The reverse Q continues: A double crossing of the Tetons and fireworks.

For you folks who grew up doing vaguely outdoorsy things, do you have a particular region that imparts a sense of overwhelming nostalgia?  I do, and for me it’s the northern part of the Idaho-Wyoming border (including the Tetons and the Yellowstone’s cascade corner, to Alpine Canyon and the Big Holes).  In addition to learning to ski at Grand Targhee, Kelly Canyon, and Alpine Village, I did my first backpacking trip to Dunanda Falls and my first notable mountain hike to Table Mountain.  I like the geology, the vegetation, the animals, and the rocks, and I like that the particular combination can invoke memories unlike anywhere else.  So with that in mind, I decided to construct a trail running route that would allow me to hit Table Mountain and Alpine Village, get nice views of the big mountains, be difficult enough for my present tastes, and hang out with my folks.  My plan was to drive to the Teton Canyon trailhead, while my folks drove their motorhome to String Lake, on the other side of the Tetons.  I would run up Table Mountain, go off trail the steep mile or so down to the S. Fork of Cascade Canyon, and out the canyon to meet them.  This run was around 14 miles with 4700′ of cumulative gain.  The next day would be spent around GTNP and the surrounding area.  Then the morning after that (July 4th!), I would take the tram from Alpine Village to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, and run back to my truck along the Teton crest, for around 19 miles and 3500′ of gain.

I left Idaho Falls at 6, and left the trailhead at 7:30.  I took the West Face trail, which is very steep, far too steep to run efficiently.  Thus, I marched the first 2500′ of vertical.  After that, the route moderates considerably, and I was able to run most of the remaining 1600′. 

I reached the table mountain summit at 8:50, for a 1:20 split for 4100′ vertical and just under 4 miles.  Running at 10000′ is hard when you’re not used to it (and I’m not).

     The view from Table Mountain was characteristically excellent.  There were several marmots sitting on the summit that were only mildly concerned about seeing me.  I didn’t wait long, since the only trail-less, beta-less section of the route was immediately ahead.

Climbing down to the saddle South of Table was a little scary.  I ended up doing some 4th class down-climbing along the wall of a snow-filled gully for several hundred feet.  The rock was poor and most solid surface were covered with slippery gravel.  It went slowly, but it went.  Fortunately, immediately afterwards, I was treated to a magical glissade down two snowy bowls, before having to do some mild bushwhacking to reach the S. Fork Cascade trail. 

After reaching the trail, things went quickly and easily.  Cascade Canyon is very beautiful, and has many interesting waterfalls.

It’s also really crowded below the confluence of the two forks.  I passed probably a hundred people over this four mile stretch.  Human-dodging can really slow a run down, I realize, especially when you’re trying to duck and weave through the whole family, including Grandma.  I got many a look askance.  Despite the crowds, I ran into a bear on the cutoff trail to String Lake.

He was ripping trees apart and didn’t give a shit.  I waited for fifteen minutes or so while he got out of the way.  When I got to String Lake, I went swimming and then went to find the folks.  Total time was just under 4 hours.

We spent the next day and a half cruising around the park and surroundings trying to beat the heat and the crowds.  My dad worked for the Forest Service out here for 5 years in the seventies, and he knew lots of interesting places to go off the beaten path.  Brooks Lake, off of Togwotee Pass, was one example.

It was clear that he too was feeling nostalgic about the region, and related a number of humorous stories about his work here, about getting stalked by grizzly bears, and so forth.  My favorite was about when he tried to kayak the Buffalo Fork but got caught in one of its ubiquitous log jams and had a near-death experience before scrabbling to the water surface only to plant his face in a deer carcass.  I’ve yet to have anything that picturesque happen to me.

On the 4th of July, I took the tram to the top of the ski resort, and left the tram dock at 9:40

I immediately dropped 2000′ into Granite Canyon, before crossing a series of basins to get to Fox Creek Pass.

Almost the entire route was near or above treeline, which was neat.  From here, I ran along Death Canyon Shelf, and got some nice views of the backside of the Cathedral Group.

At Mt. Meek Divide, the shelf turns from NE to NW, and heads down Teton Canyon.  I was bonking pretty hard at this point from the heat, altitude, and not drinking sufficient water, but the shelf drops quickly, and soon I was at the Devil’s stairs and then at the bottom of Teton Canyon for the last couple miles to the truck.

Total time for this run was also approximately 4 hours.  I soaked the legs in Teton Creek for a minute, ate a marginal Reuben at some faux-quality place in Victor, then drove back to IF.

Idaho Falls has a big fireworks display because the CEO of a placebo health products company (who loves the shit out of Mitt Romney, incidentally) pays for one out of pocket.  It’s really big and impressive, but this year the start was delayed until 11PM because a fellow about my age drowned while trying to swim out to an island in the Snake river.  There were divers sent to recover the body, and they couldn’t dive with a massive fireworks display going on overhead.  Morbidly, I was reminded of the beginning of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, where shooting a cannon over the surface of the river is used to aid in body recovery.  I wondered if a powerful firework is like a cannonball in this regard.  Then I got the heeby-jeebies.

I had intended to run in Yellowstone on the 6th, but I was feeling antsy by noon on the 5th.  As I mentioned, I don’t trust my garden timer, and I wanted to get home in order to save as many vegetables as possible in the event that it had mutinied.  Louie and I got as far as the Madison River, where I had hoped to do some fishing, but there were thousands of people lining the banks and floating in expensive identical driftboats, so after spending the night in the truck bed at a trailhead because all the campgrounds were comically full, we had a morning hike and drove home.  And the vegetables were fine!  Albeit, the spinach had bolted, and the broccoli was well on its way, but what can you do?  

 

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