Image

Grand Teton NP Fall Photo Shoot

By Marc Bowen

My favorite time of the year is fall. It’s also one of the busiest times of the year for me. So I don’t always get the opportunity to get over into the parks to photograph fall color. In Grand Teton NP the autumn colors usually peak the 2nd, 3rd or 4th week in September and unless you live in the valley near the park the timing can be difficult. I live about 60 miles from the park. It’s a beautiful drive over the mountain from home but it’s still a 2-hour drive each way.

In late September my friend Scott and I spent all day, sunrise to sunset shooting different areas in the park. Two months ago in July we were here for about three days photographing some of the same areas. If you are interested in reading more about our summer photo shoot go to Grand Teton NP Summer Photo Shoot.

AnselAdamsOverlook2
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Snake River Overlook

One of the first locations we stopped to photograph was the Snake River Overlook, a scene made famous by Ansel Adams. The texture of the clouds in the sky added interest to this scene as the early morning light brought a rosy glow to the Teton range.

AnselAdamsOverlook
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Snake River Overlook

A lot of the trees in this area had already lost most of their leaves especially those along the river.

AnselAdamsOverlook3
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Snake River Overlook (late fall)
AnselAdamsoverlook
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Snake River Overlook (summer)

I thought it would be fun to compare the two photos (above) which show the change of seasons.

From the Snake River Overlook we moved on up the river to Oxbow Bend.

OxbowBend2CROP
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Oxbow Bend

It was interesting to see that most of the trees in this area still had their leaves and some of those leaves were still green. The above image was captured from the ridge above the highway. Mt. Moran is the most prominent peak on the horizon.

OxbowBend3CROP
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Oxbow Bend

As we hiked that same ridge east we had several different shooting angles of the bend in the river. In the above photo you can just see a sliver of Jackson Lake at the base of  Mt. Moran in the distance.

FallcolorsOBB
Photo by: Marc Bowen

(Above photo) looking southeast from that same ridge.

OxbowBendpullback1Crop
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Oxbow Bend

From here we dropped off the ridge, crossed the highway and walked the shore of the Snake River.

Oxbowbend1CROP
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Oxbow Bend

The air was fairly cool with little to no wind. This enabled me to get this shot (above) of the river with a nice reflection of the mountains and autumn color.

OxbowbendEvening
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Oxbow Bend (summer shot taken 2-months ago)

Similar shot (above). But this was shot two months ago in July just before sundown.

 

SchwabacherLandingFALL
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Schwabacher Landing

Next we drove back down the river to Schwabacher Landing. The colors were not as bright here but you can still see the contrast in color between the above photo taken in September and the photo below taken in July.

SchwabacherDay1
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Schwabacher Landing (taken 2-months ago)

 

In the afternoon we drove east up towards Lower Slide Lake for a different view of the Teton Mountains.

WeddingTree
Photo by: Marc Bowen – The Wedding Tree

A nice drive and a short hike later brought us to what is called the Wedding Tree by the locals in the area. In the lower right-hand corner of the above image above you can see a bouquet of flowers left there from the last wedding ceremony performed under the tree.

ScottWeddingTree
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Scott under the Wedding Tree

We had a little fun with the wedding bouquet (above) and yes we did keep with tradition, placing the bouquet back at the base of the tree when Scott was finished mugging with it.

In the evening we headed back to Oxbow Bend to wait for the sun to set.

OxbowBendSunset
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Oxbow Bend at sunset

While sitting on the ridge above Oxbow Bend we enjoyed watching the changes in light and color at sunset. Like sunrises, sunsets are always different and we never really know what we are going to see. This sunset didn’t disappoint…a fitting end to an enjoyable fall day in the Tetons!

Image

Alice Lake Sawtooth Wilderness

By Marc Bowen

 

Yesterday my son Seth and I left eastern Idaho about 4:00am to make the 234 mile, four-hour drive to the trailhead. Our plan was to hike into Alice Lake, spend two nights there, do a little fishing, get some photos and maybe hike up into the Twin Lakes area. We have been trying for several years now to go on a hike or backpacking trip together. It was finally happening and we were stoked to get out and start up the trail.

Getting There

The Alice Lake trailhead is located at Pettit Lake near Stanley Idaho and is on the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness. Depending upon where you live in eastern Idaho you can enter the Stanley Basin by several different routes. We chose the quickest route from Idaho Falls by taking Hwy 20 to Hwy 26 through Arco, Craters of the Moon. In the small town of Carey we turned right onto Hwy 20 again, drove through Picabo and the Silver Creek area, then north on Hwy 75 through Ketchum and over Galena Summit into the Stanley Basin. It was a beautiful morning with a little smoky haze in the distance from a fire northwest of the valley. Once past the turnoff to Alturas Lake we started looking for the sign for Pettit Lake on our left. We turned left on to Forest Rd 208. There are two miles of well maintained gravel road to the Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead. Best to get there early. This is a very busy area in the summer and the main parking area fills up fast. There was a sign saying ‘Parking Lot Full’ when we got there that redirected us back to the horse corral trailhead which would add about 1.5 miles to our hike. So instead we drove through the main parking lot hoping someone had just left and were lucky to find a parking space near the trailhead.

SethTrailhead
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Seth

Tin Cup Hiker Trailhead

From this trailhead are several options for hikes. The Alice-Toxaway loop is an 18 mile walk with views of Pettit Lake, Alice Lake, Twin Lakes, Toxaway Lake and Farley Lake. This is a heavily trafficked trail, very scenic and a top destination for hikers.

Hike Details

  • Distance (Alice Lake out and back) – 11.2 miles
  • Trailhead elevation – 7000 ft
  • Highest elevation – 8600 ft
  • Elevation gain – 1600 ft
  • Difficulty – strenuous

 

About a half mile into the hike is a fork in the trail. The right fork goes to Toxaway Lake and a counter-clockwise direction along the loop trail. The left fork continues along the Pettit Lake shore and on to Alice Lake.

TrailSign
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The first mile or two of trail is pretty level and easy walking along the edge of Pettit Lake.

PettitLake
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Pettit Lake

At this point on the edge of Pettit Lake,  we could see McDonald Peak (elev. 10,068 ft). The trail to Alice Lake goes up the canyon to the right of that mountain.

Just past the wilderness boundary sign is a place to sign-in and pickup a free permit to attach to your backpack so that it’s visible. There were so many people on the trail that we missed seeing the sign-in box and therefore didn’t have a permit on us during our stay in the wilderness. Bummer because I heard later that the Forest service gets funding depending upon the amount of permits filled out.

SethBackpack
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Seth

 Seth and I carry smaller mountaineering style backpacks that are very comfortable and functional. Seth’s is a Teton Sports Summit 1500 cubic inches (25 Liter) pack. Mine is a Teton Sports Talus 2700 ci (44 Liter) pack. Both great for day-hikes, through-hikes or weekend backpacking trips. Any equipment we couldn’t fit in our packs we hung on the outside. Each backpack weighed about 40-45lbs full of gear and of course seemed to get heavier the more we climbed.

SmokeyMTNS
Photo by: Marc Bowen – smoky mountains

The smoke from the fires could be seen in the distant hills but the air where we were was clear and cool during the morning.

