Friday, July 31, 2015

Backpacking in Grand Teton National Park- Part 1

Last year for our 20th Wedding Anniversary my husband and I went to Yosemite on our first back-country camping experience.  We had such a great time that on the way home we started thinking about our next trip and invited the boys to come along.

This year the four of us ended up at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  What a great dynamic with the boys involved, so glad they came (not sure they'll come again, but at least they gave it a shot).

Here's a brief (well, not so brief) detailing of  our trip with some of the laughs, frustrations and in's/out's of the park.

We left our home on Friday morning and arrived in the park Saturday afternoon, driving around a bit to find our trailhead and then set off to find a place to sleep.  Saw Deer and Moose immediately, how great is that? 

 One of the pitfalls (in my opinion) of the park is that there's no reservations for the campgrounds.  That makes it a little difficult.  Can you imagine pulling a trailer across the country to visit the park only to pull in and find there's no spot available?  Well, we managed to get a site for Saturday and Sunday before entering the back-country on Monday morning, thankfully, we were not so lucky later on in our adventure.  

Sunday was planning day, we had a few questions and needed to pick up bear vaults and our permit.  We woke up early planning to run to the local athletic center that offered showers to travelers (at $5 a pop) for our last shower of the week only to find they didn't open till 12 on Sunday.  Oh well, off to church a little dirty (we tried).  Goofed in Jackson for the afternoon, planned a white water rafting trip for Saturday morning before heading out of town (at 8:30 a.m. I'm going to freeze to death) and hit the visitor center for the necessities.  Tomorrow, the true adventure begins!

This is the trailhead where we began our journey, at Granite Canyon.  I have two favorite spots when backpacking, the highest highs on top of the mountain where you can see for miles and feel like you can reach up and touch the clouds.  Amazing, and the lowest lows, walking through the cool, shaded canyons usually following water, just beautiful!  Our stopping point for the night is Marion Lake, roughly 7.2 miles up the mountain with a climb of roughly 2250 ft (the valley is at approximately 7000 ft while Marion Lake is at 9250).

The first day is always rough, your body is adjusting to carrying 40 extra pounds (for hours on end) while climbing uphill nearly the entire way, don't forget about the altitude changes as well.  Caleb, my youngest led the way, followed by Jacob, the oldest while Jason and I brought up the rear.  They took off at a quick pace, we just looked at each other and smiled. 

I kept waiting for the pretty views while hiking in granite canyon and in all honesty, didn't happen until the very end.  Usually in the canyons you're following water rushing down the mountain and the views are spectacular, not in this particular canyon, you can hear the water but never get a great view of it.  

We crossed a couple bridges and Caleb had us answering riddles for "safe passage".  

Riddle #1:
Two mothers and two daughters went fishing.  They brought home a small fish, a big fish and a grand fish, yet they all brought home a fish.  How is this so?

Thankfully my husband figured it out, Jacob and I might still be standing on that bridge! (the answer is at the end of the post.)

Riddle #2:
As you get dry, I get wet?

He went easy on us, this one Jacob and I both got quickly. 

That little game ended shortly thereafter when the true climbing began.  Here's our first night's campsite at Marion Lake.  The next couple pictures are the views past those trees.  Outstanding!  I could brush my teeth standing at the edge of that cliff  every morning for the rest of my life.  Just beautiful!

As we were climbing the last 1/2 mile or so to the lake Caleb managed to drop to the rear, grumbling and miserable.  Jason and I just died laughing.  At one point he said, "if I wasn't wearing this stupid backpack I'd be crawling right now".  He did amazing but that final climb was grueling and he lost it just a little bit.

We were so exhausted.  Slept like a baby and woke up feeling pretty good, ready for another grueling day.  (Day 2 is nearly as bad as day 1).

