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What I did with 24 hours in Jackson Hole: A Mini-Trip Report

What I did with 24 hours in Jackson Hole: A Mini-Trip Report

Old Jul 18th, 2009, 01:59 PM
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What I did with 24 hours in Jackson Hole: A Mini-Trip Report

I had only been to Jackson Hole twice before, and both times were in the winter on short business trips during which the mountains were mostly socked in and I didn’t even get to ski. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to add an extra day to another business trip I had to the area two weeks ago, I jumped at the chance. Flying in to the Jackson Hole airport from north to south on a partly cloudy summer afternoon provided a spectacular view of the Tetons that I had only imagined on the earlier trips. Apparently winter and spring lingered longer this year, so the valley was an amazing shade of deep green in contrast to the jagged gray Tetons to the west.

I finished my business in Jackson (Jackson is the town; Jackson Hole is the valley) mid-afternoon the next day, and drove north of town about 20 miles to get the “classic” photographer’s view of the Tetons from the Snake River overlook. We saw a buffalo herd in the distance as we drove north along the valley. The sky was again partly cloudy, and we were arrived at the overlook, the shifting sunlight in the cool afternoon air provided a dramatic stage for Mount Moran, Rockchuck Peak, Tweewinot, impossibly high Grand Teton itself, and other peaks further to the south.

My business colleague and I had decided the best way to get a feel for the mountains was to take the Jenny Lake boat early the next morning to the Cascade Canyon trailhead, hike the canyon 7.5 miles up to Lake Solitude and hopefully make it back down, across the lake, and to the airport for a 5 p.m. flight. That hike was listed by other Fodorites as one of their favorite U.S. days hikes in my post on that subject last year, so I was anxious to try it:


That evening, we fortified ourselves for the hike with drinks and delicious buffalo steaks at the aptly named Gun Barrel Steak & Game House in Jackson, www.gunbarrel.com, where a large stuffed bison stands guard when you first walk into the restaurant. I then stocked up on water, snacks, and sunscreen at the local K-Mart and Albertson's. I topped the evening off with a walk around the small Jackson dowtown square with its famous "Antler Arches," picked up a cheap hat for the hike on sale, and got to sleep at a reasonable hour for an early state the next morning. The Best Western provided pleasant accommodations, but was surprisingly expensive.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 02:21 PM
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How exciting....we leave Tuesday for Jackson and only have 2 days to explore the Grand Tetons before heading up to my parent's retirement home in Livingston Montana. Keep writing!
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 03:48 PM
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Daylight began coming around the curtains as early as 5 a.m. I was up and checked out by 6 a.m., picked up my friend and a MacDonald’s to go coffee and burrito, and drove north towards Jenny Lake. Jackson was surprisingly busy at that early hour. We were at the Jenny Lake boat docks within 30 minutes. I’d forgot to bring much cash on the trip (relying on those plastic cards is just too easy), so the $25 entrance fee to Grand Teton National Park depleted much of my reserve. Fortunately, the Jenny Lake boat offered a 7:00 a.m. $5 earlybird hiker fare for a round trip to/from the Cascade Canyon trailhead. Taking the boat across the lake cut off about 2 miles of the hike each way, a shortcut that turned out to be very welcome at the end of the hike later in the afternoon.

My colleague and I were the only hikers on the boat; the other passengers were Exum mountain guides and their clients burdened with ropes and other accouterments for day rock climbing. The quiet 10 minute boat ride across placid Jenny Lake in the chilly morning light, with the Cathedral Group of the Tetons rising in a wall immediately before us, was very relaxing. Our perspective of the Tetons changed several times. They looked unscaleable from a distance, but as we crossed the lake they seemed more accessible. Then as we disembarked on the west side of the lake, the peaks again towered intimidatingly far above us.