There were four creek crossings along the way which we crossed without getting our feet wet. During the first 2.8 miles of our hike the elevation gain wasn’t much, maybe 200 feet. The most difficult part of the 1600 foot elevation gain was in the latter half of the hike and is a steep 1000 foot climb.

AliceLakeOutlet
Photo by: Marc Bowen

At the top of that steep climb the trail began to level out and we crossed the stream one last time over a nice bridge (above photo – looking downstream from the bridge).

 

ElCapitan2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

There are two small lakes or ponds off to the left side of the trail just before Alice Lake with a peak named El Capitan (elev. 9901 ft) towering over them.

AliceLake1
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Alice Lake

Alice Lake is a beautiful sight. It’s a large lake with rugged and rocky ridges and peaks on three sides.

AliceLkTENTS
Photo by: Marc Bowen

We set up camp on a point of land that juts out into the lake about halfway up the north shore. The view of El Capitan to the southeast was spectacular from our campsite. The weather was perfect! About 75 degrees mid-day. A little cloudy but no rain.

AliceLakeSawtoothsEVE
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Alice Lake

The view from camp (above photo) looking to the west of the point of land we were camped on.

AliceLakeFishing
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Alice Lake

Towards evening Seth fished for some of the brook trout that are predominant in this lake. The whole scene was such a beautiful backdrop that I couldn’t resist trying to capture it on camera. I had to bother Seth a few times and ask him to ‘freeze’ while I took some shots.

AliceLakeSawtooths2
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Alice Lake
AliceLakeSawtoothsDINNER
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Dinner time!! We cooked our meals on our stoves and it’s true…food tastes better in the mountains!

AliceLakeCampEve
Photo by: Marc Bowen

It was so peaceful as we watched the shadows gather and the sunlight fade before we climbed into our tents and sleeping bags for the night (above photo).

 

AliceLakeSawtooths3
Photo by: Marc Bowen – sunrise

Sunrise this morning was beautiful. The surface of the lake was like glass. The smell of Alpines strong in the cool, still air.

AliceLakeSawtooths3CROP
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Alice Lake sunrise

As the morning sunlight began hitting the east slopes of the mountains Seth did some more fishing before breakfast. I, on the other-hand, continued to try to capture the amazing beauty of this area with my camera.

AliceLakeSawtooths
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Alice Lake
AliceLakePANO
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Alice Lake (iPhone pano)

Two things happened to change our minds about staying here two nights. I made a rookie mistake and forgot to pack my second camera battery so I couldn’t shoot anymore pics with my dslr camera and…the fish weren’t biting.

So…this morning we said goodbye to this awesome lake vowing to come back and spend more time on our next trip to this area.

Thanks to my son Seth for choosing to hike with me. Out of all the possible things a father and son can do together, spending time together in the splendor of the Sawtooth mountains is definitely time well spent!

Those who follow my blog know how much I love to hike. I am 58 years old and hiking has been very good for me in so many ways. I have benefited physically, emotionally and spiritually. Hiking is a great motivator for staying in good physical condition. As long as I’m strong enough and healthy enough I plan on hiking for as long as I’m allowed to walk on this earth. And after that…endless possibilities!

11261633_231589683853034_1952986046457550316_o

Image

Hiking The Alaska Basin / Teton Shelf Loop Trail From Teton Canyon

By Marc Bowen

Teton Canyon

This is the third time in a month that I have driven up this canyon. I grow to love and appreciate this area more every time I come here. Its beautiful. It’s easy to get to and some of the best hikes in this part of the country are just steps away from the parking lot at the end of Teton Canyon Road.

Getting to this parking lot as I said is not difficult. From Driggs Idaho drive east about seven miles on Ski Hill Road then turn right on the 4-plus mile, mostly gravel, Teton Canyon Road. Drive to the end of the road to the parking area. Parking lot includes restrooms and two trailheads.

TrailheadSign
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I’ve been in this parking lot two other times in the past month. Four weeks ago in June I hiked from this trailhead about three miles up the South Teton Trail to the Teton Shelf Trail and another mile to the Devil’s Stairs (see my Devil’s Stairs Trail blog post for more about that hike). About three weeks ago I hiked up the Face Trail (which takes off just to the left of the restroom) to the summit of Table Mountain (see my Hiking Table Mountain’s Face Trail blog post to read more about that hike).

Today’s Hike Details

  • Distance (Loop trail) – 17.3 miles
  • Trailhead elevation – 6950 feet
  • Elevation gain – 3018 feet
  • Highest elevation – 9968
  • Difficulty level – very strenuous

My plan this morning was to hike into the Alaska Basin area and scout the lakes there as a possible backpacking destination for me and my son in a few weeks. There are two different routes into the basin from this trailhead. One option is to take the South Teton Trail, which follows South Fork Teton Creek, all the way into Basin Lakes. The other option is to hike 2.7 miles up South Teton Trail, take the right fork onto Teton Shelf Trail continue up Devil’s Stairs and at the top continue to follow Teton Shelf Trail until it connects with Teton Crest Trail. Then take the left fork into the basin.

I had never been any farther up the South Teton Trail than the fork to the Teton Shelf. My only experience with the Shelf Trail was hiking to the top of Devil’s Stairs and then a little farther up the shelf until I was forced to turn back because of deep snow.

I knew that just going into the Basin Lakes and back out using the main trail would take most of the day and I wasn’t sure how much time taking the loop-trail would add to my hike. Since my plans didn’t include a night on the mountain I would need to give myself plenty of time to get off the mountain before dark.

So I decided to just take the main trail into Alaska Basin with the option of returning by way of the shelf-trail if there was time to do so. I headed out on the trail about 6:45am at a brisk pace, feeling good and looking forward to seeing some new country.

A short distance from the trailhead the trail almost immediately enters the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The trail eventually crosses Teton Creek through some fairly dense forest broken up by aspen groves.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike1
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The morning was cool and the sound of the creek was very noticeable from the left side of the trail. There was no wind and the foliage was very lush and wet from the previous nights rain.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

For gear I carried my trekking poles and wore my 45-liter Teton Sports backpack with food, extra clothing and emergency gear as well as a tripod for my camera. The camera I carry clipped to my shoulder strap.

On this hike I chose not to include my water bladder but took two 24oz bottles of a water/electrolyte mix and a 24oz Life Straw bottle prefilled with purified water. I also brought a Sawyer mini-filtration system. I didn’t want the added weight of my 3.5-liter water bladder and knew there were plenty of water sources along the way.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike3
Photo by: Marc Bowen

After about a mile and a half the canyon started to open up and I could see the Teton Shelf, a point of rock called The Wedge, Mt. Meek and Mt. Jedediah Smith.

When I came up this trail three weeks ago everything was green with many plants growing and some flowers just starting to bloom. Plants then were 6-12 inches high.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike4
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Wildflowers 3-5 feet tall!

In three weeks time those plants were now 3-5 FEET high, blooming and the trail was practically overgrown with the plants. It would be difficult to get off trail and walk through them although I’m sure it wouldn’t slow down a moose or a bear hidden amongst the flowers.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike5
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The first three miles of this hike is a mild grade and an absolutely beautiful stroll up the canyon. I was able to keep a pretty good pace when I wasn’t stopping to take pictures.

