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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

National Elk Refuge

March 7th, 2012 · 1 Comment

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The National Elk Refuge was for me the real start of my tour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in winter. Actually, it started in Denver where on February 27 I boarded the Amtrak California Zephyr and rode it to Provo, Utah. The next day we took a coach to Jackson, Wyoming, the only town in the valley known as Jackson Hole.

I was on a Mountain Outin’ Tour led by Rolland Graham. His tour last May of Alaska’s Inside Passage with an optional train trip from Skagway to Carcross in the Yukon was so wonderful that I made sure to take another trip with him. Rolland and probably most of my three dozen tour companions are rail buffs, so the ride across the Rockies had to be by train. Most of us had also taken previous Mountain Outin’ tours; in fact, one man told me he had made more that 30 trips with Rolland.

My photography started in earnest on February 28, when we got to the elk refuge in Jackson Hole. We took two-horse open sleighs through the refuge:

Three of Our Four Two-Horse Open Sleighs

Three of Our Four Two-Horse Open Sleighs

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The sleighs were one of the most uncommon of many modes of transportation that I took on this trip. Besides the sleigh and the train, I also travelled by taxi, tour coach, snow coach, airplane, subway, bus, and on foot.

I had visited the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in August 2009 as I wrote in “My Three Yellowstone Wishes” and “Yellowstone Bonuses.” But I had never seen either of those national parks in winter. While summer offers more color, the snow and ice of winter is more dramatic. And the National Elk Refuge is essentially deserted in summer.

But before we came to the elk, the sleigh took us just a few feet from a pair of Bald Eagles in a tree. Here is one of them:

A Bald Eagle Looks for Prey

A Bald Eagle Looks for Prey

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In winter we give supplemental food to thousands of elk. In Colorado I have sometimes seen a hundred or so elk at the same time. But that’s nothing compared with the numbers I saw on the National Elk Refuge — 5,000 at once, including more than 2,000 just a few feet away. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees happened to be feeding the elk when I visited the refuge.

Feeding the Elk -- Not Shooting Them

Feeding the Elk -- Not Shooting Them

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Elk Eat

Elk Eat

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Yummy!

Yummy!

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Thanking Our Horses (Photo by Ned Marsh)

Thanking Our Horses (Photo by Ned Marsh)

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Our sleigh ride to see these thousands of elk was pretty dramatic. And we hadn’t yet arrived at either of the national parks. Grand Teton came next.

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Posted in: Photography

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Karen Anderson // Apr 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    After years of finally visiting Jackson Hole for skiing, I finally got my family and friends to go on the Elk Refuge Sleigh Ride. What a treat for only $15.00!
    Love looking at your photos! Hope you got to see the northern part of the park! Mammoth Hot Springs is amazing and deserted!

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