I finally arrived at Dan and Barbara’s quite excited and related my experience with the moose. We drank some wine while munching on cheese and crackers while exchanging the best of this summer’s critter stories. In the evening we took a walk through the fields over to a rather nice meadow surrounded by woods and loaded with elk. We watched as the bull protected his herd from three rogues trying to woo his ladies. Eventually he gave chase to the most persistent nuisance and off through the trees he ran. Immediately one of the remaining bulls rushed in and mounted the matriarch female. Upon completing his task he flung his head toward the sky while standing straight up on his hind legs and letting out a shriek of defiance. Immediately the other bull came crashing through the trees to reassert his position. But the damage was done. What an event this was. I have chased down elk during the rut nearly every year for two decades and this demonstration certainly made my persistence worthwhile.
The following day I visited my favorite places to photograph the color while the leaves were still near their peak. A great day of shooting was capped with another hunting trip for wildlife in the late afternoon. As I drove down the Wilson Highway I caught a glimpse of a couple of moose through the willows. I pulled over, made my way through some of the willows and watched as they were doing an intimate waltz, nuzzling and circling around one another. As this bull mounted his mate I almost felt as if I was intruding as I snapped a couple of quick images. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. I had witnessed both elk and moose mating on the same trip. As the crowd began to gather the female hung out while the male went into hiding. It couldn’t get any better so I headed back to see what the evening light might bring. It was getting cold and clouds were rolling in from the west. After another dramatic dusk, I was finished here and by all rights should be heading for home. Instead, I headed north, bound again for Yellowstone. As I looked through my wildlife photos at Madison, I was stunned by the mere volume of the fine images I collected. The rather cold night was somewhat warmed with satisfaction from this year’s collection.
The next day I left the campground at Madison and drove the park roads looking for additional wildlife. It was drizzly with snow flurries and cold. These are the yucky conditions that usually drive me away from the northern parks, but this year it felt much different to me. Yellowstone had been good to me, my best visit ever and I didn’t want to leave. There was still much to see, more otters, another swan, a couple eagles and a plethora of elk and bison. But it was time to go, so I wandered the park saying my good-byes for the year. I finally headed back to the Tetons in heavy rains, occasional snow flurries and the dark of night.
The storms had ravaged the color and the moderate temperatures were gone, probably for the season. Most everything was closed and the Tetons were wearing the gray cloak of the impending winter gloom. I truly love this place and just like Yellowstone, spent a couple of very thankful days exploring the park roads and bidding my farewells. My last night in the Tetons was very cold, but moreover it was sad as I went through my maps and pondered tomorrow’s journey.