To moose or not to moose?

Now that really was the question. In Canada we had only seen one young animal on the side of the road, which really isn’t the same as spotting a big female moose, let alone a giant moose bull. Our chances to spot one of those were getting slim, because we were starting to head south. So we crossed our fingers and hoped we would get lucky in the USA.

We crossed the border in North Dakota. Seemed that all the stress of having severe interrogations and car searching had been redundant. The officer asked some basic questions about us and our trip and made sure we didn’t have any fresh vegetables or fruit with us. We got our passports stamped and payed six dollars each to get in the country.

The first few hours we drove through country land that was very similar to Manitoba, so we could get used to the new road signs, using miles instead of kilometers.

Our first stop was in Grand Forks to do some groceries and get gas. Now getting gas for the first time in a new country always causes a little stress, because of different habits and paying possibilities. Seems that sometimes you can even pay with the European Maestro, and other times you have to get inside the shop to pay with your foreign Visa or Master card, because you have to enter a ZIP code at the pump.

Our first impression of an American town, wasn’t the best and we were happy to drive on towards Yellowstone, a National Park.

We drove to a camp spot near a lake, Jan had booked the night before. As we arrived we saw we had the place to ourselves. We cooked a quick meal and watched a movie as we snuggled into our sleeping bags, because autumn was really setting in.

The next morning the never ending vast fields kept going on for quite a while, as suddenly the landscape changed drastically. We pulled over and found out that we had arrived in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It promised some interesting landscapes, prairie dogs, wild horses and buffalo. We decided to go and take a look, so sooner then planned we bought our Annual Pass, providing access to most of the parks in the USA, which we got from our friends of the photography class at home. Guys, thank you so much again!

Now we really did get what we had came for. We drove the scenic loop road and enjoyed the wildlife. When we were almost back, we saw a traffic jam in the opposite direction, which we found pretty odd on such a small road. Seemed that a herd of buffalo was blocking the road, deciding which meadow to go to for the afternoon.

Being very pleased with this unexpected park, we drove on to a free parking spot Jan had found. He uses the website to do so. Handy if you want to limit your expenses while traveling. We were not the only ones using this site and shared the hidden parking with a man from Texas and a woman from Utah. The moon was full, which would have been great for some bear spotting, alas, none showed up.

Driving over the Beartooth Pass to get to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone, was a good idea. We passed some exciting views and Jan enjoyed driving up the hairpin bends to a height of 3337 meters, the most elevated place we would get to in the States. There were strong wind gusts and some fresh snow covered the highest meadows already. (Today, October 8th, the pass is already closed for public).

When we drove down Beartooth highway we entered Yellowstone. It welcomed us with wide yellow meadows where buffalo herds grazed in the soft morning light and a coyote was trying to catch his breakfast.

Yellowstone is pretty easy to visit. There are some hot spots which you should certainly go to. We started with the Mammoth Hot Springs and visited the town afterwards where an elk family was entertaining the tourists.

Afterwards we drove to the big Yellowstone Canyon, where we understood where the Park’s name originated from. On the way we spotted a black bear with her two cubs!

On our way to our campsite, we passed Yellowstone Lake which is a part of the huge crater of the Caldera Volcano.

On our second day in Yellowstone we visited the big geothermal areas with among other things the Old Faithful Geyser.

The weather turned bad in the afternoon and Jan had to be resourceful to stay dry while cooking. He was very fortunate we were in bear country, so he could find shelter in the bear proof locker on our camp spot.

We continued to drive southbound, so we entered Grand Teton National Park the following morning. It was stunning. First we made some pictures from the side of the road, and early in the afternoon we decided to hike the Hermitage Point Trail, which would take us 5 hours to loop.

At sunset we drove to the National Forest nearby to camp at a lower rate than in the Park itself. It was beautiful and we decided to stay for two nights. So we bought some firewood and enjoyed the morning with some hot coco and coffee.

Our last day in the area and so our last chance on spotting a big moose had come. We decided to walk towards Phelps Lake. (The lake where the family lived that donated a big part of their land to the country, which became Grand Teton National Park. They even moved their house to another spot, so nature would stay intact around Phelps Lake.)

As we arrived at the trail start, we were immediately alert!

A huge and fresh grizzly poop obstructed the path. Some of the walks were closed due to bear activity. Notwithstanding, even I enjoyed the hike and was quite relaxed, ringing my bear bell just once in a while.

When we reached the lake, we crossed some people, telling us a woman was scared to death, because a grizzly crossed her path. I asked them where that happened, and of course it occurred on a path where we were heading. We both got really excited and rang our bear bell a little more often and started talking and singing like we had never done before. The bear must have heard, because we didn’t cross paths with him. Fiew!

We got back to our car, feeling a little relieved and drove to our forest, as suddenly…

A moose family turned up on the side of the road. And they were beautiful, huge, magnificent and everything we had hoped for!

Feeling awesome and gratified, we left Grand Teton the following morning. Since the campsite only provided a vault toilet and we didn’t have a shower in several days, we parked the car and climbed down a steep path to get to the shores of Snake River where we cleaned ourselves up and enjoyed lunch.

Afterwards we spend the day crossing the beautiful state of Utah towards the north rim of the Grand Canyon.