WY – Hikin’ the CDT with Team Buddy Backpacker

Where do most kids want to go during their spring break? I’m fairly certain few would say “let’s hike!” But Christian aka Buddy is not an ordinary kid. At 5 years old he hiked the Appalachian Trail; at 6 he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Since then he’s been working toward completion of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). 

I first met Team Buddy Backpacker (Andrea, Dion and Christian) in 2014 when they were hiking the PCT. I had the opportunity to host them and provide a little magic. 

Luck would have it that I was in the right place at the right time to join them for this short section hike. Although the sun was in our faces, it was a nippy mid 20-degree morning. Photo credit: Dion 

We began our hike at South Pass City. 

It’s been partially restored and open for visitation in tours during the summer months (link). 

And so begins our hike. 

Although a crappy photo, I was excited to see this ermine (aka weasel). A friend who lives in Teton Valley had been posted really cute photos all winter. It was my first in person sighting . . . well except for the dead one we found on my recent ski-to-cabin adventure. 

We also saw big herds of pronghorn aka antelope. They run really fast, like up to 55 mph. I was happy to capture these images a couple days after our hike.

With the mostly flat topography, we were able to hike big miles.

The snow enhanced this normally bland landscape.

This section includes significant time wandering through the tufted grass.

Dion was chief navigator. Notice the all important water! I really dislike carrying excess water. 

You might have thought Dion led us a bit more than a few miles off trail.

“The California Trail was an emigrant trail of about 3,000 miles (4,800 km) across the western half of the North American continent from Missouri River towns to what is now the state of California. After it was established, the first half of the California Trail followed the same corridor of networked river valley trails as the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail, namely the valleys of the Platte, North Platte and Sweetwater rivers to Wyoming. In the present states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah, the California and Oregon trails split into several different trails or cutoffs.” Source: Wikipedia

We found a campsite near water, and got settled in just before sunset. My notes say it was a cold windy 28 at 9pm. Thankfully the wind stopped during the night and overnight temps settled at 18F in my tent.

The next day was Easter! Buddy has the best parents. 

Road walking was much preferable to picking my way through the ankle-twisting tufts. 

With thousands of miles under his feet, Buddy is a pro at stream crossings. 

Ever wonder how Buddy entertains himself over thousands of miles? He listens to music and podcasts. I  loved watching him playing orchestra director, hearing him singing or sharing newfound knowledge. As I learned during his visit in 2014, he’s also a proficient map and app reader.

We ended our hike with this hysterical hitch from a local rancher who drove his truck like we were on the Indy 500. 

Dion put together this awesome video of our hike. Let me know if you have trouble accessing as it’s a facebook link.

 

I previously posted about the ALDHA-West gathering (link) in which Buddy received his Triple Crown award for having completed all three long trails (AT, PCT, CDT). Below is the video of his speech. I loved that he thanked chocolate and Pooh. Once again it’s a facebook link, so let me know if problems. Video credit: Andrea

 

Buddy became the youngest at 9-years old to earn his Triple Crown. His efforts have been recognized by many news sources including:

I’ve really enjoyed spending time with this incredible family. They didn’t start hiking to set records or even complete long trails, it all started as a two-week vacation. To learn more about them and follow their story:

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: April 15-16, 2017

Links:

Resources:

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Summer/Fall Jaunting 2017

July couldn’t come soon enough. I was impatient but knew snow would be a problem in the areas I had on my agenda. Although I didn’t return home from my spring trip mid May, I wanted to explore the high elevation mountains bookmarked for summer travel. With my favorite local haunts inaccessible due to the 2016-17 snowpocalypse, all I could do was wait . . . patience is not my strong suit. But once I got the green light, off I went. This trip met and exceeded most expectations. What a wonderful way to spend a summer and fall. Staying fairly current with my blog made it even more pleasurable.