I’m liking my new GPS app (GAIA). I can use it offline. It has been great, providing me with info on my speed (when recording)(approx 2-5 mph) and audibly notifying me of my distance traveled every mile (it took me awhile to figure out what the tiny voice was coming from my pocket). Also it gives me my current altitude, altitude gain and loss and average pace. I can set waypoints and label them with different icons and titles.

Anyway it was great to have until the app quit working about 13-14 miles into the hike. My phone was going to die so I plugged into my portable charger and put the phone back in my pocket. I checked the app a little later and couldn’t find it. It was no longer on my phone. Got bumped and the app deleted while in my pocket maybe? Once deleted there is no way to get it back without service. Bummer because if caught out on the trail after dark the app would help me immensely.

TrailFork
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Trailhead  for Teton-Shelf Trail and Devils Stairs

I saw lots of people on the trail during the first three miles. Some I saw turn onto the Devils Stairs /Teton-Shelf Trail at the first fork (above photo). I stayed on the main trail which follows Teton Creek most of the way up the canyon. The trail got a little steeper from here as it headed up through thick brush and dense forest.

TetonCreek
Photo by: Marc Bowen

To my left the stream was beautiful with many small waterfalls (above photo). I carefully rock-hopped out into the stream and found a big flat rock to lay belly down on and line up the above shot. The light was beautiful and the water clear and cold.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike11
Photo by: Marc Bowen

As the trail climbed higher there were some clearings and I could occasionally see some open slopes and ridge lines and I watched for wildlife during rest stops. I didn’t see very many hikers along this stretch. Made me wonder if some hikers were taking the other route into the basin.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike12
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail just about always follows the water course up the canyon and the forest and brush were again pretty lush and thick.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike6
Photo by: Marc Bowen

All through this area the trail crosses many small tributaries made by melting snow from the higher elevations but so far nothing deep and wide enough that I couldn’t stay dry crossing.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike13
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Buck Mountain in the distance

As the trail steepened and entered a few open meadows I could see Buck Mountain to the east.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike7
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Battle Mountain

I could also see Battle Mountain (elev. 10,610) to the North.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike8
Photo by: Marc Bowen

At this point in the hike the trail zigzags up the slope and crosses the main stream of Teton Creek a couple of times so careful rock-hopping was necessary. It was beautiful in this area. Lots of water and multiple small waterfalls.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike9
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The only thing resembling a bridge during this part of the hike was this one (above photo).

AlaskaBasinTrailHike10
Photo by: Marc Bowen

This area was about five miles in and very lovely with more water-falls, clear ice-cold pools of water and sunlight filtering through the trees.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike14
Photo by: Marc Bowen

At almost six miles the trail levels out a little and enters a very rocky area.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike15
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail crossed bare rock in some areas and was hard to follow for a short way. It did have some rock cairns and lines of loose rock pointing the way so really wasn’t a problem navigating.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike16
Photo by: Marc Bowen – The Wedge and Teton Shelf

From this part of the trail looking back to my right I had a good view across the canyon of a large rock formation called The Wedge, its shape easy to pick-out from the ridge-line.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike17
Photo by: Marc Bowen

As the trail climbed up the head of Teton Canyon, I stepped off the trail a short distance to enjoy the sight of Teton Creek carving its way down into the canyon from the lakes above.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike18
Photo by: Marc Bowen

At approximately 6.5 miles the trail enters a long high meadow. I stopped and turned to look back down the trail and captured the above image. There are some amazing views from here of Mt. Meek, The Wedge and Teton-Shelf.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike19
Photo by: Marc Bowen

At this point the trail got pretty steep again and I was getting tired. I thought shoot If I’m getting this tired maybe I should turn around so I have enough energy to get back. Not like I was going to spend the night at one of the lakes. I wondered how my son would like this trail. This will be his first long hike this year and if I’m struggling he will too and I don’t want him to struggle so much he doesn’t enjoy the journey. Then I thought I’ve put this much effort into getting this far I’m not going back until I’ve seen what I came to see so I kept going, resting when I needed too.

The altitude here was about 9000 feet. I was feeling the altitude and my lungs were starting to burn as I tried to catch my breath. I had practiced this past week a high altitude breathing technique which I started to apply at this point and I have to say it did help me get my breathing under control every time I applied it.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike20
Photo by: Marc Bowen

There was still a lot of water in this stream and made it difficult to cross without getting wet. I did not want wet feet so if I thought I couldn’t cross and keep my feet dry I took some time to walk upstream or downstream looking for a better place to cross. In the photo above I wasn’t sure I could cross and stay dry so I walked upstream a ways.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike21
Photo by: Marc Bowen

This (above photo) is what it looked like up-stream. Very pretty! but the water was moving too fast and the rocks were too slick to be hopping around on. Downstream wasn’t much better so I figured that where the trail crossed was still the best option. Using my trekking poles and planning each step, I made it across without getting my boots wet.

This whole end of the canyon was just stunning! Lots of rock formations and waterfalls.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike22
Photo by: Marc Bowen

At eight miles I reached the top of the climb and as I entered the Alaska Basin area a stunningly beautiful view of the basin unfolded before me. Buck Mountain ( elevation 11,938) was just ahead to the left and is the most prominent peak in this area. Peak #11094 (un-named) is on the right.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike23
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Here the Alaska Basin trail or Teton Creek Trail becomes the Teton Crest Trail. It took me six hours to get to this point mostly because I stopped a lot along the way to admire the scenery and take a lot of pics but also because I was struggling a little physically.

This basin is about 9500 feet in elevation. Probably only been a week, maybe two since the snow melted off. The wild flowers up here have just begun to grow. The air was so clean and crisp and still cool. Smelled great! A slight breeze and the stream were making pleasant sounds as they moved through this meadow.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike24
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Looking back up the trail (above photo) where it forks and goes over Hurricane Pass and down into Cascade Canyon and Jenny Lake. The Alaska Basin sits on the west slopes of the Teton mountain range and is just on the outside of Grand Teton National Park which means that dogs are allowed to join hikers and you can camp here without a permit.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike25
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Another stream crossing

AlaskaBasinTrailHike26
Photo by: Marc Bowen

It is so beautiful up here in these alpine meadows! Lots of green grass and wildflowers just starting to bloom.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike27
Photo by: Marc Bowen

When I arrived at the Mirror Lake / Meek Pass fork my GPS said I had come 9 miles. At the fork I went left into the Basin Lakes area.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike28
Photo by: Marc Bowen

First of the Basin Lakes (above photo). These are just small lakes or ponds. The water wasn’t real clear and a little bit brown in color. Maybe because it was still under ice a few weeks ago.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike29
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The second basin lake is just a few hundred yards away.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike30
Photo by: Marc Bowen

This lake is not much bigger than the first and didn’t impress me much.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike31
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Just over a low ridge from the basin lakes is Mirror Lake (above photo). It was more of a blue/green in color and beautiful. There was a little bit of a breeze otherwise a great reflection would have shown why its called Mirror Lake. Mt. Meek can be seen a few miles away on the other side of the lake to the far right of the ridge.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike32
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I ate lunch, rested, scouted possible future camp-sites and then headed back out to the Teton Crest Trail. There is another lake just down that trail with two small islands on it.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike33
Photo by: Marc Bowen

It was at this point that I made the decision to continue southwest on the Teton Crest Trail and connect eventually with the Teton Shelf trail. I wanted to finish the loop rather than retrace my steps down the canyon. Hiking the loop would require me to climb to almost 10,000 feet before heading down the shelf. I wasn’t looking forward to any more climbing. My legs were telling me NO WAY. But heading back down the steep canyon trail would be just about as hard on my legs (especially my joints) as climbing up the trail and the shelf trail is a nice gradual descent with the exception of Devil’s Stairs. BESIDES… If given the choice I prefer to return by a different route whenever possible so I can see different country.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike34
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Still patches of snow through here.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike35
Photo by: Marc Bowen

(above photo) The last of the Basin Lakes and this one’s a beauty!

AlaskaBasinTrailHike36
Photo by: Marc Bowen

From here another stunning view of Buck Mountain (elev. 11,939) looming over the basin.

Still no service on my phone at this point. Would have liked to notify my wife that I would be taking a different route back. Surprisingly there are a lot of places in the Tetons that I have had decent reception and have received phone calls, some at high altitude. Mostly the east side of the Teton range though. By this time it was after 4:00pm and I knew it might be pushing dark before I got back to my car.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike37
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Looking back down the trail (above photo). In this area the ground is almost all rock and there would be no indication of a trail except for the smaller rocks outlining the path.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike38
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail (above) crosses another area of flat rock and then turns right and heads down the slope to cross the head waters of Teton Creek. Normally this wouldn’t be too much trouble to cross. But today the stream was overflowing with snow melt. Where the trail disappeared under the water the stream was very wide but not very deep. I watched two hikers take their boots off and carefully and painfully wade across. Then dry their feet the best they could before quickly putting boots and socks back on. If I’d had more time I might have done the same but also taken the time to let my feet completely dry before putting any foot-gear back on. I knew I had about eight more miles of hiking to do and my feet were already tired and a little sore. Wet feet would make things a lot worse.

So I ranged down the stream a ways looking for other possible crossings. But the stream became narrower, deeper and faster as it lost altitude. I did find a spot where I thought about taking a running leap over the stream but worried I wouldn’t make it with the weight of my backpack. I measured off what I thought the width of the stream was at this point and did a couple of practice jumps, but staggered badly whenever I landed.  I probably would have resorted to throwing my pack over to the other side of the stream first if I didn’t have a camera and gear strapped to it. There was a good-sized rock on my side that I could run and launch from and hopefully land on a flat rock on the other side. Hanging over that rock was a stand of willows that I hoped would break my fall if I fell or overshot the rock. I eventually jumped over the stream into the willows on the other side and fell into them with a bad cramp in my calf but didn’t get wet or break anything. Should have taken a photo but was so preoccupied trying to get across that I forgot.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike39
Photo by: Marc Bowen

After crossing the stream the trail begins a gradual climb with views of Teton Canyon.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike40
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Battleship Mountain

(Above photo) Battleship Mountain to my right across Teton Canyon.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike41
Photo by: Marc Bowen

(above) Looking back down the trail toward the Alaska Basin and Buck Mountain.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike43
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Just up ahead (above photo) the trail begins to switch-back up a 400 foot ridge toward Mt. Meek Pass.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike42
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Teton Shelf

From the bend in the first switch-back. A view (above photo) of The Wedge on the far left. The line of cliffs across the middle of the scene is the edge of the Teton Shelf.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike44
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Alaska Basin

(above) About halfway up the ridge looking back at Buck Mountain. The trail I’m on can be seen below coming from the basin.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike45
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Looking back (above photo) at the trail switch-backing up the ridge.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike46
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Another view (above) of the basin from farther up the ridge.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike47
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Another view (above photo) of Battleship Mountain across the canyon. I could also see, to the right of Battleship Mountain and in the far distance the flat-top peak of Table Mountain (elev. 11,106) where I was three weeks ago.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike48
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Getting close to the top of the Teton Shelf and closer to The Wedge

AlaskaBasinTrailHike49
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail (above photo) breaks out onto the top and heads toward Mt. Meek pass just to left of Mt. Meek (elev. 10,682).

Almost to the pass the trail forks right and the Teton-Shelf Trail begins.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike51
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I saw several groups of hikers coming up this trail. One group was a family with two dogs and the dogs were packing their own food on their backs. I thought that was kind of cool. Everyone including the dogs carrying their own provisions.

The Teton Shelf is up high, wide open and beautiful! The mountains are magnificent, and the views are too. Young plants everywhere haven’t bloomed much yet but when they do in a week or two it will be wild-flowers as far as the eye can see.

My feet had been bothering me for a while now and I knew that the many hours of hiking were starting to produce blisters. My feet and toes were really starting to hurt.  I wouldn’t be able to hike the remaining six miles without doing something about my foot issues.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike54
Photo by: Marc Bowen – The Wedge

I stopped, took my boots and socks off and let the air get at my feet for about ten minutes. Then I put hydro-sealed bandages on the areas starting to blister and abrade. These bandages are great. Much better than moleskin in my opinion. They are like a thick second skin and have to be peeled off like skin when they have served their purpose. I also took the time to fill my Life-Straw bottle from the ice-cold stream coming off the snow.

As I started hiking again my feet felt much better so I picked up the pace a little. I was worried about getting down Devil’s Stairs before it got too dark.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike55
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I was moving pretty good, making good time, and enjoying the gorgeous views and the evening breeze when I was suddenly brought to my knees with back spasms. I crawled over under a tree until I could catch my breath then prayed earnestly for divine aid. Being alone and not having seen another person for several hours I was worried. With this kind of pain I knew I wasnt getting down off the mountain without help. The back pain was so bad that I couldn’t even stand let alone walk. My wife and I have talked many times about the possibility of me being stuck on the mountain overnight on one of my hikes. For that reason I always pack a small sleeping bag and waterproof bivy. I also have a large heavy-duty poncho that doubles as a tarp tent with my trekking poles used as tent poles. Also included in my backpack is a light-weight hoody, a fleece jacket, a water-resistant outer shell, gloves, warm knit hat, parachute cord, knife, first aid kit, wind/rain proof lighter, headlamp, flashlight, food, water, bear spray, and more to survive at least one night. Even though we talked about this possibility she would still wonder what happened and she would have no way of knowing I was on a different trail then the one she would expect me to be on.

It was getting late and the sun would be dropping behind the ridge soon. As I knelt there on the side of the trail asking God and his angels to help me get off the mountain safely, asking specifically for the back spasms to be taken away…the spasms stopped. Nearly crying with relief I fervently thanked God for his love and mercy, then stood up, took inventory so I didn’t leave anything behind and headed out. I was a little weak and shaky but otherwise walking.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike56
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Toward the end of the shelf and near the top of Devil’s Stairs I stopped, thinking this scene in front of me (above photo) looked familiar and recognized that I had been here before, coming from the other direction a month ago. But it looked a little different back then (below photo).

TopDevilsStairs3
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Same place (above photo) One month ago.

I made it to the top of the stairs just before the sun went down behind the ridge.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike57
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Soon I was heading down Devil’s Stairs. Very tired but being extremely careful. Definitely did not want to stumble, slip or fall here!

AlaskaBasinTrailHike58
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Looking back up the canyon (above photo) I could see the basin in the distance. Buck Mountain is in the upper left corner of the photo.

As I got down to the bottom of Devil’s Stairs I slipped and fell. Needless to say If that had happened anywhere on the stairs my hike may well have been over. I fell on my back, my fall cushioned somewhat by my backpack, ended up wearing some more dirt but that was about all.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike59
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I continued to descend carefully into the canyon. It’s about 1000 feet from the top of the stairs to the main trail below. Even though I was exhausted it didn’t keep me from admiring all the wildflowers covering some of the slopes on the way down.

AlaskaBasinTrailHike60
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Made it down safely. Rested with pack off (almost fell forward after wearing my backpack for so long). I drank lots of water, snacked on Hammer Gel which is a high carb quick energy gel that I squeeze into my mouth. Then I headed out with about three miles to go to get to the parking lot. It was getting pretty dark down in the canyon.

I initially was able to move at a fast pace maybe 5-6 mph. My feet and back were pretty much numb with pain by then but I kept moving forward. As it got darker I kept hearing noises in the thick brush both sides of the trail. Thought about bears in the brush. Several times I thought I saw movement in my peripheral vision. I didn’t really care and wasn’t worried. God had helped me get this far. I just needed to keep my legs moving and leave everything else up to Him. I moved fast as long as I could, then stopped and rested for one minute looking around. It wasn’t completely dark yet, more like twilight. I decided I could still see better without my headlamp so didn’t turn it on. By this time I was so exhausted my thoughts were drifting and unclear. I really don’t remember a whole lot about this part of the hike. I just put one foot in front of the other and wouldn’t be surprised if unseen hands held me upright as I certainly felt like I couldn’t go any farther on my own.

I reached the bridge that is one mile out from the parking lot and had another back spasm. It didn’t last long. One last rest, water, gel with pack off. Wanted to ditch my backpack at this point but didn’t. Just kept going, dragging my trekking poles across the rocks to make plenty of noise. As I staggered into the parking lot and loaded my gear in the car my first thought was how greatful I was to Him who carried me off the mountain. My second thought was that my son and I would probably not be backpacking this trail in two weeks.

This was another tough hike for me. Easier in some ways than Table Mountain. But all the miles just totally beat me into the ground. Any gas I had left in the tank evaporated with the back spasms. Even so… I have no regrets. I love to hike. Walking new trails. Exploring new country and oh… the views from the high places.

I look forward to hiking the next trail and climbing the next mountain.

img_5487

Image

Hiking Table Mountain’s Face Trail

By Marc Bowen

 

Hike to Table Mountain summit using the Face Trail

  • Distance: (from trailhead to summit and back) 9.2 miles R/T
  • Trailhead elevation: 6963 ft
  • Summit elevation: 11,106 ft
  • Elevation gain: 4143 ft
  • Difficulty: very strenuous

 

So there is a background story for this hike. My daughter is one of the leaders at her girls camp this year and every year they split up the girls into different groups, each group doing a different hike. These hikes have varying degrees of difficulty. One group hikes Lower Palisades Lake Trail (easy), another group hikes up Darby Canyon (moderate), another Devils Stairs (strenuous) and another Table Mountain (very strenuous). My daughter was one of the leaders for the group heading up Table Mountain and asked me if I would help. She had been to the top of Table Mountain several years ago but this would be my first time and I was excited to go.

 

Getting to the Table Mountain Trailhead

From the town of Driggs Idaho drive about seven miles up Ski Hill Road then turn right on Teton Canyon Road. This road is unpaved most of its four-plus miles. I’ve driven up this road multiple times and it always has its share of wash-boards and pot-holes but it is a wide two-lane road and definitely drivable in a car. There are several camp grounds and a Boy Scout camp along the way. The road crosses two bridges. The first bridge is within the first mile up the canyon. About four miles in and just before the second bridge is the trailhead for the Huckleberry Trail which follows the North Fork of Teton Creek most of the way to Table Mountain.

The Huckleberry Trail is the longer route, a little over 7 miles out to the summit as opposed to the Face Trail, 4.6 miles. It may be the longer route but it is considered an easier hike because of the gradual increase in elevation.

So it turned out that the Huckleberry Trail was closed because of washouts and deep snow. As a result we were all to meet at the Face Trail trailhead at 6:30am.  To get to the Face Trail trailhead you keep driving and almost immediately around the next bend you cross a one-lane bridge to a parking lot and restroom. Teton Canyon Road ends here. There are two trailheads off this parking area. The main one to the right of the restroom is hard to miss. The large sign declares this as the South Teton Trail and leads to Devils Stairs and Alaska Basin (See photo below).

AlaskaBasinTrailHEAD
Photo by: Marc Bowen

This (above photo) is the trail I used a week ago to get to the Devil’s Stairs trail. For more info on that hike go to Devil’s Stairs Trail

The Face Trail sign is small and not easily seen and takes off just to the left of the restroom (see below).

7900409946_bfcc53d8cd_z
Photo credit: copyright Annes Travels, 2012

I didn’t get a photo of this sign (above) so I posted Anne’s.

 

Huckleberry Trail or Face Trail?

Before making a decision as to which trail to use there are a few things to consider. The Forest service posted a sign not recommending the Face Trail. The Huckleberry Trail is a maintained trail and a less strenuous hike. So if you’re content hiking 14 miles round trip on a moderately strenuous trail then that would be a good choice. You could take the Huckleberry Trail out and the Face Trail back but I guarantee that your joints, feet and toes will hate coming down that way. This trail is extremely steep, with loose rock and dirt much of the time. This creates the perfect scenario for losing your footing. My trekking poles saved me many times from falling and I saw more than one hiker hit the ground hard. My choice would be to go up the Face Trail and return on the Huckleberry trail. Taking that route you would have different scenery out and back, shorten the hike from 14 miles to a little over 11 miles AND get the hardest part of the hike out of the way first. But on this day, because of the Huckleberry Trail closure we didn’t have but one choice. Face Trail all the way.

We started our hike about 7am and just a few yards in we immediately entered a dense area of vegetation with trees, grass and brush encroaching the trail on both sides. This is bear country so I had my bear spray and we made plenty of noise. Within a few 100 yards the trail begins to climb very steeply.

TetonCanyonCampGroundView
Photo by: Marc Bowen

On one of many rest stops I took the above photo. The trailhead and Teton Creek campground were almost directly below us. I could also see Driggs and the Teton Valley in the distance.

TableMountainFaceTrail
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Besides being really steep the trail is very rocky, some of it loose rock. The wild flowers were blooming on this lower portion of the trail.

 

TableMountainFaceTrail2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

About a mile up the trail I took the above photo from a view-point just off the trail. This is looking up the canyon along South Teton Creek. The Alaska Basin Trail follows this creek up the canyon and eventually into the Basin Lakes. In the far distance I could see the Devil’s Stairs area and the beginnings of what is called The Teton Shelf. The rock formation called The Wedge can be seen just slightly above and right of the middle of the photo. Also Mt. Meek is the triangle-shaped peak just left of the middle of the photo.

