Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Gros Ventres Adventure

Aah, the Gros Ventres. This wild country is unknown to most tourists, but a beauty to the people that know it. It's massive peaks and glaciated basins rival anything in the Tetons. The only thing they lack to compare is the stunning view from the highway, therefore making them less accessible. Good for us locals, right?

Little Fluffy Clouds

David and I planned a weekend trip into the Gros Ventres. The planned route was to take the Swift Creek trail up to the base of Antoinette Peak and then to loop around to camp near Shoal Falls. According to Trails.com, the round trip was 12 miles. Not too bad in my opinion. The trail description also said that from the falls to the parking lot was a six mile hike so I assumed it was six miles in as well...The trail began from a ghetto parking circle just off of the road out to Granite Hot Springs. After driving down eight miles of crappy potholed road to get to said parking circle, I knew that this was definitely going to be more of an adventure than anything in Teton National Park that I'd seen so far. As we approached the trailhead for Swift Creek, I noticed a sign that said Shoal Falls with an arrow. That would be our return trail! The Swift Creek trail was just ahead.

The Parking Circle
Getting ready to hike.

Shoal Falls Trail

The unfortunate part of this particular trailhead was that there were two other trail sbranching out from the main sign. We veered onto the fainter one on the right, because that's what the trail guide said. Instantly we wondered if we were even on the right trail. That thought would remain in our minds until we got home and looked at a real topo map.

The trail followed the edges of Swift Creek. The water was rushing and wildflowers were starting to pop up in the meadows all around us. We even found a bird's nest with baby robins in it!

Robin Chicks
Baby robins. Photo by David Duffy.

Small Buck
A curious young buck. Photo by David Duffy.

Swift Creek
Swift Creek. Photo by David Duffy.

Eventually we started to lose the trail completely. It appeared as if it had been washed out by the creek. David decided to cross the river and explore on the other side. Sure enough, there was a sign that said "Trail --->" indicating that people needed to cross the creek. The unfortunate part was that this sign was for the people returning from the upper part of the hike. Where was the sign telling us where to go?? I found out later that it's fairly typical for the Gros Ventres to have a disorganized trail system...great.

We ambled along the trail some more and then started vigorously climbing. This hill was relentless. We switchbacked up through the large valley between 11,407 ft. Antoinette Peak and Corner Peak. As I was hiking I a caught a glimpse of some pretty stunning waterfalls. All I could wonder is, "If these falls look like this, what to Shoal Falls look like?" A beautiful sight.

Unknown Falls

We climbed further and further up the trail, passing some very scenic sights along the way. The scree fields of Corner Peak and the sheer faces of Antoinette Peak were absolutely breathtaking.

Corner Peak
Corner Peak.

Blue Skies
Antoinette Peak.

Amy on the Swift Creek Trail
We've gained mucho elevation. Down there is the road we drove in on. Photo by David Duffy.

After what seemed like endless climbing and a quick lunch later, we reached snow. At first it only covered parts of the trail and it was easy to navigate around or just walk through. Eventually it became impassable. We had come upon a very large basin that reminded me of the approaches to Mount Daniel that we climbed in Washington last year. We followed what looked like trail for a bit, but eventually ended up turning around. We were both so exhausted from the climbing and had been hiking for four hours by now. It was time to find a place to camp, regrettably not at Shoal Falls.

Losing the Trail
Invisible trail = time to turn around.

Snow on the Trail

Ski That

We descended back into a pretty little basin that we had spotted on the way up. Although it wasn't where we intended to go, it was still beautiful and we were able to set up our tent right next to a rushing creek.

Camping Basin


Peace in the Wild


Corner Peak
Corner Peak from our campsite.

That night was spent doing what is done best in the wilderness: Building a fire, eating all of those lost calories, and quenching our thirst with some adult beverages. What was even more amazing was that it was a full moon that night. We eagerly waited for the moon to rise over the jagged crags of Corner Peak and eventually it blinded us with it's brightness. It was so bright at one point I felt like it was daytime. I can't think of a better place to be than in the backcountry on the night of a full moon.

