Snow and Moose and Bears, Oh My!

moosemountains

Last week I was able to experience the state of Wyoming for the first time, and if I had one word to sum up the experience, it would be this: cold.

I think I was spoiled the last two summers, because one does not easily bounce back from the sand and sun and beach of California. Two summers ago our family vacation revolved around Disneyland, and last summer was spent exploring the redwoods of northern California. California was a fun vacation for me because although I came home somewhat burnt, those burns eventually faded and allowed my pasty skin to gain one shade of color.

I think that after this vacation, I came back even paler than I had started out. Wyoming was beautiful and a new experience, but for some reason the bright summer sun seemed to have skipped over the cowboy state completely. It rained at least two of the days, and the one day we popped into Yellowstone to revisit our old friend Old Faithful, it snowed. It was the middle of June, and there I was, bundled up in a hoodie, my dad’s jacket, two blankets, and I was still cold. And to think that I had been complaining about a Cedar City snowstorm back in May. That was nothing compared to this.

Cold aside, I did appreciate Wyoming’s Teton mountains and beautiful forests. There was a greenness to Wyoming that just can’t be found in southern Utah (especially now with the Brian Head Fire wreaking havoc), and their wildlife is a thousand times cooler.

My family and I spent a few days in Jackson Hole, which is an area where the boundaries between wildlife and human civilization don’t seem to exist. Ground squirrels feasted on the lawn next to our condo every evening, and magpies more often than not served as our alarm clock in the morning. What was most exciting for us Utahn folks, however, was the moose. We had visited Yellowstone about seven years ago, and had seen just about everything except a moose. This trip more than made up for that disappointment!

We saw the first moose before we had even reached Jackson Hole. One minute I was staring out the window, half asleep as the fields zoomed by, and the next I was rubbing my head from when it had slammed against the glass as my dad swerved the car around. The moose was a good distance away to begin with, but it made it way closer to us once we had pulled over. My family spent a good ten minutes obsessing over this moose, fighting each other for the binoculars and taking pictures through our car window. I think the moose knew that it was in the spotlight, because it stopped moving for a few seconds, posed just long enough for us to get a good picture, and then made it’s way back over the hill.

Moose1

Featuring my dad as the photographer and the moose as the wonderful model

We were all jittery with excitement. My mom made the comment that we could turn around right then and there and go home, and she would be happy.

It’s a good thing we didn’t, because there were many more moose to come.

Many of them we saw from the roads surrounding Jackson Hole. A moose even came and ate close to one of the visitor’s centers (can’t remember which one; there were a lot), and we got to see it up close and personal. Then a park ranger appeared and told us that although the moose was relaxed because she was eating, if she started heading our way, then we needed to run. Judging by the dead-serious look on her face, it was obvious she wasn’t joking.

I’ve read the book Hatchet. I know that moose are not a creature that you want to mess with.

With how many moose were in the area, one would think that they would have warning signs or information pamphlets everywhere, but no. Bears must be a common problem in that area, though, because bear warnings were everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

The ski tram:

tram.jpeg

This sign was on top of the ski tram, mind you. The only thing at the top of that mountain was several feet of snow, a strong wind that almost blew both me and my little sister off the cliff, and a rickety waffle house. No sane bear would be up there (of course, no sane human would either but there we were).

Scattered along the roads:

Sign

Pasted on the side of trailers:

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Fun Fact: This trailer was actually  located by a trail that was closed due to a bear that had been roaming the area. Needless to say, we didn’t hike that trail.

And even in the grocery stores:

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And yet, despite how “Bear Aware” all of these signs made us, we didn’t see a single Ursidae (which, according to Google, is the scientific term for bear. You have my permission to douse me in bear spray if I’m wrong).

This, of course, prompted the discussion between me and my siblings about what we would rather be attacked by: bear or moose? The unanimous decision was moose since they can’t, as far as us inexperienced moose people know, climb trees.

Then again, with a bear I would only have to outrun one of my brothers. That shouldn’t be too hard, right?

It’s a shame that my family’s treadmill is broken. I suppose I could go train in a gym, but…I think I’d rather take my chances with the bear.

Bear

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