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Palisades Creek Trail

By Marc Bowen

 

Its been two months since I wrote my first blog post of the year. At that time there really wasn’t very many places to hike in Eastern Idaho that didn’t have snow on the ground. I did an easy but fun hike in the snow on Cress Creek Trail the first part of March. I wrote about it complete with plenty of pictures at:  Late Winter Hike – Cress Creek Trail

Since that hike and after the snow melted I started hiking the North Menan Butte Trail once every week for the past four weeks to work on getting back into hiking shape. That hike is a four mile loop with some stamina required for the first hard pull up the butte. I decided it was time to do a longer hike. I knew by now that the Palisades Creek trail would be clear of snow or at least the lower part should be. I’ve hiked this trail before and wrote about it last year. See: Late Spring Hike To Lower Palisades Lake

The lower part of the trail starts just north of Palisades Creek camp ground several miles off the highway near the town of Irwin. There are two lakes off this trail. Lower Palisades Lake which is about four miles out and Upper Palisades lake which is about seven miles out. Today I chose to hike to the lower lake and back for a total of eight miles. Although I was tempted to go all the way to the upper lake I didn’t think my body was ready for the nearly 14-mile round trip yet.

The Trail

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – flooded trail

The trail follows Palisades Creek almost all the way to the lower lake with only about a 600 foot elevation change. This time of year because of snow melt the stream becomes a river and parts of the trail become a stream (above photo). Keeping my feet dry was not possible. My boots are fairly waterproof if I’m not standing in water or in deeper than my ankles. Using my trekking poles to balance on a few branches and logs I placed strategically I managed to get through this part of the trail without soaking my socks.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

This is the first of five bridges I crossed as the trail meanders across the creek at times. These bridges are built for horse traffic as well as human. Since this isn’t technically designated ‘Wilderness’ mountain bikers use this trail also. Motorized vehicles are prohibited because this is, at the very least, a ‘wilderness study area’.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

As I hiked up the trail, just around the bend I noticed three mountain goats in the morning light standing on the cliffs above the creek. One looking right at me. They are not easy to see in the photo without the white circles around them.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

As the trail follows the creek up the canyon I walked through many different kinds of landscapes. Some parts of the trail lead through beautiful groves of trees letting just a little morning light shine through. In the lower levels of the canyon trees and shrubs are just beginning to sprout leaves.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

About 1-1/2 hours into the hike there is an area where I like to stop, take my pack off, eat a snack and drink a bunch of water. The canyon is narrow here with steep cliffs on both sides. Its cool and refreshing because you are right over the river and mostly in shade.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Every time I have stopped here I have seen at least one mountain goat on the face of the cliff above (above photo). This one was asleep on a ledge. Hard to see in photo so I circled it in red. I did not have my long lens with me. I did have a small but powerful set of binoculars strapped to my chest for easy access which allowed me a close look at this beautiful animal.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

This canyon is so narrow in some places that it doesn’t allow a lot of light into it. It’s  a beautiful place with lots of rocky canyon walls and cliffs. I can see why mountain goats are so prevalent in this area. Its the perfect environment. If I was a mountain goat I would want to live here.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Crossing the next bridge had me spying a group of three goats on the cliffs above (circled in red). Also the trail on the other side was under water so I had to do a little bushwhacking to stay dry. The bad thing is every time I leave the trail into the brush I seem to pick up unwanted hitch-hikers. I brought home a tick from this hike just like I did on several occasions last year. Despite the toxicity I am going to start applying ‘DEET’ to my clothes from now on.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

The third bridge I crossed is similar to the others, well-built to withstand all the traffic this trail gets on the weekends and everyday in summer. My job schedule is such that I can hike on a week day and if I start the hike just after daylight I very seldom see anyone. I saw no one on the trail going either direction today. I did encounter snow on the trail in some places the farther up the canyon I hiked.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Between the third and fourth bridge there was more water on the trail. My trekking poles got me up this stretch with no problems. Can’t say enough about the advantages of using poles.