Stoking the Flames

Waiting for Moonlight
The moon is about to rise over that ridge.

Moonlit Fire

Moonlit Antoinette Peak
Our fire is so small in the shadow of Antoinette. Photo by David Duffy.

The next day, we began the trek back to the parking area. We were so eager to look at a map and see if we were even in the right spot the whole time. We went over to my friend Alex's ranch for the afternoon to BBQ and enjoy the sunshine. He just happens to have topo maps of the entire Wyoming/Idaho/Montana area. We found the map for our area and sure enough, we were on the right track. To continue would have meant that we climbed another who-knows-how-many feet up to the very base of Antoinette Peak. Then we would have dropped over that pass into the Crystal Creek area and continued on the trail to the falls. So much for 12 miles, is all I have to say.

Regardless of the confusion experienced on this trip, I have to say that I much prefer the solitude experienced in the Gros Ventres. The drive isn't far, and you get to weed out all of the tourists hiking in flip-flops and loafers. We will return to the Gros Ventres.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Backpacking: Trapper Lake

It's my first summer in Jackson Hole, so I felt that it was only natural to venture into Grand Teton National Park for my first backpacking trip of the season. Since there still seems to be a lot of snow at higher elevations, David and I decided to head out to Trapper Lake. This little lake sits right underneath the towering summit of Mount Moran at the north end of the Tetons. The trail passes big beautiful Leigh Lake, complete with white sand beaches. Gorgeous is all I can say about Leigh Lake.

Token trailhead sign shot.
Leigh Lake Trailhead.

Bear country.
Bear Aware!

Beaches of Leigh Lake
On the beaches of Leigh Lake.

As we wound along the lakes edge, we began spotting morel mushrooms. I guess that it's quite popular to go morel hunting in Jackson. I felt like I was the only person that didn't know about these little gems. I was at a friend's house last week and she had cooked some up with polenta and goat cheese and they were delicious! Unfortunately, we didn't end up taking any home due to lack of sufficient transportation for the delicate little fungi. :/

Morel mushrooms near the parking lot.
Nom, nom, nom! Morel mushrooms!

Leigh Lake
Leigh Lake, Mount Woodring behind.

Reflections on Leigh Lake
Reflections of Rockchuck Peak & Mount Woodring on Leigh Lake. Paintbrush Canyon lies between the peaks.

After passing even more stunning views of the Tetons from the edges of Leigh Lake, we crossed a wide open meadow and ended up near the shores of Bearpaw Lake. It was significantly smaller than Leigh Lake, but still beautiful. Finally after a few more steps through the forest we reached the tiny Trapper Lake. There was only one campsite there, which we had gotten a permit for in advance. The lake had a nice creek running into it which ran from the Skillet Glacier on Mount Moran. It even had a perfect rock to sit on right next to it, perfect for soaking in the peacefulness of my surroundings.

David, Mount Moran Behind
At the foot of Mount Moran.


Trapper Lake
Trapper Lake.

Wyoming Forest
Forest views.

David and I set up camp, and then realized that we had cell phone service. Pretty lame, in my opinion. I usually am pretty excited to shut my phone off when I'm in the backcountry. I guess that's the problem with the Tetons -- it's like wilderness in your own backyard, therefore, cell towers are nearby. Anyway, I called my friend Anna because she had been waffling back and forth about coming out, and she decided to give it a go. I felt bad soon after because the storm clouds started rolling in not long after I ended the call. David and I were right in the middle of eating dinner when the wind picked up and rain started sprinkling down. It turned into a downpour pretty quick so we retreated to the shelter of our tent.

Storm Clouds
Party poopers.

It cleared up fairly soon after it started and Anna arrived with a friend not long after that. We made a fire and enjoyed s'mores and good stories for the rest of the evening. It was so good to be sleeping in the wilderness again...sort of.

Amy by the fire.

