Posts tagged ‘Jackson Hole’

Government Shutdown 2013: What to do in Jackson Hole

So you’ve planned your trip to Jackson Hole. You are excited to go play in the Tetons and then you find out that Grand Teton National Park is closed due to the government shut down. What do you do? Do you cancel your trip? No! There are still plenty of amazing things to do in Jackson Hole besides visiting the national park. Thankfully, our mountains are so magnificent that you can still see them clearly from the public highway and be wowed.

Here are some alternatives to visiting Grand Teton National Park:

Take a scenic drive

I suggest that you take my favorite Sunday drive. This drive is not only scenic 18176_530810948595_6161501_nbut can provide glimpses of wildlife as well. Start by taking Highway 89 North out of Jackson towards Moran. Then take a right on Gros Ventre Road and drive out to Kelly. Keep your eyes peeled here because sometime there will be wildlife by the road you may spot bison in the fields or a moose by the river. There is an adorable coffee shop in Kelly that you should stop at for a cup of java.

From Kelly continue straight on the road and then take a left ontoMoulton Barn Antelope Flats Drive. About a mile down this road you’ll reach Mormon Row. There are two historic barns located on Mormon Row. These barns are almost all that was left from the Mormon’s settlement. The Mormons were one of the first settlers in the Jackson Hole area. One of the barns is right on the road and the other is a minute down the dirt road on the left. These scenic barns compete with a spectacular backdrop of the Tetons and make for great photographs.

Once done there continue in the same direction towards the Tetons and the road will hook back up with Highway 89. Take a right onto the highway and drive about 10 minutes north to the Snake River Overlook – here is where Ansel Adams took the famous photo of the467709_630876396635_197025192_o Tetons. You can keep driving on Highway 89 until you hit Moran Junction if you’d like after that. Sometimes there is wildlife in the fields north of the Snake River Overlook.

Update 10/7/13 – Apparently Antelope Flats Road and Mormon Row are closed and the rangers are out there and writing tickets. So sorry!

Another nice Sunday afternoon drive is to take a drive out on the Elk Refuge. Follow East Broadway from downtown Jackson to the end. You will see a dirt road on your left. Take this road into the National Elk Refuge. You aren’t allowed off the road, so I don’t suggest hiking, but it is a good road for a scenic drive and who knows, you may get lucky and see some wildlife!

Update 10/12/13 – Allegedly the Elk Refuge Road is now closed as well.

Visit a Museum – There are three amazing museums in the Jackson Hole area. The first is the Jackson Hole Historical Museum located in downtown Jackson. This museum provides an in depth look at the history of Jackson Hole and its founders.

The second great museum to visit is the National Museum of Wildlife Art. This museum is located just North of Jackson off of Highway 89, across from the National Elk Refuge. The museum is quite large and boasts a serious collection of wildlife art. For more information about their collection click here.

Lastly, if you have kids, visit the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum. There are plenty of fun things for you and your little ones to learn and do there.

Go For a Hike – Not all of the best hikes in Jackson Hole are located in Grand Teton National Park. Depending on what type of hiker you are there are great options for shorter hikes (Snow King or Josie’s Ridge) or longer hikes (Jackson Peak).

Scenic Flight in Jackson WyomingTake a Scenic Flight – Can’t see Grand Teton National Park from the ground? See it from the air! A scenic flight is a great way to see the park and you get an exhilarating ride to boot!

Soak in a Hot Spring – Located an hour south of Jackson, Granite Hot Springs is a man made pool filled with natural hot spring water. And it’s currently open despite the government shut down! The drive down to the hot springs is scenic in its own right. An added bonus is that you get to spend the day in an oversize, naturally fed hot tub!

Update 10/12/13 – Rumor has it that they have drained the Hot Spring Pool and it is closed now due to the government shut down. However, there are some small natural hot spring pools by Granite Falls. If you poke around a bit you will find them!

Shop in Downtown Jackson – There are plenty of galleries and shops in downtown Jackson. You can spend a full day trying on cowboy hats or searching for that perfect souvenir t-shirt. There are also a lot of great coffee shops and restaurants to relax in. Spend the day walking around the town square – you may be surprised about what you find.

So there are a few different ideas for you. Hopefully the national parks will reopen shortly, but in the meantime, think twice before cancelling your trip!

October 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm 12 comments

Running Paintbrush to Cascade Canyon

Jackson Hole is an amazing place filled with incredible people who push you to see your potential and encourage your toImage test your limits. If you had told me 4 years ago when I moved to Jackson that I would climb the Grand Teton in a day or run the 20.1 mile loop from Paintbrush to Cascade Canyon I would have told you that you must have me mistaken for some crazy superhuman, which I am not. However, the longer I stayed in Jackson the more I began to believe in my abilities and the resilience of my body. I found out that it takes a lot to bring my body to its breaking point. While I don’t plan on becoming one of those ultrarunners who compete in 50 mile trail races, I did decide that I wanted to see how a “little run” in my backyard would go.

