Monday, July 05, 2010

The Grand Tetons

Victor, ID Poppies
Red poppies in Victor, ID.

Victor, ID Poppies
Close up of the red poppies in Victor, ID.

The last segment of our trip was to visit the Grand Tetons National Park. We wanted to hike the Teton Crest Trail, which runs along the crest of the Teton mountain range. It doesn't go to any of the peaks, but meanders through the mountain range, mostly behind the east faces which make up the famous view of the Tetons. But first we had to get there, from where we last camped near Dillon Montana. It took us the better part of a day just to reach the Wyoming border. Before we did, we took a pit stop in Victor Idaho, where we saw the biggest red poppies I've ever encountered. And there were soooo many growing in various places! After we got out of Victor, we had to drive up the backside of the Teton range, just to the south of the park. Our baja was climbing a lot faster than N&M's, so we parked and waited for them at the top, where we had a nice view of Jackson Hole, the valley along the east side of the Teton range.

Jackson Hole, WY
Me and Nicole above Jackson Hole, WY.

Looking at the map, we needed a place to camp that was nearby the national park. We needed to get up super early the next morning so that we could reserve our permit to hike up into the Tetons. The visitor center opened at 8am, and we wanted to be there at least half hour or so earlier so that we could wait outside in case other people wanted to reserve permits also. There is a limit on how many people could sleep up in the mountains, and since it was July 4th weekend, we thought it might be a popular thing to do. So we found some national forest land just across the valley from the park, and headed there for the evening to set up camp.

Grand Tetons NP
Setting up camp near Grand Tetons National Park.

As we drove across the valley and up into the mountains on the other side, the view of the Tetons was spectacular! The road turned to dirt, and soon we found a campsite. It was on the tip of a long ridge that extended towards the valley. As we were carrying our tents and stuff, we saw a fox run along the ridge! I hoped that it wouldn't steal our shoes in the night (foxes are known to do that kind of stuff). We were just in awe of the great view from the campsite we chose that we relaxed and all we did was watch the sunset. When it got dark, we hit the sleeping bags because we had to wake up so early the next morning!

Grand Tetons NP
View of the Tetons from our campsite the next morning at 6am.

We were ready in half an hour after the alarm went off. But we were pretty tired! We made our way into the park and took our place in line at the visitor center doors. We were the first ones there at about 45 minutes before the visitor center opened. So Romy and I got coffee for everyone while N&M waited. When we got back with the coffees, about 15 minutes later, a few more people were waiting. When it was about 5 minutes before opening time, two women, one of them pregnant, came up to the door and also waited. We assumed that they realized that there were about 5 other people waiting in line before them, but apparently they were so oblivious they just walked right in front of us as the ranger opened the door finally at 8am! The whole group of us went to the permit desk, and to our disbelief, the two women who showed up 5 minutes ago just cut in front of everybody in line! Marcel let them know what they had just done and the stupid pregnant bimbo (who knew very well what she and her friend just did) just gave him a "I'm a stupid bimbo" stare. After they were done, we talked to the permit ranger to get our permits for the trail and sometime before the pregnant bimbo left, she apologized to us. Whatever! Is that what she is going to teach her child? How to cut in line and then look like a retard? I hope not!

When we talked to the ranger, she told us that she couldn't give us any permits for most of the Teton Crest Trail because there was still a lot of snow up there. Since we didn't have ice axes or crampons, we couldn't go. But she let us know of other one-night options that we could do instead, so we decided to do a hike up the Cascade Canyon, and then camp up in it's south fork, which is just behind the Grand Teton peaks. Then for the second night, we reserved a back country campsite (one of only two) on the shore of Spaulding Bay. It was the only back country site you could drive to! We were lucky that we got that spot. So off we were, a little disappointed that we couldn't do the whole trail, but still excited to get going. And anyways, since there was still so much snow up there, like the ranger said, we wouldn't see anything anyways. Most of the alpine lakes up there were still frozen and covered in a couple feet of snow, and this was the 4th of July weekend!

