West Thumb Geyser Basin
Photo by Jennifer Bruck

Back from the Field: An Insider’s View on Grand Teton & Yellowstone with Jennifer Bruck

Back from the Field: An Insider’s View on Grand Teton & Yellowstone with Jennifer Bruck

Sep 30, 2021|Holbrook in the FieldWhere we travel| by Holbrook Travel

Have you ever wondered what goes into making a group travel adventure go smoothly? That’s the job of an operations specialist. Holbrook’s Jennifer Bruck has experienced all kinds of challenges in her 28-year career. We caught up with Jennifer and her husband, Bradley, back from traveling on Holbrook’s Grand Teton & Yellowstone Nature Safari, where she experienced her own handiwork.

 Jennifer and Bradley

 Holbrook group | Photo courtesy of Christopher Vander Wilt

Q: What does an operations specialist do behind the scenes for a travel program, and what challenges did you have with designing the Grand Teton & Yellowstone trip?

Jennifer: First, we work on the itinerary design to make sure it flows smoothly from a timing sense and that it hits all the exciting locations that you’d want to see, including the best opportunity to see wildlife. For example, in the Lamar Valley, we arranged early morning walks before breakfast to increase the chance of seeing wolves. On days with long drives, we add stops to experience interesting locations, such as a geyser or waterfall. The timing on meals is also a factor. On some days, we arrange special picnic lunches or have dinners at a picturesque location.

 Bear River Bird Refuge

 Madison River

Q: Holbrook is known for its in-depth educational experiences. How did this trip follow that model?

Jennifer: We integrate specialists throughout the program to provide extra information. For example, at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, we arranged an informal lecture on the center’s conservation measures to protect the wildlife. At Bear River Bird Refuge, we had a wildlife management specialist join us for a talk on bird migration patterns and their population changes, as well as the importance of this incredibly unique wetlands. We also select leaders and guides who have extensive knowledge, often former educators.

 Bison in Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley sunset

Q: Were there any memorable experiences that you or Bradley want to share?

Bradley: Some of the more memorable experiences were to be able to be within arm's length of bison, to be able to watch through binoculars a pack of wolves stalking a herd of bison, and see, in person, all the places I've seen in documentaries or on computer wallpapers. I found out that the pictures of these places do not do them justice! To see it live and in person is a completely different feeling. To see Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in person and hear the water and be there, that was really awesome.

Jennifer: For me, it was the whole of Yellowstone, the geological wonder with the giant caldera, the mud pots and the geysers. You have the Lamar Valley that has all the animals and the close-up wildlife. You have mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers — all these different places, all in one.

 Jenny Lake and Grand Tetons

 Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Q: Were you able to see a variety of wildlife on this trip?

Jennifer: We saw everything we hoped to see. We saw huge Osprey nests and Bald Eagles. We saw bison, pronghorn, ducks, geese, moose, bighorn sheep, and elk. It was funny, someone would say to our guide, “Okay, Christopher, we need to see a moose today,” and then that afternoon we'd see this gorgeous moose or elk or other animal or bird. It was really majestic.


 Bald Eagle

Q: How much did you learn about the history and geology of the region on the trip? Can you give some examples of interesting facts?

Bradley: Our leader, Christopher, was an amazing source of information. It was interesting to learn that the park wasn’t protected by the government at first, but by landowners who just started cobbling the land areas together to save it from development, which was rare in those days. From a geology standpoint, it was fascinating to learn about how it was formed from giant volcanic activity eons ago and the uplifting of these giant mountains, it's massive. You're in this single national park but that is millions of acres as large or larger than some states.

 Mammoth Hot Springs


Q: What was it like traveling during the pandemic? What were some of the precautions that were taken in the field?

Jennifer: Prior to departure, we required everyone to be vaccinated. We checked to make sure that nobody was feeling ill each morning. When we were in the vehicle, we made sure that we all wore masks. Everyone had lots of hand sanitizer. We made sure the vehicle was sanitized every day. In restaurants, we separated from the crowds as much as possible and we ate outdoors quite a bit.

 Hiking in Yellowstone

Q: Whether it is the U.S. or international, do you think traveling now is a good idea?

Bradley: I would say, if you take the proper precautions, travel is very safe. I think the pandemic has taught us that life is short and you can't wait to do things. If you have an opportunity to do it, you probably should go ahead and grab it. Take the chance to travel when you have it.

 Grand Prismatic Spring