So I'm home!!! Camping was fun--for the first two or three nights! Hot coffee is sooo nice. My borrowed homely tent kept me dry during the rain!!! I arrived at the Teton National Park entrance about 5 pm a week ago Thursday and was advised that I wouldn't find a campsite at the first two areas (none of the Teton campgrounds take reservations). I wasn't surprised. A ranger suggested that I go back to one barely inside the park that never filled, but that wasn't where I wanted to be. Clouds loomed and sprinkles hit my windshield as I drove into the park. The majestic Teton mountain range called me to stop in awe. I kept going. What if Coulter Bay, where I was heading, was full?! I needed to get there.
At the gate to the Coulter Bay Campground, the young woman suggested that we hurry, as it was starting to rain. My campsite was next to the road but far enough into the campgrounds that I decided the traffic wouldn't bother me. As I started putting out the tent, a young man hurried over to assist. I quickly realized that I knew more about the tent than he did, but he was good at driving in the stakes. Tent up, sleeping bag inside, I got out my home-prepared chicken, potato and black bean salads and realized that the young man (boy?) was seated at my picnic table. "Since we are both alone, I thought we could talk," he said as I put out my food. He had eaten.. After I ate, I said I had to take a walk after being in the car all day. He knew a short way to Jackson Lake--and he was right. There it was with the Tetons mountain range on the other side--amazing and lovely!
We scrambled down to the "beach." "I thought you would want to walk along here," he said as I, in my old red sandals, felt my feet slip and slide among the rocks. The rocky beach stretched as far as I could see. I would learn that those rocks were millions of years old, and had been worn smooth by ages of water. I caught the rhythm, and we walked until a path in the near woods seemed more appealing, even came upon one couple willing to chat briefly. He was twenty, from North Carolina, and had come to the Tetons to see a girl who hadn't wanted to see him. I knew the language, like talking to one of my grandsons before he realized that what he had learned about something wasn't necessarily all there was to know.
Back at the campsite, I wondered how I would get to sleep so early, sat in my tent and meditated. I slept a bit fitfully, but I did sleep. Awakening early, I drove to the store, only to discover that the store opened at 8 am. I used a bath house in a camping area that was more remote, and wondered about moving there as I washed my hands and face in freezing cold water. It was too much trouble. I considered what I wanted to do, and decided to sign up for two more nights in my space.
At the lake, where the photo with the rocks was taken, I found a comfortable boulder, sat and meditated. There was no one around. Jackson Lake that morning was just for me.
I wanted a hike that was longer I told the ranger, one where I didn't have to drive far. We settled on Two Ocean and Emma Matilda Lakes trails. It wouldn't be crowded and was only a five-mile drive. She didn't say the last couple of miles were over a rocky unpaved road. Bear warnings were posted on the bulletin board and again at the beginning of the trail I chose. On the map, the trail appeared to be closer to the lake than it was, wandered through tall weeds and into the woods. Would this be fun, I wondered. Then I came into a meadow filled with yellow flowers and decided to walk on. I sang and hollered "Hello bear" like bear country trail behavior suggested. A man and his teen-aged daughter and son came along, and I fell in with them. "We're going on a three-mile hike," he told me. "No, it's more than six miles," I replied. He wasn't convinced. After we had likely gone most of three miles, he asked a couple that we met going in the opposite direction. They told him the trail around Two Ocean Lake was 6.8 miles. I helped the daughter with the names of the flowers she was photographing as we walked. On the other side of the lake, the trail went up and down, more interesting. Talking and not looking down, I tripped over a root on the trail and tumbled into the brush. My pride was hurt more than my body. The dark clouds weren't ripped by lightening or roaring with thunder, but sprinkled us with rain the last couple of miles. We wished each other well as we reached the parking lot. I had been glad for the company. On the way back I stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge, was met by a man with a tray of cookies, and found a bathroom with hot water to wash the scratches on my leg. Had the weather been sunny, I would have bought a drink and sat in the lobby, but it was raining. I wondered how much it had rained at Coulter Bay.
From Two Ocean trail
Saturday morning I got up the minute the tent became lighter. The Jenny Lake hike with the ranger to Inspiration Point was first come, first served with an 8:30 start time. I had been cautioned to get there early. Arriving to an almost empty large parking lot, I wondered. The store where I could get coffee was dark. The same with the Visitors' Center where I was to get my pass for the hike. They opened at 8 am. As I chatted with the staff at the boat dock, where I bought a ticket on the boat shuttle that allowed me to extend my hike along the Cascades Canyon trail to Cascades Falls, a bear jumped from the woods onto a rock in the stream, just long enough for us to see him.
Our young, attractive red-headed woman ranger guide, a Tulsa native, had obtained her Master's from Missouri State University, my alma mater. After learning much geology, viewing Hidden Falls, and six of the ten of us arriving at Inspiration Point, I left the group to hike along the Cascades Canyon trail, not particularly thrilled by the news that it was relatively flat. It was pretty, but the next three miles walking along the Cascade River seemed long. I would have to go past the falls and head for Lake Solitude, the two summer rangers encouraged. I would find wonderful views of the "dome" after about the first mile (2.7 to the lake from the Cascades). There would be enough people, and no bears had been sighted along that trail for a couple of days. (I had seen a moose and a moose calf near the river.)
The trail began in the woods, but headed up. That was encouraging. Looking back as I hiked, I began to see the mountains. Farther on, meadows with flowers spread before me and mountain peaks were beside and behind. Getting hungry, at the second stream crossing, I found a flat boulder, took off my boots, and pulled out my lunch. I was surrounded by the beauty I loved most--a bubbling stream, high peaks and flower-filled meadows. It was worth the trek. I didn't need to go farther. As a young man coming down the trail said, it was just a lake. "You have the best spot," he said. I remembered that it was another six or so miles back to the boat launch.
Cascade Canyon is between the front mountains
Before heading back to my tent, I drove to Jenny Lake Lodge and was rewarded with a place out of the past. It looked exactly as I remembered--the lodge and the cabins! We had visited a friend who worked in the dining room there a couple of times when we hiked and climbed in the Tetons all those years before.
The next morning, I packed up and headed for Yellowstone. That's another post.