The higher up the canyon I hiked I noticed the canyon temperatures were low enough that most of the trees and brush were still bare of leaves.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

I shot the above image looking upstream while standing on the fifth bridge. There is a small foot bridge (not shown) crossing a tributary of the creek just before you reach this bridge. So technically this is the fifth bridge I crossed although the fourth isn’t much of a bridge.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

After crossing the fifth bridge the trail starts climbing into five switchbacks. Standing on one of the switchbacks in the trail I looked back and shot the above photo. You can see the flooded trail I came up just to the right of the stream and some pretty cool clouds above.

There is a campsite at the top of the switchbacks just before the lower lake comes into view. There were two people camping there having breakfast when I walked by. They were the only other people up there besides me today.

 

Lower Palisades Lake

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Lower Palisades Lake

Lower Palisades Lake sits at the far end of the lower canyon at an elevation of about 6,100 feet. It was created by a huge rockslide ages ago. The lake is very muddy right now but will clear up in another week or two.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – trail to the upper lake

The trail rounds the left side of the lake and crosses the bridge at the lake outlet, continuing 2.7 miles through the upper canyon and splits off to Upper Palisades Lake. My son and I plan to hike to the upper lake sometime next month, stay the night and do some fishing. I did a solo hike up there late May of last year but didnt spend the night. See last years post: Palisades Creek Trail To Upper Palisades Lake

On the hike back I took a short video clip (above) of part of the trail. You can hear the stream near by and see the rocky cliffs hanging over the trail.

As I hiked further down the trail I looked off to my left and up a side canyon as the sunlight streamed across the cliffs in the distance. I saw two glowing white spots on the cliff face and verified that they were mountain goats. Their agility that allows them to stand and eat in places with seemingly no place to stand amazes me. Click on the video below and see if you catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures on the cliff walls in the far distance.

Just in case you missed them in the photo below i have them circled.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

I took this video clip below to show the part of the trail with the worse flooding.

 

It was wonderful to get out and hike today. Other than being a little tired I Feel GOOD! I’m always excited to start a hike and when one hike ends I’m excited to start the next one.

There seems to be this great need in me to get out and hike along a stream, up a canyon or up a mountain to not only see whats at the end of the trail but to enjoy the journey as well.

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Late Winter Hike – Cress Creek Trail

By Marc Bowen

 

I’ve written about Cress Creek Trail before. If you haven’t read that post please do so. Just click this link:  Cress Creek Nature TrailIt’s the first hike I do each year mostly because its close to home and at lower elevation. It’s an easy first hike even in the snow and can be walked early in the year or even during the winter.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Two days ago I had planned to come here but we had a late winter snow storm that dropped 7-8 inches of snow. So I waited a few days before driving over from my home which is about 15 minutes away.

The  Cress Creek parking lot can hold a dozen cars but I was the only one here on this Monday morning which was fine by me.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

There were already tracks headed up the trail from either earlier this morning or sometime yesterday. Cress Creek Nature Trail is a 1.3 mile loop and is set up as an interpretive trail with 18 interpretive signs along the way. The hike starts by heading east. The first half mile of trail is paved and then turns to a well maintained gravel pathway (Of course being covered in snow today I couldnt really tell the difference).

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

A little over a half-mile up the trail you can continue west over the stream or take a left turn up the gully. From here the trail is one big loop so either way you choose will eventually bring you back to this point.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

As I stood on the bridge and looked south along the stream I could see into the valley and the snow covered farm land.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Looking  north up-stream from the bridge the green color from plant life was bright despite winter temperatures. This stream is spring fed and water cress and other plant life grow year-round because of the mild water temperature. There were quite a few deer tracks around this water source. I didnt see any moose tracks although they do frequent this area.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

One of the many interpretive signs in the area stands at the fork in the trail and next to the stream. Today I chose to go left at the fork and follow the stream up the gully headed north.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

