Len's Three Backpacking Trips On The Teton Crest Trail In 2016

Discussion in 'Physical Training For Mountain Hunting And Backpac' started by Len Backus, Aug 20, 2016.

  1. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    2016 Teton Crest Trail

    I'd like to share with you the incredibly beautiful experience I had over this past month backpacking Wyoming's Teton Crest Trail. The Teton Crest Trail runs along the top of the alpine areas of Grand Teton National Park. Most of the trail is at altitudes between 9,000 and 10,000 feet. The Teton Crest Trail is considered by many to be the top one or two of trails in the United States.

    I covered 85 miles during 3 sessions in a 24 day period.

    The past few years I have been writing in the Physical Training For Mountain Hunting And Backpacking sub-forum about my own ways to get in shape for the western mountains hunting season. The key for me has been to admit certain things about myself. The main one is that I would rather pound my thumb with a hammer repeatedly than to exercise indoors on a machine.

    So a few years ago I started climbing small 250 foot tall hills in Wisconsin and also upped my biking substantially.The Wisconsin hill climbing naturally led to hiking western mountains in the off season. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and the smaller mountains in Arizona have since become part of my program.

    Near Phoenix I again hiked Daisy Mountain repeatedly and also tried Camelback Mountain. That was an interesting challenge. It is a local favorite with heavy traffic to contend with. I ended up concluding that it is so steep with such big “steps” that it takes the fun and motivation away a bit. And it doesn't really duplicate very well or at least very efficiently the rigors of a mountain hunt. So I won’t repeat it.

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    North of Phoenix I discovered the trails around Sedona this last March. Some of the day hikes I did were Wilson Mountain, Bear Mountain and the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.

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    I backpacked 25 miles over two nights in Rocky Mountain National Park back in June of this year. Note the cow moose in my camp on the left in the photo below.

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    But my most enthusiastic planning for 2016 was for a series of summer backpack trips on and around Wyoming’s Teton Crest Trail. I was planning my first trip on the trail to be a solo, 3 night, 4 day, 35 mile route. But when I mentioned to my good friend Robb Wiley of Non-Typical Outfitters that I was heading out in a couple weeks he asked if I would mind if he tagged along.

    “No I wouldn’t mind at all!” I said. I knew he’d be a great and welcome team member. And I planned to hike the trail a couple more times - in between LRH-NTO Shooting Class sessions. On those trips I could get my fix of solo trekking. So in mid July he and I showed up at the park visitor center about an hour and a half before it opens to stand in line for a back country campsite permit. Being an hour and a half early we were actually number 2 in line that day.

    Long story short, we couldn't get the exact combination of sites so we took what we could get and cut the trip down by one day/night and by 5 miles.

    After this first trip I drove home and got ready to come back out just 4 days later for the three sessions of shooting classes. The day after the first class session I was back in line for a camping permit. This time I was solo and repeated one of my favorite parts of the first trip. I set it up so I could camp two consecutive nights in a valley just below the back side of the three Tetons themselves. On the first trip I had identified some amazing photo ops and knew I ‘d have to come back during better light and with more of a photography emphasis.

    After returning to camp for the second class session Andy was first amused that I was already talking about going back a third time the very next week. Well, he thought about it some more and then asked if he could come along for my third and last time in 2016!

    So my third trip along the Teton Crest Trail began.

    All in all, I hiked with my mountain "house" on my back for about 85 miles over 3 sessions in a 24 day stretch. It was simply amazing, though I know that word is grossly over-used.

    So here are a bunch of my photos from the three trips. There are mixed up a little in sequence but I think you’ll get the point nonetheless.


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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
  2. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    The picture series below is of the Death Canyon Shelf, with Robb Wiley looking down into Death Canyon itself and also on to the Tetons in the background of the first pix.


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    Isn't he just such an angelic sleeper!
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2016
  3. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    This is Robb greeting the day on our first morning.

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    Robb found us a great site the second night. We were pretty darn close to a steep dropoff. In the morning before I opened my tent's door, I heard a clinking sound on the rocks. Looking outside there were two bighorn rams about 20 yards from my tent.

    In two of the other campsites we had deer walk right through camp just 10 yards away.

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    If we walked just 50 yards from our tents, this is the view we had of the back side of the Tetons.

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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
  4. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    The pix in this post and the next one are from my second trip -- the solo trip. Shortly after dawn on my way up Cascade Canyon I came across a pair of bull moose. This was the larger one. I worked my way to within 10 or 15 yards of them. I made sure I had some defensive structure between me and them as I got that close. This was not taken with a telephoto lens

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    I stayed two nights in one spot near the top of the South Fork of Cascade Canyon in order to take pictures and to do a couple day hikes which totaled about 5 miles. In the morning I first shot flowers below a cascade that was in part the outflow for a small lake just below the "Middle Teton".

    The cascade can be seen in the picture below. It is located center-right. I hiked to a point half way up it for flower pix.

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    In the afternoon, I hiked the trail to Avalanche Divide.

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    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
  5. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    and again

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    While hiking the Avalanche Divide trail as a day hike, I detoured off-trail to get higher and closer to the actual Tetons peaks...before getting back on trail to the Divide.

