2 weeks after my first post about our backpacking trip in the Tetons… here’s the continuation of the story. 🙂

We spent a restful night at our campsite in Death Canyon, and our return to the trail the next morning was pushed back until about 9:30am because we had to start a fire and coax it to boil water for our breakfast of oatmeal. But return to the trail we did, and headed onwards and upwards. The trail continued in a peaceful meandering way through woods and along brooks, eventually breaking into an opening and skirting around the edge of a wide meadow of fading flowers. As we followed the trail on a southward curve, we moved into the back of the mountains and into their shadows. The sun did not break over the hills until around 11am.

Caleb stayed a ways ahead of Kevin & I because he was faster… and while he loves us, at the moment he loved the audiobook he was listening to more. 🙂 Later I would find out he stole the batteries from our headlamps to keep his mp3 going, so we’re lucky the headlamps all worked when we needed them… but that’s a later part of the story. 😉

We climbed out of Death Canyon by way of a switchbacks that laced across an open hill. Last year while hiking down that hill I had seen a group of hawks in the distance, circling what I assumed was their craggy home. I kept my eyes peeled but did not see them this time.

We met some hikers when we reached the Death Canyon Shelf, the first people we had seen in quite a while. We would meet a smattering of people as we continued on, but mostly enjoyed the mountains all to ourselves. No freeways, no neighbors calling the kids in. No cell phones making any sounds. Just a peaceful, natural quiet.

We spent lunch on the shelf then kept making our steady way towards the Alaska Basin. Having risen from the valley walls of Death Canyon, on the Shelf we now had a drop off to our right and high, impressive rock cliffs to our left. Though pray don’t get the idea that we were traversing a narrow, Indiana-Jones style rock ledge – the Shelf is quite wide, consisting of rock fields from the crumbling cliffs where pikas and marmots dwell and scattered stands of trees that are stunted from the high altitude. The trail meanders along far enough from the edge for anyone with acrophobia to feel at ease.

When we left the Shelf we climbed into increasingly barren land. The wind rose as the trees disappeared, and we snaked behind mountains and over hills while to our left the land scooped down to offer a fine view of Idaho. The trail took us to the bottom end of the horseshoe-shaped Alaska Basin, providing a flat overlook for admiration before turning sharply to the right and descending down several switchbacks into the heart of the Basin.

There we reunited Caleb and all of three of us, weary, took a catnap in the sun on some flat rocks. Not the best when your body is already sore… The weather was changing and threatened to rain, so we roused ourselves and continued on, keeping our eyes open for a good camping site. We were now on the other side of the horseshoe and behind us, where we had been only an hour or two earlier, a thunderstorm rolled through, taking up half of the sky. So half of the sky remained blue and sunny while the other half emitted bursts of lightning and deep thunder rumbles.

Though it sprinkled and threatened to rain harder, we kept going and ended up hiking all the way to Sunset Lake – which was only a mile or two further than I had thought we would go, but still, at that point of the day a mile feels like a lot! As soon as we picked out where we would camp for the night the heavens let loose and the rain fell in earnest. We pulled out our tarps and threw them over us and our packs, huddling over on the ground until the rain relented and let us emerge. We began to set up camp but only Kevin had his tarp & hammock close to set up when the rain returned a few minutes later. I abandoned the spot where I was trying to hang up my hammock and ran for Kevin’s site.

When the rain abated again I moved my things and hung my hammock right next to Kevin, sharing one tree so we were close but not touching. We used both of our tarps (cheap things) and managed to hang them in such a way so that we were both entirely covered. Seeing our setup, Caleb decided not to set up his tent, instead just rolling out his sleeping bag on the ground directly beneath our hammocks.

Again the storm returned ferocious and wild, this time bringing hail and driving us to our beds, where we lay listening to the crackling thunder and waiting for a reprieve. This time when the reprieve came, it left a long calm that let us build a fire, cook dinner, and enjoy the light of the slipping-down sun playing across the wispy clouds. Sunset Lake certainly lived up to its name, that night.

We had ramen for dinner and then – in a stroke of genius by yours truly – also cooked our oatmeal so that it would be ready to eat the next morn, and we would not have to spend time starting a fire and boiling water.

One chapter of Sherlock Holmes and then we were too tuckered out for more. Only inches from each other, all three of us switched off headlamps, curled into our sleeping bags, and fell asleep in the remote wilds of the Tetons.


Pictures below. 🙂 But a taste of the incomprehensible beauty along the trail.