The night before the run I laid in bed thinking about it. I have never run more than 13.1 miles before. I have run 3 half marathons in the past year and a half, but going from 13.1 miles to 20.1 miles is quite the stretch. Also, I would like to note that I do not consider myself a runner. I enjoy biking, hiking, mountaineering and the occasional trail run during the summer. After my last half marathon I decided that road running wasn’t for me. I enjoyed it but it definitely wasn’t my favorite thing to do. I felt more nervous about my trail run than I did about climbing the Grand in a day. Maybe because I was planning on doing the run by myself and 20.1 miles would be the longest hike I’ve ever done in a day, let alone run.

Morning came way too soon and I was in the car headed for the String Lake parking lot. As I entered Grand Teton National Park it started to rain. Drats. I pulled up the radar on my phone (thank god for smart phones!) and saw that if I waited 20 minutes the showers would pass. There wasn’t a forecast for clear blue skies but at least I wouldn’t have to start my run in the rain.

After a brief “nap” in my car I laced up, shrugged on my small Camelback loaded with Gu, Cliff bars, a PB and banana sandwich, a cookie, water and bear spray and walked towards the trail head. This is it, I thought. There is no turning back now. I started with a slow jog around String Lake. The pitch of the trail was mellow, uphill, but a gentle incline. I ran the first 4 miles with my mind playing tricks on me. I decided against wearing headphones for fear that I wouldn’t hear wildlife until it was too late. As I ran I made a “whooo” sound every so often to alert wildlife of my presence.

At mile 4 the trail increased in pitch. All of a sudden I couldn’t just cruise along, I was panting and out of breath. I decided to fast walk the section of the trail between Holly Lake and the Paintbrush Divide. At this point I had also entered the clouds. There had been some low lying clouds that enveloped the top half of the canyon and I had hiked right into them. Being alone in a canyon in the fog was an eery feeling. You know that there are other people on the trail but there is not a person in sight. The fog was dark and thick and ominous. I just kept reminding myself that I was bound to break through the cloud eventually so I had to keep pushing on.

The fog finally broke at the foot of the Paintbrush Divide. I could see another group of 5 people ahead of me. I relaxed, realizing that I was not alone and that I was near my halfway point (elevation-wise). As I marched up the divide my mind started taunting me “Maybe you should just go down Paintbrush Canyon. ImageWhat were you thinking? You can’t run another 12 miles after this.” My body was low on fuel and fighting my every step until I reached the top of the divide. After a few quick photos I sat down and tore into my sandwich. I was so hungry that in my haste I think that I may have even eaten some of the tin foil wrapper. After that I downed a protein bar without a second thought.

With my belly satisfied I was able to deal with my mind. I am accustomed to battling with my mind. Ever since I was a child it always encouraged me to give up and walk instead of toughen it out and work through physical challenges. Blame your asthma, shin splints, or sprained ankle, it told me. Since I have moved to Jackson my mental game has become much tougher. I have a better understanding of what my body can handle so I know when my mind is being irrational. I knew that my legs and body would be able to carry me the necessary 12 miles down Cascade Canyon back to my car, but my mind wanted me to take the easy way out. Without much hesitation I repacked my pack and headed down the switchbacks into Cascade Canyon at a brisk clip. I drowned out the negative voices in my head with the crunching of rock and dirt beneath my running shoes. This is why I wanted to do the run – to prove to myself that I could. To know that I am stronger than my mind.

Downhill was a breeze, aside from a few missteps that sent me jolting forward arms flailing and feet struggling to catch up. I Imagenever said that I was a graceful runner. I arrived at Lake Solitude and it was perfect and peaceful. It was the only time that I had been by myself at that lake and it was really nice. I wanted to keep my momentum going so I started running down the canyon. While the weather was still overcast I welcomed the coolness. There were few people on the trail in the North Fork so I got into a good rhythm and the miles were passing by effortlessly.

Then I reached the junction. Cascade Canyon itself is relatively flat and sees a ton of foot traffic. Most people visit InspirationImage Point and then continue up the canyon in hopes of spotting wildlife. I spent the next 4 miles dodging people as well as some wildlife (deer). Every time I passed a group of hikers I got re-energized. By the time I reached Jenny Lake at mile 18 I thought that I was going going to have to walk. Instead I looked at my watch and saw I had been on trail for 4 hours and 35 minutes. I wanted to finish strong and at 5 hours. I dug deep and just put one foot in front of the other. Hikers on the Jenny Lake trail were extremely supportive (for the most part). Stepping out of the way and shouting words of encouragement – “You go girl!”

