Seven days in heaven…or was it just a dream. Either way, the experience was really good for the soul!
I was able to get an early start on the 4th of July weekend. Leaving town about mid-day on Friday. This allowed to miss out on the horrible traffic that is known to build up in the evening as people begin to head out on any holiday weekend. I had decided to drive most of the way up to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and found a secluded camp for the evening on some forest access road off US89 outside of Jackson.
The following morning I was up early to try and beat the crowds and secure a site at a favorite campground at Signal Mountain. I was in luck to find one but it was a full electric site designed for those camping in their trailers and RV’s. This meant forking out twice as much cash as a non-electric site. Not a big deal for one night, but I did not want to spend twice as much for the next 6 nights I planned on being there.
So it was up early the following morning to secure one of the nonelectric tent sites. And thankfully this worked out just as I had hoped and was able to secure one of the best sites in the campground with direct access to Jackson Lake via a very short path from the site.
After getting camp set up, I was off to get the hiking legs loosened up for a week of hiking. Ended up on the String Lake Loop for a wonderful 4 mile warmup hike. Beautiful views of the high peaks of the Tetons on the first half and then the trail gains a bit of elevation on the west side of the lake. Found a great large granite boulder shaded by large old pine tree to take a nice long lunch break with views over-looking the lake and the Jackson Hole Valley. Spent the afternoon/evening enjoying the views from the shoreline of Jackson Lake… even took a camp chair to relax in style!
The following morning presented itself with many clouds over the Teton Range, so I decided to postpone the first big hike in case the weather was too bad. Spent the day enjoying exploring some areas in the park with shorter hikes along the Snake River and Schwabachers Landing.
The following morning dawned fairly clear, so I decided it was time to get the first big hike in. Ambitiously, I had picked out a trail I had not yet hiked… Amphitheatre Lake. Mileage wise it was doable at about 10.5 miles round-trip. But the elevation gain and me not being quite up to par that day, thwarted the best effort to reach the destination. I would later come across a painting in an art gallery in Jackson of the most beautiful lake situated at the base of the Grand Teton. This lake, I would later find out, is located just off the trail I had been hiking and can be found with a bit of route finding. I vowed to make the trip to this hidden gem on the next visit to the park!
Upon arriving at the trailhead, I somehow picked up a young woman hiking alone that was obviously nervous about the presence of bears and decided to hike along. It did not take her long before she realized that the mature pace was not to her liking and she was gone, presumably hooking up with some faster moving younger hikers. The trail quickly began to gain elevation as it switched back and forth up the mountainside that was covered with wildflowers. What a spectacle to witness such beauty! At about a mile shy of the destination, I decided that it would be all I could do to just make it back to the Jeep and turned back disappointed at not reaching the goal, but intoxicated by the surrounding beauty.
On the way down, the mountain decided to claim my favorite Dr. Jones hat, when the wind picked up on the crest of a ridge and sent it sailing off down into a ravine. Despite my efforts, the hat could not be recovered. It was a strenuous hike and was exhausted and feet ached by the time I was back to the Jeep. I felt good about the accomplishment on the 8.5 mile hike and now knowing what lies up there, I will be back sometime in the future to reach the hidden gem!
On day 4, I awoke tired and sore from the previous days hike. So I decided on a rest day puttering around camp and then into Jackson for a bit of tourist watching, tourist shopping and locally brewed root beer…Yum!
The following day, woke to heavily laden skies and periods of rain… No big hikes today… So off to Yellowstone National Park it was… A wonderful day viewing the wildlife of Hayden Valley and the world renowned waterfalls of the Yellowstone River. A very moody day with the cloudy skies and periods of rain, but I welcomed another day of rest for the sore body.
The two days of relative rest had me ready for the final big hike… Cascade Canyon. If you have never hiked Cascade Canyon and find yourself in Grand Teton National Park, you owe it to yourself to do this one! It has everything you could ever want from a hike in the mountains. Spectacular high peaks crowned with glaciers feeding cascading waterfalls that descend along hillsides covered with wildflowers into the valley below where eagles soar high above and moose graze along the river’s edge. The only thing that distracts from all this beauty is all the other hikers that are there for the same reason you are. Their bells-a-ringing and hands-a-clappin’… all to try and keep the bears away! Fortunately, as far as I was concerned, they were successful and I saw no bears… The rest, well let’s just say, it is there for you to witness if you have the desire.
I ended up hiking farther than I had anticipated… That is the way this canyon is… at least for me, its alluring and makes me want to see what is on up ahead. As it was, I ended up hiking 13.5 miles that day and felt pretty darn good even afterwards. Goes to show that even at my age, with conditioning, we can still achieve great heights!
I will continue to dream about it until next the time when I can take a shot at reaching the hidden gem above Amphitheatre Lake…
*Disclaimer – there are a handful of phone camera pictures here added for documentation purposes