Sunday, June 17, 2007

Spalding Bay, Grand Teton NP

You really have to be looking to find Spalding Bay. The gravel road in is not signed, and it is pretty obscure on the park map. I had a ranger visit while here, and he acknowledged this, indicating that sometimes it's better that way. I agree. The bulk of those that visit are locals, and I guess they appreciate the seclusion.

I made this basecamp for 3 nights, paddling Jackson lake a number of times from here. I found a very nice little inlet while paddling, and on this inlet I saw the bulk of wildlife that I did view. While I was floating and watching some waterfowl, an immature (molted) bald eagle roosted in a nearby tree to watch me with curiosity. An elk wandered the nearby hilltop, he too, stopping for a gander. As I paddled out, an adult Bald Eagle lit in a tree to survey the open lake.

There was a family of river otter who would come out late in the evening just offshore from the launch. I watched one as it played and cruised a kayaker who fishing just off-shore. While it must of have been entertaining to watch, sure didn't do anything for the fishing...I had a new deer who would come around the cmap. This was a teenage buck with velvety stubs for antlers.

I did find Boulder City on a driver over to Jenny Lake. I parked at the Cathedral View pullout and took the first trail into the woods. I had finally purchased bear spray before in Jackson and this provides a little peace of mind as I go deeper in and off the beaten path. As the trail went through the first tree line, I noticed the ground had been "tilled" just beyond. This caught my eye, as I had observed the Grizzly family at Oxbow Bend rooting the ground and leaving it looking this way. As I approached the morraine, I saw another tilled area, this being fresher and larger. I decided to backtrack out to the parking lot. As I was approaching a second trail that led a ways west before entering the forest, a tourist who had watched me come out approached and informed me that a man was attacked by a grizzly nearby the day before. As he hgave me details, it become obvious that this was the one and same grizzly family! Come to find out later, the victim was out jogging on a trail at 6 am, stumbled right on top of the bears, and there was a fresh elk kill in the area. Pretty much everything you do not want when being in Grizzly country, especially the time of morning and jogging... The man suffered only minor injuries. Anyways, this gave me more to think about as I made my in through the new trail, and final discovery of boulder city. And they are not kidding in the name. On the north side of the morraine, boulders stretch forever! Everytime I would find a patch to scramble and get a higher viewpoint, I would discover more through nearby trees. I ventured a mile or so out on this trail, and have no idea how large an area the boulders are concentrated in. Definitely had a fun afternoon in here :)

I took the long route, from Lupine Meadows, out to Bradley lake, the next day. I definitely had my wildlife radar turned off today! This is a nice hike, starting along the meadows, and then cutting its way through a lodgepine forest, before starting quite a climb up. I had initially giving thought to taking this trail up to Surprise Lake, but a 3,000' climb just was not in the cards today. As it was, I probably climbed close to 1,000' over the 6 mile hike. So, as I crossed a cascading creek, I stopped on the footbridge to get a picture. I heard footsteps on the other end of the bridge, and as I looked up to acknowledge the hiker, I was surprised to see that it was a deer! It was coming at me at a pretty good pace, and the fact it would do so was a bit unsettling. The bridge was less than 3 feet wide, and I was 10 feet or so out from the end, and I did not want to have this deer pass me in such close quarters. I called out to it in a harsh voice, and it stopped momentarily, but then reproceeded to come at me. I repeated this a couple of times, as I backed off of the bridge and stepped far enough off trail to allow it some room. It then trotted by and down the trail. Sheesh! I've heard of "sharing the trail" and all...

Bradley is another nice lake in the park. There appears to be two backpacking camps here. I have yet to commit to a night on the trail, as it still is a bit uncomfortable, lone camper in the sticks in high bear areas. We shall see. On the way back, I nearly stepped on a grouse that blended in with trail! It was nice enough to not stray too far away, allowing me to get a couple of good pics of it. Later on, I spooked a marmot that was on the trail, and it returned the favor as it high tailed it down the hill :).

