“There is a subtle magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” – Henry David Thoreau
While there’s nothing wrong with being that person on the side of the highway, blocking traffic while you snap a grainy photo of a moose two hundred yards away — why not get the real Jackson wildlife experience up close and personal?
After asking myself this same question, I booked myself a spot in a converted van with Ecotour Adventures for a half-day winter tour around Grand Teton National Park (they offer tours in Yellowstone as well). I chose to go at sunset, but if you’re a morning person you can opt for the sunrise tour. Both are equally as wonderful for wildlife viewing, and both are the most gorgeous times of day to get out for some sights.
Result: I’ll be treating myself to at least one of these a year, but more likely one a season.
They’ve ripped out the seats in the vans and put in captain’s chairs which, not only is this way better for viewing (everyone gets a window seat and a roof hatch to pop out of), but the comfort meter goes straight to a 10. Before my stomach could even start to rumble, our amazing guide, Shaun, was handing me locally-made jerky and a cup of tea. Fully content, I settled back into a glorious, post-work relaxation coma for the rest of the commute.
When we got to the park, there was no shortage of our guide’s expert knowledge about where to find wildlife. We found plenty of moose, including mother cow moose and their calves nibbling on branches close by. Who’s to say they don’t know how to love up the camera? A little further along, we watched herds of elk moving across the massive landscape, bald eagles close enough to see the detail of their tail feathers, trumpeter swans, and mule deer. When we came upon dozens of sage grouse (I learned Jackson’s population is a genetically isolated species), I was floored at how camouflaged and unique a species we have right here at home.
Did I mention the van had roof hatches for us to poke up out of so I never even had to leave the warmth of the interior? I think I did, but I want it to sink in. And I doubt I’m the only person who didn’t realize high quality binoculars make a serious difference; I spent the whole tour glued to the world-class specs they gave us from Wyoming-based company Maven Optics.
Riding back near dusk, we heard owls hooting back and forth across some distance to each other (and Shaun extended the tour for us to search them out). I closed my eyes and let that comfy captain’s chair engulf me, drifting off for a quick cat nap filled with sage grouse and porcupines, and some elk jerky on the side.
Photos by Lindley Rust