Moose Ponds Loop Trail

What a great day we had for our last day in the Grand Tetons!  We left around noon, thinking that would give us the best chance for the smoke to clear out.  As we were driving, we noticed one of the heavy-lift helicopters getting water from one of the ponds along the way and then dropping it in the fire area over the bluff from where we were.  We were driving along, and so I wasn't able to get any pictures of that, and we continued on into the park.

As we continued along the road to where we expected the trailhead to be, we noticed cars and people everywhere.  That can only mean one thing...an animal.  We looked off to the right and what did we see?  A moose!  It was so funny because I had just been telling you this morning how much we wanted to see a moose, and there he was!  Absolutely amazing!

Isn't he a handsome fellow?  Incredibly big, that is for sure.  So very exciting, and we are pretty sure that he's on the National Parks Service payroll because he was still sitting in the same place when we drove through hours later.  The same thing happened when we visited Yellowstone some years ago.  There were elk sitting by the side of the road, and every day when we drove by they were in the same place with hoards of people around them taking pictures.  So funny.  I wonder how long the moose will sit there before he gets a day off.

So that pretty much made the day.  Nothing else good needed to happen, and we would have been thrilled.  But then...we noticed this helicopter that seemed to be rescuing people from the mountainside.  As we watched, he picked up two people and set them down in a meadow.  Then, he went back and got two more.  We don't know if this was for practice, or a rescue effort, or what.  In any case, it was thrilling to watch.  (We're easily amused, you know.)

So with all of that excitement, how could the hike fail to please?  I mean, really!  So we were off to find the Moose Ponds Loop Trailhead, which was easier said than done.  We were pretty sure we were on the right path because the moose had clearly been there before us.

The trail started out as asphalt and then changed to dirt.  We walked along the south edge of Jenny Lake, taking in some spectacular views.

People were launching canoes from the spot directly above.  It was easy to get down to the lake's edge and we saw lots of rocks, logs, and more leaves changing color.  

Our hiking book told us we would find our trailhead half a mile in on the right.  It turned out to be nearly a mile and on the left.  When we approached the place where our loop branched off from the main trail, we were confronted with this sign.  

As I've said many times, it's always good to know how one is about to die.  Oh yes, and bear spray?  We had none.  Somehow I have the feeling that bear spray will do nothing more than piss off the bear.  We did take note of these helpful suggestions in case we did come upon a bear.  Stand your ground?  Really?  Now that would take nerves of steel.  I'd just as soon throw myself down on the ground and play dead right away.  I would, of course, pull my hands and arms under my body.  If I get attacked by a bear, I want to make sure I can still do needlework...if I survive, that is.

We didn't have to walk far before the moose ponds came into view.  We didn't see any more moose on the trail, but their paths between ponds are obvious in this image.  You can see a path snaking off toward the right pond, which is not visible in this image.

As we started walking along the trail, we noticed a shiny object off in the distance.  It appears to be a solar panel.  We couldn't tell if this was someone camping, or if it was some sort of motor, or some sort of experiment.  Inquiring minds want to know, but I don't suppose we ever will.  Look at this image below.  What do you think is going on here?

We have seen these large boulders all over the park with the green moss.  I took this opportunity to photograph it along with the red leaves.  

And what about these guys in the image below?  They sort of look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, don't they?

The image below shows the larger pond that was not visible in the image above.  This was the largest of the three ponds.

The hike took us through some open meadows and then we entered more dense forest.  Eventually, we came to this stream in the image below.  We sat down on the foot bridge there, drank some water, and ate our Clif bars.

Then we continued on to the third of the three ponds.  This was such an inviting place.  We ended up walking right down to the water's edge.

When we turned around from this spot, we looked back at what you see below.  The smoke never really cleared off today, and so the Tetons are fairly well shrouded.

When we stood at the water's edge, we could see all kinds of animals tracks.  The one below was the best defined of the ones we saw.  We believe this probably came from an elk.  I'm pretty sure there was a bear track too.  I tried to photograph it, but there wasn't enough contrast in the image for you to make it out.

The aspen were all golden in color, except for this one green one that we saw.  Weird, huh?  What is holding it back?

Then as we walked along, we came upon these three birds that looked for all the world like wild chickens.  I have  the feeling they might be juvenile pheasants.  We had seen a pheasant hen earlier along the trail.  They are a little difficult to see because they blend into their surroundings so well, but I think you'll be able to see them in the two images below.  They made the most delightful cooing sound.

If you know what they are, please speak up!  

Here's another view of the mountains behind us.  There was a waterfall you can see in the lower right quadrant of the image.  Look for the bright white line.

After that, we made our way back to the main part of the trail and took in some more views of Jenny Lake.

After finishing up the hike, we went on back to the trailer.

With the smoke and fires the way they are in Idaho, we're having second thoughts about going to Stanley Basin in Idaho.  We haven't made any final decision yet, and will continue to watch and wait.  For now, however, we've decided to go up to Thermopolis, Wyoming, where we'll be able to see the largest hot springs in the world.  There is also something about dinosaurs, but I haven't read all of the material I have about it yet.

I know I still owe you a quilt shop, and I'll be writing about it within the next couple of days.

20 comments from clever and witty friends:

Karin said...

DH says your mystery bird is not a pheasant. Perhaps a rough (sp?) grouse. Spruce grouse are more blue. Some sort of grouse. :) I am so enjoying my virtual trip with y'all! Thanks for letting me tag along!

evelyn said...

