Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Wilderness’

Getting to the hostel in Grand Lake, we had to sign the most peculiar waiver which all of us found most amusing.

The waiver made sure we understood that the hostel sat at 8,500ft above sea level and potential health risks exist such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, etc. We had not been below 10,000ft in quite some time…at least 100 miles, so 8,500ft felt like a break where we could all breathe better!

We found Heartbreaker, Hiker Box, Flip, and Wide Angle at the hostel as well and it was nice to see a few other faces. Stereotypically, we all checked out of the hostel, but lounged in their reception area on the couches for another hour using the wifi and chatting about shoes, the Silverthorne vs. Breckenridge routes, and what we planned on eating next.

Meandering downtown, which conveniently, was also the trail, we went straight for the Fat Cat Café and their AYCE buffet. Since we came into town late the night before, we decided that we required beer before leaving town. Surprisingly, downtown Grand Lake does not have a large selection of bars like other small Colorado towns. Finally, we found an establishment called, “Grumpies,” which all of us deduced could not be anything except a bar. One beer, of course, turned into three before we decided that we needed to get at least seven miles out of town to get out of the National Park.

Following some roads out of town, we reached the trailhead where a large sign informed us that we could follow the Continental Divide Trail by following trail markers. I found that so hilarious that I took a picture of the sign. Trail markers! The thought! Maybe eventually.

 

Some slightly blurry bull moose.

We took the route that followed the lake closely at a fork and headed toward a dam near a campground filled with glampers (glamor campers). At the dam, we saw the glampers in their jeans with bikes and strollers and large amounts of stuff all gathering with cameras raised. Wildlife. Poking our way through the crowd, parting people with our wonderful smell, we saw two bull moose munching on some nearby willows.

Of course, the moose were slowly moving and munching in the direction that the trail went, so we hiked on, trying to get around them before they inevitably planted themselves in the middle of the trail.

Continuing along the lake, we saw all kinds of people illegally camping, so as we got tired, we decided to stealth camp as well. Right before finding a spot, we ran into a group of people who had put very large tents directly in the middle of the trail. They had a large fire and plenty of lanterns.

Camper: “Hey there!”

E.D.: “Hi”

Camper: “Do you guys need a flashlight…you don’t have one?”

Me: “It’s on my head…it’s just not on yet.”

Camper: “Why?”

E.D. and I exchange glances.

Me: “Because we can still see ok…”

Camper: “So, do you need a flashlight?”

IMG_1708We kept hiking and saw a few river otters splashing in the water at dusk, being able to see plenty with the light from their fire even half a mile later.

The trail then proceeded to go up on Knight’s Ridge the next morning which our map warned could be impassable due to blowdowns. We found another tid-bit of information online that the blowdowns had mostly been cleared. They were indeed and we only had to go over about a dozen or so before dropping down to a popular camping and day hiking area.

Supposedly, there was a tiny general store somewhere in the car mess, but I couldn’t find it. Memphis and E.D. were slightly behind me. I asked a few glampers where it was and discovered that it had closed, but sometimes the ranch down the way had sodas.

The ranch was closed for a private party. I gazed at the sign for a long moment before hiking on looking dejected. I didn’t *need* anything. I just wanted a non-crystal-light-energy caffeine boost.

As I passed a long fence covered in private property signs, I heard someone yell, “Hey hiker!” from the other side.

I turned and saw an old man walking up to the fence. We chatted for a bit and I learned of his grandkids, the campground, and the reasons why the general store closed. He saw that I was bummed it had closed and asked if I needed anything. I said no, I had just wanted a soda to give me some energy and he miraculously produced a coke from a nearby car trunk and handed it to me.

Delighted, I got to walk the dirt road stretch with a soda in hand which made the morning much better. I thought I would wait by Monarch Lake for E.D. and Memphis, so I tossed the can in the dumpster and went to walk past a man sitting on a beach chair near the lake entrance area.

Man: “Do you have your parking pass visible?”

Me: “I don’t have a car…”

Man: “You need a parking pass for anywhere you park around here.”

Me: “I walked here.”

Man: “There’s no place to walk from with free parking.”

Me: “Dude. My car is in Seattle at my Mom’s house.”

Man: “So you got dropped off somewhere?”