Length of Trip:  93 days (July 16 – October 18)

States Visited: 4 (Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming)

Miles Driven: 6,412 (averaged 69 miles per day, 25.9 miles per gallon, cost was around $700 at $2.50-$3.00 per gallon)

Activity Days: 52 (averaged 4 days per week)

Night Spots:

Slept in Car (42 nights, with only 2 in campgrounds)

Tent (37 nights, all while backpacking)

Friends/family (7 nights, special thanks to all who hosted me)

Paid Lodging (9 nights)

WYOMING Jaunts:

Wind River Mountains

Grand Teton National Park

COLORADO Jaunts:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Colorado National Monument

Colorado Trail

Lizard Head Wilderness

San Juan National Forest

UTAH Jaunts:

Bears Ears National Monument

La Sal Mountains

NEVADA Jaunts:

Great Basin National Park

This smiles says it all. Making lots of deposits into my books of memories. Living life and loving it!

WY – Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park (Part 4)

This day’s objective was Hurricane Pass. I’d heard this was the toughest climb on the Teton Crest Trail. I got an early start in hopes all my climbing in the Winds prepared me for this one. 

There was a group ahead of me so it was nice to monitor their progress against mine. The pass didn’t look very intimidating to me. 

As I climbed there were lots of false summits and the beginning of smoky skies. Look back at the blue skies in the previous photo. I liked how these two mountains nearly mirrored each other. Looking back toward Sunset Lake. I’d definitely made the right decision for me staying on the Alaska Basin Shelf. The “lake” was really just a pond. 

The view from Hurricane Pass looking back to the south. 

I was beyond sad reaching Hurricane Pass only to find the Tetons cloaked in smoke and the sun position not working in my favor. It had taken me less than an hour to reach the summit and I didn’t find it a significant challenge.

As I dropped over the north side of Hurricane Pass, I nearly cried knowing with the smoke I wouldn’t be able to explore the glaciers and lakes as originally planned. I have asthma and am extremely sensitive to smoke. 

This was my decision point. Of course, I had to say NO! This day was not to be mine. I’ll be back under better conditions to explore this beautiful place. 

Skies were deceiving. There were a lot of smoke particles in the air. I was hacking and wheezing. 

The remainder of the trail is in GTNP therefore all camping is by permit only. Skipping the trek to Avalanche Divide and Icefloe Lake meant I’d need to spend the bulk of the day in the smoke in my camp zone. I decided instead to change my route and return to my car via Cascade Canyon rather than Paintbrush Canyon

I enjoyed several waterfalls on my exit hike.

Check out this rock wall. I passed a trail crew who I thanked immensely for their work. 

Final decision point. To the right is Cascade Canyon, to the left is Paintbrush Canyon. To the right I went . . .

Previous days . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 9/1/17
  • Mileage: about 14 (didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: unknown but it was an ascent to Hurricane Pass and then primarily descent to the String Lake parking area
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal if any
    • Overgrowth: wildflowers and some bushes
    • Signage: good
    • Terrain: good
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: restricted by GTNP permits
  • Solitude: moderate (saw only a few people between Sunset Lake and the Cascade Canyon / South Fork junction, but then saw tons and tons of people on the Cascade Canyon trail)
  • Bugs: biting flies were around at lower elevation, plus bees and grasshoppers
  • Precip: None on this day
  • Temp: Hot at lower elevation
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 3- cherries (out of 5) (would have been much higher without smoke; the Cascade Canyon was surprisingly nice with the waterfalls and mixed forest)

Tips:

Links:

Resources:

 

WY – Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park (Part 3)

I can now say I survived THE DEATH ZONE!

My primary goal of the day was to explore Alaska Basin

The cloudy skies made for perfect hiking temperatures but less than ideal views and photos. 

The Monkey Flowers were at peak and were prolific near water sources.

There were a few shady enclaves hiding Gentian flowers.

There are several lakes in the basin. I was quite disappointed by the quality of lakes in the Tetons. They are much more like ponds, not a place you want to swim nor gather drinking water. 