This part of the trail crosses two bridges in this gully before switch-backing up the hill a-ways. There were less tracks in this direction and deeper snow as the elevation increased. The change in elevation is about 280 feet by the time you reach the highest point of this trail.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail crosses another bridge after a couple of switch-backs and this is the upper most part of the stream seen from the trail.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

From the last bridge the trail makes a couple more turns up the hill until you reach the highest point of this hike. The views are beautiful, the snow pristine. There are few tracks other then those made by deer. The temperature was only around 30 degrees but because of no wind and plenty of sunshine it was comfortable enough for a long sleeve shirt, no coat and no gloves. I carry those items in my pack should they be needed.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Fresh, clean snow, beautifully flocked trees and clear mountain air! Just what a body and soul need to recharge.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail drops back down the hill and then heads back west toward the springs and the fork in the trail. Along the way are trails to a couple of overlooks.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Each of these overlooks have a flat area with steel picnic table and railings where you can look out over the valley and the South Fork of the Snake River below. On a clear day you can see all the way over to the Menan Buttes ( on the horizon ). The deer have been all over this area leaving their tracks in the snow.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

As I returned to the parking area I took a few minutes to walk across the road to a bridge that spans the canal next to the river. There is a ditch road that can be walked for quite aways along the canal and river.

This is a great hike for families. We all need to take time to unplug, get the kids away from TV, video games and phones and walk these trails as a family and make some good memories. My wife and I have walked this trail with our kids and grandchildren and we all enjoy the time spent together exploring our beautiful world.

 

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Phelps Lake – Death Canyon

By Marc Bowen

 

Phelps Lake Loop Trail To Phelps Lake Overlook

  • Trail Location – Laurance S Rockefeller Preserve
  • Round trip – 9.5 miles
  • Trailhead Elevation – 6405 feet
  • Total Elevation Gain – 870 feet
  • Highest Elevation – 7200 feet
  • Trail Difficulty Rating – 10.94 Moderate to Strenuous

 

When thinking about where to hike this month I considered the Alaska Basin hike from the Driggs Idaho side of the Tetons. But I swear I am still recovering from my hike into Holly Lake last month. I was having a hard time getting excited about doing a strenuous hike this time around and felt like doing more of a leisurely stroll through the mountains. So I thought about Phelps Lake. I hiked into this lake last fall. There are several trails into the area and most of them are moderately strenuous. It’s a beautiful place and definitely worth a second visit. So I mentioned it to my daughter Nicole and not having been there before herself, she was excited to check it out. To read the post from my hike in this area last fall click Phelps Lake, Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve.

 

Getting There

From Jackson turn left at Moose Junction onto Moose-Wilson Road and drive 3.6 miles south to the turn-off for the preserve which is on the left hand side of the road.

We arrived in the preserve’s parking lot early morning to find a half dozen cars there before us. Make sure you start this hike early in the day because the parking lot fills up fast!  Once parked we grabbed our gear and headed across the sagebrush meadow to the visitor center a few hundred yards from the parking lot. There we checked in at the registration box, grabbed a complimentary trail guide of the area and headed up the trail. There are 4 different trails you can use to hike into Phelps lake. We chose the 1.6 mile Lake Creek Trail for this hike. The trail follows a beautiful stream through a mixed forest of spruce, fir and lodgepole pine. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the lake.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole Klingler shooting Phelps Lake

Phelps Lake has a surface area of 750 acres and is the 6th largest lake in Grand Teton National Park. From the southern shore looking north across the lake we could see the mouth of Death Canyon.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Phelps Lake

Elevation at Phelps Lake is 6633 feet. The surface of the lake was very calm and created some nice reflections of 10,552 foot Albright Peak.

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Photo by Nicole Klingler – Marc Bowen shooting Phelps Lake
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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole Klingler on bridge at Phelps Lake outlet

This (above) is a new bridge that was built late last fall and provides several platforms and seating areas for fishing or soaking in the scenery.

