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Audio adaptation of Wildlife of the Tetons travel story for print

By JoAnne C. Broadwater

It was dusk in the Grand Teton National Park.  Everything was still.

Suddenly, a newborn moose calf and its mother dashed from the thick brush and into the open field.  The calf stared at us in wonder.  My husband and I stood motionless, just 25 feet away.   The mother could have been dangerously protective.  Instead, she munched quietly on a leafy willow bush.

It was a moment of pure magic, but then it was over. The pair abruptly moved back into hiding.  They too had seen the grizzly bear and her three hefty cubs prowling the area in search of easy prey.

Such are the spoils of wildlife viewing in this northwest Wyoming park, especially in early June.  The lingering chill of winter, the occasional snowfall, the interaction of hunter and hunted.  All these things keep the animals on the move.

Spring is also calving season and park visitors like us and our son, 22-year-old Adam Broadwater, of White Hall, Maryland are treated to frequent sightings of moose, elk, grizzlies and black bears—and their young.

“There’s so much wildlife in the park.  During our two-week vacation, we lost count of how many grizzlies, black bears and moose we saw.  They were everywhere.  Every day there was a new thrill.”

Close encounters can occur almost anywhere.  Along the roadways, in the campgrounds, in hotel parking lots and along hiking trails.  Getting up close and personal with wildlife does carry its risks.  During our stay, there were reports of a mauling and a few other scary encounters with bears.

Such happenings were in our thoughts as we left the Lupine Meadows trailhead.  This is the only trail in the park that leads straight up the face of the mountain.  It’s an uphill climb all the way.  As we trudged higher and higher, we focused on the ground and forgot to keep our eyes on the trail ahead.

Suddenly, we looked up and gasped.  Our son was standing just ten feet from a black bear.

“It wasn’t afraid of us at all.  We backed away slowly but it just kept following us.”

He was clearly a bear with places to go and we weren’t about to stand in his way.  We headed back to the car.  He followed us for quite a distance, sometimes speeding up to a jog.  Later, we learned that he had gotten a “food reward” from hikers who left a backpack unattended.  Perhaps he was hoping for another.

Enthralled by our experience, we headed back to the comforts of the Jackson Lake Lodge.  The heart of the lodge is its upstairs lobby where massive picture windows frame  the peaks of the Tetons.  Guests settle into comfortable couches and enjoy piano music at night.  In the morning a coffee bar offers steamy espresso drinks.

Outside, a patio overlooks the vast willow flats and offers effortless wildlife viewing.  One night we saw a moose and her baby drinking from the pond.  Moments later, they were joined by another moose and baby.  They watched each other carefully and dipped their faces for another drink.

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