I don’t know. Frankly I’m not sure it did either.
The trip had been mixed, fun but not quite as exciting as previous years. The previous night in Yellowstone I had picked up a puncture in one tire and had to put on a spare, then drove down in the morning to West Yellowstone to get it patched. Coming back into the park around noon, the ranger told me the route I had planned to take (past the thermal features in the Old Faithful area) was closed due to ice so I went over toward Hayden Valley, hiked a bit, then worked my way south and out of the park.
My luck continued as I saw little wildlife that day and that continued into the Tetons, where I didn’t see a single animal as I drove down to Willow Flats. When I approached Oxbow Bend I saw a large bird near the side of the road — my first thought was pheasant, but as I got closer I realized it was a dusky grouse. I had seen them before in the park but never down that low.
I pulled over onto the wide shoulder, thinking there was little chance the bird would stick around, but it didn’t flee as I gingerly got out of the car. I grabbed the tripod and 500mm lens and set up to take some pictures. I wasn’t surprised that the camera couldn’t focus on the moving bird in low light, but I was surprised at where it was moving: the grouse was walking directly towards me.
It soon walked too close for the lens to focus, so I backed away from the camera and watched this beautiful creature walk right up towards the car. It stopped near my rear bumper and then walked right under the car. I spun the camera around, hoping I might get a picture as it walked away. I waited and waited for it to emerge from under the car, but to no avail.
I leaned over and looked under the car, and lo and behold, the grouse seemed happy to be out of the rain and was pecking around in the pebbles. It spent a while there before starting to emerge near the tires. I was a little alarmed since it was right next to the road, but thankfully traffic was non-existent.
I stood near the road to coax it out from under the car, and after several false starts I did manage to get it to walk out further from the road. At this point I took some head shots with my other camera like the one shown here. But the bird slowly started to walk back towards, and then onto, the road. At this point an SUV started to approach so I stood in the lane until the bird waddled across the road, then I stepped back as the SUV got close and roared pass.
Playing crossing guard was the least I could do as thanks for such a close encounter and one of my favorite moments from the trip.