came across another group of vehicles pulled over onto the side of the road. I stopped and went to investigate. There about 80m away was a wolf that had obviously caught something and was eating his lunch. As with bears, it was wise to keep a safe distance from wolves.
Approaching Storm
    I reached Taggart Lake Trailhead but the sky was rather grim. There had been forecasts for thunderstorms today, and I could see lightening flashes on the far Gros Ventre Mountains. I waited for a short while until the storm passed overhead, and soon it was brilliant sunshine again. I tackled the steady climb up to Taggart Lake and then struck off in the direction of Bradley Lake. It was a cracking hike, and I went through patches where hundreds of small, blue butterflies were fluttering about my feet. There were lots of birds, squirrels and a marmot. People were making their way along the trail on horseback, and those I met on foot were happy to reciprocate greetings.
Cowboy and Cowgirl
    I reached my first objective, the top end of Bradley Lake, where I stopped to have some water and eat Trail-Mix, known in the UK as energy bars. There I met a fisherman who was fly-fishing and his wife, who was more interested in burying her head into a book. I discussed with the man the type of fish found in these lakes. The main varieties were Snake River Cutthroats and Brown Trout. At one time the lakes were stocked, but the Park Rangers had long since ceased this activity, and now natural reproduction has taken over. The water was still too cold for the fish to approach the shallows. The chap had thought the current hot spell would have tempted them, but not so.
Taggart Lake
    We talked about hiking up into the Teton valleys, and I commented that most, if not all, are out of bounds because of the snows. He informed me that after the normal winter snows, there had been fierce storms in May that had deposited as much snow again as had fallen all winter. The man asked me where I came from in England, which led on to me discovering that he had studied architecture, and had spent 6 months in Britain, mainly looking at buildings in cities, but he did get a chance to explore the country. I wished him well with his fishing, and he wished me good hiking, and I left him to his fruitless hobby.
Fisherman on Bradley Lake
    I took a different route back to the trailhead, and added another loop on for good measure. The rain returned in the form of a light shower. Even though I had water proofs in my backpack, I was content to just walk in the rain. The combined smell of rain falling on parched ground and the scent of pine was intoxicating. The extra loop I did was obviously off the beaten track for most people, I had it all to myself. As I walked I could hear distant thunder from across the valley, and I also heard a deep roar as an avalanche slid down one of the peaks above me; I was too low down amongst the trees to see what was happening, but I was well out of harm's way. This was another delightful walk in the Tetons. I would have loved to tackle many more walks, but I knew I could only spend part of the next day there before moving south.
    I returned to the campsite through a fresh set of thunderstorms in order to get a meal at the site restaurant, I hadn't eaten since breakfast, apart from an energy bar. There had been a mechanical failure in the kitchen and the restaurant was closed. So I had another energy bar and retired for the evening, listening to the pouring rain.
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Uploaded from Jackson Lake Lodge, Grand Tetons, WY on 16/06/10 at 09:30

Last updated 16.6.2010