Grand Tetons NP
Starting our hike into Cascade Canyon

When we got to the trailhead, we parked and packed up the backpacks with only the bare essentials. Since we were only spending one night up there, we didn't need much stuff. We had a bear canister which we packed with instant oatmeal, power bars, beef jerky, cheese, and noodles. We took a water bottle with our water filter, extra warm cloths, tent, thermarests, and sleeping bags. Oh yeah, and the camera! That was about it. We had about 7 miles to hike to our campsite, and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain. We left the trailhead at about 10:30am. After about an hour into the hike, we entered the canyon, with towering mountains to either side, and a creek flowing down between. We hiked along the creek most of the time.

Grand Tetons NP
Nicole and I pausing for a picture along the Cascade Canyon trail.

Grand Tetons NP
View down the Cascade Canyon

Before we knew it, we reached the point where the canyon split into its north and south fork, about 5 miles or so up the canyon. There we paused for a rest and then headed up the south fork. The trail got really steep for a while as we ascended into the south fork, making a sharp turn, heading up and behind the Teton peaks. Along the next couple miles into the south fork were various campsites that we were allowed to camp in. About half of the were snow free (the ones at lower elevation). We picked the third campsite up the trail. We were so tired by then that we all just plopped down in the ground and sat for a while. We were at nearly 9,000ft and just hiked 7 miles all the way up! We were pooped!

Grand Tetons NP
View up the south fork of Cascade Canyon.

Grand Tetons NP
Our campsite in the south fork of Cascade Canyon.

After we settled in, we ate a snack before getting our boots back on and taking a hike without our big packs on further up the trail to see this snow that the ranger was talking about. We walked for another 2 miles or so, and then Romy and I decided to stop. Along the way there were actually big patches of snow that we started to see which became more and more frequent. N&M wanted to keep going towards Hurricane Pass, which was supposedly all under a couple feet of snow. They went on while we sat next to a waterfall in the sun. After about 30 minutes, we headed back to camp. They arrived back in camp just a little while after us and told us that the trail was completely covered in deep snow just a little bit farther up from where we stopped. The snow just continued as far as the eye could see they told us! So hiking the Teton Crest Trail would be a little difficult, with no actual trail visible!

Grand Tetons NP
View up the north fork of Cascade Canyon as we were hiking out the next morning.

When we got back, we had dinner, but it started to get really cold outside, probably in the mid 40s. We barely could stand washing our pots and pans from dinner in the ice cold stream, but we did it because we didn't want any bears visiting our campsite. A young male mule deer was circling our campsite, munching on the foliage. It munched all evening, and really wasn't very afraid of us.

Grand Tetons NP
A mule deer that visited our campsite many times during the evening.

We hit the tents early that night because we wanted to keep warm! We spent the last minutes of daylight reading the park newspaper and brochure which we brought with us. Then when it got dark, we fell asleep. The next morning we woke up almost 12 hours from when we fell asleep (9pm to 9am)! We must of been really tired! We still had plenty of time to pack things up that morning, and the sun was starting to warm everything back up. After coffee and breakfast, we started heading back down the mountain. There were soooo many people hiking that day. We saw somebody every couple minutes for the whole way down! Sometimes it required a lot of skill to go pee so that nobody would see you. That's how many people were on the trail! We finally reached the trailhead in the afternoon. It took us almost the same amount of time to hike down than it did to hike up! I thought that was weird, but I guess we were kind of slow on the way back.

Grand Tetons NP
Our campsite at Spaulding Bay.

After so much hiking, we went into town for a beer. We found a small microbrewery called Snake River Brewing and tried a couple of their beers along with some calzones for dinner. Mmmm, the beer was excellent. After the refreshing beverages and huge dinner, we headed back into the park to Spaulding Bay for our second camping permit. We arrived kind of late, but that was ok with us. All night we heard grouses thumping their deep calls. They are birds similar to chickens, but more quail-looking. Their call sounds like somebody is thumping into the ground with a hammer at a fast rate. But we never saw them, just heard them. I think they lived in the forest. We also saw a male elk in the forest on our way to the campsite.

The next morning, we headed out of the park to the north. We were now officially on our way home (booooooooo). But in order to extend the vacation for as long as we could, we decided to drive home through Yellowstone. It wasn't exactly on the way, but it wasn't too far off either. . .

Grand Tetons
Driving out of the park.

Grand Tetons NP
A view of the Teton range and Jackson Lake.


butterbean said...

I am so in love with your campsite in the national forest across from the tetons. Im heading out their in a couple of weeks and would love to camp outside of the usual spots. Would you share this lovely place with me? Do you remember the road you were on?