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





WY – Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park (Part 3 of 4)

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)




WY – Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park (Part 2 of 4)

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)




WY – Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park (Part 1 of 4)

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)