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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...