Tetons Day 7: Cascade Canyon

Day 7 we awoke in Jackson and had a leisurely morning, before heading back into the park for Cascade Canyon.  This was the busiest place we had been — some of that was due to nicer weather, but some of it was due to the popularity of this hike!  We made it a little over 5 miles, to just before the Canyon forks north and south.  We again had a hot lunch and chilled for a bit, before heading back down.   This hike gave us a little over 50 miles of hiking and backpacking!

For dinner, we spoke to the hotel receptionist about some options, and decided on The Lift, a 15 minute walk towards the town ski slopes.  I imagine during the winter this place is happening, but at this time a year, it’s away from the down town business, and is more of a locals place.  We both had excellent meals.

On the walk over we saw a glass building with all kinds of colorful florescent lighting.  Upon closer inspection, we discovered it was an indoor garden, growing all kinds of vegetables on rotating shelves.  Pretty cool to see!

The next day we flew home.  We will definitely be back to hike the Teton Crest trail some day!  But we need to come in very late July or August, for that to be possible.

 

 

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Tetons Day 6: Paintbrush Canyon

After a warm night in a hotel, we both got in short runs, and then had great breakfast at the Trapper Grill.  We then headed up into Paintbrush Canyon, the canyon we had had permits to camp in the night before.  In the parking lot I saw a couple coming out with all the gear and talked to them about conditions they experienced, and it pretty much rained on them all afternoon, evening, and into the night.  So we felt justified that we had baled on our backpacking plans!

Paintbrush is a beautiful canyon.   It’s hard to pick a favorite, but it would come down to Death or Paintbrush.  They were so different.  Death definitely felt more remote, and the waterfall up was amazing.  Paintbrush had amazing open views of valley lakes.

We hiked up about as far as we could go — large snow field blocked the way.  At that point, looking further into the canyon was like looking at winter, but all you had to do was turn around and see spring.   We hiked back down a bit to an amazing camp site and set up our chairs, and cooked a hot lunch, and spoke to a few other backpackers that would be staying here this night.

When we got back to town we drove to The Bird, a burger joint about 10 minutes south of Jackson, that one of the local backpackers we had met coming out of Open Canyon had recommended.   It had a fun atmosphere and was quite good.

 

A bit of what some of the stream crossings are like:

 

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Tetons Day 5: Signal Mountain Lodge

We awoke to no rain, but we did have a decision to make.  Pretty much all of our gear was wet, other than the clothes we had on.  And the forecast was not looking good.  Our itinerary had us heading to the car, and driving north into the main part of the park to Paintbrush Canyon, so we decided to hold off on a final call until we were in the car.

On the way down we met three guys who had been out for the night at Phelps Lake.  We enjoyed talking to them, and when we reached our car at the trail head and it started to rain, we offered them a ride since their car was still almost a mile away.  They squeezed in, and we got them to their car.

Once in, Kelly and I made the call to see if we could find a hotel for the night.  We first tried Jenny Lake Lodge, but it was VERY EXPENSIVE!  We drove up to Signal Mountain Lodge, which was more reasonable, and checked in.  We had about an hour of very strong sun so I laid everything out and got it mostly dry, before the weather turned again.  We looked up in to the canyons and new we had made the right decision!  We enjoyed a nice meal and a warm bed.   And dry clothes!

(While we certainly could have trudged on, we would have spent many hours in the tent waiting out the rain.  The next day we hiked to Paintbrush and met a couple coming down how had camped, and they said they were pretty much poured on all afternoon, evening, and night!)

 

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Tetons Day 4: Open Canyon

 

After a night of mostly rain in Death Canyon, we awoke to a break in the weather that allowed us to have breakfast and pack up the gear.  I would have been tempted to stay another day/night in Death if it had just rained, even though our permits said to move out.  It was an amazing spot, and Kelly and I were the only ones for what seemed like miles.  No one else was in the Death Canyon camping zone!

A few minutes after we left the site with all our gear on our backs, Kelly suddenly stopped.  We had scared a bear cub up  a tree, less than 50 yards a way.  It was really cute, and I wish I had a picture, but we were also worried as we didn’t see Mama bear.  We stood very still and Kelly shook her bear bells, and after maybe 30-40 seconds, the mama appeared and ran up the hill.  Baby bear came down the tree and followed.  Shew!

We had to cross the same avalanche field and snow pack.  What was odd is that we approached the avalanche field, we saw a pack and poles, but no one around!   I yelled out, not wanting to scare anyone, and still nothing.  As we passed the bag I noticed a sheath and thought either “machete” or some kind of saw.  As we started to cross the field, it was apparent someone was out working trying to clear the field with a small hand saw!  Eventually we met the ranger and spoke to him.  His 1st question was “was anyone else up there last night,” to which we said “no.”  🙂

As we started down Death, it really started to rain and was really cold.  It was a bit of a death march, in some ways.  After an hour or two, I was getting really cold, but Kelly was marching along.  I started thinking of the B&B’s hot tub.  When we reached the fork in the trail at Phelp’s Lake, however, we did not turn back to the car.  We headed up towards Open Canyon.

After a few minutes we stopped for a warm lunch of rice noodle soup and tea, and though I was shaking from cold and wet, it made me feel a lot better.  And once we started up,  I did warm up.  I could tell Kelly was struggling, a bit.  Turns out her feet were pretty much ice blocks.  After a while we did come across three back packers — they were heading down and bailing — they had had a pretty aggressive plan of much higher peaks, and just didn’t have the gear.

When we found the site at Open Canyon, we set up, again just in time for a hail storm, though this one was much smaller than the night before.   We did have a brief, 30 minute period of sun, where we hung up our wet clothes to dry, but alas, it got dark too soon.

 

 

The river coming down in Open Canyon:

 

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Tetons Day 3: Death Canyon

Day three — time to start backpacking!  But only after an awesome breakfast at the B&B.   Again, to keep things simple, I’m just doing a single “tile mosaic” of all the images and will write at the top what we did, but will include videos here and there as well.

After breakfast, we headed into the park on Moose Wilson Road, a bit of a back door road into the park that passes by Teton Village, and then is 9 miles of tight and twisty road to the park.  Before the park, though, we hit the turn off for Death Canyon Trail head.   The 4×4 Jeep allowed us to drive the rough mile long road, through some major pot holes, to get all the way to the trail head.  We did pass a lot of cars parked much earlier, but in reality, we saw a minivan make it pretty far.  I personally would not have attempted that!

The trail to Death Canyon has a 1 mile lead in to a view of Phelps Lake, and then heads up the canyon.

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The 1st part of the hike, we saw a fair number of day hikers, but after that, we saw a few runners and day hikers.  One of the runners was wearing the same Prana shorts that I run in — something I’ve not seen before!  He also had no GPS and said he wasn’t training for anything, just out running.

The hike along the “river” (all snow melt) in Death Canyon was stunning:

 

We reached the top, where it flattened out, and we hiked along the creek with stunning mountain peaks and snow and waterfalls on each side.  We saw a few moose, and very few people.  One was a runner, who was wearing Prana shorts – something I’ve only know myself to do!  He had no GPS and said he wasn’t training for anything, just out for a 12-13+ mile run in an incredibly beautiful place.

We crossed a few snow packs, and even had to cross an avalanche field with down trees and snow:

 

After that, it was another mile or so until we found the perfect camp site.  We were on a bit of a rock knoll — really a 3 sided cliff – with a small flat grassy spot on top.  We set up the tent and grabbed a quick lunch, just before we got hit by a huge hail storm!

 

After the hail, it did rain for quite a while, but we were lucky enough to get a short window where we could cook dinner without  rain.

Photo’s from the day:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tetons days 1&2

Kelly and I celebrated 25 years of marriage by heading to one of our favorite places, Grand Teton National Park.  While we had wanted to backpack the Crest Trail, we were too early in the season.  The park ranges had told us we’d need to carry ice axes and know how to self-arrest!  We opted to do some canyon backpacking instead — in one canyon, then out to the next.   We still want to go back to do the entire Crest trail some day — but now know that needs to be mid to late July to (very) early September!

We flew in to Jackson Hole and had a couple nights at a fantastic Bed & Breakfast, Teton View B&B.   (When we landed in Jackso, the stewardess welcomed everyone there, but gave a special welcome to “Mr. and Mrs. Butler, celebrating 25 years…”)  The hosts of the B&B Franz and Carole were extremely welcoming and have a lovely set up.  They were especially helpful in finalizing our hiking and backpacking plans, which we would need to alter again based on input from the rangers as well, as to where snow was, etc.

I’ll just do a single photo mosaic below but walk you through what we did.  After arrival at the B&B, we headed to Teton Village and took the Bridger gondola to the top, which is free after 5 p.m.  We had a drink and a bite to eat, and then headed down to eat at the Mangy Moose.

