Sat, Sep 4 2010 - The Teton Crest Trail (View Original Event Details)

Trip Leader(s): Michael Johnson, Bob Bunner
Participants:Michael Johnson, Bob Bunner, David Van Wert, Marc F, Kristi

Write Up:
We had a memorable adventure spending a week with good friends in Jackson Hole and backpacking the Tetons.  We arrived in Jackson on Saturday, where you still deboard from the airplane outside down the stairs.  We kept trying to look back and get pictures with the airplane in the foreground, and the Tetons in the background, but the airport ground crew kept trying to get us to hustle inside the airport.  Our first surprise was that the rental car company was offering really good deals on SUVs.  Hello Suburban!  Then we rode into town, er Jackson, in our big SUV and fetched us some groceries for some big fixins that night.  Our three bedroom condo was plenty big enough for the five of us.  We had a little surf and turf, salmon and ribeye steaks, cooked on the grill.  We even saved some for Michael who arrived a little later than the rest of us.

On Sunday, we had to go checkin at the Visitors Center, where many of us were issued our first bear canister.   We stretched our legs with a little dayhike after we were ferried across Jenny Lake.  Our initial destination was hidden lake as we competed with all of the tourists for photos of the waterfall.  We continued up the trail where we had magnificent views of Jenny Lake and sat up there watching the ferry make its run across the lake every few minutes.  We made it back to town where we perused the local artwork and it was all very good, but way beyond our price range.  Then, it was back to the condo for another grilled adventure, this time we went with chicken.

Since we were staying in Teton Village, we didn't have to travel far to reach the ski Tram that would give us an aerial view of Jackson Hole as we made our way to the trailhead on Monday morning.   Brrrrrrrr!  It was chilly at the top, somewhere around the mid-30's.  But we were excited to get started out doing what we set out to do, backpack the Teton Crest trail.  We had a long descent through a forest where we finally stopped for lunch.  Dave treated us all to some left over Salmon that he stashed in his pack.  I was pretty overconfident at this point that if any bears came our way, they were going to choose Dave over me.  The rest of the hike was up and down, but mostly up, as made our way under gorgeous skies to Marion Lake.  The lake sits at the bottom of a cirque and there were still a few patches of snow scattered around.  Lots of beautiful alpine flowers to take pictures of.  And we saw the first of many marmots that we would encounter on this trip.

Tuesday morning was the warmest 25 degrees I ever experienced.  It must be the lack of humidity, but it was a really nice morning.  We hated to leave our first campsite, but it was time to climb a bit as we made our way to Death Canyon Shelf.  About two miles into our hike, we had a view to the southwest of farmlands in the distance.  But that would be our only view of civilization until we completed our trip.  Mostly we were treated to a view of the Grand Teton straight in front of us as we made it to our destination.  We camped near the northern end of the camping zone, near a large rock that was probably 4-5 stories high. Dave had a stellar view from where he pitched his tent.  The rest of us had to rough it as we met along the shelf for meals and after dinner discussions.  Across the way were beautiful mountain meadows above and the death canyon valley below with a pretty good size creek meandering through the canyon.  We could see some fellow campers below us, but we didn't see a lot of wildlife.  The stars that night were magnificent - seeing the dust of the milky way and stars so close, you could almost grab them.

Wednesday was supposed to be our biggest hiking day.  We hike a couple of miles to Alaska Basin, which features many lakes and smooth rocks that made finding the path a challenge.  There were cairns along the way, but they weren't always easy to follow.  We ascended from Alaska Basin where we eventually made it to Sunset Lake, a beautiful turquoise lake, with some nice rocks overlooking the lake on the west side that made a great perch for lunch.  Then we climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more as we made it to the most dramatic part of our backpacking trip, Hurricane Divide.  At the pass, we were greeted by amazingly closeup views of the three Teton peaks (Grand, Middle and South) from the west.  Schoolhouse Glacier was right next to us.  We caught our breath taking picture after picture of this amazing scenery.  We were also very grateful that the storm clouds that had moved in most every afternoon, parted for a few minutes so that our views of the Tetons were largely unobstructed.  From there, we hiked down into our favorite campsite at South Fork Cascade Canyon.  It was something out of a fairytale, with waterfalls streaming down the canyon slopes, a roaring river that we largely couldn't see, a smaller river that accompanied us along the trail and great campsites.  For four of us, the hiking that day was not over.  We climbed up Avalanche Divide, about 1.6 miles to the summit, for a better view of the Tetons and a couple of moraine lakes to the southwest.  It was a hard climb, but once again, the weather Gods were with us as the clouds parted and we had beautiful views of the lakes below.  That evening, we were treated to another magnificent sky with the stars out.  You almost didn't mind getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