We hiked a moderately steep trail a half mile up to roaring Hidden Falls, then another half mile up to a spectacular vista of the lake at Inspiration Point. The trail into Cascade Canyon then begins to level out. We hiked in and out of the woods in the canyon with three jagged peaks, and small waterfalls on their lower flanks, dominating the view immediately to our left (south) – Teewinot, Mount Owen, and the granddaddy peak of them all – Grand Teton. If you were blindfolded and miraculously plopped down in Cascade Canyon, you might mistake it for the high Alps. Teewinot is a Shoshone word for “many pinnacles.” The Grand is almost 1500 feet higher, but the warped perspective from this point on the trail made them seem all more or less the same height. Grand Teton, the highest peak in the range, wasn’t climbed until 1898. Apparently, Grand Teton has more climbing routes listed in “Fifty Classic Climbs of North America” than any other peak on the continent.

We hiked at a good clip without stopping 4.5 miles to the fork at the end of Cascade Canyon. We’d seen only one other person on the trail, a young Bostonian hiking to pass the time, or maybe to shed nervous energy, before his wedding in Jackson the following weekend. After a brief stop for water, we pushed on up the steeper trail that leads up the north fork to Lake Solitude. Our turnaround time to make our flight was 11 a.m., but the steeper trail slowed our pace and the air began to cool as we encountered intermittent snow on the trail. I really wanted to make the lake if at all possible. We hiked the last half mile almost entirely on the snow, stepping gingerly on previous footprints to avoid plunging up to our knees on the melting soft stuff on either side.

We reached a small rise overlooking the lake at 10:45, giving us a 15 minute margin to re-energize with snacks and water and snap pictures of those three giants -- Teewinot, Mount Owen, and Grand Teton -- entirely encompassing the southern view. The lake was still about 80% frozen, and a chill wind blew off of it, lowering the temperature by a good 10 – 15 degrees. Here we encountered a few more hikers, but the trail until now had been remarkably uncrowded.

On the return in the early afternoon, especially after turning left at the fork back (east) into the main canyon, we began to encounter many more people. We also had a close up view of a huge moose, obliviously grazing a few yards off the trail. By the time we reached Inspiration Point, I was concerned that we might have to wait for several return boats before we could cross Jenny Lake back to the car. Anyone taking any part of this trip is well advised to START EARLY.

My feet were feeling sore and swollen in my hiking boots, so I was relieved when we were able to catch the first boat back across the lake after a short wait. The wind had picked up markedly during the afternoon. The magnificent mountains rose to my right, and exhausted but exhilarated, I was partially rejuvenated by the cold spray blown into the boat as we bounced back across the choppy lake waters. Two hours later my plane rose above them, but I was glad I was able to experience them -- even in just 24 hours -- in a way most people just passing through inevitably miss.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 04:34 PM
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Nice, MRand, thank you! For the limited time you had, it sounds like you had a well-planned experience. Kudos.

We were there last fall (early October) but never got to see the Teton range due to clouds. We're going back in mid-September this year and are hoping for a glimpse.

Like you, we ate one night at the Gun Barrel and plan to do so again with another couple in September.

Your trip report is a good one for those planning a trip.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 04:51 PM
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Loved reading your trip report. We have been there 4 times (so far) and only did the Hidden Falls, etc. hike once. We were only able to make it about an hour into the Cascade Canyon hike before thunder and lightning forced us to turn around (we got a later than planned start and it was then late afternoon and we wanted to get back before the last ferry left). As it turned out the weather forced the ferry to stop running (with no idea when it would start again) so we ended up walking around the lake to get back (in quite a heavy downpour -- we always carry rain pouches with us). It was still a great experience. We really want to attempt the hike again as far as you did, especially after reading your description.

I'll always remember our first flight into Jackson Hole and the view of the Tetons from the plane. Thanks for posting.
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Old Jul 19th, 2009, 04:39 PM
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So glad you got to enjoy the Tetons a bit! I go up almost every year and never get tired of the area. Cascade Canyon is a really nice hike too! Thanks for the little report.
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