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Photo by: Nicole Klingler – Marc Bowen shooting from bridge at Phelps Lake outlet

As I have mentioned in previous posts I carry about 20lbs of gear on my day hikes. I usually hike alone so I try to have what I would need if I should have an emergency and need to spend the night on the mountain.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Phelps Lake outlet

Our plan was to hike along the eastern shore (2.2 miles) until we reached the north shore of Phelps lake then take Death Canyon Trail up to the overlook which would be another mile each way.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Phelps Lake

Some of the scenery as we hiked around the lake towards the eastern shore.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole Klingler on Jump Rock, Phelps Lake

About 1.5 miles up the east shore of the lake we came to a rock they call ‘Jump Rock’ or ‘Jumping Rock’. This rock is 25-30 feet high and is a popular place for hikers to cool off by jumping into the deep cool water below. If we had planned a little better we would have worn our swim suits under our clothes and brought a couple of towels…It would have been fun to drop off that rock into the lake.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole Klingler on Jump Rock, Phelps Lake

By this point in the hike the sky was filling with these cotton-like clouds and the resulting reflections produced a serene zen-like atmosphere.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole Klingler on Jump Rock, Phelps Lake
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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Phelps Lake & Death Canyon

The view of Death Canyon from the top of Jump Rock Is breath-taking. The ‘U’ shaped canyon was formed by retreating glaciers. If you look closely at the photo above you can see a sandy beach on the lake’s north shore.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Phelps Lake

I took the above photo while standing on a narrow strip of beach on the north shore looking back across the lake to the south shore.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole Klingler on Death Canyon Trail

We left the beach on the north shore and began the climb up Death Canyon Trail toward the Phelps Lake Overlook. At this point we ran into some men with horses and pack mules headed up into Death Canyon.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Death Canyon Trail

This Mule Deer doe (above) had 2 fawns with her. She slowly made her way down the trail toward us I think more concerned about all the hikers coming down the trail behind her then she was with us.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Phelps Lake from Death Canyon Trail

We finally reached the overlook, took some photos and then headed back the way we came. From this overlook you can see the lake, ‘Sleeping Indian Mountain’ and Jackson Hole in the distance.

This hike was a pleasant 5 hour round-trip for us and we will definitely be back. Next time we won’t forget our swim suits!

 

 

 

 

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Paintbrush Canyon and Holly Lake

By: Marc Bowen

 

Hike to Holly Lake

  • Trail location: Leigh Lake Trail
  • Roundtrip length: 13 miles
  • Trailhead elevation: 6875 feet
  • Total elevation gain: 2575 feet
  • Highest elevation: 9424 feet
  • Trail difficulty: 18.15 (strenuous)

*above info provided by TetonHikingTrails.com

 

Getting There

I left home this morning at 4:30 am so I would arrive at the trailhead by 6:30 am. The drive just before sunrise is beautiful as usual . I have been choosing to go to Jackson by way of Rexburg and Driggs in the early mornings to avoid animals on the road. The road over the mountain between Swan Valley and Victor, although a slightly shorter drive time,  tends to have more animals on the road before daylight (in my experience). I do enjoy seeing wildlife, just not in my headlights on a winding mountain road in the ‘wee’ hours of the morning.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Jenny Lake Rd

To get to the Paintbrush Canyon Trailhead I drove through the Moose Wyoming entrance on Teton Park Road, then turned left on Jenny Lake Road (which is a beautiful scenic loop drive by the way), then right on String Lake Road. I parked in the String Lake parking lot and then began hiking the Leigh Lake Trail.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

For the first .8 miles the trail follows along the shores of String Lake and there are some great views of Mt. Moran along the way.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – String Lake & Mt. Moran

Mount Moran was very beautiful in the morning light. I have hiked this trail before on the way to Leigh Lake, Bear Paw and Trapper lakes. To read more about that hike please click the link Hiking the Leigh Lake Trail to Bear Paw & Trapper Lakes.

