Moose!

It was getting late for dinner and I was hungry. That’s why I didn’t take the Teton Park Road. That road runs through the heart of the park, from Jackson Lake past Jenny Lake to Moose. The outer road bypasses most of the park highlights, the accompanying traffic, and permits faster speeds.

I sped past some of the most scenic vistas in the park, because I was driven by hunger. I drove by the Snake River Overlook, made famous by the legendary black and white photographer Ansel Adams. A few minutes later I passed the turnout for Schwabacher Landing, where I took some amazing reflection pictures of the Cathedral Group a couple days earlier. But it was almost 8:00 p.m. and I wanted to make it a little farther south to Moose.

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center is in Moose, as well as Park Headquarters. Adjacent to Moose Junction a bridge crosses over the Snake River. And just past the bridge is Dornans.

Dornans is a small commercial hub that can cater to your every need. There is a large parking lot, with several buildings lining both sides. There is a gas station, a small grocery store, a wine store, an ATM machine, an Italian restaurant, an Old West Chuckwagon, and of course a gift shop.

I drove into the lot and quickly parked my car. I hustled right into the store, which was set to close at 8:00 p.m. That gave me less than ten minutes. I knew there was a deli, so I was hoping to find a sandwich, but of course the deli closed early and the premade sandwiches remaining looked gross. So, I left and walked to the Italian restaurant. I ate there six years earlier, on my first trip to the park.

I walked into the restaurant ready for a beer from the bar and a nice dinner. However, there was a lengthy line of people waiting to be seated. The wait was over an hour. I was growing frustrated, but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do. I could wait it out, but I decided to leave and head to Jackson instead. The ritzy resort town is only a dozen miles away and there are many more restaurants there.

Right after I left the Dornans parking lot I saw a long line of cars parked beside the park road before the bridge. My times in National Parks, especially in Yellowstone to the north, have taught me that if there is a line of cars parked along a park road it is best to follow suit. It usually means a crowd of tourists is watching a bear or some other species of megafauna nearby. Despite my growling stomach, I felt obligated to stop and find out why the cars were parked.

I parked my car, grabbed my camera and telephoto lens and followed some people across the road. Someone coming back toward us said there was some moose just a short walk away. I’m never able to pass up an opportunity to see large wildlife in their natural habitat. I hustled across a thin meadow to an area a couple hundred yards from the road.

There was a small army of tourists armed with cameras. I attached my telephoto lens and joined in the fun. We stood at the edge of a patch of grass that was elevated about ten feet above a small creek. On the opposite side of the tiny tributary of the Snake River, were three enormous Bull Moose. They were slowly wandering through a swampy area amidst willow trees and bushes.

These were massive, yet graceful animals. Their bodies were very dark, almost black. They had thin tan legs and large chocolate brown heads. I have no idea how those skinny legs can hold up their muscular 1,000 pound bodies. They slowly and quietly ate leaves off of trees and bushes for their dinner.

I watched them and snapped a few dozen photos as dusk fell on the area. Once it got fairly dark I decided I better get something to eat. I really enjoyed seeing such amazing animals up close in their natural surroundings. I’m thankful that I decided to leave Dornans in search of a late dinner; otherwise I would have missed seeing the big and powerful creatures. Due to the danger of being in close proximity to bears, I don’t know if there’s an animal I’d rather run into than a moose.

The moose sighting managed to temporarily suppress my hunger, but once I got back to my car I was starving. It was after nine when I finally arrived at a Dairy Queen in Jackson for dinner.

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