There is a side trail that takes you to the pass next to Buck Mountain, a detour on my agenda. 

Look closely at the mark under the clouds. That’s a helicopter! I met a man running down the trail. He said he’d had to run to the pass from the basin to call 911 on his cell. Jackson Hole is between the gap. His friend had developed severe stomach pains overnight and needed urgent extraction. Relying on cell signal in the mountains is risky; I’m thankful for my InReach (two-way satellite communicator).

What’s on the other side of Buck Mountain Pass

Looking down into Alaska Basin

Views from Buck Mountain Pass

The trail continues around the other side of the Alaska Basin

Looking back up toward Buck Mountain Pass

Do you see me? This marmot made me chuckle. He was absorbing the warmth of the rock, hiding from the breeze and hoping I didn’t see him. 

I’d originally planned to camp at Sunset Lake, but because I was outside GTNP I had the flexibility to camp elsewhere. When I found this spot on the Alaska Basin Shelf, with nearby water, I knew this would be a better home for me. I had a view of where I’d spent the day and felt as though I had the entire place to myself. 

With smoke in the air, I had a nice sunset view. Wonder if the view was better at Sunset Lake

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/31/17
  • Mileage: 8-10 miles (didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: minimal except for the climb up to Buck Mountain Pass
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal if any
    • Overgrowth: minimal if any
    • Signage: good
    • Terrain: excellent
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: plentiful and unrestricted by GTNP permits
  • Solitude: moderate, so a few groups on the trail but no one near my campsite
  • Bugs: grasshoppers and bees
  • Precip: clouds that didn’t result in thunderstorms on this day
  • Temp: 41 overnight low
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 5 cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

Links:

Resources:

WY – Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park (Part 2)

I started my second day by stepping onto the Teton Crest Trail.

I spent much of my day reveling in flowers. 

Marion Lake

Autumn is on it’s way. 

As I approached Death Canyon, I got some great teaser views of the big Teton mountains. 

Heading up to the Death Shelf. 

I heard several rock falls and actually witnessed two. 

Death Shelf was much more vibrant and moist than I anticipated. 

I haven’t seen dark brown marmots that I can recall. This one wanted to star in all my photos. 

I camped on the shelf with a great view of my future. 

The next morning I could only wonder what the weather would bring. 

Looking back toward Death Canyon and Death ShelfLink to possible explanations of the name.

Worst case of Leave No Trace (LNT) I’ve seen.  Wonder how long these skis have been here? Wonder how the person exited? Did this person receive a helicopter ride?

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/30/17
  • Mileage: 8-10 miles (didn’t track as conserving battery)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: unknown as didn’t track however it was mostly a steady climb
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal if any
    • Overgrowth: only wildflowers
    • Signage: good
    • Terrain: good
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: restricted by permit
  • Solitude: moderate (saw a few groups around Marion Lake and one on Death Shelf)
  • Bugs: grasshoppers and bees
  • Precip: Sprinkled most of afternoon and early evening
  • Temp: 47 overnight low
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 5 cherries (out of 5) (loved the section between Marion Lake and Death Canyon, lots of WOW views)

Tips:

Links:

Resources:

WY – Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park (Part 1)

Since I was only about 70 miles from the Tetons, and given I was already acclimated to the elevation after spending the previous six weeks in Wind River Mountains, I figured I might as well try my luck at obtaining a walk-up permit. Arriving after the Visitor Center closed, I spent the night staring at my objective. 

The Park holds two thirds of their permits for walk ups. Those are pretty good odds. I arrived at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center an hour before it opened in hopes I’d be first in line, which I easily accomplished. By pushing my start date back I day, I scored the permit I desired. The ranger talked me into exploring Leigh Lake while I was waiting to get started. 

Skies were a bit smoky which made me concerned about proceeding with my trek. 

I had my own private beach and only saw one other party at the lake. Since I only had to pack for one night, I brought a few luxury items like my beach shoes. 

