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!

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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:

WY – Jean Lakes Lollipop Loop, Northern Wind River Mountains, Bridger Wilderness

After a day in Titcomb Basin and another in Indian Basin, it was time to explore areas further north while creating some distance from both the weekend and eclipse crowds. 

So I said goodbye to my lovely campsite with this welcoming sunrise. 

I love hiking in the early morning. 

Instead of returning to the trail junction, I opted to hike cross country through the Island Lake basin to connect with the Highline Trail #094 (aka Continental Divide Trail aka CDT) near the Fremont Crossing Bridge. I was so sick of hiking stock-beaten trails. I’d sank to my knee in this muck my first day. 

Let’s play, make a route. 

Then there I was at the Fremont Crossing Bridge

To the Jean Lake’s I go. 

Lower Jean Lake

I know these for-profit pack trains are required to obtain permits, but I wonder if a fee is involved? If so, the forest service should be using those funds to repair the trails. If not, the groups should be required to participate in maintenance. There were so many on these trails and as a result the tread was a mess for hikers. Rant over! When rocks had been placed in low spots, it made a huge difference in being able to hike through, although it was still a bit like playing hopscotch.

The stream connecting Upper and Lower Jean Lakes. 

This waterfall was gorgeous. I spent a lot more time enjoying this location on my way back through. 

So much water. 

Even on this trail snow traverses were required. 

Of course you know whenever I find flowers and granite, I’m happy! 

It’s hard to tell, but my tent is on a bench above Upper Jean Lake. There were many benches and options for camping although finding privacy for potty time was another issue. There is a small lake just off trail, perfect for a short dip.

The next day, objective one was to summit Shannon Pass

Looks quick and easy, right? 

Looking back down at Jean Lakes. 

Also looks shorter and flatter than it really is. 

There are some nice ponds near the top. 

And, yes more snow traverses. 

The top is within sight, or just another false summit? 

Such a tease. 

In reality it only took me about 45 minutes to ascend but it sure felt longer. 

Peak Lake is another popular destination. The scree fields on the far side of the lake are the beginning of the route over Knapsack Col. I’m so happy with my decision to skip that option after seeing this. I really dislike hiking on scree!

It was great to enjoy the occasional floral display before I hit hell. 

Now I know why this is called Cube Rock Pass. Not my idea of fun 😦

30 minutes later I’m still having fun, NOT!

I was so happy to be out of that rock hell. Took me about 45 minutes to get to this point. 

Now time to lose lots of elevation, visit some wildflower meadows and drop back into treeline. 

I passed over Vista Pass without noticing anything special. It certainly wasn’t memorable. I transitioned to the Highline Trail #094 (aka CDT) heading south toward Summit Lake. It took me about 2.5 hours to descend to this junction from Cube Rock Pass.

Green River Pass was another one that I didn’t recognize immediately. 

There is a long green mesa/plateau between Green River Pass and Summit Lake. It was a huge surprise and I found myself at Summit Lake before I knew it.

This would have been a great place to have watched the solar eclipse, but alas my timing was off. 

As I descended from Summit Lake, I found this welcoming waterfall. 

Looking back at the mesa. 

I was treated to this fiery sunrise from camp the next morning. It’s Eclipse Day! Will the clouds stay away?

My private pond for the night. 

As I headed into the Elbow Lakes Basin, Mother Nature was keeping the suspense high. 

I decided to stop here for the eclipse viewing. I was headed toward higher mountains and worried the clouds might back up against the peaks preventing a clear view. The wind was blowing and it was quite chilly while I hung out for about 1.5 hours. 

I hadn’t researched options for capturing the big event so mostly I just experienced it. But I did capture this photo during Total Eclipse and the next one as the eclipse passed. You can also compare to the before photo above. They don’t even come close to the WOW I experienced during and after the event. The wind stopped, it became freezing cold, so very quiet and a little eerie. 

After the big event, I walked in silence through the Elbow Lakes Basin enjoying the natural beauty. It seemed like it took 15-30 minutes before the atmosphere returned to normal. 

I really liked this softer side of the Winds. I could see myself returning to the Elbow Lakes Basin to roam this hills. 

Soon I was back at the Shannon Pass junction and headed back down to Jean Lakes

I spent lunch enjoying this waterfall between Upper and Lower Jean Lakes. It was funny I watched a group of four grumpies march by without even giving it or me a glance. 

Lower Jean Lake is huge. It’s slightly off trail with plenty of private dispersed camp areas in the trees. 

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/19-20/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 20-25 miles (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, constant up and down (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: none
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: moderate on main trails
    • Terrain: most memorable was the challenge of Cube Rock Pass with some bouldering, plus several areas of snow travel, some soggy hiking and wet feet water crossings.
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: excellent
  • Solitude: Moderate
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t use any repellent this trip
  • Wildlife Sightings: none beyond birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pika, and marmuts
  • Precip: None this day
  • Temp: Dropped to 33 overnight in my tent
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4 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: