… and I must go.”

-John Muir

Leeks and Sunset 019

Back in a June post I referred to the Tetons as my siren’s call. Their beauty is… haunting, and certainly tugged at my mind throughout the summer. I was so busy I was not able to go hiking ONCE, except for our summer vacation to the Grand Canyon. So when a friend of mine told me she wanted to take a road trip to Wyoming, I jumped on THAT bandwagon before you could say “Let’s absquatulate to Wyoming post haste!” She brought along a younger brother of hers and I brought along two of my brothers (after all, we needed someone to help pay for gas) and we banished them to the backseat of the car for the entire trip (none of them could legally drive…) while we controlled the music and read aloud a book that might have contained… a bit of romance. Poor little men. They bore it well.

We all gathered on September 12th, Thursday, and between the five of us managed to pack the back of the car solid. It was a marvel of a packing job, truly. After plundering our parents’ pantry we hit the road around 2:30pm. Apart from picking up Starbucks in Ellensburg, dinner in Spokane, and gas all over the country, we drove straight through Washington and Idaho and into Montana and finally stopped when we turned onto I-15, a few hours from Idaho Falls. I had driven the last 300 or so miles and pretty much parked the car, grabbed my sleeping bag, and collapsed in it onto the lawn of the rest stop directly in front of the car. Everyone else joined me and we slept there for four hours then drove the rest of the way to Idaho Falls, where we had breakfast with a friend. Then on to the Tetons, and nachos for dinner!

It was a bit bizarre walking around Signal. I saw a lot of familiar faces, but there was also a good amount of new employees, strange faces that seemed out of place. It was as if nothing had changed – yet a whole year had passed.

And a lot changes in a year. A lot changes in a day.

My friend and her brother traveled on to Eastern Wyoming so she could visit her old friends, while my brothers and I stayed at Signal. We spent Saturday just enjoying the lake, the lodge (the free coffee at the lodge…) and joined some of my old co-workers and friends for Thai food in Jackson.

On Sunday we leisurely got around to unpacking our backpacks and re-packing them with only the absolute necessities. We obtained backcountry permits and bear containers from the rangers in order to be completely legit, and started on the trail around 2:30pm.

Our plan was to hike up Death Canyon and camp one night in the lower camping zone, hiking onto the Death Canyon Shelf the next day and then into the Alaska Basin for the second night. On Tuesday we would hike up to Hurricane Pass and then meander down into Cascade Canyon, spending the night at the North Fork and finishing the trip by hiking out of the mountains through Paintbrush Canyon on Wednesday morning. We would be traveling the opposite way of the backpacking trip I took last September, by myself.

 

We hiked around Phelps Lake (easy) then up the Death Canyon switchbacks (Uphill. Switchbacks. Need I say more?) until we reached the camping zone and found a good camp site close to the river with trees that would acquiesce to hold our hammocks. All in all only about 6 miles.

I could tell I had not been hiking regularly… My legs were unaccustomed to the climbing and my lungs were unaccustomed to the elevation. We were all glad to stop for the night and enjoy a hot meal, cooked over our tiny camp stove that only needed dry sticks, a little tinder, and a good amount of tending.

After reading some Sherlock Holmes aloud together we retired with the sun – Kevin and I to hammocks and Caleb to a one person tent. The mountains and trees surrounded us and the cool, pure air of the wilderness drifted in and out of our lungs as we slept. No sound of freeways. No trains passing by. No neighbors. The silence of nature surrounded us.

We slept deep until the rising sun, the daily miracle, lightened the world yet again and woke us to another day of hiking.

To be continued…

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