On my way out of spalding bay, I saw my my first marten. It did not stay out long enough to get a picture though. It made me realize that there is still a lot of wildlife here that I have not seen. I'd love to come across a minx... On the way out of the park, I saw my first "Bullwinkle" Moose. Big guy, with velveted antlers coming back in. Saw him just across the bridge from the "MOOSE" visitor center. He had attracted quite a crowd, and I wonder whther the visitor center did not entice him to pick this spot to lounge out :)

Anyways, back to Jackson, and a waste of the better part of the day with Dell, over problems related with my Axim. If someone out there has actually experienced satisfactory technical service from them, I'd love to hear from you as to how you accomplished it. It scares me that they are rated as the best in their industry...

Up to Curtis Canyon for the night, and another awesome Teton sunset.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Misc. Jackson Hole

This post starts out in Grant Teton again, as I just cannot stay away :) Coulter Bay could be referred to as the resort area of Jackson Lake. It has a marina wit docking, cabins and the largest camping grounds in the area. It also has some great hiking and scenery. I spent the better part of a day out here, taking the heron pond/swan lake trail south, and some lesser trails around the marina. A quick grille set-up and late lunch, just before a nastly little storm blew through.

I got a primitive camp site at Spalding bay on the lake. I intended to launch and kayak from here, but had one of those "lazy day" episodes, and did very little outside of camp. Early in the day, a group driving through told me of a bear sighting a half mile back. They were exilerated with describing the encounter, and from the details and location, I had to assume that this was the trouble-maker from Leigh Lake that the rangers had gone on about. The visitors told me to be wary of a visit, as it had crossed the road down towards the lake. Within an hour, I had zoned out form the outside world and become consumed woth catching up on crosswords. Sitting in the drivers seat, hard at thought, Something finally alerted me to movement on the road in front of camp. Just taking a quick glance up, thinking it would be a car, I was surprised to see "the bear" meandering in front of me! Funny thing, I don't think he noticed me either :) He just mosied by and made mischief at the garbage can posted at the roadside. Finally having my camera at the ready, he crossed the road and headed over towards the latrine (?). Now, FULLY in the moment, I got out of the van and wandered out onto the road to try to catch sight of him. He heard me and sprinted up the hillside to the west, away from camp. That was the last I saw of him. Funny that he did not even come into my camp, hearing what a trouble maker he is. (today, 6/13, I just reserved the site for a 3 night stay, so maybe I will see him again...). That afternoon, I had a deer visit camp, hanging around for a numbe rof minutes. In the evening, I built a roaring campfire, and it reappeared, and seemed to get comfortable with my presense, hanging out in or near camp til well after dark. I would talk to it in a calming manner, and i think it found security from predators with me and the campfire there. It was a bit uncomfortable at times, because it would go to the bushes directly behind me, and no matter how friendly it acted, it is still a wild animal, and I did not want to lose track of it.

I made my way back to Jackson by taking the sw road out of the park, Teton-Wilson rd. Very nice drive with some great side trips available. I had hoped to take a hike out to Phelps lake and into death canyon, but a nasty thunderstorm passing overhead made me think better of it.

I celelbrated my birthday by going over to Tteon Village at the Jackson Hole ski resort. The Mangy Moose Sallon :). They had a local band on saturday night, Boondocks, which seemed appropiate. They jammed and the "moose" really rocked!

  • To finish, I will identify the location of the other misc pics on this posting: Frosted Hills are at Cliff creek, Bridger-Teton NF south of Jackson. Had had a pretty good late evening storm.

  • Sunrise and sunset on the Tetons. This is fom my camp up in the NF, Curtis Canyon area. Has proven to be one of my favorite camp areas, due to its roximty to Jackson and, oh yeah, the views! It does take a 1200' climb off of the valley floor above the elk refuge to get here though. The squirrels that keep showing up in my pics are Unita Ground Squirrels, although I have heard them refered to as "grinders". They definitely are social, and reminiscent of prairie dogs...

  • A car show in Jackson. Busy w/e here. Also had a film festival, run and other activities going.

