Treat yourself! Hire a guide for your family’s Grand Teton tour


Vacations are so stressful.  Packing, transportation schedules, airport security, flight delays, hotel bookings…there are so many things that have to sync just to arrive at your destination.  This catalog makes me think of another thing to add to the list.  

(Rant warning) Did you know of airport security’s new fascination with your personal snack items? 

I recently was invited to attend an educational institute and I had an amazing time in Fayetteville at the University of Arkansas.  It was so nice to have time to share ideas with other teachers and generate new activities for the classroom.  

My travel there?  No issues whatsoever.  My total flight time was only a little over three hours and outside of an insanely early departure from Wyoming, a long layover in Denver, and trouble with the destination location (my apologies, shuttle driver), my jaunt down to The Natural State went smoothly.   

The way back?  Not only did I receive a full body pat-down, I was also asked to remove all food items in my carry on luggage for easy X-raying.  Since I was unaware that granola bars and crackers would be a concern, they were stashed throughout my bags.  I think I was most shocked by putting my fresh fruit in the same plastic bins that hold shoes.   


While I was putting my sneakers back on and re-stashing my snacks, a woman with dark hair made eye contact with me and smiled.  I returned her kind expression, thanking her for the encouragement, but inside I was still struggling to quiet my mind. 

Then I noticed that she had two young children with her and seeing how she led them with kindness dissolved my stress immediately.  It took me, in my mind, to the Nenana River in Alaska, on a raft full of clients. 

Whenever I would feel anxious coming around a bend and looking into the curl of a rapid, I would sit up straight and slightly smile.  It was my way of communicating to my guests that although the experience we were in was dangerous, we were going to have A LOT of fun.  Relax and trust your guide!  

Emily Rafting 2006
Emily on the Nenana River, Alaska in the summer of 2006

Aaron and I take so much pleasure in being guides, helping people overcome their worries.  At Teton Excursions, we can guarantee that we will do whatever we can to make your trip less stressful.  We know that you are ready for someone else to take control of the logistics and plan for a day.  

It is important to us that we reduce some of the stress of a trip.  National Parks can be hectic and I often equate visiting them to traveling in a foreign country.  It is difficult to know just which stop to make, how to plan your time in a day, and how much food to pack.  A guided tour with us will take care of all that.  

Some of the benefits to hiring Teton Excursions for your Grand Teton tour:

  • Flexible scheduling (we can customize your trip times on private tours)
  • Kids learn the history and geology from a naturalist in the field
  • Hotel pickup and drop off
  • Binoculars and spotting scope to get up close to those animals
  • Roomy, tall van
  • Food is taken care of 
  • The stops and schedule of the trip can be adapted to your family’s needs

Let us take a whole day of planning off of your list of duties.  Treat yourself and make sure that you take time to enjoy the scenery that you all came for.  


If you have special needs or considerations, please let us know.  We are flexible (we take advice from the river) and look forward to serving you and your family.  


🌲 Emily




5 Birds to Watch for in Grand Teton National Park

birding-landingGrand Teton National Park is renowned for its wildlife.  Who doesn’t love bears and moose?  But don’t forget about the birds!  Quite often they are easier to check out than the big game.  Here are five local fowl to spot.  



5. Trumpeter Swan 

These graceful waterfowl, the largest native to North America, were very near extinction a hundred years ago.  They are a poster bird (if you will) for conservation efforts.  They nest year-round in the National Elk Refuge, just north of Jackson, and are easily visible from the roadside. 


4. Western Tanager

Tanagers are beautiful, multicolored migrants to Grand Teton National Park.  The male is easily spotted due to his ruby face and bright yellow chest.  Look for them flitting about in the conifer trees.  


3. Mountain Bluebird

Henry David Thoreau stated his thoughts on this bird clearly:  A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town. 


Mountain_Bluebird_femaleMountain Bluebirds breed in Grand Teton National Park during the summer and winter 800 miles southwest in the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. Quite a traveler for only weighing one ounce!

A breeding pair can be found near the pink house on Mormon Row. 

pink house mormon row

Thoreau also memorably stated (because, really, how often do you find you can quote Thoreau twice in one passage?):  

The bluebird carries the sky on his back.  


2. Common Merganser

mergansersmerganser female

These fish-eating ducks love moving water.  You will often find them in swift rivers, although they also enjoy lakes with foliage.  They call the Tetons home year-round and are one of the most commonly sighted bird species on the water. 

1. Osprey

What bird list for the Tetons would be complete without a raptor? 

If you see a large bird in the sky with “M” shaped wings, you have spotted an osprey.  

osprey wings

Osprey breed in the northern Rockies before heading south to winter along the coast of Mexico.  Try to spot them diving for fish over a body of water.  They are commonly sighted in the Oxbow Bend area. 

osprey fishing  

For further information on birding in Grand Teton National Park, visit the National Park Service’s webpage.  


Enjoy looking up and seeing more!


Harlequin Ducks, A Yellowstone Treat!


