8/21/19…..Rock Springs, WY
After we finished up hiking in Colorado’s San Juan mountains we had a few days before we were planning to start the Wind River High Route. We decided to get up to Wyoming sooner than later and check out the Grand Tetons, a place I’ve never been.
This morning Garbelly, Critter, QB and I rented a car in Gunnison, CO and began the 650 mile drive North to Jackson, WY. Basically we followed the Continental Divide and made it as far in a day what would take a month to walk. Our first stop was Monarch Pass where we picked up a few snacks and a hitchhiker, Jersey Mike, who was hiking the CDT. Mike was trying to get down to Salida so we got him off the Pass and most of the way to town.
Our next stop was the iconic trail town, Leadville, for lunch. We got chimichangas and burgers and the rest of this crew picked up a Melanzana fleece, but I couldn’t be peer pressured. I’d rather buy property here. We drove north for awhile by Copper mountain, through Frisco then Silverthorne, and picked up a couple hitchhikers near Steamboat. Gravy and Mouse are hiking the CDT and they were waiting at an intersection that I’d been at before with my thumb out. We all had mutual friends and a similar scent so we stuffed them in the rental and got them where they were going.
Another hour or so and we crossed into Wyoming and shortly after that stopped in Saratoga at the Hobo Hot Springs. We were planning to camp somewhere in the Basin beyond Rawlins but after watching an incredible sunset the thunder, lightning, and winds picked up big time so we turned in our dirt bag cards and opted for a room in Rock Springs.
8/22/19….Jenny Lake CG, Grand Teton NP
There was still 3 more hours to drive this morning from Rock Springs to Jackson where we were scheduled to return the car. So we got up early, made quick work of the Days Inn Continental breakfast (took some to go), then Garbelly got us safely to J-Hole.
In town we had a few errands to run before getting up to the Tetons; post office stuff, supermarket to resupply, I got a new shirt at the thrift store, and a gear shop to pick up a few essentials. Critter figured out there was a little snafu with how Budget Rent-a-Car charged us, not a great situation, hopefully it will get ironed out soon. Of course we also had to check out the town a bit and get pizzas. Jackson Hole isn’t my favorite place. It seems like a super manicured ski town with a cowboy theme. A little rich for my blood.
To start the Teton Crest Trail we had to get up to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station for permits and info. Jenny Lake is 20 miles north of town so we took a city bus to the edge of town then got 2 quick hitches, 1st from Kent and then from David. Since we’re completely winging this thing we had zero reservations but Ross the Ranger was very helpful. Tonight we’re able to camp at the hiker/biker walk in site at Jenny Lake(I think most NP campgrounds have these so you almost always have a place to stay as long as you don’t have a car.) Tomorrow there were no backcountry sites along the TCT but fortunately Alaska Basin is 20 miles away and not technically in the park. It’s just over the park boundary in Jedediah Smith Wilderness so we don’t need a permit to camp. The following night we did get a permit at Marion Lake and that’s really all we need since the trail is only about 40 miles. One of the drawbacks of this hike is that we have to carry bear canisters but luckily they’re free to borrow from the ranger station.
After Ross got us all squared away we walked over to the campground, set up, and checked out Jenny Lake. There was a couple down there having a borderline risqué photo shoot but that didn’t stop me from jumping in the water nearby.
8/23/19…..Sunset Lake, Jedediah Smith National Forest…..23.2 miles
Leaving the campground this morning we walked along Jenny Lake for a couple miles and had some sweet views of the mountains reflecting in the water. When we got to the edge of the lake we got to Paintbrush Canyon and began steadily climbing.
It was crowded, as National Parks tend to be, and we came up on a group of about 5 or 6 people with their bear sprays drawn. Apparently there was a cinnamon colored black bear in the bushes just below the trail, no big deal. We walked past and not until a few minutes later looking back did Critter notice there was also 2 cubs up in a tree. Still no need to be alarmed, I’m really glad nobody fired off their bear spray.
We walked uphill for miles and eventually topped out at 10,700 feet on Paintbrush Divide Pass. There was a couple snow patches to walk through but other than that really nice well built trail and good hiking. Up the top the views were spectacular. The Tetons are really quite a site, I mean if you’re into looking at sharp jagged peaks like I am.
We walked down from the pass for a few miles until we got to Solitude Lake for lunch. I wanted to swim so bad but the cloud cover was making it a bit too cold for an alpine lake. When the sun finally came out and looked like it would stay out for a minute, QB said, “Endless this is your chance!” I ran barefoot over to a jumping rock and cracked my foot on the granite. I looked down and had a little trickle of blood but jumped in anyway. When I swam to the edge and climbed out I noticed I lost a toenail on the middle toe of my right foot. It hurt a little but worse than that it was bleeding like a sieve. Luckily some kids at the lake had some gauze and tape and I fixed myself up. I walked a few miles after lunch and there still wasn’t too much pain but I had to re dress my foot because of the blood(I’ll be monitoring this situation).