At 5 hours and 4 minutes from when I started my run I crossed my imaginary finish line. I didn’t even have the energy to realize what I had just accomplished. I walked around the parking lot drinking water and thinking about my run. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be! I didn’t really know what to expect but I was prepared for a mental breakdown. It’s the little victories in life, the challenges you set for yourself that matter the most to me. If someone had told me to go run that loop in 5 hours I most likely would have had a breakdown on the trail, stressing that I wasn’t going to make it in time. Instead I went into the run knowing that I would have to walk some of it and that was okay.

I encourage you to go outside and set a goal for yourself – something that may make you uncomfortable and nervous but you know deep down it’s attainable. You learn a lot about yourself when you get out of your comfort zone and you realize that you are stronger than you think.

September 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm Leave a comment

Floating the Snake River

As summer comes to an end it’s time to get one more float down the Snake River in! This activity is very popular with the locals on a hot summer’s day. The Snake River is cool and refreshing and the water is deep enough that there aren’t many rapids so the float is more relaxing than scary.

Ideally, you need at least two cars to float the Snake – one to be dropped at the take out and one that you drive to the start of the float. The most popular stretch of the Snake to float is to put in at the South Park boat launch, south of town and take out at the Astoria boat launch, just south of Hoback junction. If you are in town for a short while there are places where you can rent tubes – the KOA in Hoback or Jackson Hole Whitewater both  can rent them for $5 – $7. If you plan on floating the Snake River more than once and you want to purchase your own tube you can buy an inner tube at the Sinclair gas station or Big O Tires for $17, both are located by Kmart and Albertsons. If you are looking for a commercial tube with handles and built in coolers you can buy them at Kmart, Albertson’s grocery store or Smith’s grocery store.

Once you load up your car with the tubes, friends and frosty beverages I suggest that you drop your tubes and passengers at the South Park boat launch. Then go drop a car while your friends inflate the tubes (if they aren’t already inflated). I have marked the put in as “A” and the take out location as “B” on this map.

The float is very straightforward, you put in at South Park and then float for about an hour and a half, depending on the speed of the river. Early spring when the water is faster the trip is shorter. Since the Snake is a pretty wide river to float I recommend that you tie your tubes together to make a flotilla. You don’t have to, but if you want to talk to your friends I suggest creating a giant raft otherwise the river can separate you.

After about an hour of floating you will go under a large bridge (you will go under a few other bridges but this one is the largest by far). This means that you have reached Hoback Junction and will be taking out in another 3 miles. You won’t go under any other bridges for the remainder of the float. Just before the next bridge you see is the take out at Astoria on the right hand side of the river.

I ask that you be courteous while you are on the river – please do not litter the Snake. We have a leave no trace mentality here in Jackson. There are trash cans at Astoria where you can dispose of your garbage. Also, try not to get too intoxicated. While the river is relatively mellow there are some fast, precarious spots. It’s not a lazy river and tubes do flip on occasion. In addition, the Snake River runs through a canyon, meaning it loses the sun in the early afternoon. If you don’t want to end up shivering for half the float I suggest that you plan to be on the river no later than 3PM. Lastly, have fun! Oh and use lots of sunscreen!! Between being on the water and at an elevation of 6,200 the sun can be quite strong on the river.

September 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

Summitting Mount Saint John

For those who follow our blog, you may remember that I wrote about my attempt of St. John last summer. The trip was horrendous. It failed on multiple levels – group communication, leadership, route finding and we had a injury to boot! So when one of my friends who accompanied me on the trip last summer asked if I was up for round two I decided that I couldn’t let a mountain like St. John keep me down. I agreed to pick her up at 5AM the next morning.

I have to say, I really have this early morning wake up to go climb a mountain thing down pat. When I rolled out of bed at 4:30AM I get dressed in the clothes I laid out     the night before, throw the peanut butter banana oatmeal I made with walnuts in the microwave and take the dog out. By the time I’m back the oatmeal is done and all I have to do is jump in the car where I have already put my pack and boots. Done in 15 minutes.

After picking up my friend Crista and reaching the trail head we strapped on our boots and turned on our head.. wait a minute.Jenny Lake We didn’t even need a headlamp. At 5AM it was already bright enough to pick out the trail. We cruised along the Jenny Lake trail until we reached the trail to the Lake of the Crags. That’s when the real hike began. The trail is steep right from the get go. While it was exhausting there is one benefit to a steep trail – it’s shorter. The trail also provides beautiful views of Jenny Lake below. As we started to ascend the canyon clouds formed from the lake and chased us up the valley.

