In the last week of September I strapped a gigantic red canoe on top of my tiny red Ford Escort and drove up to northwest Wyoming from Laramie. I met up with Joe at Trapper's Point outside of Pinedale. Trapper's Point is a historic monument commemorating a rendezvous of mountain men in the 1800s. It is also a bottleneck where migrating deer and pronghorn are funneled between the Green River and some subdivisions when they cross Highway 191. Joe and I had a lot to talk about, as this was the last opportunity for us to get together before the fall migration starts.
Joe had a remote camera set near the fence. A few groups of pronghorn had started slowly filtering through. After sitting on the tailgate of Joe's truck, looking at maps, eating crackers, and catching up about our project for an hour or so, we went in to Pinedale to get some information about canoeing a section of the Green River that flows out of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, across a stretch of private land, and onto some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the pronghorn migration corridor. The guys at the Great Outdoor Shop warned us that the water might be pretty low, but said they thought otherwise the canoeing would be fine.
On Saturday morning we set up a vehicle shuttle and pushed off into the current. We had about the most perfect day imaginable. It was a warm day with clear, blue skies. As the river curved through oxbows to the left and right the view shifted from the rugged high country of the Wind River Mountains to the tree-covered slopes of the Gros Ventre Mountains. Thousands of ducks of several different species including mergansers and trumpeter swans coursed up and down the river, chopping the air with their wings. The crisp September sunshine lit up the turning aspens. We even drifted quietly past a cow moose and her calf resting in the shade of some willows.
In the afternoon we met with a landowner who was very interested in our project and granted us permission to walk across his property. This felt like a big victory, as access to private property has proven to be the biggest challenge to our planning so far. "Pronghorn Passage" feels like more and more of a reality as we get closer to the fall migration. In camp that night we poured over the maps and shared ideas around the campfire. The turning of the leaves, plus the heavy frost on our vehicles and tent in the morning, were a reminder that the migration will be in full swing very soon.