By Marc Bowen
Yesterday morning I drove to the Darby Canyon parking lot arriving about 7:30am. It rained the whole drive there. The night before I had checked the forecast saw the forcast for rain but it was supposed to quit raining around 7am. Well by 7:30 it was still raining hard, no sign of stopping and the road in was very muddy. No other cars were in the parking area when I arrived. I decided I would tip my seat back, set my alarm and sleep an hour. If it was still raining hard I would head home and try again the next day. One hour later it was still pouring so I started the car and was heading out of the parking lot just as a big gray moose stepped out in front of me, looked at me than trotted across the road and into the trees. That was cool. I’m glad I was able to stop and enjoy the sight of this huge, beautiful animal moving across the road in front of me.
It wasn’t raining this morning when I left home but the skies were overcast. I left home around 5:30am, arrived in Driggs about 6:30am. About halfway between Driggs and Victor I turned left on 3000 South. From the Darby Canyon sign there is about four miles of pavement and nearly five miles of dirt road to the Darby Canyon parking lot. The road wasn’t as muddy as yesterday and I arrived at the parking lot about 7:00am.
Again mine was the only car in the parking area. There was definitely a wet chilly feel to the air as I got my gear ready, locked my car, took inventory and made sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. I stashed my car keys in a safe place ( ruin my day if I lost them along the trail somewhere).
- Location – South Fork Darby Canyon
- Hike (R/T) miles – 5.2
- Elevation gain – 1800 feet
- Difficulty rating – 8.80 (moderate)
**above info provided by TetonHikingTrails.com
The trailhead begins at the edge of the parking area. This trail prohibits the use of bikes as the area is designated wilderness. The wilderness marker is just up the trail a ways.
Within the first quarter-mile I came to a clearing where I could see Darby Creek and the snow-line not too far up the mountain side. I was pretty sure I would be hiking in snow sooner than later. Even though I had my doubts about being able to get all the way in to the wind cave I was determined to go as far as I was able. The air was fresh, cool and clean and it was wonderful to be on the trail again regardless of the outcome.
I crossed this bridge over Darby Creek just as it began to rain a little. (above photo)
Standing on the Darby Creek bridge I shot this image looking upstream.
A few turns in the trail later I arrived at the boundary sign for the Jedediah Wilderness and a slippery crossing of South Fork Darby Creek.
I carefully took this shot (above) while laying across two poles over the water of the stream.
Just up the trail I entered a small gorge and began a rather steep climb. The trail climbs about 1200 feet in about a mile and a half as it enters South Fork Darby Canyon.
(above) Panoramic looking down into the gorge.
Video clip below of the gorge
Another shot into the gorge (above) and you can see into the main canyon beyond where the trailhead is located. From this point on just about every switchback had deadfall that hadn’t been cleared from the trail yet. I had to climb over , under or around much of it. It was mostly on the steep northwest facing slope. Everything was wet so it made for some careful traversing.
(Above) where the trail wasn’t wet and muddy it was covered in snow. I only saw one set of human tracks and a pair of what I assume were dog tracks ahead of me, probably several days old. There were also a fairly fresh set of moose tracks heading up the canyon. These sets of tracks were a good thing for several reasons. One, it gave me an idea where the trail was in areas where the trail was covered in snow. Two, the snow had a hard crust on it but was melting underneath so by observing where the moose chose to place it’s feet I could tell whether the surface of the snow would hold my weight or not.
Some slopes were fairly bare of snow with just some random patches. I took a break on the edge of this switchback to drink, eat a snack and put my outer jacket shell on as it had begun to rain. It wasn’t pouring so I didn’t put my heavy poncho on. With the jacket I was still able to access my camera (with rain cover) attached to the front of my backpack shoulder strap.
(Above photo) looking up the canyon from the east rim. The wind cave can be seen near the top of the other side of the canyon.
This (above) is the halfway point of the hike. From here the trail continues south and then forks to the right around the top of the canyon and back to a series of switchbacks heading up toward the cave.
Water runs out of the mouth of the cave and down the cliffs below (above)
There was still plenty of snow between me and the wind cave. I could already see from here that if I was lucky enough to make it all the around to the wind cave it would be too treacherous to try to get up to it and inside. Snow was piled deep in front and raging water running underneath.
Below is a video clip showing both the cave and the waterfalls underneath.
I was able to make my way a little farther along the canyon rim but at this point the trail went underneath a slide of deep snow and no more tracks that would indicate where the trail was. The tracks here are my tracks as I carefully walked farther along. But it was steep and I kept breaking through the crust into deep snow up to my waist. I got a bad feeling about going any farther so decided this was where I would turn around and head back down the mountain.
Hiking back down the trail.
As I neared the part of the trail that drops back down into the main canyon I noticed water from snow melt coming down the mountain on the otherside of the canyon.
Found this orange fungus in the canyon bottom and thought I would take a pic to see what it was later.
I met several groups of hikers headed up the trail as I headed down. Some asked questions about the trail ahead and I warned them about the deadfall and deep snow.
Even though I was unable to get all the way to the cave it was still an enjoyable hike. I didnt mind the rain, mud and snow. My whole purpose today was to get out and hike and satisfy my wanderlust. Finishing this hike was secondary.