We had planned a short day, thank goodness.  As my body adjusts to the altitude my legs just burn when traveling uphill.  Wow!  I take a dozen steps or so and have to stop to let my legs quit hurting, another dozen steps, rest, repeat.  I assume that's the altitude because after day 2 it goes away.  I still climb at a snail's pace but my legs no longer burn and I can consistently climb without stopping every two seconds, thank goodness because the true climbing hasn't even begun yet!

Day 2 we are traveling from Marion Lake to Death Canyon Shelf.  Around 6 miles (it's really hard to know the mileage, maps say one thing, signs say another, I'm guestimating on the low side).

I was so exhausted by the time we got to the lake that I didn't get any pictures on the way in, this is the view from day 2 looking down at the lake (we walked in from the top middle of the lake, following the canyon up in front of the cliff on the left of the picture).  Our campsite was off the the left, bottom corner of the picture.

The wildflowers were amazing!

Day 2 Campsite at Death Canyon Shelf.  At Grand Teton National Park they have "camping zones" in the backcountry with designated spots in most of the zones.  We needed to camp near the very end of this zone in order to keep the next days hike under 10 miles (or so).

Our second night out was hysterical.  About 2 a.m. Jacob woke us up, shining his light around and moving like crazy.  The blow up mats we sleep on make all kinds of squeaky noises when you move around.  He was definately moving around.  When Jason asked him what was going on he said he saw something "with antlers" outside the tent, really close.  Jason turned on his light (much brighter) than the boys and whatever it was ran off.  We all went back to sleep, talking and laughing.  In the morning while having our coffee I told Jason I hadn't realized it at the time but I did hear whatever it was for probably twenty minutes before Jacob woke us up.  It was "grunting".  I assumed it was the boys, sore and moaning when they turned over.  Plausible, right!  Turns out whatever animal was outside our tent was more than likely the culprit.  We gave Jacob a hard time, as usual, but there was definately something there, just not exactly sure what.

Two days down, today we are traveling from Death Canyon Shelf to South Fork Lower Cascade Canyon via Hurricane Pass, which is very aptly named, roughly 10 miles with absolutely gorgeous views.

Around the bend is a drop down to a valley and then we'll be climbing the other side.  The first of many ups n downs on our way to Hurricane Pass.

We came over the mountain on the top of the picture, into the valley and up the other side where I took the picture from.  Gorgeous views and not a bad walk.  Day 3, my legs aren't burning anymore, assuming I've adjusted somewhat to the altitude now.

We will be climbing up there!

Here we are thinking, "we made it"!  Not even close.

This is hurricane pass  (10,400 ft) with Grand Teton off to the right.  You can't see them but if I had a recording you'd be hearing screaming and crying right now.  Off to the left of the picture is a family taking a break and a little girl who is NOT HAPPY!  She's had enough off this trip.  Poor thing.  She was miserable and wasn't afraid to show it.  The winds up here are amazing so we kept moving, Jacob held back and the father turned to him and said, "these are the moments" which he thought was hysterical.  He also said the little girl was screaming, "everything hurts".  Can you imagine, what a brave family?  A hike such as this is hard enough for adults who can weigh the incredible views and the sense of accomplishment with the physical exhertion, most children cannot do that, they only feel the pain and boredom without much appreciation for the beauty.

Although this was one of our longest hikes it was also one of our best days, gorgeous views and plenty of downhill and flat areas to compensate for the climbs.

This is the view over the side of Hurricane Pass.

We about froze to death waiting for Jason to get the camera set and take the picture.

As we were climbing down the other side of Hurricane Pass Caleb was kicking himself, he really wanted to scream out, "Leo Marvin, Dr. Leo Marvin" from the top.  The boys quoted that movie the entire trip ("baby steps" was another frequent saying), kept us laughing (What About Bob is the movie in case you didn't catch the reference)

Our campsite for night three of our trip.  Beautiful spot with rushing water off to the right, I just love that sound.  It rained on us for the final push to get here, stopped for a little bit while we set up and fixed dinner then rained for the rest of the night.  We all crammed into the boys tent to play cards (the blue tent has more headroom), very uncomfortable and stinky, but we had a good time.

