Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Into the Mountains

About two weeks ago the Teton antelope had pushed far enough north to follow the Green River up into the Bridger-Teton National Forest. However, one impenetrable barrier still prevented them from continuing to their summer range in Teton National Park: a deep snowpack blanketed about six miles of their migration corridor over the 9,000 foot pass they have to cross in the Gros Ventre Mountains.

Thanks to a week of clear, sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s, the snowpack softened and diminished. My brother and I were camped in the forest near the pass and watched each afternoon as strings of antelope punched their way up through the snow drifts, making trails from one patch of sagebrush to the next. Afraid of spending the night in the snow, at sundown they would turn and run all the way back to the dry land at lower elevations.

Finally, on a Sunday evening, the lead group of antelope reached the pass. My brother and I sat perfectly still next to our tent while 150 antelope quietly flowed past us through the snow. They moved head to tail at a steady pace as if pulled along by their yearning for the summer range. To see antelope in a snowy forest high in the mountains is very unique. We couldn’t believe our luck to observe the heart of the migration happening around us. At the pass they disappeared into the trees. What had been a perfectly smooth snowfield before was stitched with their narrow winding trails.

The next morning I followed the antelope towards Teton Park, while my brother returned south out of the mountains. Check back soon for a video of antelope adventures in the springtime journey to the summer range!