Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Grand Tetons 2017 - Day 1

Near Inspiration Point.
August 2 - After having my flight delayed from Grand Rapids and missing my connecting flight in O'hare, I spent the night between the floor and a chair in the Denver Airport before getting a flight to Jackson and arriving at 10:15am at the Jackson Hole Airport. Jim and Jason picked me up at the airport and drove to the Leigh Lake Trailhead. I changed in the back of the car on the way and hurriedly packed my hydration pack for the trip. This was not the way that wanted to start the day (i.e. sleep deprivation, late start, hurried packing) but I wanted to use every day.

The plan was to go up Cascade Canyon as far as we could (hopefully Lake Solitude) before turning around and coming back down the canyon. The backcountry ranger had told Jim that he didn't advise trying to go over Paintbrush Divide and doing the whole Cascade-Paintbrush Loop, although that had been my original plan. He said there was too much snow at the top of Paintbrush Canyon.

We started up Cascade Canyon at 11am, took a few minutes to stop by Inspiration Point, where I had just got married 6 weeks ago, and then continued up the Canyon. It is a beautiful trail, beside a mostly slow-moving mountain stream. After about 9 miles, we arrived at Solitude Lake, around 9,000 feet in elevation, and took a break on the shores. Jason and I took off our shoes and waded in the cool waters. We talked to some other hikers that heard that Paintbrush Canyon was doable, although there were a few sketchy spots. We decided to continue to hike up and see what it looked like. We could turn around if it looked bad.

I was not feeling great by this time. The altitude (and possibly lack of sleep) were getting to me. I had a headache and just generally felt bad. The other two seemed to be okay, but they had been at altitude days longer than I had.

At the top.
We continued up and up and up and finally reached the Paintbrush Divide. There were, of course, gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. The view down Cascade Canyon from near the top is spectacular. As we started the descent, we quickly discovered the sketchy snowy part. We had just been told by other hikers that it wasn't bad for far, and indeed it was just a short section. A slip here, however, would have been very bad. We got over it and continued down. There were more snowy sections, but they were less scary.

The descent down Paintbrush is more steep than Cascade Canyon, but still a nice trail. Jim had recently picked up a new skill that he used often on the descent. He had seen a ranger video that showed people how to clap (basically, separate your hands and then bring them together) to keep from surprising bears. The vegetation towards the bottom of the canyon is more dense so Jim and Jason were deploying this new skill frequently.

The sketchy part at Paintbrush Divide.
I had gotten my second wind after hiking over the snow so I was feeling better now. We came across Holly Lake on the descent and Jason and I went for a swim. It was so cold it was painful, but refreshing. We continued down the Canyon. I started to feel bad again but we kept moving and finally came out to Leigh Lake and back to the parking area.

It is an epic loop, with lush scenery, streams, snow and lots of rocks, especially when you get above the treeline. A supper at Bubba's Barbecue and now it is time for bed. The total loop was 20.39 miles with 3889 feet of ascent, according to my GPS. It took us right on 7 hours, including all stops.

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