By 8AM we reached Ramshield Lake and the Lake of the Crags. Ramshield LakeIt was so beautiful so early in the morning with the soft glow from the sunrise and the stillness of the water. We took a break to refuel and rehydrate. We both discussed the route and where we think that we went wrong the last time. We headed up the couloir, checking for signs of kairns or small trails. Fortunately, we found some kairns so we knew that we were on track. It was amazing how much easier it was the second time around. Maybe it was because we knew where “not to go”, maybe it was because it was just two of us instead of four, either way it was almost embarrassingly obvious which couloir we should ascend.

Once we Climbing Mt. St. Johnreached the steep scree in the couloir it was slow going. However, the views kept improving with every step so we didn’t mind taking short breaks to catch our breath and take in the scenery. The most breathtaking view was when we reached the top of the couloir and had a view direct into Paintbrush Canyon and of Jackson Lake. It was only a short scramble to the top from that point but it was definitely the most challenging part of our hike. The exposure was overwhelming as we shuffled along a small rock ledge. Then we had a class 5.2 climb to the top – without protection and with some serious repercussions. If you are afraid of heights this is not the hike for you.

AftMt. St. John Summit Coneer a few deep breaths and some technical maneuvers we reached the summit. And what a glorious summit it was! The view of Jackson Lake, the valley as well as the Grand Teton 11,430 feet were stunning – one of my favorite views in the park! We both ate our lunches that consisted mainly of peanut butter and some bread product and reflected on how frustrating our first attempt at the summit was.

The descent was steep and surprisingly took almost as long View from Summit of Mt. St. Johnas the ascent. Since the scree is so loose you need to hike slowly to make sure that you don’t misstep and send yourself tumbling down the hill. The day was gorgeous – clear and sunny so we didn’t mind the slower than normal descent. I have to say, if you are looking for a first time summit objective in the Tetons Mt. Saint John is a great choice. Aside from a few technical maneuvers on the summit cone the hiking is pretty straightforward and relatively (though steep) easy. We were able to hike it in 8 hours from car to car. Not bad for a summit hike in the park! Just be sure to bring bear spray and have some knowledge of route finding since the trail is barely marked once you leave the Lake of the Crags. “A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range” is a book a recommend to anyone interested in getting into climbing or mountaineering in the Tetons. Just be safe and have fun!

August 12, 2013 at 6:37 pm 1 comment

Granite Canyon Hike

There are many gorgeous canyons to hike through in the Teton Range – Cascade Canyon, Paintbrush Canyon and Death Canyon to name a few. Granite Canyon creates the north border of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of the local ski areas. The canyon leads you from the valley floor up 2,000 feet to the open fields behind the ski resort and then to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain should you choose to continue that way up the trail.Summer Tram

The trail is typically hiked from the top of the Tram down to the base of the ski resort. You can purchase a ticket for the tram at the base of the mountain for $26. For a $6 off coupon follow this link. The hike, while all downhill, is rather long (12.75 miles long to be exact) so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who isn’t in good physical shape or has small children. Also, I wouldn’t suggest that you do this hike if you are flying in from sea level and it is your first day in Jackson. The summit elevation of the Rendezvous Mountain (top of the tram) is 10,450 feet and that can be a challenge if you aren’t yet acclimated.

From the top of the tram you head south towards Cody Peak until you see a trail sign on the right hand side indicating the direction to Marion Lake and Granite Canyon. Almost immediately you enter Grand Teton National Park. From there you lose elevation quickly via a series of long switchbacks.

After about 2 miles of downhill switchbacks (with one small uphill one thrown in) Image  you will reach a number of open fields. At the trail junction take a right to head towards Granite Canyon. You get a good view of the back side of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and some of the surrounding mountains. In June to early July the field is filled with gorgeous wildflowers. When we hiked it last weekend there were some flowers but most had already bloomed and died. However, there was some active wildlife – we saw a deer grazing in the field as well as a momma ruffed grouse with her babies.

At the next trail junction you will take a right to get into Granite Canyon. I must be honest, it isn’t the most spectacular canyon in the park since you rarely get a view of the valley and the mountains surrounding the canyon aren’t particularly spectacular. Of course it is pretty though,Top of Granite Canyon and unique in it’s own way. The things that the canyon has going for it is that it is rarely traveled so if you are looking to get away from the crowds it’s a good hike and it is very convenient since there is easy access via the tram. We hiked up the canyon (I’m not a big fan of downhills) and the pitch once you hit the fields back down to the valley is very mellow. We were able to cruise at a pace of almost 3 miles per hour. Which we probably wouldn’t have been able to sustain if we were in any of the other canyons.

The trail through the canyon does follow a Granite Canyonstream which has some beautiful cascades. Also, if you are an avid skier you get a good look at some of the backcountry lines off of the side of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Once you reach the bottom of the canyon you follow the Valley Trail back to the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

As always, bring your bear spray and plenty of food and water as well as some warm layers and a rain jacket. Plan to make a day of this hike so you aren’t rushed and have time to take in the scenery and serenity of the backcountry.

