A grizzly bear encounter during ‘a perfect day’ at Grand Teton National Park
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This Living the Wild Life column was originally published on June 6, 2020.
“What a perfect day,” my daughter, Sunny said as we strolled along the shore of String Lake before loading up the vehicle to head for home. “We couldn’t have planned a better trip.”
The trip to Grand Teton National Park was planned for the first Friday after school was out and the park had opened. A truck wreck on Teton Pass slowed the activities, causing us to bypass Jackson, sending us through Moose instead.
As we drove out of the forest near Signal Mountain, the vista of the Teton mountain range was doubled as the mountains were reflected on the glassy surface of Jackson Lake. “Ohhs and Ahhs,” echoed through our car. The sight was short-lived as a breeze soon wiped off the reflective-canvas.
We had planned on hiking around Jenny Lake, but plans changed when someone suggested that we had done that before and they wanted to go “further north in the park” where they had never been before.
Elk (singles, small groups and even a large herd), a couple of deer and even a prong-horn antelope added to the beautiful mountain scenery as we headed to Colter Bay Picnic area. As we neared Colter Bay, signs and cones warned of bear activity. At one place, numerous cameras with professional photographers sitting in lawn chairs indicated they were waiting for some bear activity.
At Colter Bay, small family groups were fishing, wading in the water, sunbathing and having picnics at the numerous tables placed strategically around the shoreline. Signs of antelope encouraged social distancing and plenty of porta-potties provided “restful” activities after treating them with disinfectant spray and wipes.
I was searching for birds to photograph. While visiting with several unsuccessful fishermen, I saw juncos, Yellow warblers, Yellow-rumped warblers and a Gray jay. I finally stopped long enough to eat my lunch while the family picked up so we could “go after bears.”
The grizzly with four cubs had reportedly moved on due to too much pressure from photographers, but a Black bear with three cubs had been seen that morning at Colter Bay. We wanted a “Grizz.”
As we approached the Pilgrim’s Creek area, the camp of cameras was active with two rangers trying to keep the photographers in check. Four or five hundred yards away was a light-colored grizzly against the mountain with a single cub. Blondie was her name and most of the photographers knew her intimately.
“She is the daughter of No. 399, the one with four cubs this year.”
“Blondie had two cubs two years ago and they can still be seen playing around nearby this year.”
“She has an ear tag in her left ear and is No. 793.”
“As her cub gets older, she will bring it closer to the road.”
“She likes Pilgrim’s Creek.”
Blondie would eat for a while, then would sit on her haunches, letting the cub eat, then disappear into the brush before coming to check on all the photographers again. Then she would lay down, letting the cub climb over her before heading into the brush.
We finished the “perfect day” with a stroll along String Lake as people played in the frigid water with eight Canadian honkers (geese) and a pair of loons nearby. I took a picture of my traveling companions ankle-deep in the liquid ice before heading home.
Other trips are planned on the upcoming Fridays and we will continue to be aware as we move through this uncharted territory of COVID-19. I hope each of you can find areas that you can feel safe and comfortable to visit during these trying times.