Me: “In Canada.”

Dumbfounded, I decided to ignore further questioning and simply walk past him to take a break. I found out from another person asking me to sign into the wilderness area that they were part of the wilderness society and were volunteering. They said that I had to get a permit to camp in the wilderness area and did not seem to understand that I could walk into the wilderness area and out the other side in the span of an afternoon.

Lady: Steps in front of my path, “You’ll need a permit to camp.”

Me: “I’m going past the wilderness area tonight.”

Lady: “That’s at least eight more miles and a lot of elevation gain.”

Me: “It’s about 2,000 feet of gain…and I’ve only hiked nine miles today…”

Lady: “They’re hard miles.”

I hiked half-way up the climb to a stream, laid my tent out to dry, and ate lunch wondering where E.D. and Memphis were.

The climb was well graded and had a trail the whole way, so I didn’t understand what the lady was talking about exactly.

With still no sign of E.D. or Memphis, I continued on, trying to get near Devil’s Thumb pass to camp. I got to within a mile before treeline and camped around 11,000ft in a spot just flat enough to fit my tent. The terrain had become increasingly rocky and I thought if I did not take what I could find then, I found I have to settle for a shittier spot later.

I had gained enough elevation that I could get enough internet to check the weather after hearing some of the day hikers mention something about a storm. Indeed, a large storm system was supposed to hit in the early afternoon and continue until about 8pm the next night. I was about to hit a 14 mile waterless stretch above treeline in the morning and pondered my options as I loaded up on water.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My alarm went off at 3:30am.  I hit snooze.  The moon, however, had other plans.  Bright and full, it felt like someone stood above my tent with a head lamp.  My alarm went off at 3:40am.  This time I got up, stumbling out of my tent and filled a bowl with granola and almond milk.  As I munched, I pondered the map again.  I wandered over to the area in the dirt where a local rancher sketched another map in the dirt.  He wandered over around 8pm on a four wheeler with two dogs running behind.  I politely declined his offer of firewood telling him I planned to wake up early and hike up Sleeping Indian.  The locals all refer to the mountain as Sleeping Indian because from a lateral view, you can see a naturally carved headdress, a nose, then arms folded over the chest, then the belly down to the knees.  On a map, the summit says “Sheep Mountain” instead due to the amount of bighorn sheep in the area.  He told me to ignore the trail head and hike right next to his fence.  He mentioned that a lot of people get lost and end up hiking up East Minor Creek instead of the ridge.  His map, sketched into the dirt told me not to take the first left or the second left, but the third.

As I finished my granola, I switched the batteries in my headlamp.  While the moon helped significantly, I still would need the headlamp for the dense conifer areas.  Throwing my pack on, I walked over to the fence and began following it at 4am.  Knowing a bear had become too accustomed to humans at a nearby lake, I scanned my surroundings extra carefully.  I found the first left the rancher told me not to take.  That one, I could have figured out having not crossed two creeks yet.

The trail went into a dense conifer section with the fence a little further away and met up with the forest service trail.  Crrrrruuuuunch! EYEBALLS.  I froze, hand on my bear spray.  I watched the eyeballs and the eyeballs watched me, glaring in the light of my headlamp.  It sounded like a deer and the eyeballs were about the height of a deer.  We watched each other for another minute, then I slowly began to pass it.  Not something I felt like thinking about at 4:15 in the morning, but now I felt fully awake.

I hiked on and started to hike down toward the riparian area around East Minor Creek.  I paused noting the loudness of the creek, the thick willows, and the Gros Ventre mud.  The loud creek could muffle the sound of wildlife and the willows could obscure wildlife, not to mention that the riparian areas usually have the most wildlife.  Now, Gros Ventre mud has a mind of its own.  It has the power to stick to your feet like nothing else I have ever encountered.

I proceeded slowly, one hand holding my hiking poles and the other on my bear spray.  No eyeballs.  A log conveniently laid across the creek just like the old rancher said on his map drawn in the dirt.  The trail went up and over a tiny ridge.  On one of the switchbacks, a trail shot off to the left again like the rancher had said.  I figured if people get lost, they probably took that trail because East Minor Creek had two braids.