With a hike of only a couple miles, I even brought my chair (Moon Lence). 

There are many trailheads from which you can access the Teton Crest Trail. I based my itinerary on one provided by a friend; she’d recommended starting from the Coal Creek Trailhead, west of Teton Pass on Highway 22. I rarely hike one-way routes because of the transport logistics but I decided to make an exception for this opportunity. Rather than arrange for a taxi, I decided I’d try to hitch the 40-50 miles. I quickly secured a ride from the String Lake parking area to the junction of North Jenny Lake and Teton Road. Although there was plenty of traffic, no one seemed interested in giving me a lift. I’d noticed a painter at the Cathedral Group turnout. Before calling a taxi I approached this gentleman but he was planning to spend the day in that location. However, another guy had stopped to chat and offered me a lift. Richard ended up being my angel, giving me a ride all the way to the trailhead, completely out of his way. We had great conversation and he relieved me of so much worry. Thanks again Richard! (p.s. I never received your email, try adding a “1” to the address I gave you or use jansjaunts-wordpress@yahoo.com.

Much of the Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) borders the Jedediah Smith Wilderness with the trail bouncing in and out of the Park boundaries. My first 8-10 miles were outside the Park giving me campsite freedom the first night. 

Much of the first few miles was contending with past peak wildflowers, a little overwhelming as they drooped over the trail. 

As I gained elevation, live wildflowers replaced those gone to seed. Far in the distance is one of the Teton peaks.

My goal was to spend the night at Moose Lake, which is tucked below and to the left of this granite ridge. 

But with my late start and plentiful elevation gain, I didn’t quite make it. After getting within about 1/2 mile of the lake, I retreated to this nice site near Moose Creek

While eating breakfast, the creek’s namesake strolled by, not even giving me a glance. 

I’ve been wanting to see a moose in the wild forever. How lucky to see one at Moose Creek! My only regret was I didn’t have my camera nearby, but at least had my phone to capture this photo. 

Moose Lake is over there, a place that looks worthy of a future visit.

Beautiful country near the Moose Lake basin. 

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/28-8/29/17
  • Mileage: About 5 round trip to Leigh Lake from parking; about 8 from Coal Creek trailhead to Moose Creek
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown as preserving battery; however, it was a continuous climb from the Coal Creek trailhead to Moose Creek.
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: wildflowers
    • Signage: good
    • Terrain: decent switchbacks
  • Water: Plentiful as trail borders Coal Creek to Mesquite Creek to Moose Creek
  • Camping: Plentiful
  • Solitude: High! Only saw a few day hikers on the Coal Creek Trail. There were LOTS of people around String and Leigh Lakes during the day but at night my campsite was private and I only heard one saw a couple with a canoe in the distance.
  • Bugs: Nearly non existent this late in season
  • Precip: There was a thunderstorm mid day while I was hiking the Coal Creek trail.
  • Temp: It was 42 overnight at Leigh Lake and 52 at Moose Creek.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 3+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

Links:

Resources:

WY – Lester Pass, Northern Wind River Mountains, Bridger Wilderness

After completing the Jean Lakes Lollipop Loop, I landed at the Big Water Slide near Fremont Crossing for the night. 

What an interesting place. There is a significant creek (Fremont?) flowing under the bridge (on left of below photo), then creating a pond as it makes this sweeping corner before dropping over large smooth rocks creating a waterfall (top right of photo) as it once again becomes a creek. 

Fremont Crossing Bridge

The pond as it gets ready to go over the slide. There were quite a few fish jumping in this pond.

The top of the slide aka waterfall. 

The crashing power of water. 

The next morning not only was I happy to be kissed by the sun but thrilled to have finally captured the rays.

Soon enough it was time to head south over the Fremont Bridge.

It’s been in the low to mid 30’s in the mornings. I prefer campsites away from water and low spots to minimize condensation and frost. Back at the Highline / Seneca Lake / Indian Basin trail junction, I continued southeast on Highline Trail #094 (aka CDT). 