July 31, 2013 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

A Trip Up the Grand Teton

The clock reads 8PM as I lay in bed and the light filters into my room. 10 hours earlier I agreed to meet a friend on the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton at 7AM. Falling asleep while it’s still light out poses a challenge but the knowledge that my alarm clock will be blaring at 1:30AM keeps me in bed. I fall into a restless sleep, dreaming of a combination of mountain adventures and work, the two things that seem to be ruling my life this summer (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

At 1:30AM I heat up my breakfast, let the dog out and pack up the car. My fiance, Jared, and I decided last year that we wanted to climb the Grand Teton last year before our wedding on August 17th. Also, since I don’t sleep well in a tent and we are both a little on the crazy side we decided that we wanted to do it in a day. 16 miles and 8,300 vertical feet in one day? Totally doable. As we drive by the town square we see plenty of revelers standing around on the sidewalk deciding their next move as the bars are closing. We are reminded again of how insane what we are doing really is.

At 2:10AM we pull into the Lupine Meadows trail head. People packing their bags by headlamp indicate that there are 2 other groups preparing for their ascent of the Grand. We do one last check through all of our gear, strap on our packs and then start up the trail. For 3 hours we hike through the dark, following the small spot illuminated by our headlamp in front of us. The trail is peaceful. There is no wind, no birds, no noise whatsoever. There is also no moon so we continue through the darkness and talk about our goals for the day. Obviously a summit would be nice, but nothing in mountaineering is ever guaranteed.

We reach the meadows in Garnet Canyon around 5AM. By now the horizon has started to brighten. We refill our water by using a filter and pumping water straight out of the stream.  After a briefSunrise on Nez Perce snack we start up the steep switchbacks that lead to the lower saddle. As the sun rises the surrounding mountains get enveloped in a gorgeous alpenglow. I look at the Middle and South Teton and think about how high they look from where I am. Then I remember that if we summit the Grand Teton we will be about 1,000 feet higher than that Middle Teton. I quickly push the thought from my mind because from where I stand the thought of reaching that altitude is daunting.

After hiking for another hour and a half we reach a large snowfield at the foot of the Lower Saddle. The time is 6:45 and it looks like we will Lower Saddle Snowfieldbe right on time for our 7AM rendezvous time. The snow is firm. Much firmmer than we thought that it was going to be. We break out our ice axes and start climbing the field, kicking steps as we go. The snow is so firm that we can barely get our axes to go more than 2 inches into the snow. With extreme caution and concentration we continue up the snow field. As we near the top we hear our friend, Charles, call our names. We look over and see him by his campsite with 3 other friends. Relieved to be off of the snow, we head towards his camp.

We take a short break and stuff as many calories into our body as we can before leaving the lower saddle for the summit of the Grand Teton. As we start ascending the trail my stomach starts yelling at me “why did you think it was okay to drink a smoothie, eat beef jerky, trail mix and a powdery gatorade substance that tasted like pixie sticks?! All within a 10 minute span!” I decide to slow down my pace a hair to allow my stomach to digest so I pull up the rear of the group.

The route finding is a bit of a challenge but fortunately patches of snow can be avoided. Belaying on Belly RollWe decided to climb the Owen-Spaulding route, the original route up the Grand Teton. After a steep scramble up to the upper saddle we break out our ropes, climbing shoes and prepare for our first climb, the Belly Roll. Honestly, with a name like the Belly Roll I had no idea what to expect. The climb traverses the side of the Grand with a substantial drop into Valhalla Canyon below. It’s difficult to see or hear each other on this part of the climb so it is recommended that you bring a set of walkie talkies so the people at the beginning of the climb and end of the climb can communicate. Belly Roll on the Grand

The portion that the climb is named after is a small crawl space that is located between an overhanging rock and another rock, creating a small space which you can crawl on your belly across if you are scared of the exposure. In the photo to the right I decided to straddle the rock and take this photo.

None of the climbs on the Owen-Spaulding route (also known as the OS) are rated higher than a 5.4. After we Belly Crawled we ascended another 50 feet or so to Sergeant’s Chimney, the second and final climb. This wide chimney has plenty of foot and hand holds. After 20 to 30 minutes of waiting in the cold shade of the Grand for my team to climb the chimney I started to shiver. Fortunately, I was next to climb. I scrambled up the chimney doing my best to warm myself up. After the chimney it’s another short scramble to the summit. We saw one guided group coming down as we were about 100 feet from the summit.

I was one of the first of my group to reach the summit. Summit of the Grand TetonThe summit block is actually surprisingly large. Fortunately, we only had to share the summit with another party of 2 people. The view from the top made me feel like I was looking outside of an airplane window. The valley looked miles away, which I guess is pretty accurate. It is about 8 miles from the trail head to the top of the Grand Teton and we were standing at 13,770 feet. Jared and I had started our hike at 2:30AM and reached the summit at 11AM. 8.5 hours in and we were only halfway through our hike/climb. Fortunately, there was barely any wind, the sun was shining and there was no bad weather on the horizon so we spent an hour hanging out at the top of the world, snacking and taking turns taking photos of each other. Some of our group drank whiskey from a Gatorade bottle which they passed around.