String Lake and Leigh Lake are connected by a short but wide stream. At this point in the hike there is a fork in the trail. Go right if you want to go to Leigh Lake and the Leigh Lake portage area or left across the foot bridge to the String Lake Loop trail and the Paintbrush Canyon trailhead.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Leigh Lake outlet

 

Paintbrush Canyon Trailhead

After I crossed the foot bridge across the Leigh Lake outlet I followed the trail in a gradual climb through Lodgepole pine forests and then took a right fork in the trail at the Paintbrush Canyon Trailhead. Along this part of the trail I enjoyed brief views of Leigh Lake and the valley and hills to the east.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Leigh Lake

A little distance up the trail from the beautiful Leigh Lake views the trail began to turn toward Paintbrush Canyon and was almost overgrown with huckleberry plants in some places.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Huckleberries along Paintbrush Canyon trail

 

At this point I had a few glimpses of Mt. Moran through the trees to the right of the trail.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Mt. Moran from Paintbrush trail

 

And Rockchuck Peak to the left of the trail.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Rockchuck Peak

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Huckleberry plants can grow to 6.5 feet tall

In this area of the trail the huckleberry plants are huge . The plants were as high as my head in some places. No ripe berries on them yet that I noticed but a good place to make a lot of noise to avoid surprising a bear. I wasn’t stressing it because there were plenty of  hikers ahead of me and behind me.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Paintbrush Canyon Creek

I could hear Paintbrush Canyon Creek long before I was able to see it. The water had a slight aqua tint to it making the falling water very nice to look at.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Lower Paintbrush Canyon campsite area

There are a few campsites in this area of Lower Paintbrush Canyon. Some are first-come-first-serve and some sites can be reserved.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Leigh & Jackson Lakes in the distance

(Above photo) Just off this part of the trail I saw that someone had their tent pitched facing down the canyon so that they would wake up to this view in the morning!

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

This bridge (above) was the second bridge I crossed at this point in my hike.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Directly to the left of the bridge is a beautiful little waterfall.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

To the right of the bridge Paintbrush Canyon Creek streams off in the direction of Mount Moran.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

Not too far after I crossed the bridge the canyon opens up for a short way and I noticed a lot of the trees here were leaning way over to my left, all in the same direction, or were completely broken off.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

As I looked to my right I could see more damaged trees and tree stumps. In the above photo you can see all this and piles of snow. I’m assuming the snow is what’s left of an avalanche that came down the ravine and took out a lot of these trees.

By the way. The reason this canyon is called Paintbrush Canyon is because it is usually filled with wildflowers. Columbine and Indian Paintbrush are a very common site everywhere. Just not now. Too early probably. Maybe in a few more weeks.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

The canyon then narrows and the trail follows the creek for several bends. As I stopped to take the above photo, 3 trail-runners (men) moved at good speed past me and up the canyon. I’m always amazed and impressed by people who run these trails. This trail is strenuous enough just walking. I can’t imagine running up it!

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Paintbrush Canyon Creek
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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Paintbrush Canyon Creek

As the trail increased in altitude I noticed the stream began disappearing under snow fields and then reappearing again.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

As the snow melts, the water rolls off these canyon walls and adds volume to the swift flowing Paintbrush Canyon Creek.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Paintbrush Canyon Trail

Some of the stream crossings require some ‘rock-hopping’. This is where I’m glad I use trekking poles. I can stabilize myself and prevent myself from falling when stepping on wet or loose rocks in the stream.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen (iPhone Pano)

I used my iPhone for the above photo to get a multi-shot panoramic view as I followed the trail up into more snow fields.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – rock cairn – looking back down the trail

At the beginning of a large snow field someone had made the above cairn. Looking just ahead up the canyon the trail disappears underneath a snow field and from here I could not see where the field ended or the trail emerged. I decided to walk in a straight line up the canyon and soon I saw another rock cairn up some distance in front of me near a rock slide.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – rock cairn

As I stepped back onto the trail just past this cairn I turned and enjoyed this view with lakes and mountains in the distance.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

From here I could easily see Leigh Lake (closest) and Jackson Lake in the distance.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

At this elevation the switch-backs in the trail start crossing snowy areas and created some tense moments while traversing the snow. The snow is rather hard and can be slick. I took the above photo as an example. Again, trekking poles were a great help to me.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen  – View from the trail
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Photo by: Marc Bowen

These last parts of the trail were quite a ‘slog’. I worked up some serious sweat on these switch-backs.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – trail from String Lake to Holly Lake

I was compensated for this strenuous portion of the hike with some stunning views!