Is your camper a little heavy? That's just me on the roof, stowing away. Love your photos, and your writing. I feel like I really am there.

WoolenSails said...

What amazing views, this is my idea of a dream vacation, gorgeous areas and no crowds.


Rachel said...

I am SO happy Mike got to see his moose!! You too, LOL. Hubby might know about the bird, I will ask him tomorrow, he is at work. LOVED this hike, thanks!

quiltzyx said...

Well! I bet the moose was as happy to see you & you were to see the moose. :D

More great photos - you didn't forget the ibuprofen, right? Jenny Lake is beautiful. That blue/solarish panel - space junk maybe? Looks like it fell from somewhere.

I think the bird is a Dusky Grouse. Very neat looking anyway.

Thanks for taking us along again!

Lyndsey said...

Another great read and the views are beautiful. Oh to see a moose in its natural habitat rather than a zoo or safari park, you are both so lucky.

The bird definitely looks like a Grouse of some variety.

Thank you for sharing this hike.

Dana Gaffney said...

They probably have a few identical moose who work that area, I can just see them high fiving each other when they switch. These pictures are gorgeous.

Debbie said...

Yea, a moose! It's the bear sign that confuses me....surprise encounter, stalking or attack. I would be to scared to stop and figure out the difference, so I would know how to react....to me, it is all bear, get away asap!!! Lovely views once again.

greelyrita said...

That solar panel looks so jarringly out of place, doesn't it? It does look like it's fallen down.

I'd be concerned that moose was ill or hurt. Why would he be lying like that for hours no less. Perhaps the fire had something to do with it.

I too have been waiting to see a real moose. Apparently there are so many. Ok. I just want to see 1! All this reminds me of a story. We were on our way to a tournament (DD2 sports) 2 hours away and travelling as a group in a bunch of cars. During a stop we're talking about the "watch for moose" sign on the road a ways back and I say how I have been waiting to see a moose. One of the dads pipes up and says, "But didn't you see the moose standing right beside the sign?" I'm kicking myself for having missed the moose RIGHT beside the sign. Anyway, more than a year later, I'm thinking (and still annoyed at myself) about this incident when it suddenly pops into my head. There hadn't been a moose; he had been kidding. Boy, am I annoyed at myself now, and him too actually!!! That was almost mean to do.

greelyrita said...

Oh and that aspen: He was just young I imagine. Young trees don't turn colours until later, perhaps because "they want to stay out late". Stressed trees (like from a drought or disease or age) turn colours earlier.

Gorgeous stuff you guys are seeing. sigh

Elisabetta said...

could the birds be partridges?
I'd love to visit this place!

Nancy said...

The birds were definitely grouse; if they let you get that close to them, my guess is they are what we call 'fool hens'--actually, spruce grouse, I believe. (the tail is best indicator) They are so stupid that you can actually kill them with a thrown rock!

Nancy said...

The best way to tell if it will be clear in the Stanley area is via webcam. http://www.sawtoothcamera.com/ this one is looking toward the SW--away from the fire area. This next camera is located just south of Stanley and is aimed NW--towards Stanley and the fire: http://hb.511.idaho.gov/cameras/Smiley_Creek_Airport.html
Hope this helps with your decision; I live in Salmon, ID and the whole central part of the state is shrouded in smoke most of the time. Definitely not a good time to sightsee and it is actually in the hazardous range for breathing. They don't let our elementary kids go outside for recess, it is that bad. Praying for snow to put out the fires, but none in sight.

Denise :) said...

LOL! I'm *so* glad you got to see the moose! And so up close and personal, too! And I had to laugh when I saw the picture of your bird ... the first thing that popped in my mind was the line from the 3 Stooges ... "Look at the grouse, look at the grouse!" More fabulous scenery today. Y'all are just having a blast, aren't you?!? :)

legato1958 said...

Thank you so much for sharing your vacation with us, through your camera and artistic eyes!
My husband doesn't want to try a trip in an RV, so I can see our beautiful country and small towns and animals in the wild with your blog! Plus,we get to see your Grace and Smitty!!
Thanks so much!


Snoodles said...

Maybe the solar panel is to power a geological monitor of some kind? Great post!

Denise :) said...

Okay, I looked him up -- definitely a ruffed grouse. The black striping at the tip of his fanned tail feathers and the 'ruffled' collar are marked indicators! http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruffed_Grouse/id

Junebug613 said...

Very cool post (as usual). Love the moose and birds! My guess is that the solar panel gizmo is some kind of weather station - but don't quote me on that... LOL Apparently, you need to invest in some bear spray, but I'm with you in the playing dead scenario. I hope the fires don't keep you from Idaho. I am living vicariously through you and I don't want to miss anything!!

BillieBee (billiemick) said...

Wonderful pictures, but your Handsome Moose is my favorite...smile. You guys look like you are having a great time.

otterdaughter said...

Your bird is most definitely a Ruffed Grouse! Amazing that you could see it so clearly. Usually they freeze while hidden under a nearby bush and EXPLODE out of the bushes when you're the closest to them and scare you half to death.

Your solar panels are most likely a sensor station that uses the solar energy to power the transmitter. Whether it's recording climate or seismic data, who knows!

I'm envious of your trip--we haven't had a vacation since last fall and are dying to get away. :)