Three days down, only one more night to go.  I always have mixed feelings as our trip is coming to an end, I could stay out here forever.  Tomorrow is Paintbrush Divide, lots of climbing.  Caleb is begging to take the bypass and head out early.  Are you kidding me?  Not gonna happen.  They also tried to take the tram up the mountain on the first day, I told them it's all part of the experience, we needed to hoof it and "feel the pain" of the climb.  We made it!

Stay tuned, more of our trip to come with some ins/outs for the park as well.  

If you're wanting to view more pictures from our trip you can find an album on Facebook at

Answers to the riddles:  #1, it was three generations, a daughter, mom and grandmother.  #2, a towel.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our First Project of the Season- 2015 Update

When we left for vacation earlier this month, this is where our project stood:  Ready for the water dispersal system/ceiling to go up.  Believe it or not we are nearly done, it's been a long ride.

Some of the materials arrived before we left.

We've been home now for a couple days, so far my dryer broke (can't do any of our filthy laundry from the trip, it's all still in the living room), my son's car had the muffler partially fall off so hubby has been dealing with that and he's determined to get some of the metal up on the ceiling.  What do you think?  I'm in love with the look.  Still has quite a ways to go but it's coming along and looking fabulous!

Hubby constructed these great poles to help hold/wedge the metal up to the ceiling so he could attach it, there's no way I could hold it up there (or my youngest who's helping him) long enough before my arms fell off.   They work great.  So far there's three pieces up and they are working on the fourth.  This is the small section of the deck.  Can't wait to see how he manages the curved portion.

Still waiting on some of the gutters (the curved portion is being made right now).  It is very exciting.  So happy with how it's turning out.

Here's the links for previous posts, look how far we've come:
First post- removing former concrete patio
This Weekend's Progress- ripping apart the rest of the deck
Update- drilling post holes, who knew that'd take an entire weekend, wow!
Slowly Progressing- Header board is in and a couple new posts. Yep, that's what we call progress around here, however slim it may be!
 Part 5- Joists are in!  Yeah! 
Weekly Update- Almost ready for decking.
Decking is on
Weekly Update- posts and railings
Update- and another Update framing for water dispersal system

Friday, July 24, 2015

Anniversary Trip!

My husband and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary last year (2014).  Our gift to ourselves, a week backpacking in Yosemite.  Originally we were thinking about a cruise to Alaska, but my husband really dreads the thought of confinement on a boat for even a day, so he offered me a second choice.  I don't think he expected me to take it, but I jumped.  Heck, we can take a cruise in wheelchairs any time, hiking the backcountry carrying all your supplies for a week on your back, well, that's going to have an expiration date!
Here's a reminder in case you missed my original post.  Such a great trip!
This was our first day, just starting out.
A couple miles in was the first lake.  Gorgeous.  About a mile past this lake is where "backcountry" begins.  You can camp basically anywhere you'd like after that point.
Just amazing views!
On day 2 we hiked Half Dome and camped near it's base.  You'd think we were getting close here, but no!

Wow!  Talk about amazing. 
I was so excited to climb Half Dome and then walked up to this.   I had a little bitty, maybe not so little, panic attack.  I still can't believe we did that and it was much easier than it looked.

The view from above..... it was well worth the climb!

Another view from Half Dome.... absolutely incredible views

On day 3 we headed out from Half Dome to our next Lake location.
We spent two nights at this site.  Gorgeous.  Right across was a High Country Campground that was not opening for another week or so.  It was a great spot. 

Hiking out.  I believe this was our last day, we'd spent the night in a great, secluded spot overlooking a cascade and are headed down into the valley for a final night at the backpacking campground before we catch our bus in the morning.  Jason is almost giddy to get back to normal life and I have mixed emotions, I could of stayed quite a bit longer. 
The waterfalls on the last day.  Almost out.  Both of us were craving a hamburger about now. 
Gorgeous, so happy we hiked down these waterfalls and not up.  Wow. 

