It finally happened. I “slept in” until 7. Yes, ladies and gents, this is pretty crazy for me. And it was awesome. The trusty Hampton Inn delivered a so-so breakfast, but it was free, so I’ll take it.
We headed back into the park to catch a couple of quick sights and go for a hike. Our first stop was Schwabacher’s Landing, where you can catch the reflection of the Cathedral Group in a couple of lakes. It was beautiful, but not quite as beautiful as Mirror Lakes in New Zealand’s Fjordland National Park or Moraine Lake in Banff, which have the same allure. (I know, I know—total travel snob.) It’s still worth a stop for sure.
We ran into a couple in the parking lot who had website magnets on their car. I asked them if they were travel bloggers and, as luck would have it, they were. They quit their day jobs to travel to all 59 national parks in the United States in one year and had been on the road since last August. They hadn’t been to Alaska yet and I’d commented that some of the parks there are incredibly remote, to which they brought up American Samoa. I hadn’t even thought of that one! Wow! Funny enough, they traveled to LA to be on “The Price Is Right” while traveling and won a trip to Patagonia. Anyhow, they gave me a business card with all their social links and, that evening, I made sure to connect. They have a pretty good story. Check them out—Switchback Kids.
Our next stop was Mormon Row, which was supposed to be a bunch of old timey Mormon barns. Sounded like a great photo opp to me. It was actually only, like, two barns and some houses that weren’t even that old, just rundown, but we got some good photos nonetheless. Caught another Mountain Bluebird. The place was also flooded with ground squirrels, my new favorite furry friends.
Saw some bison on the way out, to which I started singing “Home on the Range.” The only issue was that I hadn’t heard (or sung) that song in a really long time and Jeff called me out when I sang that “the deer and the antelope pray.” I promise I do know better. I just replied that animals that pray together stay together, right?
We stopped off at an information center to find a suitable day hike and then into a convenient store to grab water and snacks. The store cashier commented that people were saying they’d spotted an elk and her baby on their hikes in the area. Awesome, we thought. It was decided—we were doing the String Lake hike then. The trail connected a couple of lakes, but ran the distance of String Lake, following the water’s edge. It was actually fairly busy, but that seemed like a good thing to me with all the wildlife in the area. It was also pretty densely wooded. We noticed this older woman just ahead of us who kept stopping and talking to all the children on the trail. I’d think, as a parent, it wouldn’t be particularly strange for an adult to stop to talk to your kids about nature, but Jeff and I were behind her most of the way and she was basically stopping for all the kids, which seemed a little… “Hey, kids. Want some candy?” Apparently, her husband and another couple they were friends with were just ahead. We thought she was alone this whole time, so this made her behavior less weird. Little did we know she was about to become our best friend.
Picture this: dense woods to the left of us with very few, very random, small clearings; a lake immediately to the right of us. The six of us were wandering along, minding our own business, when an elk suddenly jumped out from one of the clearings into the trail itself. Twenty feet in front of us. We had zero warning; there was no visibility. The elk sort of paced back and forth on the trail when we realized (a) she had a calf with her, and (b) there were two hikers on the other side of her on the walkway. I think I almost had a heart attack. Jeff and I started backing away slowly because she would certainly be very aggressive. Meanwhile, one of the guys with us was actually moving closer to take photos, which just made me move even further away. You’re supposed to stick together and create a big group, folks, but I’m not gonna be near this guy when Mama Elk goes ballistic. That’s on him.
Anyhow, most of us were backing away slowly and the elk paced around for at least a few minutes. We had no idea where to go or what to do or how to get around the animal or what it was going to do. It seemed like the longest time before she just jumped into the lake with baby following. The problem with this is that the lake’s edge was actually much closer to the trail than we already were to the animal in the first place. One of the guys asked who wanted to pass first and Jeff told him he could go ahead and take the lead. Ha. We all slowly passed, one by one, with about ten feet between us and her. I tried to snap a photo as I went by, but it was out of focus. Jeff’s is better. I’m sorry—I had some other things on my mind at that very moment.
Passed a couple of young girls with a dog very soon after we escaped certain death and advised they not continue with the dog. They completely ignored us all and moved along. Dumb. We later learned that the trail had been closed half the day because an elk with a calf charged someone that very morning, probably the same one, all amped up. Thanks, convenient store cashier. Where were you on that one? I feel you left some pretty pertinent details out. For that, we will never be friends in real life.
After that, I was done for the day. Took me a little while to get my heart rate back to a normal pace. Drove back to Jackson Hole for a late lunch—huckleberry pork chops! Huckleberry is a “thing” in this area. Did some light shopping downtown after. We were in Eddie Bauer when a man behind Jeff farted. Loud enough that we both heard it. Jeff turned around and asked me if I just farted. He was completely serious. “Um, no, but that guy did.” We moved away, but the offender followed us into the shoe section and we had to run away again. So random. What is wrong with people? And stay away from us!
Tomorrow, we’ll be heading back up through Grand Teton and Yellowstone to pick off another part of the Grand Loop. Until then, friends…
Today’s featured photo: String Lake in Grand Teton National Park, about an hour before I saw my life flash before my eyes!
© 2016 Jordan Campbell. All rights reserved.