Hiking Notes: Discovering Moose in Grand Teton National Park

Some moments are unexplainable but shape the way we comprehend and appreciate the world around us. While spending some time in Grand Teton National Park in the Summer, I concluded the workday by watching the sun dip behind the peaks of the Grand Tetons from the Granary- an upscale restaurant overlooking the bright green foothills and the east side of the mountains.

As the sun lowered, I watched the red and orange hues richen, mirroring the compelling day now coming to an end. The following day I would be hiking in the park, and with such a lovely sunset before me, I thought, How can it become more beautiful than this?

I was reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.” I fell asleep that night back at Jackson Hole with a sense of curiosity and anticipation for the morning.

Before the sun rose again, I woke up early and headed into Grand Teton National Park to explore Jenny Lake and its surrounding areas before heading to the famous Mormon Row.

As I sipped on my water bottle and laced up my hiking boots, I decided to hike around the lake and up to Hidden Falls. After hitting the trail and walking at a settle incline, I couldn’t help but observe the reflective range on the surface of Jenny Lake. As butterflies swirled around the trail and families unloaded their canoes into the clean, calm water, I started heading toward Moose Ponds, located near the south end of Jenny Lake beneath the jagged spires of Teewinot Mountain, in hopes of seeing a few of the over 500 wildlife species that call this park home.

As I started to descend near the pond, I looked to the left and saw something that I and many others have never seen before- a female moose in a meadow carpeted by long grass and freckled with Fernleaf Lovage. The striking, massive animal lifted her giant head out of the grassy pond and looked up, welcoming me to the area, while also warning me not to come too close.

I made my way closer to the pond and decided to sit down in the grassy meadow that lined it. There were so many other wildlife species including birds and frogs that accompanied and complemented this incredible view, adding another dimension of inspiration and tranquility. To make it even more spectacular, I had a crisp view of the mountain range, bringing the landscape closer to the sun.

When I looked closer, I noticed that the moose had her calf along with her. The calf popped its long muzzle out of the wetlands and stood alongside its mother. It then made sense why the mother gave me such a compelling gaze as I first saw her.

The calf awkwardly stumbled and galloped around the grassy area, occasionally running back to the safety of its mother to nudge and walk alongside her. Being in this moment, I thought that the two were so adorable, and yet, inexplicably powerful- demanding respect from anyone who was able to receive the gift of experiencing their energy.

I decided to have a snack break to take the time to enjoy this moment of a wild mother and her child in their natural habitat. As I ate my Kate’s Real Food granola bar, I watched the mother swing her strong head in our direction and stare at me for what seemed like forever. Capturing eye contact with such a magnificent beast put me in a trance, taking in each second I could get.

Trail Teachings
Simply being in the presence of these animals gave me a deeper connection to the park and the living beings around me. This was a moment that has impacted my life since and has punctuated the importance of doing what I can to protect our natural resources. As I walked back down the trail, I felt a strong wave of understanding that I was the guest in this environment, and I felt humbled to have experienced it, even for a moment.

Madison Ford

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