The Grand Tetons & How I Learned I Was Part-Bear
We were headed to Headwaters, our campground for our stay at Grand Teton, located just north of the park.
We arrived mid-day to the site after driving the two hours from Jackson and immediately set in getting the tents ready. I always like to get situated immediately when I arrive somewhere new and it was a good thing that we did! As soon as the sun began to set, the mosquitoes came out in hordes! And not just a large quantity of mosquitoes - but massive blood-sucking vultures that gave absolutely no fucks when it came to draining your blood dry. Worst of all - they were huge! I have always tried to be very conscious of making sure that I have enough bug spray applied to my skin. Mosquitoes seem to love my blood and I have huge welts on my legs to prove it! But it didn’t seem to matter how much we tried, the mosquitoes weren’t going to be deterred, so it quickly became an early night.
Getting my stuff into the bear box, however, was another story. If you’ve ever spent any time camping in the mountains, bear boxes are a common sight and almost every camp site will have one. These large, heavy locked steel boxes are a great place to put your stuff to keep it safe from wandering, scavenging bears. It also protects the bears since bears with disruptive behavior have to be put down each year.
Apparently, bear boxes are also human proof. For whatever reason, I spent each and every day, each and every time, struggling to get my stuff locked (or unlocked, as the case may be) from the bear box. Simple locks people, truly. And I seemed to be the only one who had any trouble.
Having spent far too much time in the car in the past two days, I was eager to start my morning bright and early in the Grand Tetons and get a nice solid hike in. Unfortunately for me (and maybe the rest of the group), most of the hikes seemed to be either very short and easy or very long and very strenuous. I couldn’t seem to convince anyone that a 15 mile death march was a good idea, so we settled on trying to find the best of both worlds.
After a solid breakfast of oatmeal and coffee that we all immediately devoured (Or maybe I just did, since I spend each meal thinking about my next meal… Ashley-Bear, rawwwrr!), we set off toward Jenny (say it with me: Jen- ayyyyy) Lake, for what the map told us was going to be a variety of short, easy to moderate trails, culminating at the peak with a route called “Inspiration Point.” Having been to Zion’s “Observation Point,” I was eager to get to some climbing and see these miraculous Tetons from a viewpoint that wasn’t from the bottom up.
However, heavy snows and foot traffic in the past year had closed almost every trail from Jen-nay Lake, as the park did some reconstruction and maintenance to the trails. Disappointed, but not entirely deterred, we discovered that we could start from another trailhead and still get up to Inspiration Point. All things considered, this seemed like a great idea and I was ready to get hiking!
String Lake had a similar trailhead structure to that of Jen-ay, (Don’t try to fight it. You know you read it like that every time.) so we quickly parked and got to it. The entire trail was marked at approximately six miles with about 800 feet of ascent. This trail was absolutely one of my favorite things about the entire trip. The best part was that with every mile, the terrain changed. We started in a forest full of new growth, with the eerie remnants of charred pine (the sign said the fire had happened in 1999), that edged up on some beautiful rapids. The rapids spilled into an immense lake that was crystal clear. If you wanted, you could have taken a ferry from one point of the lake to the other. People were sitting on the rocks fishing, sunbathing, and enjoying the water. It ended up being much warmer than I had expected, reaching the upper 80s. I was still growing accustomed to this crazy mountain weather.
Sometimes, I find it difficult to write a blog like this because I never know what people want to know about. Was it gorgeous? Sure, of course! (But you probably already knew that.) Was the terrain rough? Sure, in parts! (You could have guessed that.) I was covered in sweat. I was breathing hard. (We did get to almost 7000 feet!)
So instead, I like to show a variety of pretty pictures for you to oogle over and discuss some of the things that I felt made the hike extra unique.
Let’s talk about the snow. As I’ve said numerous times before, I grew up in snow so I’m no stranger to it. But what I find incredibly unusual is seeing snow, on the ground, in June! In 80 degrees! When we reached the top of the climb to Inspiration Point, we hit large patches of the open snow on the face of the mountain. And this wasn’t just a small patch of snow in some forgotten shadowy corner of the mountain. This was full-on, in need of poles (or in our case, large mountain sticks) to get through the slippery terrain kind of snow. Being a northerner helped me here. I felt as though I navigated the slippery snow piles with ease, while my fellow Texans felt flat on their butts when the snow got slushy. I really just wanted to lay down and make a snow angel but decided against wet and dirty clothes for the hike back down.
Having got a late start to the morning hiking, we finished the hike at Inspiration Point and immediately headed back to our campsite to fight off another round of mosquitoes.
We spent the last day in the Tetons working our way around the Colter Bay area. In the Visitor Center of Headwaters, we had seen a large sign-in sheet for visitors to let others know where they had seen wildlife. Colter Bay seemed to be a popular place for bears and other large animals, so we set out on an adventure.
As luck would have it, we ventured around many of the small lakes without seeing any large wildlife. Discouraged but not deterred, we headed to another part of the park to see an old cabin. These were probably some of the best views of the Tetons that we saw on the entire trip and gave me a chance to get a little creative with my camera. It’s always good to be on a trip with another camera-savvy chick, because I had too much fun working on getting great angles.
We finished the night off with a visit to the Headwaters Lodge, a welcome retreat from the mosquitoes and a great place to watch a little bit of the Stanley Cup Finals. Ok, or maybe that was just me….
But time to be well rested because it was Yellowstone in the morning!