  • Elk had just crossed the road and jumped the fence into a pasture. The male was prodding a youngster, and had just finished chasing it around in circles. Spring Gulch rd.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Grand Teton

Can't get enough of this park. I took the historical loop through the community of Moose, where a lot of the early settling of Jackson Hole took place. The park has recreated Menor's Ferry, which was the only way across the snake at the time. Maude Noble took over the ferry, and it was at her cabin that the push for GT as a NP took place. Some interesting photos and memorabilia in the cabin.

Next, a hike around Taggart Lake, which was formed by the Morraines of the teton glaciers. Beautiful country up here and a great place for a picnic. On the way back, I got read the riot act from a woodpecker in a tree, trailside. Closer inspection explained why. A beakful of morsel for it's young, which was safely inside a knothole on the other side of the tree. Sorry mama.
Springtime in the moutains, and nature is running its course with all of the wildlife offspring. Later in the trip, I would come across a moose with a new (colt?). The youngun was so shy, I could not get a clear picture. It was funny to watch, as mama was feasting on the willow shoots, and youngun just wanted to feast on mom :).
I planned a day of kayaking String Lake and a portage to Leigh Lake. On the way there from camp, I ran into some old friends, the grizzlies... They were rooting in a meadow just to the side of the road, and really tilling the soil! A much more comfortable up-close view than the first encounter. I really give the rangers a lot of credit for balancing the protection of the wildlife with allowing visitors a chance to experience it. The ranger on scene here was really cool in his multi tasking of monitoring the bears and crowd control. Everyone followed his requests, and it was kind of fun to watch him move the throng of people and cars, first a hundred yards that way, and no, back over to this side, as the bears mosied through the meadow. All the time, he was approachable and chatty. Hats off to him. After the bears moved deeper into the brush, I headed out for the lakes. Just around the corner from the bears (same spot as my first sighting), I caught sight of movement through a meadow. I knew it wasn't the bears, so I slowed up to get a better look. Out of the meadow trots the mangiest looking wolf you could imagine! It was so brown in color, I was not believing that was what it was. It came out to the roadside behind me, and I just threw the van into park and got out to see it as it mosied across the road. Did not grab the camera, and by the time I retrieved it, the wolf was well out into the next meadow. The picture I posted was just to confirm the sighting. Funny thing was that there was an elk in this meadow. I expected it to flee, or maybe see some type of interaction, but other than a wary look, it never fled and the wolf was indifferent to it! Hmmm.
So, I finally made it to the lakes, way later in the morning than I had hoped. Still, great day so far...String lake is very shallow, and most of the kayakers and canoes just use it as a passage to the portage to Leigh lake. I, on the other hand, chose to explore the farther shore. Very pristine, with log strewn bottom, aquatic plants, exposed logs with soil and flowering plants. Glad that I did that loop. The portage is a real hoot. A few hundred feet up and over a morraine. The trailhead is posted as being a high traffic bear area. Wonderful. Just what I would want, toting the kayak through the woods and having to deal with a bear encounter :'). They have bear lockers at either end of the portage, so that you can stow your food during portage. Whew!, that was a long tote!
Immediately onto Leigh lake is Boulder Island. Very impressive 60' or higher boulder as its landmark, I was surprised not to see any climbers out there. Perhaps bears swim to it? This area is experiencing high bear activity, with the eastern side of the lake being closed to camping due to an overly aggressive, camp raiding black bear. The rangers chuckle about it when queried, and I guess that a lot of campers have had high adventure with it, returning minus many goods or with tents and gear in disrepair. I would later have a mild encounter with this guy, to note in another posting... Leigh lake is a couple of miles end to end, a mile and more across with arm that goes back another mile and a half. I went up to and out that arm, which has most of the creels that supply the lake entering here. I could hear the water from a mile away and was sure there had to be waterfalls up here. On the way in, I saw a moose wigging out on the shoreline. It was a good half mile away so I could not figure out exactly what it was doing, but it was splashing and romping up a storm! A very nice setting up in here, with a number of paddle in camps. I did find a waterfall, but it was barely visible, several hundred yards into the brush, and I could not find a devloped path to it. It did not seem wise to try bushwhacking in through bear country, so I had to pass on it. Some rangers later told me that, even with bear spray, that would not have been a good idea to do...

So, about 8 miles of paddling and over a quarter mile of portages, and I was pretty much done for the day...