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail eventually disappears again under snow. I followed the tracks of previous hikers up this gully.  Again it was difficult walking on the slick hard snow. I noticed traces of the actual trail up the slope to my left (I found out later that underneath this whole area of  snow is a scree field). As I walked near boulders sticking up out of the snow I used my trekking poles to test the snow in those areas. I saw a few places where a hiker’s feet had broken through the snow up to their thighs near some of the rocks. As the day grew warmer the footing was becoming treacherous.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

I made the decision to try and get out of the snow and climb-up the slope to where I had seen traces of the actual trail. But this was so steep and slick that I realized why some previous hikers had chosen to hike up the bottom of the gully. So I climbed still further up the slope until I reached a ridge of rock with very little snow and worked my way to the top of the gully. My decision to travel this ridge turned out to be a bad one.

As I climbed over a few large boulders and planted my right foot down between a few smaller ones, I lost my balance and fell. As I fell I immediately tried to jerk my foot out from between the rocks fearing my leg would snap. I was able to get one of my trekking poles between my upper-body and the ground and keep me from going all the way down. But not before taking a chunk of flesh off my shin and the strain on my right leg causing a horribly painful and long-lasting cramp in my calf that took my breath away. After the cramp went away I was relieved that I hadn’t broken the leg. I pulled my pant-leg up to look at my shin which looked nasty enough that I didn’t want to look at it again. I stood up and experienced no small amount of pain as I put weight on the leg and that had me worried. I wasn’t sure how this pain would affect my hike back down the mountain. I didn’t have a lot of choices so I carefully worked my way off the rocky ridge and then down the steep snowy slope (literally by the seat of my pants).

At this point I saw a sign sticking out of the snowy ground indicating that Holly Lake was just a half-mile away. That got the adrenaline going in me and I decided I had come this far and was not going to head back before seeing the lake.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – trail to Holly Lake

I found the trail again and a section where the snow had melted and stopped to rest, looking over my back-trail and the beautiful view.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

As I hiked further up the trail I followed the tracks of someone going up the slope of snow ahead of me to the left (above photo).

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

After hiking up the slope and down the other side I saw a small lake before me and a group of people relaxed, sitting on rocks and enjoying the view.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

I chatted with several of the people there at the lake. Everyone was rather proud of themselves for making it this far and most were resting and eating lunch before heading back down.

Paintbrush Canyon Trail continues on up the mountain behind the trees to the left of the lake (above photo) and eventually over the divide at an elevation of 10,700 feet. I was told by a hiker, who had hiked up that section of trail a-ways, that he watched some people climb up and over the wall of snow covering the divide. He said they had crampons and ice-axes but had fallen a few times before disappearing over the top. Crazy!

One of the guys I met at the lake was hiking alone as I was. His name was Leon. He had a heavy accent and I asked him where he was from. He said he was from Brazil and had traveled here to spend a week hiking the Tetons. He said he had hiked all over the world including the Swiss Alps and Patagonia in Chile.

As we chatted everyone else had headed back down the mountain and we decided we should probably do the same. Then two woman arrived, one of them saying, ” You guys do know this isn’t Holly Lake don’t you?” Apparently the lake we were sitting at has no name. I asked her where Holly Lake was located and she pointed up the mountain saying the trail to the lake was impassable because of the snow but was probably a 15-20 minute hike if we worked our way up through the trees, over the hill and into the cirque where we would find the lake.

I turned to Leon and suggested we work together to find the lake. We both had maps on our phones but with the trails covered with snow all we could tell from the map was the general direction of the lake which had already been pointed out to us.

