Our group of 20 adults and kids - ranging from 2nd grade to Junior year had a blast last week when we booked out the entire JHETA fleet of 3 vehicles for a half-day tour of GT Park. Despite the fact it was the low season between winter and the opening of Yellow Stone in April - Taylor, Laura and Connor took us off the beaten path and as far into the wilderness as those roads that had been plowed would allow. Even then - they were on the phone to check if there were any newly plowed areas we could venture into.
All 3 guides are expert scientists, biologists and adventurers who are just thrilled to be doing this, obsessed with the delicate balance of regenerating species within the area, and walking the fine line around the politics of predator species in Wyoming. They were all fascinating outdoorsmen/women, and advocates for wildlife and nature. Connor is expert in Cougar regeneration in the area, and planning to embark on a Masters to study this further. He had ton's of anecdotes about locating kills in the park and setting up cameras and monitoring to study predator behavior. He had shot the first ever footage in the area of 1 day old cougar kittens that the kids found fascinating. We were hoping he will continue to be around - given his pastime of finding and studying kill-sites from bears or cougars on his days off!
Taylor as the founder of the company was a masterful storyteller and guide to how and where to spot wildlife. He was high energy and super organized. Each vehicle carried chic rattan picnic-baskets of wholesome snacks, coffee and hot chocolate which they were happy to bring out whenever people needed something - and with a bunch of kids that was most of the time. He also had baskets of pelts, horns and claws of most of the animals we saw and ran a series of quizzes with the kids as to what item belonged to which animal - very good experiential learning for all of them.
As we had booked out all of the tour Taylor was flexible with the timing of our tour and suggested starting at 7am rather than 8, to better catch early-morning activity of the animals. Each site we stopped at, they would take out the long-distance scopes and coach us to be still and just wait and watch - the mantra was that every landscape has an animal in it - it was just up to us to find it. Each car was equipped with the highest quality powerful binoculars. Every vehicle had roof hatches that we could open and use to spot wildlife.
Over the course of the trip we saw everything that was available to see at this time of year - bears were still coming out of hibernation - so we didn't see them. When we were nearing the end without spotting a bison, the team found them for us on the scopes.
It was a terrific morning that we will all remember, and those in our group who were long-time visitors to JH left recommending this experience to their family members. Without JHETA we would have been passive ski tourists - this experience allowed us to better understand the environment we were in with much greater depth, and truly appreciate what an incredible part of the country we were vacationing in.
Thanks Taylor, Connor and Laura - you do amazing work!
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