Thursday morning looked like another glorious day, but by the time we left camp, the weather started to look wintry.  We had some hail as we made it down South Fork Cascade Canyon and the dusting of snow was pretty.  When we reached the junction, the weather had cleared somewhat and we decided to press on to North Fork Cascade Canyon.  Unfortunately, we were only being teased as wet snow started falling heavily as we reached our designated camping zone.  There was a lot of interest in hunkering down for the night in our single-person tents.  But the weather forecast we were hearing from people who had hiked into the camping zone that morning was that the bad weather would continue through the night and on into the next day.  We were going to try to summit Paintbrush Divide the next day and we were warned that you shouldn't do it if there was a lot of snow.  So we made the difficult, but in hindsight, the obviously correct decision to hike out to our formerly white SUV.  It was about 8 miles to our car after we had already reached camp, or about 14-15 miles total that day.  We made it to the car around 6:00.  We had time to get another condo, not as nice, but we were eating out this time.  And we made it back to the Snake River Brewery, where the boys enjoyed an amazing chili with chunks of Bison and Elk.

On Friday morning, we had breakfast together before Dave decided he had more pressing matters to attend to, so we dropped him off at the airport while the rest of us drove up to Yellowstone.  For the remaining four of us, one of us had never been to Yellowstone and the other three of us hadn't been there in at least 20 years.  We enjoyed driving along the Lewis Canyon with the Lewis River below.  The snow we had left the day before had sprinkled on the ground here as well.  We stopped at virtually every overlook as we tried to keep pace with the rv'ers.  Lunch was cafeteria style at Old Faithful, but you don't get fresh trout at most cafeterias.  We finished lunch just in time to see Old Faithful blow off some steam  But to all of us, while it was a neat site, the thermal springs with clouds of moisture rising above them were far more interesting.  At one point we stopped to watch four fishermen, each about 50 yards apart, trying to hook a trout with this panoramic scene right out of a postcard.  We encountered a traffic jam where an Elk couple were sitting next to a river.  It was the closest we would get to an Elk on this trip.  My favorite scene of all was as we drove across the northern portion of the South Loop road and had to stop - as a big old Bison walked down the other lane of travel while all of us marveled at him.  We kept on driving until we got to Yellowstone Falls, upper and lower.  It was getting dusk, but we got some good shots in.  We ate dinner on the way out, probably should have stopped for some gas, but we eventually found some gas as we were just about out.

Saturday was our final full day in the Tetons and Michael picked a great spot for us to enjoy it.  We drove about an hour southeast of Jackson to a hot springs that was located at the end of a 10 mile dirt road.  Our white SUV was now brown.  The mountains here had a clear line delineating the elevation between where there was snow and where there was not.  We enjoyed another beautiful day as we spent a couple of hours in the hot springs and another hour or so taking pictures of this beautiful country.  The leaves were starting to turn yellow and gave us a sense of how beautiful this place would look in another couple of weeks.  There was also a bicycle race going on.  It turns out that about 1,000 riders made the trek from Logan Utah to Teton Village, a distance of over 200 miles, and many of them were finishing up that evening.  We had one final night in our original condo and it was beginning to feel like home.  We stopped on the way to watch the dories come down the Snake River, as fishermen continued to try their luck.  But "luck" was just being there.  This is truly one of the great scenes of Americana.  It was a beautiful afternoon.  The remaining fellas were planning to check out Jackson's notable steak house, known as the Gun Barrel, but unfortunately, it was closed for a private party that night.  So, we made another trip to Albertsons and had another fine meal back at the condo.

On Sunday, we dropped off Michael and Kristi so they could get their earlier flights, and Marc and I made it one last time to Jenny Lake.  Again, the weather was spectacular as we savored our final views of the Tetons overlooking Jenny Lake like sentinels guarding their possessions.  Eventually, we all made it back to Atlanta (Kristi's flight was delayed in Jackson).

Thank you to everyone for making this a most memorable trip!