I continued and plunged down into the second riparian area around West Minor Creek.  The vegetation seemed thicker around this creek and I hiked slowly.  The Gros Ventre Mud became thicker and mushier.  After the creek, the trail showed no human footprints — only ungulate footprints (moose, elk, deer).  Great.  Still no more eyeballs.

I went upward again and crossed a very small creek.  I still saw no human footprints.  Then right around where I thought the junction should take off, the trail forked.  No signs.  I decided to follow the one that I thought would go to the lake for a few minutes to make sure I needed to go the opposite way.  When I saw the swamp and the mud became even thicker, I knew to go back and take the other fork.  On the way back, fifteen feet from the fork on the Grizzly Lake side, I saw two signs bolted to a tree.

From the fork, the trail went steeply upward along a very slim ridge.  I felt better in the thick conifers away from the water.  At least there, I could hear better.  About three quarters of a mile up, I crossed into the Gros Ventre Wilderness.  Not long after, I found a viewpoint where I could see the nose of Sleeping Indian as well as the sunrise to the east.  I sat down and watched the sunrise while eating a good old cliff bar.  My watch said I had climbed about 1000 feet already – only 3200 vertical feet to go!

I continued down the trail and the ridge slowly became wider and wider.  The conifers began to give way to large meadows covered in wildflowers: Indian Paintbrush, Harebells, Brown-Eyed Susans, Canadian Thistles, and so many more.  I could tell that water flowed down the trail because it indented in the middle.  Meadow after meadow, I finally made my way up to the pyramid shaped cairn marking the descent to Blue Minor Lake.  I stopped there and ate quite a large helping of cashews while I examined the map.  The trail stopped at the lake, but one of our faculty at TSS had provided me with beta on how to proceed from exactly where I sat.

“Don’t go down to the lake” he said, “just continue to follow that ridge and you’ll find a climber’s trail that goes up to the knees of Sleeping Indian.  From the knees, you can make your way up to the belly, then onto the arms.  You probably do not want to go adventuring on the nose; its very unstable scree and messy over there.”

Blue Minor Lake

Blue Minor Lake

The lake shown a brilliant blue and I could see the arms of Sleeping Indian above it. I saw no climber’s trail from there, but went where I thought I would put a trail to follow the ridge back up.  Low and behold, about two minutes later, I saw three rocks stacked up and a rough climber’s trail.  How convenient!

As the wildflowers increased, I watched the lake.  Then, I heard the very distinct sound of a red-tailed hawk.  Stopping, I searched the skies above, only to find it gliding below me, its orange-red tail glistening in the sun.  I have never stood above a red tail hawk before and took in every minute of it.

Soon, I hit the end of the ridge I walked and went onto the knees of Sleeping Indian where I heard something else I did not expect: running water!  A divot in the long ridge that made up the body of the Sleeping Indian had a stream in it!  Some pink snow fed the stream.  I just had 1,200 more vertical feet!

The climber’s trail seemed to end there.  I picked a path with the most rocks to walk on and made my way toward the arms.  Here and there a cairn would pop up with about 20 feet of something resembling a trail, but then they always ended.  I had a clear sight line to the arms, so I just proceeded up there.

The arms of the Sleeping Indian reminded me of a lot of peaks in Colorado.  The end inevitably became much steeper and some sort of path cut through the talus and winded its way up to the summit.  The last push!

Summit photo toward the Tetons in my Teva Sandals!

Summit photo toward the Tetons in my Teva Sandals!

Reaching the top, I had sweeping views of the Gros Ventres, the Tetons, the Jackson Hole valley, Jackson peak, Mt. Leidy, and so much more.  I dutifully took lots of pictures and scarfed up a bagel with peanut butter and honey.  At only 10:30am, I had already hiked 11 miles and 4,200 ft of elevation.  Not too shabby!

After a solid break on top, I reversed the route.  I ran into a father daughter team who had camped at Blue Minor Lake the night before and went up to the summit in the morning.  Other than that, I ran into no one until I got down toward West Minor Creek.  There, a group of five people with large packs passed me.

“Did you go up Sleeping Indian?” one asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, “It’s amazing!”

“In a day?” another asked.

“Yeah…” I said.  After all, my watch only read 3pm.

“You know,” one started also looking at her watch, “Most people do it as an overnight backpack via this route.”

