Saturday, September 14, 2019

Beavers and Foxes and Bears, Oh My!

While we were checking in they reminded us about the bear. And the foxes. "So don't leave anything out that smells like it might be food".

The Tetons as seen from our campground at Colter Bay Village

Later in the day the staff came by and pointed out that "things that might be food" included Stewie. Apparently he's snack-sized, so back into the bus he was tossed, where he settled grumpily on the bed and glared at us.

Later that night, armed with our trusty new can of bear spray, heavy jackets, fuzzy hats, Chloe the bear-alarm system on a short leash, and an assortment of camera paraphernalia, we bravely set off on the path to the lake. We were expecting a full harvest moon and wanted to capture it's glow on the mountain range which was wearing a fresh dusting of snow. In an effort to minimize the impact of the night lights on the critters and stargazers, all the property's lights had been replaced with red bulbs, leaving us to walk through eerie red pools of light in between the dark trees.

Lance set up his time lapse shot and we waited on a nearby log while the camera clicked away. Before long we heard a big splash. It sounded like a bowling ball had been dropped into the lake... no preceding sound and no subsequent sound. There were some folks on the boat docks off to our left, so we decided one of them must have dropped something overboard. Shortly afterwards we heard it again, from our right side where there were no people.

It being Friday the 13th, there was a full harvest moon, and we were the only people around. Of course the first thing we thought of was "bear" but before long our conversation turned to how it was exactly the sort of sound probably made by dropping a body, of lake monsters, of Jason with a hockey mask, and of course, we circled back to bear again. An off-duty staff member with a camera came by and we asked her about it, she told us she hadn't heard a sound like that before and had no idea what it could be. She hung out with us for a while and also mentioned that beavers had been active in the area and that staff had been making constant repairs to the boat docks as a result. She pointed to the former tree-line-now-stumps at the lake's edge as evidence of the ongoing battle.

A long line of stumps where there used to be trees

The camera snapped on. The night got cold. Like, don't-touch-the-camera-because-you-can't-stop-shivering-and-you'll-destroy-the settings-cold. Now and then the splashing sound resounded, long after the boaters had given up for the night.

Our vantage point for night photography, ground zero for the Beaver Battle

Then we saw it. Almost half the size of Chloe, an absolutely HUGE beaver scurried across the beach and jumped in the lake, and swam around frantically. Then another. Then another. These beavers are huge. And busy. Now I get it when I hear the term "busy beaver" - those dudes are so industrious! Cutting down trees, moving them around, splashing and swimming, they do it all at a frantic pace. The sound we heard, we concluded, was them slapping their tails on the water to alert that we were there.

Mystery solved and no real danger in existence, I admitted I was too cold to continue and went to bed, leaving Lance to finish his photos alone with his bear spray. Here's what happened in the wee hours of the morning, in his own words:

"Around 2am I changed the battery in the camera and set up the final time lapse shot with the full moon in the frame. Before long, I heard some large crashing nearby. Still primed for bears I jumped but it was only the beavers taking down another 12-inch diameter birch tree. Eventually I had to admit I was freezing, and since it was only 5 minutes before the timed shot was supposed to end anyways, I stood to pack up the camera. When I turned around there was a large red fox staring up at me from right behind the log where I'd just been sitting. I tried to get a picture but he escaped before I could switch the camera from time lapse to flash shot. I hurried back to Loretta in the dark, loudly whistling my stay away bear song."

The next morning we surveyed some of the damage, alongside staff who were out to make repairs to the docks ("again" they sighed).
Beavers had stuffed branches under the dock
The tree the beavers took down last night

We were supposed to only get a couple of nights here at this swanky little resort, but Ambassador Chloe made friends with the staff and every time they came by to love on her we reminded them we'd like to stay longer; when a spot became available we were fresh in their minds and they offered it to us. We've been so long boondocking and off the grid, we are super appreciative of the full hookups, the nearby restaurants and grocery store, and the internet access.

Here's the timelapse video of the full moon over the Tetons, enjoy:


  1. Love the time lapse. Wish we were there to see it with you. But why were you worried about the noise the beavers made? You had Chloe to protect you. You know the one that is afraid of horses, cows, chickens, and turkeys. O.k. She's probably afraid of bears too.

  2. So amazing that the adventure continues. You are making memories that will be with you forever. Not to mention the friendships that become enduring.

    1. Yep meeting lots of interesting people from everywhere. So many great stories!