Headed down the Grand TetonKnowing that we were only at the halfway point and were running out of our “good weather” window we started the long hike back to the car. I was actually more afraid of going down the Grand than I was going up. The reason being is that there are a lot of loose rocks that can easily be kicked off and sent traveling through midair towards your friends below. Once again we waited, this time in the sunshine, as my group took turns rappelling during the first pitch, and then the next.

Second Rappel on the GrandThe second pitch incorporated a hanging rappel. I was prepped before I dropped in but nothing can prepare you for standing on top of a rock and seeing your friends 100 feet below you with nothing but thin air and a rope separating you.

Finally we could change out of our climbing shoes into our boots that we had stashed at the bottom of the rappel. As we headed towards the lower saddle we came across some loose ground. All of a sudden I took a step and sent a rock the size of a football headed straight for Charles’ head. He was about 25 feet below me and I screamed “Rock, Charles, ROCKKKKK!!” As if in slow motion he looked up towards me and ducked, nearly missing the rock that I had sent hurtling towards his head. After apologizing profusely and taking a few deep breaths we continued down the mountain.

We reach the lower saddle at 3PM and leave our friends to pack up their camp. We refuel and begin the long slog back to the car. Finally, at 7:30PM we reach the car. Our entire hike/climb lasted 17 hours and boy were we happy to see the car! After a high five and some stretching we loaded up the car and headed home physically and mentally exhausted.

NOTES ABOUT THE GRAND:

- If you are not experienced with route finding, mountaineering, climbing or reading weather please use a guided service to take you up the Grand Teton. The two most respected guiding services in Jackson are Exum Mountain Guides and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

- Jared and I are in excellent physical condition and are experienced mountaineers, we do not suggest doing the Grand Teton in one day unless you are experienced, acclimated and in good physical condition.

- The Grand Teton, as with any other mountain in the Tetons should be respected. Many people have died on the Grand Teton. There are many high consequence decisions that need to be made when on the Grand and you should not take the climb lightly. But it is an amazing experience which I suggest anyone interested in mountaineering or climbing should partake in, just with the necessary precautions.

July 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm 1 comment

Hike to Surprise and Ampitheater Lake

There are plenty of different hikes in Grand Teton National Park. However, one of the most popular hikes is the one to SurpriseWildflowers on Surprise lake Trail and Amphitheater Lake. If you are looking to stay away from the crowds this may not be the best hike for you as the majority of the trail is shared with backpackers and Grand Teton summit hopefuls. Don’t get me wrong, the hike is absolutely worth the traffic on the trail, there are just other hikes that I would recommend if you are looking to get away from the crowds.

This hike starts at the Lupine Meadows trail head and is rather straightforward. There are only two junctions and the trail is well signed. As always, bring your bear spray as well as a partner (hiking alone is discouraged). I would suggest starting this hike in the morning and having lunch at the lake. Besides giving yourself a reason to mingle at the lake, I suggest an early start because the upper part of the trail doesn’t have much shade and thunderstorms are typical around 3 to 4PM in the summer.

Grand Teton National Park has a trail map to Surprise and Amphitheater lake – you can find it here. You will climb 3,000 vertical feet from the valley floor to reach two glacial lakes that lie in the shadow of the Grand Teton. The mileage is 10.1 miles round trip. This hike is for those who are physically fit and want a long excursion in the park.

Start by parking at the Lupine Meadows Trail Head. The first mile is rather flat but you start gaining elevation once you reach the ridge line Surprise Lake Trailthat will bring you toward the mountains. At the first junction continue straight and start up the switchbacks. The long switchbacks between the junction with the Valley Trail and Garnet Canyon are my favorite part of the hike. The views of Bradley and Taggart Lake below are breathtaking and in late June and early July there are fields of wildflowers lining the trail.

After another 1.3 miles you will reach the second junction. Bear right (straight) to stay on the trail to Surprise and Amphitheater Lake. After the junction it’s another 2 miles to reach Amphitheater Lake. You will reach Surprise Lake first, nestled among trees with a small waterfall feeding it. Continue up the trail to reach Amphitheater Lake, which is located at the base of a cirque. Here you can imagine the glaciers that formed the Surprise Lakelandscape years ago. The view of Disappointment Peak, Grand Teton and Mountain Owen from the lakes are stunning. If you feel very adventurous pack an overnight backpack and spend the night at Amphitheater Lake. There are campsites on the lake shore. Be sure to check in at the Visitor’s Center and get a permit and bear canister if you intend on camping there.

