Well, it has been just over a week since my wife Ashley and I returned home from our fall trip to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). 


People oftentimes ask me what exactly the GYE is, or why I don’t just say “Yellowstone.” Well, “the GYE” as it is referred to is the geographic region that includes not only Yellowstone National Park, but also Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, and quite a few other areas, national forests, etc. Since we move around quite a bit on our trips and don’t stay based in a single location, saying we’re visiting “the GYE” is simpler than listing the locations on our itinerary, and also more accurate. 


Whatever you want to call this area, it is without a doubt one of if not the most special places on our planet. 


The GYE never disappoints. The breadth of wildlife is always spectacular, both in terms of diversity and quantity. 


The natural wonders are unlike anything else anywhere else. The thermal features and geysers in Yellowstone never get old. The impossibly jagged Teton range is a fantastic backdrop for any scene or wildlife. 


At this point in my life, including my childhood, I’m not sure how many months I’ve cumulatively spent in this neck of the woods, but not for one moment has any aspect of any trip ever become repetitive or routine. 


Anyway, back to this most recent trip. 


We spent approximately two and a half weeks in the GYE. We started in Jackson, Wyoming for a few days, then relocated to West Yellowstone, Montana for eight nights for our Yellowstone National Park portion of the trip, and then back to Jackson for five nights before returning home. We spent an equal number of nights in Jackson and West Yellowstone, which afforded us a bit more time in Yellowstone (YNP) than Jackson Hole and Grand Teton (GTNP). I think this balance was perfect, and I wouldn’t change our time allotment this go-around.


The weather was mostly fine. Our GTNP portions of the trip were mostly rainy, which wasn’t ideal, but the elk and moose seemed to appreciate it, which made it tolerable. The sticking point for me was the temperature: we just missed out on significant valley floor snowfall by a couple of degrees. For a wildlife photographer, snow is magnificent, but cold rain is useless!


No trip to the GYE is complete without the friendships and connections we’ve made over the years. From fellow visitors that we reunite with after keeping in touch since our last trips, to being recognized by name by locals that own and work at the businesses we patronize, we’re fortunate to have so many great people being integral parts of our great memories of these trips. 


In terms of wildlife viewings and photography, this trip was an incredible success. I captured just shy of 55,000 photographs. I’m early in the stages of culling them, but I’m so excited about what I was able to witness and capture. 


In the coming weeks I’ll be posting detailed trip reports for each day of my trip, along with photos. In the meantime, here’s a quick overview of what to expect:


  • Lots of moose rut action 
  • How I was in the right place at the right time, and was one of the first few people to see a famous grizzly and her impossibly beautiful, yet previously unknown cubs 
  • Several monster bull elk, and my most memorable elk encounter ever
  • A coyote that seemed more curious about me than I was of it
  • And, the highlight for me: Finally, after years of searching, a once in a lifetime encounter with a beautiful hunting great gray owl. 


I can’t wait to share all of these and many more experiences with you. It will take some time for me to go through everything, so this will be a serial installment over the coming weeks and months. I appreciate your interest and support!


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October 15, 2023 — Zach Jones