On our way there we also ran into a park ranger who had just been up there so we back-tracked his trail to get there.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Holly Lake outlet

Leon ahead of me (above photo) hiking in to the ‘real’ Holly Lake.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Holly Lake (iPhone Pano)

This lake was definitely bigger then the lake with no name.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Holly Lake

Holly lake sits at an elevation of 9424 feet. Not sure how deep it is but it was still half covered in ice and snow….The clouds were gorgeous in the early afternoon. But every time a particularly large bunch of clouds rolled through the temperature would drop, the wind would start blowing, sometimes so hard that I had to quickly grab my hat before it blew away down the mountain. Then the sun would shine, the wind would die and I would relax , eating my lunch and totally soaking in the views around me. I reflected on all my blessings, being healthy enough to do these hikes I enjoy, my wife and family, my faith, and all god’s beautiful creations…And…I suddenly noticed my leg didn’t hurt anymore!

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Holly Lake

This is a beautiful lake and I am so glad that someone kindly let me know that I was at the wrong lake because I would have been sorely disappointed when I got back home and found out after all that pain and effort, I missed the lake that was my goal by a half mile!

I would love to come back here sometime when there is less snow and hike over the divide into Lake Solitude on the other side.

This has been a great adventure and I’m glad I survived it! As Always I look forward to the next one!!

 

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Across Jenny Lake to Cascade Canyon

By Marc Bowen

 

About three weeks ago I hiked the Taggart Lake-Bradley Lake Loop trail in Grand Teton National Park. If you would like to read about that hike please read my blog post at Hike into Taggart and Bradley Lakes . Today I talked my daughter Nicole into taking a day off from her busy schedule and driving to a trailhead just a mile up the road from where my last hike began.

Jenny Lake Trailhead

Glacially carved Jenny Lake is the second largest lake in the park covering about 1191 acres. It’s also one of the deepest at 423 feet. It’s named after a Shoshone woman named Jenny who married a trapper by the name of Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh. They were both part of the Hayden Expedition to the area in 1872. Richard worked as a guide and Jenny assisted with camp logistics. Nearby Leigh Lake is named after Richard Leigh. Sadly in 1876 Jenny and their six children died of smallpox.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Jenny Lake in early morning before sunrise (photo taken 1 year ago Aug. 2016)

We parked in the Jenny Lake boat launch area, put on our packs and gear and headed down to the east boat dock. Our destination today would be Cascade Canyon.

 

Cascade Canyon Trailhead

Cascade Canyon is located on the west side of Jenny Lake and we had two options for getting there. We could hike 2.5 miles around the south end of the lake on the Jenny Lake Loop Trail or take a shuttle boat across the lake to Cascade Canyon Trailhead.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Jenny Lake shuttle boat launch

 

Many hikers take the shuttle especially if they are hiking all the way up the canyon to the Forks. The shuttle boat cuts-off 2.4 miles of walking each way and makes what would be about a 15-mile hike a 10-mile hike instead.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

The shuttle costs $15 round trip and boats launch every 10-15 minutes from 7am to 7pm daily all summer long. Lake cruises are also available.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen

The 12-minute ride across the lake was nice with absolutely stunning views of the Tetons!

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Jenny Lake west shore boat dock, GTNP

The Jenny Lake west shore boat dock sets at the base of Cascade Canyon and the mountains tower over this area.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole shooting scenery on the Jenny Lake shuttle

 

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Photo by: Nicole Klingler – Marc on the Jenny Lake shuttle

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Jenny Lake west shore boat dock, GTNP

There is a lot to do and see when you leave the west boat dock. Hidden Falls is a half-mile away and Inspiration Point is a mile away. We found out that there is actually an upper Inspiration Point and a lower Inspiration Point. If hiking to the upper point you take the Cascade Canyon Trail and the lower point is just off the trail to Hidden Falls.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole on Cascade Canyon Trail, GTNP

We headed up Cascade Canyon Trail on our way to the upper Inspiration Point. This trail is beautiful and the first 1/4 – 1/2 mile was pretty steep and winds through pristine conifer forest and patches of huckleberries.

