The Unbearably Fun Grand Teton Experience

The Unbearably Fun Grand Teton Experience

I really liked the birds in Grand Teton National Park, but I get the feeling that some of you are waiting for the mammals. Therefore I will acknowledge the moose in the room with this post (elephant didn’t seem quite right for a post involving moose, which are massive animals that almost felt like elephants) and talk about our large mammal tour of Grand Teton National Park. As usual, remember to respect the wildlife and bring bear spray. I am tired of saying this, but I need you to make sure that you don’t get murdered by a bear (I doubt that would be good for my reputation or your life). We used EcoTours again, and, just like last time, the guide (Ryan, this time) was excellent. We found some great wildlife, including moose, a mother bear with 3 cubs (I took photos from inside a car for this), pronghorn, bison, and elk.

Our guide, Ryan, was extremely knowledgeable about ethical wildlife photography, and was overall a great guy. He even gave me a helpful photography tip sheet after the tour! He also knew tons about the local wildlife, and where to find it. Almost everything we found was in the same general area he said it might be. The bears were near where we went looking, the pronghorn and bison were in the plains that he took us to, and a moose was down by the river, eating off the trees he told us to keep a lookout for (because moose like the leaves). Speak of the moose and the moose appears, I say.


Believe it or not, this actually happened. We were driving down the road (in the EcoTours special wildlife viewing vehicle, complete with a large sunroof that can be opened to photograph out the top of the car), on our way to search for animals, and we had started talking about how we could find a moose. Right after we finished planning, we saw a car pulled over on the side of the road. In Grand Teton, this is usually a sign that the owner of the car found something interesting. We climbed out of our car (which was more difficult due to the incline) and made our way to the riverbank. At first, I only saw bushes, but then I noticed a disturbance in some of the bushes in question. Slowly, a moose emerged, first the nose, then the antlers, and then the rest. It was enormous, with huge, pan-shaped antlers and a beautiful coat. This was the first time that I realized how chocolate mousse got its name (mousse is the same color as a moose). This massive, beautiful moose munched on some nearby leaves, then loped over to the water (moose are surprisingly graceful for a large mammal) and took a drink. It was not a very effective drinking method, though, and water kept dripping out of its mouth back into the stream. The moose then did the weirdest yoga pose I have ever seen in order to itch its leg using one of its antlers. Satisfied, the moose disappeared into the bushes, and we got on our way, leaving this beautiful moose to do whatever it needed to do.

After the moose, we checked the plains in search of bison. We were expecting to see a few, but as the car rolled in, a massive herd came into view. There were wall-to-wall bison, so many it looked like a herd of oversized sheep instead of 2000-pound behemoth, black and brown bison. There were some in the field, and the rest were behind a fence. I assumed they were stuck, but watched in amazement as one bison after another leaped the fence like they weighed 50 pounds, not close to 2000. These things were crazy, jumping a fence that was their height. It was absurd (bison are the last animals I would expect to jump a fence, and they did it without a running start, too!) After these acrobison, we saw an animal that would be much more likely to partake in fence jumping, the pronghorn. These things are built for speed, and don’t even become that much slower when pregnant. This is due to a strange factor, always having twins. This may seem more difficult, but I believe it makes them more aerodynamic while pregnant, so that they can continue avoiding predators. How do they do this, you may be asking? The pronghorn’s stomach does not sag when pregnant, and instead the young grow on the sides, helping them maintain their impressive speed and agility. A pronghorn is a sheep (although they look more like an antelope to me) with white and tan coloration and a black nose. The males also sport impressive black, forked horns.

Now, for the main event! The one you’ve all been waiting for! After a small detour near the river, we came upon a car parked on the shoulder of the road. We pulled over next to them, and scanned the area. At first, I assumed I had found another moose, but I didn’t see any antlers sticking out. Then, the bushes rustled, and a beautiful bear slowly emerged. At this point, I was wrestling with my camera bag trying to get my camera out, so I almost didn’t notice the 3 cubs trailing behind her. The cubs were incredibly cute, and some even had dandelion fluff stuck to their fur from walking through a bush in the rain. The little bears were amazing, romping around and occasionally standing up straight with their front paws in. It truly was a precious experience.

Grizzly 610

These bears were amazing, and you would need to see what I saw to understand how amazing it was. The mother bear was named Grizzly 610, and is one of the one of the the most famous (and aggressive) female bears in the park. While the mother bear was enormous and impressive, the cubs, on the other hand were just pure bundles of cuteness condensed into small bears. They were just so playful, and their faces were so expressive! Of course, there always seems to be an idiotic tourist who thinks he or she can get away with getting out of the car near the bear with no bear spray. Please, don’t die on me (or even get injured) the way these tourists risk, it is kind of a problem for all parties involved. I really doubt you want to see how much a bear could cost you in medical bills. Not speaking from experience, but a bear that size can move boulders and 610 has been known to charge a car to defend her young. This can also become hazardous for the bear, as a bear that is deemed “too aggressive” is often killed to minimize risk.

Again, Grand Teton is truly an incredible place, with beautiful wildlife and amazing scenery combined. Ironically, despite this combination, Yellowstone is much busier. If you want more amazing wildlife with fewer less-than-amazing parking lot traffic jams, Grand Teton is the place for you! In addition to this, the food is actually quite good, a major step-up from Yellowstone’s school hot lunch food. A few food recommendations are The Bird (a burger place with incredible food and hilarious shirts, one of which I got for myself, they were that good) and Persephone Bakery, one of the best bakeries I have ever been to, with exceptional almond croissants (and I am practically an almond croissant critic myself) and a delicious hot chocolate with a homemade vanilla marshmallow. Another incredible place to eat is Cafe Genevieve, which had an incredible combination of delectable green chili fries and an exceptional bison patty melt. I’m talking really exceptional here, probably the best sandwich I have ever had!

Other fun pastimes in Grand Teton involve a raft trip down the river (an excellent way to see wildlife) or unguided wildlife searches, there is a lot to do outside of the tours. There is also the incredible scenery, but our vacationing often doesn’t leave a lot of time for staring at rocks, even ones as large as the Tetons. Our favorite unguided nature walk was Moose Pond (which had no moose whatsoever). The fox we saw there was awesome, and we also saw some marmots, who had very different opinions about the fox than we did. They were quite vocal about their opinions too, screeching and chirping to all who could hear them. We may have actually saved their lives, too! We started hearing this chirpy chaos as we walked down the path at Moose Pond, and eventually found the source, 2 marmots chirping from the top of a rock. At first, I didn’t understand what the ruckus was about, but then the fox from earlier made an appearance. It was creeping over a fallen log, and the marmots were chirping to warn the others. I actually thought the fox was going to go for the ones we found, but we must have been too close to them, likely saving their lives. Overall, Grand Teton is an incredible place, with wonderful wildlife that never seems to disappoint (at least to me, but I saw bear cubs, so I can’t be talking) and beautiful scenery (at least nobody can tell me otherwise here) and wonderful food (especially after the horrific food options in Yellowstone). Grand Teton is a wonderful place, if you ask me!