Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tetons, Taggart Lake and the Teepee

Grand Tetons National Park – Day One – 7/25/09 – 5.5 Miles

I spent all week gathering my gear and then all day Friday stuffing it into my backpack, a carry-on suitcase and a shoulder bag. We would be camping in a Park campground every night except for the two nights of our backpack trip, so tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad(s), stoves, etc. all had to be accounted for. And beauty products – where to put them all? After a very early departure from Charlotte, one layover and a two-hour time change, Jeff and I landed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the flight attendants instructed everyone to get off the plane and keep walking until you reach the terminal, do NOT stop to take pictures. See why? Nice backdrop for an airport.

 Mike met us at the airport, helped get our stuff to our rental car, and we went…straight to a trailhead. What, you were thinking maybe lunch? Nooo, we are serious about our hiking, folks! (Well, I think we did stop by the Visitor Center first.) The drive to the trail was breathtaking and everything was so vast. I realized that though I would take many photos, most of them would not encompass the scene. The Teton range rolls north seemingly in a straight line and the valley beside it where the two-lane road snakes along is very flat with sagebrush and golden grasses. Actually, I guess it’s not flat, but the small hills seem meaningless with those jagged rocky mountains pushing up so high above. (I will probably use up all my descriptive vocabulary in this first entry so I must consult a thesaurus after this.)

Our first hike was a warmup loop along the shores of Taggart Lake and Bradley Lake with the majestic Grand Teton herself looming in the distance. I was on high alert for wildlife and Mike pointed out bear signs here and there, but nothing wilder than the three of us appeared. Our visit was during the height of wildflower season – this was the first of millions of lupines we passed. In fact, I think the wildflowers were truly the highlight of the entire trip. As I walked along it was hard to believe that we were actually finally here.

Mike on the trail

At a bridge crossing between the lakes we met a couple enjoying a little glass of wine at the end of the day. When we asked them to take a photo, they asked if we were mom and dad and son….well, that joke lasted for the entire week. Jeff gets all of his good qualities from me. (For those of you that may not be sure, the three of us are unrelated hiking fools.)

Family portrait

Every morning in the Tetons dawns clear but the clouds gather and move eastward over the mountains on most afternoons (foreshadowing of excitement to come). The Grand Teton makes her own weather, starting out with a little tiny cloud in the morning and becoming obscured by late afternoon. On our first day out we had lots of threatening clouds and just a few sprinkles on the hike. At one point today Mike split off from us to hike another trail and we arranged to pick him up at a different trailhead.
  Here I am on a big rock near the end of our first day’s hike. In the background is Avalanche Canyon (I thought it was Death Canyon, which we would be trekking through later in the week, but Jeff has corrected me. Which sounds more fun, Avalanche or Death?)

 Here’s one decent photo I got of flowers and water. There was lots of water everywhere we went, in the valley, in the canyons, and incredible waterfalls spilling down the canyon walls…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The unwanted drizzle for the first day came as we got to our car. Jeff and I picked up Mike at the Lupine Meadows trailhead (we would be back at that spot for another hike later in the week) and headed for dinnertime at Dornan’s, a little shopping hot spot near the Visitor Center. Dornan’s consists of several buildings that include a very small grocery store (or large convenience store, depends on how you look at it), a deli, a pizza and pasta restaurant, an outfitter, and the Chuckwagon. Now, the Chuckwagon dinner is all you can eat of beans, beef stew, short ribs, and other stuff cooked in large Dutch ovens over open fires. (Never fear, there’s a salad bar too!) You can eat under the stars, under a shelter or inside the teepee. Dornan’s would become like a second home to us because they serve made-to-order breakfast, too.

As we ate, the rain poured down and a distinct chill settled in. We lingered until the sky miraculously lightened up again, then made our way to the Gros Ventre Campground, which is like the typical Smokies campground, smalls sites with a picnic table, a bathhouse, but no showers or electricity. I was just happy to not put up my tent in the rain. Despite the travel and the hike, it was typically hard to get to sleep the first night away from home. I thought about those high, sharp mountains that still had plenty of snow on them. I had not forgotten about the ice axe videos. What would the rest of the week bring?


Old Dan said...

Welcome back Sharon..great pics and I'm looking forward to the rest of the story. I didn't get a chance to do any hiking when I visited YNP and GTNP a couple years ago so it will be interesting to hear what it is like.

smoky scout said...

Hi Dan -- when Jeff gets his pictures up I will include the link to his share site. Mine are very lame compared to his. One thing I can say about hiking out there - Western miles ain't like Eastern miles.

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your Smokies write-ups and these are just as good. A friend and I are going to Glacier NP for a week later in August - can't wait! Thanks for bring the Tetons closer!