Once you are done at the lake, retrace your steps to your car. I hope that you enjoy this popular hike in Grand Teton National Park. Whether you are spending a day or a week in Jackson Hole, be sure to take at least a small hike in the Tetons. It’s worth getting out of the car and stretching your legs for.

July 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm 1 comment

Hike to Delta Lake

Grand Teton National Park has numerous trails that take you to the remote reaches of the park. You can find most of them on the trail map that they hand you at the gate to the park or at the Visitor’s Center. However, there are a some trails that the National Park Services has elected to “not maintain” so they aren’t displayed on the map or marked on the trails. Some of my favorite hikes are unmaintained trails because they see little traffic and bring you to extraordinary places.

Delta Lake is one of the hidden gems in Grand Teton National Park. Delta Lake in GTNPThis lake is a brilliant turquoise color and has a staggering backdrop starring Mount Owen. To reach the lake first park at Lupine Meadows trail head. This trail head is very popular as it is the same trail that you use to access the Grand Teton (as well as the Middle and South Tetons and many other peaks). The first mile is a gentle incline and then the trail banks right up a ridge and the serious elevation gain begins. Keep going straight towards Surprise and Amphitheater lakes when you reach the junction with the Valley Trail.

The next 1.5 miles are a series of mostly open switchbacks through fields of wildflowers (when in season, which is late June and early July).Wildflowers on Surprise lake Trail Be sure to bring your bear spray as I have had encounters with a mother black bear and her two cubs in this area (last year). Eventually the trail will split and you can go left to reach Garnet Canyon (and the Grand Teton) or right/straight to reach Surprise and Amphitheater lakes. Continue straight/right on the trail. The first switchback after the junction is where you depart from the maintained trail.

Please keep in mind when I say “unmaintained” this means that the trail is not clearly marked (if marked at all) and there may beFallen Trees in the Trail obstacles in your way that you need to avoid. For example we had to duck under a fallen tree when we visited the lake this past weekend. For Delta Lake I suggest that you have excellent route finding skills as the trail leads you into Glacier Gultch and across numerous boulder fields. As you depart from the trail you will go down a steep hill and then begin your ascent again. Following this trail you will be deposited into the first boulder field. Look for kairns, or small piles of rocks clustered together on top of the boulders, to find the trail. Make sure that you look back frequently from where you came from so that you won’t have an issue finding the main trail upon your return.

The trail continues after the first boulder field, slightly uphill and then enters a massive boulder field.Rock Scramble in Glacier Gultch The lake is at the end of the large boulder field and is about 500 feet in elevation gain from when you enter the boulder field. This hike would not be good for those with young children as the boulders are large and hard to negotiate and some of them move so it can be quite dangerous if you aren’t careful. Eventually you will be able to see and/or hear the run off from the lake. Follow the water up to the foot of the lake.

The lake is beautiful so I suggest that you bring a lunch and hang out for awhile. Be sure to bring layers or a warm jacket though. Delta LakeThe lake is a glacial lake and the wind tends to funnel through the area so it can be quite windy and a little chilly, even on the warmest of days. I wore a GPS watch when I hiked up to Delta this past weekend so if you want to see the route feel free to check out this page. From my watch I gathered that it was 7.44 miles round trip and 2,400 feet of elevation gain. Of course this will vary depending on what route you take through the boulder field. As I said previously, this lake is a little challenging to find, so make sure that you have good route finding skills and carry extra food and water just in case you get off trail. Lastly, enjoy the scenery and bring your camera! You’ll want to take plenty photos of the lake and the hike so that you can post them on Facebook and make your friends jealous ;)!

June 25, 2013 at 4:44 pm 2 comments

Trail Running in Jackson Hole

There are so many great trails in the Jackson Hole area. There are plenty of loop and out and back run options. O36931_536986308125_4908341_nne of my favorite places to go trail running is the Cache Creek area. Located on the eastern edge of Jackson, there are plenty of steep and mellow trail running options. They all gain some vertical and some have multiple rises and descents. Hagen trail is one of my favorite running trails because it sees little bike traffic. You can run out on the Hagen trail and then back on the dirt road or if you want to run from town to the trail head you can make this run a longer loop by running Hagen Highway to Sink or Swim back into town. The best map for the Cache Creek trail system can be found here on the Friends of Pathways website.

Another favorite trail run of mine in the Cache Creek area is to run the dirt road and then jump onto the Putt-Putt Trail. This trail has many small hills and short descents. It is very popular with bikers, so if you do decide to run with music on this trail make sure that you keep the volume low and be aware of other trail users. Also, I have run into moose occasionally on the Putt-Putt trail so be aware of your surroundings. The great thing about Putt-Putt and Hagen is there there are a lot of spur trails that connect to the main dirt road every mile or so. This allows you to make your run as long or as short as you’d like. Also, the area is pet friendly so you can bring your dog along for your run.

