On a sleepy Sunday morning we went in search of breakfast in Jackson Hole, which we discovered at Bubba’s, a fine barbecue establishment that serves more food than one person can possibly eat – unless you are Mike. He cleaned his plate, and Jeff made a brave attempt, but I could not get through half of my meal, so it went in the to-go box (the next morning I was happy for cold hash browns.) I got the scoop from the cashier on where a person can take a shower in this town (the Rec Center) and then we set off for our trailhead. Today’s hike was not in the National Park, but it’s a local gem: Jackson Peak.
Jeff learned about this hike in his trip research. It’s in the Gros Ventre Wilderness, part of Bridger-Teton National Forest. There are not many roads in this part of the country. All pavements soon give way to gravel, and eventually a four-wheel drive seems like such a good idea. We drove through the National Elk Refuge, home of the world’s largest wintering concentration of elk (we didn’t see elk today but we saw them later in the week.) In the valley we passed what we called compounds, clusters of very nice houses (ranches?) that looked like Daddy had enough land to build all his offspring a very nice house to go alongside his. As we climbed up the mountains, the road got rougher and the potholes got bigger. Does anybody ever use these roads? Answer: yes. The parking area had half a dozen cars when we arrived and we saw bunches of hikers during the course of the day.
Jeff’s description of this hike included the words “rock scramble to the summit”, to which I replied that I would “wait below with his pack.” Rock scramble and slip-and-fall sound too much alike for my taste. Mike also mentioned that today was a rest day for him in preparation for our backpack and that he would probably not go to the summit either (remember, he had already been hiking around for a week or so before we arrived). The trail began as a climb through open fields with views towards the Teton range and the beginnings of lovely flowers. Jeff is a young’un and his speed does not change much regardless of hiking on level terrain, downhill or uphill. Our paces are evenly matched on the first two, but on the uphills – forget it. I start out trying to keep up and all I do is wear myself out.
Once we gained the ridge and a little more level ground, I began to truly enjoy the profusion of flowers. Like yesterday, lupines were everywhere, as well as wild geraniums, Indian paintbrush and showy goldeneye.
We passed Goodwin Lake and for about two minutes we thought we were looking at Jackson Peak. Hey, that doesn’t look like too bad a climb…well, that’s not it.
With vague directions to look for a big stick at an unmarked side trail to the summit, we trekked on. The side trail was not hard to find (there was a rock cairn too) and we sat down to have lunch. Mike turned traitor on me and said that if I wanted to go to the summit, he would go too, and we’d go nice and slow even if it took all day. It looked like it would take about an hour-and-a-half to reach the summit. Behind a tree Jeff and I dumped all the extra weight from our packs that we possibly could and off we went.
It only took 45 minutes. We walked so slowly that we didn’t get out of breath and it really made a difference for me – a great lesson for the coming days. Within the first ten minutes we could see Cache Peak and I was captivated. See how clearly it stands out?
How about let’s look at the pictures.
The rock cairn and Cache Peak in the distance
Total time for the 10-mile round trip, including lunch and lingering at the summit, was about 6.5 hours, not too bad. I really enjoyed this hike and hoped it was getting me ready for the next three days of backpacking. We wound our way back down the mountain to Jackson Hole and the Rec Center, where for $6.50 each we got to shower with strangers (and in my case, with a lot of little kids fresh from the pool).
Our day wasn’t over yet – our upcoming backpack required a shuttle, so we needed to place a car at our exit point, the Death Canyon trailhead. We took the scenic route west of town to Teton Village, the ski resort area, and enjoyed a fancy dinner at the Mangy Moose. (Jeff loved the buffalo meatloaf.) I was so tired I nearly fell asleep in my salad. The route to place the car included more gravel roads and potholes (also known as small ponds filled with water) and an elk or two dodged past our headlights. We arrived back at camp after 11:00 p.m. and set our inner alarms for first light. Tomorrow we head into the wild!