My husband told me I could start planning next year's trip (2015) but I couldn't make them so long.  7 nights on a mat, in a tent was more than he ever cares to do again.  Me,  I could of stayed out there forever.  It was Wonderful!
This year we've invited the boys and are heading out to Grand Teton National Park.  We have reservations for four nights and will be hiking a large loop around the park, roughly 30some odd miles.  Not as far as last time but I think the hiking might be a little more strenuous (more elevation changes to deal with I believe).  I am so excited and already prepping supplies (for the boys, hubby and I are still pretty much set from last year).  I've been working out like a mad woman but haven't started wearing the backpack yet, gotta start that soon.  It's going to be a great adventure!
Have you ever done any backcountry camping?  Yosemite was our first trip, we learned a lot and I can't wait to learn a little more next time, as I'm sure this trip will present it's own set of challenges.  Exciting!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Quick Bathroom Update

Here's a peek at where this project started and a quick look into yesterday's progress.  I am back today to get it grouted and continue work on the floor.  I leave on vacation in a week, it won't be completely done but all the major renovations will be complete and I'll get you some Before & After's of the whole room at that time.  

This hugo mirror and the light fixtures really date the room.  My friend (who's bathroom this is) wanted to gut the entire area.  I talked her into keeping the vanity (yes, it's 20 years old but in great shape) and she ordered new marble.  We are also changing out the lights and mirror.  For minimal cost we've made a huge difference in the space.

First, I found a small cabinet for between the sinks.  They desperately need more storage and something to break up this huge expanse of countertop and wall space.  This is perfect.

 So far its got two coats of paint, not done yet but installing it today.  The rest can get done while its in position.

 This is the marble.  I am usually not a fan but this is really gorgeous!

 We have used two mosaic tile patterns in the space.  We fell in love with the left, larger pattern but it was twice the cost.  So, we used it in the shower area and opted to use the less expensive as a backsplash.  It blends  together really nicely..

I'm ready for my first tile to be installed.

 I stopped shy of the light fixtures with a full tile.  Debating going to the ceiling, stopping here or matching the tile height of the shower.  Gotta see what the new light base looks like up there and make a decision.

Moving along.

Done for today.

Heading back over to change out light fixtures and tile another six inches or so.  I also have a toilet room that needs durock today.  Lots of progress and still tons to do.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sunday "Funday"

A normal Sunday around here; church in the morning, quick lunch on the way home and work all afternoon/evening on whatever projects we've got going on around here.  Last Sunday we took a quick trip to Nashville to pick up a spiral staircase my hubby found on Craigslist.  When I say quick, I mean quick!

We left the house around 6am, stopped in Clarksville for church and then on to Nashville, picked up the ladder, grabbed some lunch and back home, right about 6pm.  Exhausted!  

It's always a little nervy to meet someone at an unknown location from Craigslist, I felt much better when we pulled into the parking lot of the Nashville Ballet and hubby told me that's where we were picking up the ladder.  The front portion of this building used to be a rock climbing place and when the ballet company took over there was a spiral staircase leading up to their offices.  At first they intended on using it but decided to sale it instead, what good fortune for us.

They used a large fork to move it from here onto our trailer.  Quick and easy, a couple straps and we were on our way.  

It's going to need a little bit of revamping to work for our application, can't wait to see it go in.  That's going to be interesting, it weighs a ton, not quite sure how we're setting it yet.  Could get a little dicey but I'm sure hubby will figure something out.

Here is where the staircase is going, basically where the ladder is now.  Now to decide,  powder-coat or spray paint.  Obviously powder-coating is more expensive but no maintenance for quite a while.  I'm thinking it's worth it.  Hubby keeps asking what color, should it match the railings (silver) or leave it black?  What do you think?

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