Friday, July 12, 2013

YNP Day Seven - Grizzled

Mom and cubs departing
I am eager to experience more of the Old Faithful Inn and Geyser Basin before we leave, so I sneak out of the room at 5:00am for a two mile stroll around the basin. I can see maybe half a dozen other walkers in the area. It is so peaceful and I enjoy taking in the springs and geysers in solitude.

Heading back toward the Inn I (barely) , it is a little after 6:00am and I am thinking about a warm coffee. I notice another walker stopped on the left side of the path. He is looking across the path. I look to the right and about 20 yards away is a mother grizzly and her two cubs. I freeze. I recall you are not supposed to retreat hastily if you encounter a grizzly. She knows I am here and doesn’t seem threatened, so I stand my ground. She is rotting under trees for food. She is no lumbering giant. She appears to be a very agile and quick giant. Occasionally she turns and stares at me directly, then returns to her business.

The other walker steps behind me while laughing nervously. I figure I can out run him so I pull out my camera and start shooting. We stay and watch for about ten minutes. I start wondering how I will ever get back to the Inn – it is 300 yards straight ahead but she has sealed off that route, I will have to back track about a mile to get to the Inn and my coffee. Eventually she heads off across the geyser field, moving quickly with her two cubs tagging along behind. The other walker and I lock eyes - we are both a little rattled and frankly there are no words to capture what we just witnessed – so we smile and part ways.

It’s about 6:30 and now I am pretty jacked up. I return to the Inn to see bleary eyed people shuffling to the dining room, sipping coffee, looking at smartphones. They seem (are) oblivious to what is happening outside. I want to yell at them. I want to grab them by the lapels and shout to them “WAKE UP! It is happening RIGHT OUT THERE RIGHT NOW!”

At Isa lake which drains into BOTH
sides of the continental divide.
I see a family gathered in the corner, preparing for a hike. The two little girls are sitting there, looking sleepy and a little bored. I stride over and start showing the girls the video. They are mesmerized. The parents are alarmed (who is this man and why is he talking to my daughters?) but as soon as they see the video, they are thrilled and so thankful.  Back to the room and I wake the girls and take them through the whole story. We bring the camera with the precious video to breakfast. I show it to our waiter. I show it to the father and son at the table next to us, and to the family by the door. They are all captivated and very thankful. As I am leaving the dining room I am chased down by a small group following me out of the dining room including the restaurant manager, some waitresses, and customers. “Sir! Sir! Are you the one with the grizzly pictures?”  I show the pictures as a small group forms around me.

Later I am stopped outside the Inn, a fellow gives me his email address (“would you mind emailing me some of those pictures”). Checking out, the gal at the front deck pulls her fellow employees over to see the pictures I am sharing with her. Bottom line is I was incredibly lucky to have that encounter and take those pictures (and by some accounts lucky to have made it back to the Inn).
Tangent: On reflection this is also a real tribute to the job done by the National Park Service. The fact that these three bears were digging for berries under a log just a few hundred yards from a large hotel and restaurant is amazing. They weren’t sniffing around dumpsters. They were still wild. That is the magic of this park. We saw evidence of this many times during our trip.
Jackson Lake
We leave for our cabin at Colter Bay and dinner at the exclusive Jackson Lake Lodge Mural Room. But before dinner we slip into our bathing suits and head to Jackson Lake for a swim. The weather had been sunny, dry, mid 80s for days now. The water was refreshing but remarkably warm (my opinion, not the girls) given we were in the shadows of the snow capped Grant Tetons.

Dinner was outstanding. The girls donned dresses. I put on long pants (first time in eight days). The Southwest Molasses Spiced Elk Loin with Poblano cheddar grits, braised red cabbage, juniper berry-gin sauce and huckleberry gastrique washed down nicely with half a bottle of Clos Du Val Cabernet. The Huckleberry Crisp and espresso were the crowning touch to a fine day with two of my favorite people.


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