A Grand time

Moose Hunts,?Rafting and More in the?Rockies

MOOSE, Wyo. — It’s not surprising that the Grand Tetons are called grand.

The majestic mountains towering toward the heavens are only part of their allure. Wildlife including animals not seen in Ohio, flowers and varied scenery add to the beauty of the area, and opportunities are varied such as climbing to the top of a mountain, having “moose hunts” without guns, taking a raft ride on the Snake River and skiing.

Although the Tetons are the youngest range in the Rocky Mountains, they’ve been around for millions of years, according to geologists. Most of the range is in the Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.

Glaciers are near the tops of many peaks, including the Grand Teton, which measures 13,770 feet or about 4 miles. Nearby is the Teewinot Mountain, so named by the Shoshones and meaning “many pinnacles.”

Those mountains and Yellowstone National Park seemed ideal for a vacation by five area residents, including me.

I always thought it would be fun to climb a mountain. Struggling up rocky inclines or even walking up a mountain path to the summit wasn’t on my agenda, but I did walk to the top of Rendezvous Mountain whose peak reaches 10,449 feet. Truthfully, a great help was a tram which appeared at times as if it would crash into the stone precipices but lifted just in time to avoid contact. On the way, one could see the winding, narrow bike paths and areas where experienced skiers sped down the mountains.

At the top of the tram ride, a flight of wooden steps resembling railroad ties went to the top. I had help from a woven cable railing and the arm of one of our group. My fellow travelers made the whole trip much easier, and it can be said I was helped by eight arms and a cane.

A building also in that area was the start-off point for several hiking trails, and there was a small restaurant featuring waffles sandwiched together with butter and brown sugar as well as other flavorings and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream.

To our knowledge, no one was injured in an actual mountain climb during our visit, but we did see a short-haul rescue with a person suspended on a 100-200 foot rope below a helicopter. Such rescues are used as it is difficult to land helicopters on steep and rocky terrain.

The mountains could be seen on a scenic raft ride down the Snake River. Another area of the Snake was traveled by the Lewis and Clark Expedition on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

Sitting on the outer rim of the raft, riders at times could see the large stones on the bottom of the river, which is from 10 inches to 10 feet deep. Waivers had to be signed, absolving the raft company of liability if anyone fell off the raft and other eventualities such as sunburns, insect bites and being upset about the historical geological information provided.

On the ride, we saw osprey, an eagle and evidence of a beaver location and learned about the National Elk Refuge which provides a winter habitat and sanctuary nearby for as many as 8,800 elk. That section of the country has one of the largest elk herds in the world.

Many of the elk antlers shed in the refuge are used in the four antler arches in nearby Jackson. It takes 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of antlers woven together for each arch. Jackson is a town named for a trapper and is in Jackson Hole, so named by the mountain men because it was a valley surrounded by mountains.

While traveling in the lowlands, it was necessary to stop the car because of a herd of the fastest land mammals in the Western Hemisphere.

The speedy creatures, known as pronghorns, didn’t seem in any hurry while holding up traffic. The only animal that’s faster is the cheetah, but the pronghorn has much greater endurance than the cheetah. Sometimes called the American antelope, the pronghorn is the only species left in its family and is about 3-1/2 feet tall with the giraffe as its nearest relative.

Our first sighting of moose was a mother with a calf. On another occasion, an early morning search yielded the viewing of several of these large animals as they shredded the leaves from stalks and ate other vegetation.

Not only did we see several females, which lack racks of antlers, but the bushes moved near the river with the antlers of a bull moose visible.

Spectators were doing a lot of shooting — with cameras.

Our trip several weeks ago included a touch of Ohio. Concluding one day’s activities was watching an Ohio State game which the Buckeyes won. It’s a good thing we hadn’t entered Yellowstone National Park yet as television sets aren’t available in park lodgings.