If you are up for a challenge one of my favorite loops is running from town to Josie’s Ridge trail and then up the ridge to Snow King and then down the face of Snow King. This run is not for the faint of heart. With 1,200 feet of elevation gain it will get your heart pumping. There is no shame in walking up some of the Josie’s Ridge trail. I definitely recommend that you bring water on this run as there are no streams and the ridge doesn’t have much shade. The views on this run are stunning.

Another favorite place for trail runners is Teton Pass. Running Old Pass Road is quite the challenge. The old dirt road ascends steadily to the top of Teton Pass. Many people walk old pass road as well as bike it so be aware of your surroundings. Also, wildlife, including bears have been seen on Teton Pass so pay attention and try to make noise to alert animals of your presence.

Lastly, the Elk Refuge Road, located in the North East corner of the town of Jackson is a nice dirt road with endless mileage. 26000_533326053305_1460686_nIt is an out and back run and has some elevation gain, but not much. It’s great for someone who is looking to avoid pavement but doesn’t want to look out for rocks and roots. The road starts at the end of East Broadway and then continues until there is a split (around mile 4). Go right to Curtis Canyon (and a hill climb) go left to continue to Flat Creek Road. This run provides views of the refuge and the Tetons as well as the Town of Jackson and Snow King Resort . Depending on the season you will see elk in the refuge (they are there in the early Spring or late Fall). Also, big horn sheep frequent the area as well as coyotes and other small animals. Just be courteous to the wildlife and give them their space. You do not want to be charged by a big horn sheep, trust me.

Another great place to run is on the Snake River Levee. The maximum mileage on the east side of the dike is around 4.5 miles and on the west side of the dike is 3 miles. The east side is an out and back with a small loop at the far end. It is a flat dirt road that is popular with walkers and anglers. It borders the Snake River so I would suggest that you run on the east side for breathtaking views of the river and Teton Range.

There are plenty of trails in the greater Jackson Hole area to run on. Just keep in mind, if you do decide to run by yourself make sure that you make lots of noise when you are on Teton Pass or other remote areas further away from town. Also, carry bear spray with you if you want to go for a longer run, or if you are going deeper into the wilderness. Also, be sure to carry some water and snacks if you aren’t familiar with the terrain. Lastly, be sure to enjoy the scenery! Not every run has to be a race to the finish.

May 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm 1 comment

Road Running in Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole is a mecca of bike paths and beautiful vistas. There are miles of paved paths or dirt if that’s what you prefer. This post is about the best places to go for a road run, I will write about trail running at a later time. For the past two months I have been training for the Jackson Hole Half Marathon on June 8th. The run starts just outside Teton Village and ends at the base of Snow King Mountain in the town of Jackson.

The run takes place primarily on bike paths so I have been running the Moose-Wilson road bike path (find it on this map) a fair amount to familiarize myself with the course. For those who are looking for a short 3 mile run to a long 10+ mile run this bike path is great. It is flat for the most part and provides adequate shade from the mid-day heat. The only part of the path that I consider difficult is what the local’s call “the windy mile.” The windy mile is the last mile before you reach Teton Village. It stretches a wide open plain where there are no trees to provide shade or block the wind. Wyoming is a windy state and this section of the bike path has earned its nickname. Depending on the length of your run the Stilson Parking Lot is a great place to start. You can run to Wilson for a short 3 miler or you can run up to Teton Village for a 13+ mile run. The distance is marked on the pathway so you can keep track of your mileage.

Another one of my favorite pathways to run on is the Jackson to Gros Ventres Road/Grand Teton National Park pathway,Running-in-Jackson-Hole identified as the Wapiti Pathway on this map. This pathway starts just north of town by the Dairy Queen. The path borders the National Elk Refuge and is open from May 1 to October 1. This pathway is best run in the morning or late evening when the sun isn’t strong. There is no shade on the path so it can be especially brutal to run on it during the middle of the day. This path is very popular with bikers so be aware of your surroundings during your run. At mile 3 you reach Fish Hatchery Hill, a steady incline of about a half a mile gains you 200 feet of elevation. If you can make it up the hill you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the Tetons. This pathway continues all the way up to Grand Teton National Park, so you can make your run as long as you want. Just keep in mind that after Fish Hatchery Hill the path tends to be very windy. Also, the pathway runs parallel to Highway 89, a one lane road that tends to see a lot of traffic. If you are looking for serenity this might not be the path for you.

Both pathways provide great out and back run options. Unfortunately, there aren’t many great loop options in the Jackson area. Either way, these pathways provide a great alternative to running on a treadmill. Be sure to try them out when you are in Jackson Hole.

May 17, 2013 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

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