Tetons, again.

I just returned from backpacking in the Tetons. Again. The first weekend (the 28th through the 1st) we backpacked up paintbrush canyon, camped above Holly Lake, and relished in the beauty of Autumn alpine glow.

We didn't see a lot of wildlife, it was VERY cold, but man oh man was it fun. To give you an idea of just how cold.... we cooked dinner the first night, and I set my bowl of hot steaming food on the rock next to me for about 5 minutes while I drank my hot cocoa, and when I took the next bite it was full of ice crystals. Brrr!

The 2nd weekend trip I just returned from at 2 am last night. We did a days work atop the ridge behind Rendezvous Mountain at Teton Village, trudging through knee deep snow to get to our plots, but the views were awesome.

Our fieldwork ended up taking much longer than expected, so instead of having a ride down we hiked to the gondola. So there we are, braving the 30-40 mph winds, squinting our eyes when we hear a strange noise and loud thud just behind us. They are replacing the old tram with a new one, and apparently they were stretching/routing the tram cable when it went tumbling to the ground approximately 5 feet behind us. Crazy! We reached the bottom of the mountain, climbed into a car at 6:30 pm, ate dinner, and prepared for our trek across the mud flats and Snake River crossing, on the ground of the now-drained Jackson Lake. However, arriving much later than planned because of our long field day, the sky was black and visibility was next to nothing. A blizzard was in full force and we could only see a few feet in front of us; our headlamps did nothing. We walked out to the shore, took one step and soaked our feet in mud before deciding it was ridiculous to attempt such an adventure in the circumstances. We got a hotel room, hoping that our teammates who had crossed earlier in the day and were waiting in the cabin would not worry about us.

We made our next try in the morning. It was cold, very very cold. Dark clouds were threatening us so we hurried across the flats, arriving at the shores of the Snake. We made 3 attempts before finding an acceptable crossing (not too deep that it would soak our packs, and current slow enough we could keep our balance).

We were lacking any water proof gear such as neoprene or waders, so I made my first attempt in sandals that strapped to my feet... didn't work. I had to do it bare footed because the mud was knee deep at the banks. When I finally got across I sat down on my pack, ripped of my wet clothes to exchange for dry, while watching ice crystals form on my absolutely frozen toes. HA! I laugh now at the absurdity of it all.

Anyhow, a mile or so later we arrived at a warm cabin and made the decision to put off our 10 mile hike for a day in an attempt to get semi-dry gear to use. I slept most of that day away.

The sun came out the next day, and the hike was perfect. Elk, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, pretty birds, fresh bear scat and tracks (but no sightings!), etc. We got up early yesterday morning, rushed our fieldwork, and hiked down the canyon, across the mudflats, wading the Snake. Just as I arrived at the other side of the river I looked back at the Teton range, thankful for such an experience. Seeing the last few rays of lights, and the first stars dimly glowing above those craggy rocks is a sight I will never forget.


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