I woke up the next morning, half paranoid and groggy from my not-so-good night's sleep. I woke up shivering, and then I kept thinking I was going to get attacked by a bear for the rest of the night. It's weird how when you're camping even the tiniest little noise sounds like a woolly mammoth is rummaging through your campsite. Ugh. It took a lot of coffee and even some yoga for me to feel right in my mind again.

Cosmic Dancer!
Cosmic dancer...a little stiff...

Anyway, while we were eating breakfast, we spotted a moose across the lake. As we observed it, we saw its baby come out of the bushes! It was so cute and gangly, although I was really happy that I was far away from it...moose can be very aggressive.

Looks just like her!
Mama moose and her baby!

Nosy neighbors.
Other neighbors.

David and I decided to head out on a day hike into Paintbrush Canyon. It was definitely one hell of a day hike. It was 3.4 miles back to the south end of Leigh Lake, then another .8 to the Paintbrush trailhead, then another 2.5-ish into the canyon. We didn't go too far into the canyon because storms seemed to be thundering towards us and the clouds were growing a dark shade of gray. I would have loved to make it to Holly Lake, but that's a trip for another weekend I suppose. There might have been too much snow there anyway. My feet were screaming on the way back to camp, as I realized that I had hiked over 13 miles. Yikes! At least that will get me in shape for longer hikes into the backcountry when I want to be out of cell phone range :)

Unidentified mushroom species.
Mushrooms on the mind in Paintbrush Canyon. These probably aren't edible though.

Of course when we got back to camp, we were famished. It was time to eat some of that delicious freeze-dried stuff. We set up shot next to the creek and took in the oh-so-tasty and well-deserved nourishment. I slept so good that night.

On our last day, like usual, we made breakfast and coffee and started to pack up all of our campfire-infused clothing. We were standing over by the "bear box" when we heard a large snap in the bushes. Before we could move, a moose came galloping by, no more than 40 feet away from us. I kind of just stood frozen for a minute, wondering what had happened, and thinking about how thankful I was that it wasn't a bear. As we hiked back out to the parking lot, we couldn't stop thinking about our next trip...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hiking to Granite Canyon

You may recall that I paid a visit to Granite Canyon in the winter, only it started from the top of the ski resort...and we were snowboarding. Yesterday, David and I drove out to the Village to meet up with Anne, my roommate from college for a quick hike to Granite Canyon -- from the bottom of the resort. Everything looks so different out there now. It's lush and green. There are people milling around everywhere. It's weird. The tram is also running, so if you feel like heading up to where it's winter again, it's worth it. I'll probably wait on that one. We took the Valley Trail which headed up the soft slopes of Teewinot and around the bottom of Saratoga Bowl to a rushing Granite Creek. Ripley, Anne's dog, came along too. He's a nonstop fetch player. He will drag sticks that are bigger than him along the trail and drop them right in front of your feet. Here are a few shots from the "nature walk," as we called it.

Bears In Area
Didn't see any bears today, although I'm sure Ripley would have protected us haha.

Sweet little Ripley.

David playing with Ripley.

Anne, soaking up the beauty of Granite Creek.

Trying to get a decent shot of the rushing rapids.

Granite Creek.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Wyoming Whitewater Championships - Boatercross

As you may recall, I'm working with my friend Robin Pitt for his new project Influence. He asked me if I could make it out to the Greys River today to shoot the final day of the Wyoming Whitewater Championships with proceeds going to the Jackson Hole Kayak Club. The competition included a kayak and raft race on the Hoback River on Friday, a freestyle kayak rodeo on the Snake River on Saturday, and a downriver boatercross on the Greys River today. The Greys River has a rapid called "Snaggletooth," which is where I was taking photos. The name itself should say something about these difficult Class IV rapids. Enjoy the shots!






I also grabbed a couple of scenic shots on the Snake on my way down...

Snake River

Heading down to check out the Kahuna Rapids.


Check out more photos from the event on Influence...and don't forget to subscribe for free!