The summit post at Lester Pass

I loved looking back at all those peak I’d previous visited during this trek. 

While climbing, it was hard not to look backwards at this lovely view. 

Looking to the south, you could see Angel Peak and Angel Pass (the distinctive V). The basin between these ridges held Cook Lakes, my destination for the night. 

Looking back up at Lester Pass

Tommy Lake

I’d planned on hiking the Cook Lake Trail #163 as a loop circumnavigating lower lake while visiting upper lake.

Lower Cook Lake

After battling through brushy trail, I wasn’t able to find an easy way to cross the outlet of Upper Cook Lake and decided it wasn’t worth the effort so reversed my path instead. 

It seemed I had Lower Cook Lake to myself for the night, although I heard gunshots in the distance which was quite disconcerting. The multiple rounds sounded like target practice up the canyon and over the small ridge on the far side of the lake. This was another very active fish area. 

Sunset colors were pretty amazing.

This is a confusing junction as evidenced when I met a CDT thru-hiker who ended up on the Pole Creek Trail #094 rather than the Fremont Trail #096 (aka CDT). 

It’s always a good morning when it starts with wet feet crossings. This one was about mid calf height, the next was about to my knees. 

I enjoyed seeing these bring yellow lilypads blooming on the ponds. 

With the heavy use of this section of trail, you can expect to find many items left behind. I did my part by picking up this bladder and a few more things but I just couldn’t carry others such as a nalgene bottle and some very heavy binoculars. I lost a pen this trip, so karma says I need to pay it forward by helping to clean the trails. 

As I traveled this next section of trail on my entry, I was feeling the feet to the barn syndrome. Elkhart Trailhead here I come!

Eklund Lake sure provides a nice view of the Winds. 

Time to cruise the superhighway. I’d neglected to check my water situation at Eklund Lake and found myself in dire need when I arrived at this sign. There was a pond holding yucky water but I decided to take my chances at finding something better along the way. I had about 1/4 liter remaining and really needed to eat but couldn’t do so without water, so onward I went.

I was rained on earlier this day and it looked like my thunderstorms were building as I arrived at Photographers Point. I befriended a couple guys who were heading up to summit Fremont peak and found one was carrying a gallon of water. He was glad to part with some weight and I was so very grateful for the fresh liter of water. Ah, food, water and onward I went. 

Although water was non existent, there were some remaining wildflower displays. 

How could you not laugh at this stubborn llama (or handler). They were only a couple miles up the trail. I wonder how things were going a few hours and miles later. It wasn’t a pleasant sight watching what it took to get the llama up and moving.

I spent a fabulous 5-6 weeks in the Winds and yet barely touched the surface. There is so so much more to see. I look forward to future exploration. 

For summer 2017, I say goodbye. I’m so thankful for these 6-weeks of exploration. What a memory maker!

Links . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/22-23/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 18-20 (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, constant up and down (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal (most on the Cook Lakes trail)
    • Signage: moderate on main trails (confusing without a map or gps at a few junctions)
    • Terrain: lots of muck primarily from excessive pack animal use; also rocky ground and a couple wet feet crossings
  • Water: plentiful (except for final 6ish miles)
  • Camping: excellent
  • Solitude: Expect lots of company on trail. Many day hike from the trailhead to Photographers Point, many also camp at Eklund Lake.
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t use any repellent this trip (the wind is my friend)
  • Wildlife Sightings: none beyond birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pika, and marmuts
  • Precip: I had a little rain my first and last day of this trip
  • Temp: Overnight varied and seemed to fluctuate a lot in the 30’s and 40’s, highs were probably in 60’s-70’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 3+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, bugs and navigation. Also review current food protection requirements/guidelines (I used an Ursack with an Opsack liner). If I were to hike this loop again, I’d use my bear canister as in many areas there were no trees to use as an anchor for my Ursack.

Links:

Resources: