Where The Pucker Factor is High: The Tetons

As a very wise friend of mine told me, the dream is not going to live itself.  So my roommate Anthony, his girlfriend Brook, and myself made a last-minute decision on Monday night to go live it.  Seriously, I had off Tuesday and Wednesday so basically asked Anthony, “Hey do you want to go to Jackson?”  I did not expect him and Brook to say yes, but instantly his eyes lit up and we pulled the trigger on the trip.  It was 11:30 PM on Monday when we decided to go and we left at 4:00 AM on Tuesday.  I had to pack all of my gear and didn’t really get any sleep that night.

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So the trip begins.  Normally I would be a zombie at 4 AM in the morning with no sleep but my stoke meter was very high.  I had never been to Grand Teton National Park before.  Our route would be on 80 west from Park City, to 84 east to Provo UT, then 91 east to Logan UT, then 89 North all the way through Bear Lake Idaho into Jackson Wyoming.  If you are from Park City you need to make this route up to Jackson.  The entire drive goes through 5 national forests: Cache, Caribou, Targhee, Bridger and then finally Grand Teton.  Canyons, high altitude passes, and alpine lakes litter the route.  It is an awesome drive that really never gets monotonous and has plenty of amazing places to stop and snap a picture.

Anthony and Brook at Bear Lake

Me doing some drive by photosnapography.

Once we reached Bear Lake the sun was still really low and I was able to get some great shots.  The rest of the way Anthony drove my car and I took some pictures while we were driving.  Then I had the idea to try to get the shot above.  Sun coming up for some sweet flare, Bear Lake in the background, the road moving fast below us to capture the speed of the car, and then yours truly in the side view mirror for that oh-so-artsy look.  Anyways back to the trip to the Tetons.

Many people immediately think that Jackson Hole is the actual town in Wyoming close to the Tetons.  It really is just the name of the ski resort, and that is actually in Teton Village.  Jackson itself is just below Teton National Park and has quite the awesome mountain town vibe.  We only stopped in town briefly so Anthony could get wifi from a bagel shop to do some schoolwork.

Jackson, WY

After leaving Jackson we made our way to our mission.  Grand Teton National Park.  We quickly stopped in the visitor center in order to get our permit for a backcountry camping spot.  We were lucky enough to land one for Phelps Lake.

The Grand Teton.

Phelps Lake is at the base of Death Canyon and has the most stunningly beautiful views that I have ever seen.  I promise to you that these pictures do not do it justice.  Everyone must make sure to come here in their lifetime.  The hike from the trailhead is around 2.5 miles to our campsite.  It makes its way up to the Phelps Lake overlook, and then descends.  After backpacking in we set up our camp and took in the fruits of our hike in.  We were just a few yards away from a crystal clear alpine lake, the most rugged mountains in the lower 48, and some amazing wildlife.

Teton Coyote

Shortly after we set up camp, Anthony and Brook decided to explore and quickly Brook spotted a mother moose and her calf.  A little scary, since this is the exact situation where they may decide to defend themselves.  Luckily we were about 150 feet away, but I was able to snap a few decent shots of the mother.  We were all so stoked to see them!

The Mother Moose

We were able to make dinner and then filter some water for our day hike up Death Canyon in the morning.  Watching the sun go down over Phelps lake was one of the coolest things that I have ever seen.

Teton Sunset

Phelps Lake

I just wish that I could have had Logan there with me.  I know that she would have absolutely loved it.  After enjoying some great Teton brews we decided to get some sleep. This is when things got a little sketchy.   At about 10:30 I was woken up by the sound of brush breaking.  Crunch, crunch, crack, all around.  I could hear the grunts of a bear in our camp.  Needless to say I was rather startled by this since we made sure to prepare food away from camp and stored all food and scented items in a bear box.  I could hear it sniffing around and it was right behind my tent.  I made sure to just stay calm, but it was a weird feeling knowing how massive and powerful that animal is.  The pucker factor at that moment was super high.  Luckily we didn’t smell appetizing and it left after about 20 minutes.  Apparently this bear is fairly common in the Phelps Lake area and it hasn’t given anyone serious problems.  It was kind of an honor to have the visitor, but maybe not that close.  I wish I could have gotten a photo!

In the morning we made a quick day hike up Death Canyon but our trail was covered in snow and Anthony and Brook didn’t have trekking poles.  Not a deal breaker and we enjoyed lunch up in the canyon looking down to Phelps Lake before we made our way back to the car.  What an absolutely amazing trip on such short notice.  I have never been anywhere so awe-inspiring.  We made sure that we lived the dream, because it’s not going to live itself.


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