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Photo by: Nicole Klingler – Marc hiking Cascade Canyon Trail, GTNP

About one mile from the boat dock is the side trail to Inspiration Point. We were so busy taking pictures that we walked right past this left fork without seeing it and continued on and up the canyon.

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Photo by: Nicole Klingler – Marc in Cascade Canyon, GTNP

 

Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park

This trail takes you 5 miles up the canyon to north and south forks in the trail. At the forks a left takes you down the south fork of Cascade Canyon and a right takes you in the direction of Lake Solitude.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole on Cascade Canyon Trail, GTNP

There were breathtaking views of Mount Owen (12,928 ft) and Mount Teewinot (12,325 ft) as they towered high over the canyon floor.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole in Cascade Canyon, GTNP

At this point the canyon starts widening as the trail follows the stream at a gentle grade up the canyon.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Cascade Canyon Creek, GTNP

Just beyond this point there is some flat water and a lot of willows, perfect habitat for moose. We actually saw a big bull moose just off the trail a short distance farther up from here. He was magnificent, shoulder deep in the brush, dark brown with antlers covered in dark brown velvet. I took a few shots at him with my camera but the resulting images were not satisfactory.

We talked to some hikers coming down the canyon and they warned us of a female black bear with cubs just off the trail about a mile farther up. By now we knew we had missed the trail to Inspiration Point and decided this was probably as good a time as any to turn around and head back down the canyon.

 

Inspiration Point (upper)

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Jenny Lake from upper Inspiration Point

Roughly a mile back down the trail we found the side trail to Inspiration Point that we had missed. A few minutes later we were there.  Quite a view of the lake and valley from up there. In the above photo shuttles can be seen running between the east and west boat docks.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Inspiration Point

When Nicole and I got to this point there were quite a few people out enjoying the view. I used my iPhone to get this pano and thought it was a good representation of the view we had from there.

 

Hidden Falls, Grand Teton National Park

From Inspiration Point we hiked back down towards the boat dock with the intention of heading over to Hidden Falls. The skies up until this point had been cloudy off and on but now we started feeling a few drops of rain which wasn’t a concern at first. But as we started getting closer to the dock and the side trail to Hidden Falls, a heavy rain began to fall. We could hear thunder echoing down the canyon walls and see flashes of light a short distance up the canyon from us. Lightning! I love watching storms from my front porch but having lightning in the area while hiking is a real concern. There really isn’t a ‘safe’ place to be. As the storm continued the rain turned to hail and we saw dozens of people moving fast toward the boat dock. I knew the boats weren’t going anywhere until the storm ended. People were gathered under trees, umbrellas, coats or what ever they could hold over there heads. Every time lightning flashed I wondered where it was going to hit next. Nicole and I moved into the brush under thick, dense pine trees put rain gear on and waited it out and as the rain began to subside we headed up the trail to Hidden Falls.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole at Hidden Falls, GTNP

Hidden Falls drops about 200 feet down a series of ‘stairs’. We could hear the roar of the falls long before we could see it. There was so much water coming down the falls while we were there that it was creating a thick cloak of mist.

 

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Hidden Falls, GTNP

After we left the falls we took a side trail to what is now called  ‘lower’ Inspiration Point. The storm had completely passed to the east and in the photo below you can see the dark clouds of the thunderstorm across Jenny Lake.

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Photo by: Marc Bowen – Nicole at Lower Inspiration Point

After a quick hike back to the boat dock we waited for the next boat, boarded and crossed the lake again. Then back to the parking lot, we loaded our gear into the car and headed back home.

Despite the lightning, rain and hail it was a great day for a hike! I really like Cascade Canyon. Definitely one of the most scenic I’ve hiked so far. I’m sure I will be back. But next time I’m there I want to hike all the way up the canyon then north to Lake Solitude, one of the most beautiful lakes in the park.

Till next time…

Get out and hike!