Hiking the Tetons

It was now Wednesday and travel day down to the Tetons – no campsite reserved so we left early’ish and aimed for Gros Ventre (French pronunciation: “Grow Vaunt”) campground along the same named river. The Tetons gave us a grand welcome with their fresh snow covered peaks and crisp clean air after the recent bit of snow & rain to pass us over.

We were assigned a site at Gros Ventre which looked OK so we drove the Subi the 11 miles into Jackson for supplies. Got sidetracked on the way back and enjoyed a few fresh drafts and some good food at Snake River Brewing – nice welcome to the fun tourist town of Jackson.

Leaving Taggart Lake Trail Head. Peaks still have their welcoming snow caps.

Next morning we decided to move to a more sunny (solar friendly) site in the No Generators loop – nice & quiet.

Made it out for an introductory hike in the afternoon from the crowded Taggart Lake trail head but took a few turns and lost most of the crowd. Was a good hike around both Taggart & Bradley lakes. Now before our next hike I must tell you that back in Yellowstone’s Canyon Village when I asked the ranger about the seven Mile Hole hike he strongly suggested we carry bear spray as a “weapon” of last resort. The first rules are: 1) Hike in groups of 3 or more, 2) make a noise the best is talking as that is what bears associate with humans. I asked about “bear bells” but they seemed to think it sounds like running water to the bears and they weren’t of much use. 3) Carry bear spray and know how to use it, they come with a little holster you can wear on your belt and use it for quick draw action.

Taggart Lake, popular day hike destination.
Another Taggart Lake view.

Now if you see a bear and it has not seen you back out quickly the way you came. If it has seen you back off slowly, do not run or turn your back to it. If it does in the rare instance lower its head and charge then use the spray to create a foggy barrier by spraying slightly left & right. Yes, we did attend a ranger talk on the subject and carried the spray each time we hiked in Wyoming.

Trail climbs out of Lupine Meadows trail head.
Bradley lake in the forground and Taggart in the background.

Next hike had some vertical gain to it and was up to Amphitheatre & Surprise Lakes underneath the front of Grand Teton. 3,100’ gain up to 9,698’. Left Lupine Meadows trail head and enjoyed the morning cool through the trees. At the upper junction to Garnet Canyon there was a sign saying a mother bear and cub had been spotted up at the lake and that they seemed used to humans. The date was over two weeks old so I discounted it. Then we see two girls ahead of us stop and come back. The mother and cub are on the trail and it’s best we wait. We sneak a peak view and I concur not to try and even take photos (other than the one quick one I had already taken).

Surprise! Bear on the trail.
Turns out she’s a mama bear and has a cub close by.

While waiting we collect a group of about 10 hikers all waiting for someone else to go first. Then two come down the trail and report that they are off the trail and engrossed on eating as many berries & leaves as they could. Our group moves forward, safety in numbers?,  and I see them in the bushes, snap a shot but when I look at it later I see only bushes but know they were there.

Well that was exhilarating and I would not want to get any closer than we did and that is also why I am a bear spray carrying convert.

Backup on the trail as we all wait for the bears to give us some hiking space.
I know the bears are in this photo that I snapped as we briskly made our way past them.
Alpine Amphitheater Lake.
The berries the bears love.

The Tetons are this short jagged range of pinnacle peaks with canyons that bisect them. We chose as our next adventure Death Canyon that got plenty of good reviews and our plan was for about a 6 to 8 mile in & out hike. The canyon gets it dour name from the 1876 Hayden expedition that went into the canyon and were never seen again.

It’s trail head is off Moose Wilson Road, first a mile of paved road then another mile of rough dirt with the usual High Clearance warnings. Along the way cars are parked when drivers reach their rough road threshold. On the way out I counted 109 cars parked along it. 109! – luckily we did not meet that many on the trail.

Death Canyon trail head.

Less than a mile in we see a couple ahead of us doing the usual “I’m turning around thing”. Sure enough, Sheldon beckons to us to see while his wife makes a hasty omkeer (U-turn). There was this rather large black bear ambling along the trail, our trail. Snap a photo and back off.

I can’t remember exactly but the scenario usually is: More hikers arrive, bear goes into the bushes, someone goes to see and we all follow based on the saftey in numbers theory.

Now he or she looks like a big one to me.
A bit of a digital zoom.

I never quite regain my cavalier attitude and get real antsy if I can’t see more than 30 yards down the trail. We get some great views back down to Phelps Lake and then close in on the canyon itself.

Looking down on Phelps Lake.
Entering Death Canyon.
Great scenery.

Once over the lip the trail levels a bit and a group hanging out at some nice pools warns us of 2 bull moose up ahead. They are off in the foliage and while we enjoy watching them photo ops without a good zoom lens is just not worth it.

Male moose grazing by the trail side.
Lunch turnaround spot.

We hike a bit further for a lunch stop and then retrace our steps. The moose are down in the creek with a bunch of hikers just gazing. We get front row seats until they move off out of view – really nice to view.

Moose was now in the creek.
Quietly feeding in front of an audience of avid hikers.
Phelps lake from below. Death Canyon is off to the left behind the forest ridge and in front of the craggy cliffs.

One more good hike to come before we leave the Tetons and head south.

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