“Huh.  It was a good long day,” I said as we finished passing each other.

View from the summit of Sleeping Indian toward the Gros Ventres

View from the summit of Sleeping Indian toward the Gros Ventres

Read Full Post »

At 5:10am, my alarm went off.  I had already packed a day pack full of food and just had to jump into my car.  The dashboard read 39 degrees.  I love how many times the day and night temperatures vary by 40 degrees here.

I started driving toward town and dutifully went 45 miles per hour, the nighttime speed limit.  About fifteen minutes down the road, I had to slam on my breaks for two buck mule deer who came jumping out of nowhere.  When I finally reached town, I began by eating breakfast in my car while I waited for Christy, a fellow grad, and Marc to come out.

In no time, we piled into Marc’s van and headed into the Elk Refuge.  The rough road went okay until we turned up Curtis Canyon and then the going went a little slower.  We wound upward through the Elk Refuge into the National Forest past tents and large pot holes.  Reaching the trailhead, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Throwing on our packs we began up the trail.  The first uphill slog, fireweed, indian paintbrush, tobacco brush, and sagebrush surrounded the trail.

“Wait.  If I’m hiking with two TSS grads, does that mean double the dorking out along trails?” Marc asked.

“Yes!” Christy and I both laughed.

Soon after, we topped a ridge covered in conifers.  We chatted back and forth listening to the red squirrels and trying to see how many wildflowers we could identify.  We saw no one.  Along the way, we saw a grouse and heard many pika.  Not long after the pika in the talus, we went into the Gros Ventre Wilderness.

After roughly three total miles, we got to Goodwin Lake.  A few people sat camping a little ways off the lake – the first people we saw all morning.  We took an extended snack break and used it as an opportunity to examine the map.  We knew that we needed to stay on the north side of the lake, then take a climbers trail that split off to the east.  The internet said the side trail would split about half a mile after the lake.

Elephant Head

Elephant Head

Setting off, we ran into a side trail splitting east almost instantly, but it seemed to only circumnavigate the lake.  We poked around to look, just in case and found some brilliant elephant head flowers.  Marc laughed as Christy and I examined it more closely.

We kept hiking for more than half a mile and began to examine the southern ridge.  The northern ridge that we approached before the lake looked like a lot of unstable scree, so we did not think that the trail would go up there.  On the way, we saw fields full of purple lupines and a white humble flower which we could not identify.

“Whoa! Mandy! Look at that banding!” Christy exclaimed mid conversation and pointed.

“Holy metamorphic rock!” I replied finding it.

Marc stopped, turned around, and said, “Really?!”

“It’s awesome!” Christy said.

“That’s the kind of example you hope to find to show students because the banding is so obvious,” I said.

At that point, we looked up at the southern ridge and discussed how we planned on going up.  We knew if we could get to the top of it, we could hike straight to the summit.  The question was, do we go straight up or do we look for a way to switchback our way up?  We decided to head down the trail a little bit further to get a better vantage point.

Not even five minutes up the trail, the side trail split off with a cairn switch-backing up the ridge steeply.  We laughed at how obvious the trail was.  We headed upward toward the southern ridge taking breathers to look at the map and pick out the surrounding peaks in the Gros Ventres.

We could see the summit.  We had heard that the last 100 feet or so to the summit was “a bit of a rock scramble.”  Lie.  The trail turned to loose talus and scree for the last 50 or so feet walking, not 100 vertical feet.  And it definitely was not a scramble…fun, but not a scramble.  As the first ones on the summit, we set about taking photos and eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

About fifteen minutes later, we heard something.  All three of us turned in the direction of the sound going silent instantly.

“Humans,” Christy said and we all went back to munching and ogling Sleeping Indian, the beautiful mountain to the north.  After the other hikers came up, we helped each other out taking group shots, then we headed back down.  We poked around at the flowers and found some more cool rocks with very apparent feldspar and quartz crystals imbedded in them.  As we passed probably 20 more hikers, we all agreed that our early start was a good thing.  We hit the summit at the right time with the right people.

Summit Cairn, Jackson Peak, WY. 10,741ft.

Summit Cairn, Jackson Peak, WY. 10,741ft.

Read Full Post »