Growing up in medium sized suburbs at latitudes never higher than Nebraska, I only knew ducks to look and act one way.  Ducks had green heads and hassled people at pond filled parks, whether or not folks brought bread to throw at them.

Skip a few decades and I found myself on some turbulent class 4 whitewater in the Alaska spring time.  Six Mile Creek on the Kenai Peninsula to be exact.  Adrenaline was pumping as we just crushed a big wave and everyone had gotten a face full of whitewater.  As we slowed ourselves in the slack water, I looked up stream.  Here came four clown-faced looking ducks going down the same rapids of the river we just came through, making it look easy as they coasted by us.  They slid like greased lightning through the same crushing waves that soaked us, with hundred of gallons of water in one swoop.  I was mesmerized, and that was my introduction to the masterful Harlequin Duck.

They are a northern-coastal duck for the most part, who sometimes venture to inland rivers to breed in the spring time.  The one thing that is constant is they only want to be where the water is rough.  Typically the rough shores of the Oregon coastline up through British Columbia into Alaska.  According to the Audubon society many adult Harlequin Ducks have suffered a broken bone or two in their lifetime.  This is because of their love of the turbulent waters and rocky coasts.


This is why springtime in Yellowstone is so amazing.  Insert Le Hardy Rapids just north of Fishing Bridge.  This is only constant place, this far inland and this far south that Harlequin ducks can be found most springs.  You can plan on seeing the males there in the roughest waters from mid April through mid June.  It is an amazing experience to hang out at the rapids as long as you want to and watch these clown-faced characters go to work.  These guys dive off of logs into the pounding river, swimming and feeding with ease.  They dive, then pop up like a cork 15 feet up the river from where they dove in.  When they need a rest they just levitate out of the rapids on to a rough rock outcropping or a slick log somewhere.  Besides their agility, their markings are so striking.  It’s an amazing sight.

I encourage everyone to put a visit to Le Hardy rapids on your springtime Yellowstone list.  You will not regret it.


It’s Time To Find Your Winter Fun!


To most folks, winter is a dirty six-letter word.  To others, it’s the promise of days filled with outdoor adventure, walks in the woods, or the sound of 2 stroke engines.

Image result for powder skiing

I understand why the non-believers feel this way.  There are many places that are flat, and the snow seems to come in more like ice.  This is all the more reason to take a vacation where winter can be embraced, to the mountains!

Image result for snowmobile powder

There is something invigorating about the cold on your cheeks, and enjoying an amazing day in weather that most people dislike so much.

Image result for snowshoeing

It doesn’t matter where you find yourself this winter, this unique season can always be enjoyed!  This is a list to remember when you find yourself with winter blues.  Go out there and take it in!

  1. Build a snowman
  2. Go ice skating
  3. Wear some fuzzy slippers
  4. Make a snow angel
  5. Breathe in the smell of pine
  6. Catch snowflakes on your tongue
  7. Go sledding
  8. Kick back in an outdoor hot tub
  9. Make snow cream with vanilla
  10. Take a vacation to the mountains!


Under the Radar: Theodore Roosevelt National Park


When you think of America’s National Parks, you naturally think of the “glory parks”: Grand Canyon, Great Smokey Mountains, Yosemite, and Yellowstone.  Most Americans would struggle to name another five, let alone some of the lesser known and visited parks like the Teddy.  I’ll admit that I was surprised myself to learn of a national park existing in the northern plains.  I randomly ended up spending a summer in North Dakota and learned my mistake.

I figured the park must be something spectacular and different compared to the rolling plains and oil rigs to be found north.  Spectacular it is. Not just from its beauty influenced by the Little Missouri River but from learning that these northern badlands inspired the entire philosophy of conservation in America.

On February 14, 1884, Teddy Roosevelt lost both his mother and wife within twelve hours of each other in the house they shared. His first child, a girl, was born just two days before.  His mother lost her life to typhoid and his wife succumbed to a kidney disorder that was masked during pregnancy.

This being too much for him to handle, he entrusted his daughter to his sister.  Teddy then found solace and healing in his Maltese Cross cabin near Medora, North Dakota. He worked the land and developed the Elkhorn Ranch in the area before returning back to New York, where he took over custody of his daughter.  He then began pursuing his political career.

About his time in the west, he stated,”I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”


The park itself is divided into three units: the North, the South, and the remote Elkhorn Ranch Unit.  The Little Missouri River runs through all three.  Between the three units is a wilderness area, and for the trail hounds, one can hike the Maah Daah Hey Trail. The trail extends from the Southern Unit through the wilderness to the Northern Unit.  For more information check out the website Maah Daah Hey Trail Association.

The beauty of these northern badlands and Little Missouri River Valley is reason enough to go out of the way to visit this park.  The history that this park holds is another draw.  Some of these “little” parks have had a huge influence on the conservation of the nation.  Would Roosevelt’s conservation policy have been the same without thoughts like this coming from his experiences in North Dakota?

The extermination of the buffalo has been a veritable tragedy of the animal world.

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