Monday, July 21, 2014

Grand Teton National Park--Gros Ventre

On Friday, July 11, we moved from Colter Bay to Gros Ventre Campground in Grand Teton Nat. Park.  It's the campground in the park that's closest to Jackson, and we really like the location.  It's a huge campground and rarely fills up.  Last year when we stayed at this campground, we saw a mama moose and her little calf, and, of course lots of bison.  This year we only saw one bull moose, but he was a good ways away from the road and was in pretty high grasses, so we didn't get a real good look at his antlers.  But there were still lots of bison; at one point the traffic along the main road was completely stopped as lots of the buffalo were crossing the road--at a rather leisurely pace!  At one point in history the bison were on the verge of extinction--down from estimated 60,000,000 in prehistoric times to just a little over 1000 in the US by the late 1800's--as a result of a number of factors.  Buffalo hides were found to be extremely tough, and thus in high demand for industrial machinery belts, so there was a big demand for them; post-Civil War expansion brought the army and railroads, leading to increased hunting to feed troops and to keep bison off railroad tracks; farmers and ranchers hunted them to keep them away from cattle and crops.  But this over-hunting also had profound effects on the Plains Indian population and culture.  Buffalo were integral to the culture of these native people, providing food, materials for clothing, tools, etc., and were also sacred symbols in their belief systems.  Too often hunters would kill buffalo, take the hides and just leave the carcasses to rot in the open, a very wasteful thing.  Unfortunately, the devastating effect on the economy and culture of the native people by this development was used by some politicians as a way to literally starve the natives and force them onto reservations, ending their nomadic way of life.  Not a very pretty chapter in our nation's history.  After Yellowstone was established as a national park in the 1870's, efforts were begun to preserve the bison and the herd in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, including Grand Teton National Park, has increased the population to about 3,000 today, allowing all of us who visit here the opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.  They are magnificent creatures, males typically weighing around 1800 lbs. and females around 1000 lbs.  In the winter months, they use their huge heads as snow plows to clear away the snow to get to the grasses to eat.  Saw several calves, which are a much lighter shade of brown than the adults.  Despite their size, they can be quite fast, if the adults feel their young are threatened, especially by people--hence the numerous signs throughout the park warning against approaching them or other wildlife.  You'd think this would go without saying when you see just how big these animals are, but I suppose some people don't think.

We also visited the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which is quite near Gros Ventre Campground.  We had passed it on our visit last year, but didn't go to the museum, and, boy, are we ever glad we did on this trip!  This is the largest collection of wildlife art in the world, and there are some spectacular exhibits, including paintings and sculpture of many varied media.  It was quite fascinating to see all of this, and to learn something about the history of wildlife art in general, and the work of some individual artists, particularly that of Robert Bateman.  Bateman, now 84, has long been one of the most celebrated wildlife artists, as well as a conservationist and naturalist.  Perhaps the centerpiece of his work is the huge painting of a bison coming out of the dust and mist--entitled "Chief," it was finished in 1997 and occupies a central place in the museum.  There is a wonderful video of him working on the piece, along with an interview that is quite interesting.  This museum is well worth the time for a visit.  And at the end of our visit we had a delightful vegan lunch on the outside patio, overlooking the National Elk Refuge--just a wonderful day!!

On Saturday we took a 30 mile ride along the wonderful bikeway that winds its way from Jackson into the park and to Jenny Lake.  We started at the entrance sign and rode to Jenny Lake and back.  We had initially planned to go out Friday afternoon, but as we were leaving the campground, the clouds started getting more ominous and when the lightning started, we turned around and drove back to the RV--good decision, as "there come a rain" as Lewis Grizzard used to say--I mean lots of cats and dogs!  Wouldn't have wanted to be out on the bike trail when this hit.  But Saturday it was beautiful--just a gorgeous ride, lots of wildflowers to see, unending views of these spectacular mountains, just super!  We were so excited to be back out on our bikes, too, as it had been way too long since we've been able to ride.  We rode a lot while we were in Sarasota during the winter, but virtually none at all since returning home in March.  So it was great to be back out and pumping.  I had ridden some when I was in Alabama at the RV driving school in May, but Trisha had not ridden at all since Sarasota.  So I was so proud of her for doing so well on this distance--one good heart pumping hill coming out of Moose Junction toward Jenny Lake--and she did great, having at least two more low gears to spare when she crested the highest point!

Bison grazing along the road to Gros Ventre Campground.

Views as we drove from Colter Bay to Gros Ventre

Sculpture on the grounds of the National Museum of Wildlife Art
They did a marvelous job with the design of the building for the Museum--made it look like ruins of old structures!
Thought these cloud patterns were just stunning!

Don't worry--this moose is made out of bronze--no way she'd be this close to a real one!! Though if she were, I can totally understand his obvious attraction!

Flowers outside the entrance

Woodcarver giving a demonstration outside the entrance

They had a very interesting installation throughout of wildlife depicted in papier mache--very unique and beautiful

"Legends," by Donna Howell-Sickles, representing a woman striding into the future with confidence
Sculpture of mother otter with her cub--reminded us of so many Madonna and Child sculptures
Georgia O'Keefe painting

Three barreled shotgun--never had seen one like this before

Looking out over the National Elk Refuge
Lunch at outdoor cafe at museum

Views from the cafe, across the Elk Refuge
Meandering creek in the Elk Refuge

Very pleasantly surprising and unique vegan choices for lunch--warm kale/quinoa and veggie wrap; Asian kale salad--never would have expected this at a musem cafe, but quite delicious!
Raven out on the rocks near our table, hoping for some scraps to snatch up--but I whispered to it "Nevermore!"
Some beautiful flowers on the way from the museum back to our car

Bugling elk statue alongside the bike path

Entrance sign where we started our bike ride the next day
How could anyone ever grow tired of these views??!!
Bison grazing in the late afternoon
Our site at Gros Ventre
the Gros Ventre River
Mr. Moose down in the high grass

Sunset from Gros Ventre

Saturday morning as we set out on our bike ride
A little out of practice taking selfies while riding, so the focus is not too great

 I've always loved these views of airplanes landing at Jackson Hole Airport, against the background of the Tetons!
 Aspen along the way
 Is this a cool trail or what??!!

 Lovely pink wildflowers along the bike path

 Chillin' back at the campsite--which of these two do you think is the more content??

 Looking out toward the mountains from our campsite

 Still some snow up there!


  1. What a fantastic time you guys are having in one of my all-time favorite places! I need to go back soon as I completely overlooked visiting the museum and the Elk Refuge-- thanks for sharing these! Sophie looks like she's becoming quite the happy little camping dog. Your new home on wheels sure did find a great new backyard to enjoy this week!

    1. Lynne, isn't Grand Teton Park just spectacular?? Definitely go to the museum when you're there next, well worth the visit. Sophie is indeed getting used to the new carhouse--even back into the habit of ringing the bells when she needs to go outside! We have had to board her a few times due to restrictions of where we are, so she's always happy when she gets back into the RV--more her routine. And since this one has the little "doggie window" at floor level in front of the passenger seat, she spends a lot of time there, watching the action outside!

  2. I can see you are having a great time! Thanks for sharing.

    1. A great time for sure! Are you guys back on the road? Where are you if so? Hope to cross paths some day!