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    Looking down onto the far side of Avalanche Divide

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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
  6. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    One of the stream bridges.

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    In the next picture below is what black bear scat looks like next to my new trekking poles.

    You may not be able to see them very well in this photo but there are some little bells mixed in with the scat. I guess bears are unable to digest the metal bells that some hikers wear to scare off the bears up ahead on the trails. :)

    On the way down the trail to head out, when I mentioned this to a woman (wearing bells), my comment seemed to go over her head. But maybe it finally came to her as she actually reached the bear scat further up the trail.

    By the way, I finally have become a pole user. On the first of these 3 trips, I overdid my exuberance while descending 1,500 feet of steep trail too swiftly. I continued this foolishness throughout the first day and the arthritis in my knees flared up very badly. I then had to slow down A LOT for about 24 hours.

    At Robb's suggestion I bought poles and when I came back out for my second trip, the solo one, I used two poles all the time. unbelievable what it did for my knees. I was now back to my normal brisk hiking pace.

    After researching my needs I chose the Black Diamond Distance Z Poles. A pair of these carbon fiber poles weighs only 10 ounces. And they collapse quickly for storage using shock cords rather than the more typical tripod leg methods.


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    At the end of this route, one option is to take the Jenny Lake boat back to the trail head and save about 2 miles. I hiked the entire way in the first day but opted for the boat on the way out so I could get to Dornan's for pizza faster on this last day!


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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
  7. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    Here are me and Andy on my 3rd and last Teton Crest Trail trip. Andy is taking a drink while overlooking Phelps Lake on our first morning.

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    The next is of me standing next to a historic and remote ranger field cabin, still used today.

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    Here is Andy using his Steripen UV light based water purifier. I now use the Freedom model which weighs 2.7 ounces and has a built in rechargeable lithium battery.

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    This next series of three shows my son's brilliance! We both use the Big Agnes "system" type of sleeping bags. The Lost Ranger 15 degree model. There is a pocket in the bottom of the bags. The pocket holds our inflatable sleeping pads. There is no need for insulation on the bottom of the bag as a result and the pocket holds the pad in perfect position even for toss and turn sleepers. We use the Q-Core SL model of ultra light pad by Big Agnes.

    Well, Andy figured out you can deflate the pad in the morning and then simply leave it in the bag's pocket while you roll the whole thing up and slip it into the stuff sack. At the next camp there is no need to carefully re-insert the pad into the bag's pocket. Quite simple.


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    The last photo is of Andy looking down into Death Canyon (from where we started the day before) from up on Death Canyon Shelf.

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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
  8. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    These are more pix from my first trip, the one with Robb. We were so giddy with the grandeur. At times I felt like a fool for repeating the same words of "unbelievable" every time we came around the next bend in the trail to see a site even better than the one we just left behind.

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    Last edited: Aug 20, 2016
  9. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    last ones

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  10. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    Here is a copy of the Teton backcountry map that includes my hiking routes.

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    Last edited: Aug 20, 2016
  11. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    FIRST TRIP
    Teton Village Tram to top of peak, then down towards Marion Lake and then on to Fox Creek Pass where we camped the first night with no permit required, just outside park boundaries.

    Second day across the Death Canyon Shelf and through Alaska Basin. We camped at Hurricane Pass just outside the park boundaries so no permit required.

    Third day down into South Fork of Cascade Canyon, turning east the Cascade Junction, down to Jenny Lake and the bot dock.

    SECOND TRIP
    Jenny Lake Trail-head, up Cascade Canyon, turn south at South Fork of Cascade Canyon, camp two nights in park just at the upper end (south) of South Fork. Take trail to Avalanche Divide for day trip. Back out the same way.

    THIRD TRIP
    Death Canyon Trail Head
    Up Death Canyon using the Valley Trail to connect with Death Canyon Trail. We camped outside the park at just about the same spot as on the first trip. Then up onto and across Death Canyon Shelf. Again through Alaska Basin, camping down in the upper reaches of South Fork of Cascade Canyon. Back out down Cascade Canyon to the boat dock and then on to pizza in Moose at Dornan's on their deck in view of the Tetons.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2016
  12. LaHunter

    LaHunter Well-Known Member

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    Len, looks like a great trip.
    Thanks for posting. Great photos
     
  13. Alaska2006

    Alaska2006 Well-Known Member

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    Wow!!! Great photos, sure makes me miss home. Ive tramped around Moose, Gross Venture and Teton Wilderness a fair bit but never over on the west side. That looks like amazing country.

    I was raised just 100 mile south of this country and sure miss it. Been in Alaska the past 10 years and now back in the lower 48 (Nevada). Like they say there's no place like home.

    Thanks for sharing.
     
  14. Litehiker

    Litehiker Well-Known Member

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    Rob's tent looks suspiciously like a Hilleberg Atko. I have a similar Tarptent Moment DW that I've "winterized" into a 4 season tent. I used it this year hunting in Nevada's Jarbige Wilderness Area.
    (See Backpacking Light forum, "Tarptent Thread" for photos.)

    Eric B.