TableMountainFaceTrail3
Photo by: Marc Bowen

There are a few pockets of aspen in a few areas where the slopes are not quite as steep.

TableRockFaceTrailNicole
Photo by: Marc Bowen

It was a nice change of pace to walk into this beautiful grove of aspens where the trail leveled out for a few hundred yards.

TableMountainFaceTrail5
Photo by: Marc Bowen

One last push up steep trail before the easier slopes of the meadows. In the photo above you can see the change in elevation. The Driggs area was plain to see from this perspective and Teton Canyon Road coming in from the valley.

TableMountainFaceTrail6
Photo by: Marc Bowen – looking back down the trail

A little over two miles up the trail and about 8200 feet in elevation we entered the meadows area.

TheWedgeTetonCreekShelf
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Teton Shelf in the distance

Where the snow has melted there were masses of wild flowers growing. These meadows will be full of color in a few weeks.

 

YWTableMountainHike2
Photo by: Marc Bowen – View (left to right) of Table Mountain, Middle and South Tetons

The views are absolutely breathtaking in these open meadows but we really got excited when we could finally see our destination in the distance. Top left corner of the above photo is Table Mountain (elev. 11,106 ft). It’s name pretty obvious from its shape. We could also see the Middle Teton (elev. 12,805) and the South Teton (elev. 12,514)  looming up over the ridge to the right of Table Mountain.

YWTableMountainHike
Photo by: Marc Bowen

At about three miles from the trailhead the trail forks. Left takes you down the Huckleberry Trail. Right takes you on up the trail to Table Mountain. There were large snow fields in this area with the trail buried under 6-8 inches of snow.

 

TableMountainFaceTrail7
Photo by: Marc Bowen – some deep snow covering large areas of trail

There was a stretch where we couldn’t even see the trail because of the deep snow. We knew what direction we needed to go so could guess about where the trail had to be. A few days before this hike I downloaded a new app to my phone called GAIA GPS. GPS apps work offline as long as your phone has a charge. It was my first hike using this app and I was able to see on the map where the trail was under the snow and where my position was in relation to the trail. Then I could choose whether to follow the trail across the snow or skirt the snow fields knowing I could get back onto the trail when there was better footing.

 

TableRockYWcamp
Photo by: Marc Bowen – view of Table Mountain, The Grand and Middle Teton

Finally above tree-line there is a long shelf about a mile long leading up to Table Mountain.

 

TopHuckleberry
Photo by: Marc Bowen

To the left of the shelf you can see down into the North Teton Creek drainage and the area where the Huckleberry Trail switchbacks up and over the ridge in the middle distance.

TableMountainFaceTrail8
Photo by: Marc Bowen

To the right of the shelf I could see back towards Driggs and down into Teton Canyon.

TableMountainFaceTrail9
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Another view (above) looking back down the trail and shelf. We chose to rest and eat our lunch at this point. Everyone but me chose to leave their packs here at this spot. It’s nice not to be carrying any more weight then necessary when making the last steep scramble to the summit. I chose to keep my pack on only because I have a Capture-Pro clip attached to my backpack strap which holds my camera securely and allows me to have both hands free to use trekking poles or use hand holds on a rock face while bouldering or climbing.

TableMountainFaceTrail10
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Another view (above photo) looking down the trail just before making the final climb to the summit.

TableMountainFaceTrail11
Photo by: Marc Bowen

From this position (above photo) near the top I could see Battleship Mountain (upper left corner), elevation 10,679 and Mt. Jedediah Smith above and behind, elevation 10,610.

TheWall
Photo by: Marc Bowen

In the above photo part of Buck Mountain (elev. 11,939) can be seen in the upper left corner and in the upper right corner are Mt. Meek, Mt. Jedediah Smith and Battleship Mountain. As you can see there is still plenty of snow up this high.

TetonValleyViewfrmSummit
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Summit!

From the summit of Table Mountain I could see a LOT of country! Looking east (above photo) towards Driggs and in the distance the St. Anthony Sand Dunes and on the far horizon over 150 miles away is the Lost River mountain range. Also I could see hikers headed back down the trail (lower left corner of above photo).

TopCascadeCanyon
                              Photo by: Marc Bowen – Upper reaches of Cascade Canyon                                                   

There were absolutely gorgeous views (above photo) looking northeast down into the top of Cascade Canyon. I could even see out into the Jenny Lake area in Grand Teton National Park. Mount St. John (elev. 11,430) can be seen on the far side of the canyon and Mount Owen (elev. 12,927) on the near right side.

 

TableMountainNicole
Photo by: Marc Bowen 

It was bright and sunny on top but the wind was blowing so hard up there at times it felt like it would blow us off the mountain top.

 

TableMountainNicole2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

My daughter posed in front of The Grand when the wind wasn’t blowing quite so hard. While standing on a mountain summit there is certainly a feeling of not only being on top of the world but a sense of freedom too.

TableMountainMarc1
Photo by: Nicole Klingler

I handed my camera to my daughter for her to take this photo of me standing on the summit looking at the massive face of The Grand (elev. 13,776)  seems so close (actually about a mile away).

The hike back was anticlimactic and despite the steep hike back down the Face Trail (which I would never recommend), and the repurcussions, i.e., sore body, aching joints, blistered feet, bruised toes and lost toenail, I look at this experience as one I will never regret. Some may ask me why I would put my body through that much stress to climb to the top of a mountain and I might answer, because the views are better up there. Why would I push my body to utter exaustion from hiking to the end of a long trail? I might also answer, to see where it goes. (Actually there are many answers and many reasons. I could and should probably write a blog post about those reasons someday). And Maybe I do these things just to feel the way a marathon runner or triathlete feels when they cross the finish line.  OR  famous mountaineer George Mallory’s reason for climbing the highest mountain in the world…. Continue reading “Hiking Table Mountain’s Face Trail”

Image

Devil’s Stairs Trail

By Marc Bowen

 

I left home this morning at 5:30am and drove to Driggs then onto Ski Hill Road for a few miles until turning right onto Teton Canyon Road to the south Teton Canyon trailhead. Teton Canyon Road is about five miles long and unpaved most of the way to the trailhead. It was necessary for me to drive at fairly slow speeds because of potholes and quite a few cows on the road. I passed Treasure Mountain Boy Scout Camp and several campgrounds along the way.

AlaskaBasinTrailHEAD
Photo by: Marc Bowen

It had rained during the night so everything was wet which I didn’t mind. Everything was washed clean with no dust to speak of. I arrived in the trailhead parking lot at about 7:00am and there was only one other car parked there.

 

TrailheadSign
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The one trail leading up the canyon from here goes a lot of places. My destination today was the Devils Stairs trail which branches off this trail about three miles up the canyon.

I headed up the trail along Teton Canyon Creek and I banged my trekking poles together at times usually in the thickest parts of the trail to try to warn off any bears that might be on or near the trail ahead of me.

AlaskaBasinTrail2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The first bridge (above photo) crosses a small clear running stream. Just past the bridge is a trail that goes to the left.

FALLSAlaskaBasinTRail
Photo by: Marc Bowen

A very short distance up this trail is a pretty little set of waterfalls.

 

BridgeOverTetonCreek
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The next bridge (above) was larger and crossed Teton Canyon Creek. The forest becomes real dense in this area.

TetonCreek
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Looking upstream from bridge

The vegetation was lush and green, almost like a rain forest and there were many varieties of wild flowers. Those flowers are just beginning to bloom. A few more weeks and this will all look like one giant flower garden.

AlaskaBasinTrail
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The sound of the stream was my constant companion along here and the canyon begins to open up to a decent size with steep slopes on both sides and snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance. Spruce, Fir and Aspens line the trail in between verdant meadows. Just. Absolutely. Beautiful!

MooseTracks
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Moose tracks

Again, just like my Darby Canyon hike (see Darby Canyon Wind Cave Trail) most of the way up the trail for the first mile or two I followed the tracks of a moose.

AlaskaBasinTrail3
Photo by: Marc Bowen

There were several of these big clearings along the way that allowed a good look at the Teton Shelf in the distance. All along this stretch there were multiple stream crossings with most of the streams originating from half a dozen waterfalls flowing down the steep canyon walls.

 

AlaskaBasinTrail5
Photo by: Marc Bowen

At one point as I began to cross an old avalanche of snow covered with dirt and debris I noticed in the distance two cow moose.

Moose1
Photo by: Marc Bowen

They looked past me to my left and I noticed a bull moose and another cow heading toward them.

Moose2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I watched the two groups cautiously meet and then the bull went off into the willows.

Moose3
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The larger cow appraoched the cow that had come over with the bull and raised up on her hind feet to hit her with her front hooves then chased her off.

I was not carrying a long lens so was unable to zoom in for closeup shots but still enjoyed watching these beautiful creatures interact.

I then moved on down the trail into a thick stand of trees and as I rounded a bend in the trail I was startled to see another bull moose standing just off the trail looking at me.

Moose5
Photo by: Marc Bowen

He was close enough to me to make me wary. I took a quick photo (probably not the wisest first reaction) then I carefully moved as far away to the other side of the trail as much as the thick brush allowed. He watched me and then looked at a point behind me several times and then back at me. I didn’t dare take my eyes off him to see what he was looking at when all of a sudden he started trotting towards me. I picked up speed to try to put something like a tree or log between him and me then attempted to put some distance between us.

I got back on the trail and hurried around the bend before I dared look back to see where he was at. That was when I saw him coming down the trail behind me accompanied by another bull at a trot. My first thought was, ‘Are they following me?’ But then I thought maybe he had waited for me to move down the trail until he could join his buddy who had come up the trail behind me. Whatever the case I was still not comfortable being that close to them so I continued to put distance between us.

As I walked down the trail near the stream and an area filled with willows (prime moose habitat) I saw another bull moose in the willows tossing his head and antlers around but ignoring me. I did not slow down but kept moving. I thought, ‘Wow! How many moose are there in this area?’

TrailFork
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Roughly three miles up the trail is a sign. At this point you can continue another five miles up the canyon to the Teton Crest Trail and then on to the Basin Lakes or turn right and hike about a mile to Devils Stairs.

I turned right at this point and began a tough climb up the mountain toward the Stairs.

TetonValley
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Part way up the trail is a big flat rock just off the trail that gave me a great view looking back down the valley towards the trailhead.

 

Video by: Marc Bowen

The switchbacks going up are very steep and eventually the trail enters a couple of open meadows and then follows a stream up the steep face. As I crossed the stream and climbed higher the trail crossed a steep open slope.

DevilsStaircaseTrail4
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Then the trail begins to climb up several sets of rocky steps and it became fairly obvious why they are called The Devils Stairs as they look like steps made for a big beast.

DevilsStaircaseTrail3
Photo by: Marc Bowen – Devils Stairs

There was a sign below at the fork advising against bringing livestock up this trail and I can see why. It would be very dangerous for horses and the humans who ride them.

DevilsStaircaseTrail8
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I loved this trail! Beautiful views, steep drop offs and something new around each corner.

 

DevilsStaircaseTrail9
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail was also kind of difficult to navigate. I mistakenly started to follow it around an outcropping in the cliff and saw the trail disappear (photo below).I doubled back and saw I had missed the not so obvious switchback carved into the cliff face.

DevilsStaircaseTrailFog
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Parts of the trail just cling to the cliff  plus as I got closer to the top the clouds moved in giving an impression of an immense void.

DevilsStaircaseTrail10
Photo by: Marc Bowen

This (above) is the switchback in the trail I initially missed.

 

DevilsStaircase
Photo by: Marc Bowen

With the clouds moving in the trees disappeared for a few moments and everything got quiet.

DevilsStaircaseTrail
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Farther up the trail I could see the The Teton Shelf which extends for miles up towards the Basin Lakes.

TopDevilsStairs
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail finally ends at a wall of snow on the shelf which I had to hike around to get up on top.

The video below shows how foggy it was when I got on top.

Video by: Marc Bowen

 

TopDevilsStairs2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

After detouring around the wall of snow I decided to see how far up the shelf I could go before the snow got to deep. There is a loop trail that goes up the shelf to the crest trail and then comes back around and down the basin trail.

I kept losing the trail under the snow but I could guess pretty well the direction and approximate location. It was very foggy at times and visibility was low.

Video by: Marc Bowen

 

TopDevilsStairs3
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I decided to stick to walking in the snow so if I lost my bearings in the mist I still be able follow my tracks back out.

Most of these images I captured during breaks in the clouds so they are not always indicative of how foggy it was.

TopDevilsStairs4
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I walked another mile or so but decided to turn back. A thunderstorm was forecast for around 12pm and I told myself I better be off the shelf and at the bottom of Devils Stairs before noon.

 

DevilsStaircaseTrail2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

On my way back to the top of Devils Stairs I stopped to shoot some of the few wild flowers blooming.

DevilsStairsTrailFlowers
Photo by: Marc Bowen

The video below shows the view from the top of the stairs and three waterfalls can be seen coming down the mountain side across the canyon.

 

Video by: Marc Bowen

 

I had just dropped off the rim and cleared the staircase when it started to rain pretty hard. I found cover under a clump of trees where I was out of the rain, ate a snack and drank water. After about 15-20 minutes I decided the rain might last awhile so I got my rain gear out put them on and continued down the trail in the rain.

I talked to a couple of hikers at the bottom of the trail who had encountered too much snow farther up the basin trail and had to turn around and come back down. So it’s still too early to hike up into the basin. The top of the Staircase is over 8000 feet and the Basin lakes are over 9000 feet. Will probably be another month before the upper elevations open up.

The trail was very muddy heading back down to the trailhead. I eventually took my rain gear off when the rain quit.

There were many hikers coming up the trail, about half of them with dogs and no leashes. I would be worried my dog might run off after a bear or mountain lion. Not a good idea in my opinion but I get the reasons why they might want to bring their dog with them.

When I got back to the parking lot I noticed that to the left of the restrooms is a trail with a sign saying ‘Face Trail’. Found out it’s a trail that goes up a VERY steep 4000 foot climb to Table Mountain. I will be climbing Table Mountain next week but will do so by way of the Huckleberry Trail which is longer but also an easier climb. Definitely going to be getting into snow up there as Table Mountain is over 11,000 feet in elevation but I’m still looking forward to the experience.