The next day, we decided to day hike Amphitheater Lake.  We ended being turned back a little over 9000 feet, half mile short of the lakes, due to high snow.  We didn’t need to take any chances with Kelly’s knee before we started backpacking!   I did go one or two more switchbacks, but the trail wasn’t marked, and there was boot pack going in 2-3 different directions at each one, so decided it wasn’t worth it.

We headed back down and ended up at Trappers Grill at Signal Mountain Lodge, which has great deck seating and amazing views.  We ordered Reece’s favorite from last time — the huge plat of Nacho’s.

 

Here’s the Strava info for the Amphitheater Lake hike.

AT: Family backpacking trip

For my birthday, I wanted to do a family backpacking trip.  We opted to do nearly the same exact trip we did with the HTC men’s group in early June, documented here, here, and here.  As the trips were almost identical, I’ll not go into the details of the journey.  I’ll just say that the kids did very well in the 20 miles and nearly 4000′ of climb that we did, and post some photos.

Day 1

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We stopped for a “coffee break” for me and a rest stop for everyone else.  Reece threw up the hammock and chilled while Kelly got some sun in the back.

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Here’s the kid’s tent site near Wise Shelter (just on the other side of the creek):

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Mess hall:

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Day 2

Heading out:

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(a bit of a joke as we had only walked about 5 minutes!)

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Rock climbing:

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Lunch break

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Evening camp site:

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Our site was invaded by ponies…  Some editing done by Riley:

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Day 3

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AT: HTC Summer backpacking trip day 3

I slept much better on the 2nd night, as per usual.  I was a bit worried about the cold, but it ended up not being as cold as the 1st night.   Sometime just before 6 a.m., though, I was woken by sounds that are very hard to explain.  In hindsight, it’s easy to call them “aggressive munching sounds.”  This was right next to me on the right side of my tent.  And then something was making noise on the upper side of the left tent.  I quickly looked up, and saw the shadow of a head of some kind of animal poking its snout all over my tent!  Based on the way the light was behind it, and not being fully awake, it was not a shape that made sense to me, but my 1st guess was baby bear.  I sleep with my hiking poles in the tent, so I “gently” tapped the top corner of the tent a couple times to get it to move.

Once that was done, I could hear munching all around the tents.  I poked my head out and could see lots of animals — adult and baby horses!  I couldn’t get my phone camera to work for a bit, and all I got was this crazy video:

Well once the animals cleared out, there was no getting back to sleep.  But being awake did allow me to watch an incredible sunrise:

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After we had breakfast and packed, we walked down to a nice site for morning prayer.  This was the site on way down:

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IMG_0966.jpgThe altar:

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During prayer:

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During prayer there were horses all around us, and some kept going after various packs — trying to get inside, etc.   During the NT reading, there was literally a stampede right through the middle of our group, and Shea had to jump out of the way, while I had to jump behind a tree.  I have a little video of the aftermath where they were running back through:

Eventually the horses let us be and we were able to complete a wonderful morning prayer service, including communion.

As the last day we just had a 5 mile hike, mostly downhill;

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All in all another great trip.  I hope to take some of the 2sparrows clan out on this same loop in July.  But every time I am on the AT, I can’t help but thinking about thru-hiking.  I’ve done close to 500 miles on it now, but spread out over many years.   I really would like a crack at doing it in one go someday!

AT: HTC Summer backpacking trip day 2

I never sleep well on Day 1 on the trail, and this trip was no different.  Despite a camp site right next to a load stream, which was wonderful, I still tossed and turned a bit.  And I was chilly, even in my so called 20F bag.  :-/  Granted I did not put on my socks or jacket, but still!  I woke up early and decided to walk the 5 minutes towards the shelter, as there were two nice privy’s there.

Shea was camped near me, without even a rainfly:

On the way back I heard what I thought sounded like a lot of cows coming our way, and hoped the guys up on the ridge were awake!  (Shea, David, Caleb, and myself had all camped lower by the stream.)  I arrived and luckily the guys were up, with at least 10 large steer (including LARGE horns) all mixed amongst their tents, including this fire eating bad boy:

And a video:


After all the excitement, I made another amazing cup of stream side coffee:

The privy (“a poo with a view”):

We had a shorter hike today, but it was still a climb:

Once we reached the top of that climb it was really open and exposed — and crowded.  There’s a day hiker’s parking lot not far from there, and there were a lot of people out.  It was still gorgeous:

We debated at the top about what to do.  Shea had scouted the area by the spring, and it was crowded.  There were other options further on, but since he hadn’t scouted them, we didn’t know if they’d be any better.  In the end we headed to the spring and eventually found some good camp sites.

After setting up, Bob and I decided to “fast pack” to Mount Rogers (just a small day back).