With 9 toenails I started climbing into the beautiful Cascade Canyon and was surrounded by the Grand Tetons incredible scenery. Eventually we got to the top of Hurricane Pass and then crossed the boundary of the park into Jedediah Smith National Forest. Since there were no permits within the park we’re camping here tonight in the Alaska Basin by Sunset Lake.
8/24/19…..Marion Lake, Grand Teton NP…..17.5 miles
What we’re doing out here isn’t exactly the Teton Crest Trail but more of our own variation of it. If you’re using this blog as a how-to manual for the TCT, don’t. We’re mostly staying on the trail but also doing what we want.
This morning leaving sunset lake we walked up and over Buck Mountain Pass, contoured along the beefy Buck Mountain to Static Peak Divide Pass. The trail was narrow but well built up to the pass with steep drop offs to the side. From there we followed not so much a trail but more of an animal path steeply to the top of Static Peak. The views from up here were simply stunning. From the summit we backtracked down until we were on the other side of Buck Mountain Pass and back in Alaska Basin. We passed a bunch of lakes before stopping at one to eat lunch and swim. My toe is bruised and it was still bleeding so after I swam I cleaned it and redressed it. Other than that it doesn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would.
After lunch we climbed up to Meek Mountain Pass until we got to Death Canyon Shelf. The shelf was really cool, it was flat but on the left was a steep cliff to the canyon floor and on the right were tall cliffs. We walked along this for awhile until we got to the turn off for Marion Lake.
This was an aquamarine alpine lake with a 500 foot granite wall behind it. We all went for a dip and we have permits for sites near here so we camped nearby.
8/25/19…..Lander, WY…..14 miles
It was rather windy overnight, with gusts waking me up every so often. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either.
From Marion Lake we climbed up for a couple miles and rejoined the official Teton Crest Trail then dropped steeply into Death Canyon. Once we got down low we rounded a corner and saw 3 bull moose, 2 of which were some of our bigger boys. Come to think of it one of these moose was the largest moose I’ve ever seen up close and personal. We followed the canyon along a creek as the walls grew higher beside us. Further on we saw a mama moose lying down with her calf.
The canyon became narrower and more crowded as we got closer to Phelps lake and by midday we reached the trailhead. Another mile of walking on the road and we got picked up by a hiker, Peter, who drove us to the Moose Visitor Center and Ranger Station so we could drop off our bear canisters. 2 thumbs all the way up for the Teton Crest Trail even though we didn’t exactly do the official TCT. (Instead of hiking down Death Canyon we could have hiked over to Rendezvous Mountain and taken a $40 gondola down but that was never going to happen). We ended up doing 50+ miles north to south through the Tetons. There was spectacular scenery, a fair amount of wildlife, and some awesome alpine lakes for swimming plus the logistics were relatively easy. I would recommend.
From the ranger station we got a ride from James 20 minutes into Jackson where we pigged out at the supermarket then got on our way hitching. Our plan is to hitch to Lander, WY 4 hours away to start hiking the Wind River High Route tomorrow. Our fist ride was from Elisa who got us to the Hoback Junction, then we got picked up quickly by Sabrina who brought us 20 miles closer. John a contractor from Bondurant drove us well out of his way bringing us down to Pinedale. From Pinedale, John and Cesar were headed back to their jobs in Green River, Utah and they drove us about an hour down 191 to Farson then got ice creams with us.
After our ice creams we had a little over an hour to go to Lander and not much more daylight than that. A cowboy called us over to his horse trailer and said we could ride in that to Lander. “Just don’t mess with my dogs” he said. Ok, why would we do that I thought to myself. The novelty of riding in the back of a horse trailer on a Wyoming Highway with a farting horse and 4 cattle dogs on a horseshit covered floor wore off in just a couple minutes. It was a ride though and it beat trying to stealth camp in the wind outside of Farson, and at least there were coolers to sit on(wasn’t going to check what was in the coolers). follow us on insta: @endlesspsummer, @sarahikes and @ourtrailingthought
I just did a loop in the Jed Smith Wilderness and was researching some of the areas I went through and came across your blog. We met briefly on the PCT in ’15. Alpaca, and I was hiking with my sister Chicory. Glad to see y’all are still out there killing it!
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Hey Alpaca, glad you found this and hope it was helpful. We actually stopped and saw Chicory and Hoho in Flagstaff while we were hiking the AZT in ‘18. Your dad was there too. Hope all is well, -Endless
We’re heading towards Idaho now, I’ll take a look at those routes you have posted. Let my know if you’ve got any favorites.