Well I have to say, I enjoyed this hike immensely! Thats despite the fact that I  kind of wandered around up there on the Teton Shelf losing my way at times, getting rained on and sort of chased by a moose or two!

581879_248725208806148_2459317194719508741_n

Image

North Menan Butte Trail (“R”Mountain)

By Marc Bowen

 

Volcanic Tuff Cone

In east Idaho near the town of Menan are twin buttes known as the North and South Menan Buttes. The north butte is also known by locals as “R” Mountain because of the big white ‘R’ painted on its north face. The south butte (the smaller of the two buttes ) is privately owned. The north butte is publicly owned and is designated as a National Natural Landmark. The buttes are two of the worlds largest volcanic tuff cones.

I wrote about these tuff cones and hiking this area in great detail on my blog last year. You can read that post by clicking this link: Hiking The Volcano – N Menan Butte

Hiking The Butte

 

ButteTrail
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/10/18)

This hike is 4.2 miles out and back with 1,089 feet of elevation gain. The trail leads up the west face and then follows the rim around the entire crater and back. The hike to the rim of the crater from the trailhead will get your heart pumping. I have hiked this trail 6 times in the past 8 weeks (in the months of April and May). It’s close to my home and I can hike it early in the morning and be home by 9 or 10am. It’s a great workout and is good preparation for some more difficult hikes in the months to come.

The images in this post I shot over a period of two months. The images are dated as I thought it would be fun to show the surrounding landscape as the seasons change.

 

MButte11
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

Coming up the west side of the butte you know your near the top when you get to a line of steel posts connected to each other with a chain (above image to the right of the big rock formation). The footing is very poor in places and the chain gives you something to hold on to.

 

NMenanButteCave
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/23/18)

Because of the geology of this place caves and varied rock formations are a common sight. This one (above) is to the left of the trail near the top.

 

NButteTrailHeadParkinglot
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/30/18)

Just past that formation looking back down the slope at the trailhead parking area.

 

MButte3
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

Once you’ve made it to the top of the trail you will be standing on the rim of the buttes cratered center. Now you’re on the rim trail and can go left (above photo), right (scroll down to next photo) or even walk a trail down through the middle of the crater (not shown).

MButte2
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

I have arranged my photos in a sequence as if hiking to the right around the crater. As you hike this direction you can see (in this photo above) across the crater into the valley to the east toward Rigby, Ririe and the distant hills.

 

MenanButteSouthIF
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/23/18)

As the trail curves around the south side of the butte you can see South Menan Butte, the town of Menan is across the river in the middle right in the above photo and Idaho Falls is in the middle distance at the base of the hills.

MButte8
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

If you compare this panoramic image (above) with the one above it you can see the difference 5 weeks makes. Crops are growing and summer colors and foliage have arrived.

 

MenanButteNE
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/23/18)

Looking back to the east from the trail across the crater, part of the valley between Rexburg and Rigby can be seen.

 

WindBowl
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/10/18)

As the rim trail curves east you will arrive at a formation of rocks called the ‘Wind Bowl’. This is a fantastic formation and almost seems like the landscape should be part of another planet. Great area to do some ‘bouldering’ … Looking south across the bowl you can again see South Butte.

MButte7
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

There is a time span of six weeks between the above two photos.

Below is a video clip of the Wind Bowl recorded on 4/10/18.  ‘click’ to play

 

MButte6
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

Above is a another photo of the Wind Bowl from a different perspective.

Below is the most recent video clip of the Wind Bowl.

 

MButte10
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

(above photo) Looking east towards Rigby and Ririe and the point where the Henrys Fork and South Fork of the Snake River come together. You can see some of the current flooding. Snow melt has caused all the rivers and streams to run at higher than normal levels the last month or so.

Tetons
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/10/18)

Again in the above photo the view is to the east as this is the east side of the butte. Part of the Teton mountain range can be seen on the horizon.

 

MButte5
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

I took the above photo as I hiked the trail around the north side of the butte heading west. This is looking south across the crater to the south rim and South Butte beyond that.

 

MButte4
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

If you look north from the trail on the north rim the St. Anthony Sand Dunes can be seen in the distance with the city of Rexburg to the right of that (above photo).

 

ArcoDesert
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/10/18)

In the above photo I am looking west across the desert towards the Lost River Range of mountains.

 

RockForm
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/10/18)

Another one of the many rock formations in the area and another view into the buttes crater.

 

NMenanButteTrail
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/10/18)

I shot the above image as I was hiking south along the west rim of the crater. The orange-colored rock formation across the crater on the other rim is the area where the Wind Bowl is located.

 

NicoleMenanButte2CROP
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/15/18)

My daughter Nicole (above photo) joined me on the May 15th hike. Looking out over the parking lot below and the Deer Parks Wildlife Management Area across the highway.

Below is a video clip shot from the northwest rim in April of this year.

 

MButte9
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

Another view (above photo) looking down on the parking lot / trailhead and the Deer Parks WMA.

 

DeerParksWMA
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/23/18)

Above is another view from the same area but shot over a month earlier.

 

MenanButteTreeCROP
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 4/30/18)
MButte12
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

The above two images were shot a month apart at slightly different angles.

 

MButte1
Photo by: Marc Bowen (shot on 5/30/18)

I shot this last image as I was headed back down the west face of the butte.

As I mentioned before I usually hike this trail early mornings with cool temperatures, beautiful light and colors surrounding me, and few people around. Sometimes I’ve had the butte all to myself and its a perfect time to change perspectives and remember whats most important in my life. Just being outside breathing the fresh air and having the sun shine upon me energizes my soul and changes my mood for the better.

IMG_4672

 

 

 

Image

Darby Canyon Wind Cave Trail

By Marc Bowen

 

First Attempt

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.

Getting There

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.

 

DarbyCanyonParkingLot
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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).

 

The Trail

  • 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

 

DarbyCanyonWindCavesTrailhead
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

 

DarbyCanyonWindcavesTrail
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

 

DarbyCreekBridge
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I crossed this bridge over Darby Creek just as it began to rain a little. (above photo)

 

darbycreek
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Standing on the Darby Creek bridge I shot this image looking upstream.

 

WildernessSign
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

 

SouthForkDarbyCreekCROP
Photo by: Marc Bowen

I carefully took this shot (above) while laying across two poles over the water of the stream.

WindCaveTrailDarbyCreek
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

DarbyCreekPano
Photo by: Marc Bowen

(above) Panoramic looking down into the gorge.

Video clip below of the gorge

 

LedgeOverCreek
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

DBCTrail
Photo by: Marc Bowen

(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.

 

DBSwitchback
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

DarbyCanyonWindcaves1
Photo by: Marc Bowen

(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.

DarbyCanyonPanoCROP
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

WaterFallDarbyCanyon
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Water runs out of the mouth of the cave and down the cliffs below (above)

DBWindCave
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

DarbyCanyonSnow
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

DarbyCanyonWindcavesTrail2
Photo by: Marc Bowen

Hiking back down the trail.

CanyonWaterfall
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

DBCFungi
Photo by: Marc Bowen

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.

 

16681732_429532607392073_7506432278378786825_n