The Teton High Route

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Like I said last post, a fellow thru-hiker told me about an unofficial alternate route for the CDT that goes through the Tetons. Cool! The Tetons have been on my bucket list for a few years. I’m so close. Might as well do the Tetons while I’m here!

It’s possible to walk from the CDT to the Tetons, but that involves a lot of tedious road walks. Thus, I decided to hitch the 80 miles off-route from Pinedale to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Living the Dream

I got a hitch to Jackson from a kid named Nick. Nick is living the dream. In the winter, he works as a cook at a ski resort on the East Coast. In the summer, he lives out of his Toyota Prius, traveling the country wherever his heart desires, hiking and backpacking along the way. That’s why he had a soft spot for me when he saw me on the side of road with a huge pack on my back and my thumb out.

I had hoped to stay in the hostel in Jackson, but it was booked. Everywhere else is crazy expensive. Luckily, I found an available bunk at the Climbers Ranch Hostel inside Grand Teton National Park. Nick got me there right before they closed. He decided to stealth camp in his car down the road. I thanked him and headed to my bunk.

The next morning, I borrowed a bicycle from the hostel and biked six miles to a ranger station to get my backcountry permits. Guess who I see there? Nick, of course! He was getting information about climbing Grand Teton, the tallest peak in the park. It’s technically possible to do solo, but the ranger strongly recommended having a partner and using rope.

We both worked out our separate plans, chatted for a bit, then said goodbye again.

Death Canyon

My target that first night was Death Canyon Valley. The next day, I planned to ascend to Death Canyon Shelf, then into the Jedediah Smith Wilderness on the west side of the Tetons.

Like I said in my Porcupine World War post, the trails were lined with mushrooms, and I took many, many photos of these varied fungi. They ranged from tiny to enormous, far larger than anything I’m used to seeing in the parched environment of Texas. Unfortunately, I also missed a trail junction and went the wrong way for a bit—but that did give me the opportunity to take even more mushroom photos. Also unfortunately, Death Canyon Valley was the location of Porcupine World War II where that porcupine dragged his quills across my head if you remember that part of the war. I certainly won’t forget it.

Out of Battery!

There was nothing too eventful after Porcupine World War II. Rumors of bears on the trail in either direction from me. Rumors of a mother bear and her cub at a lake where I had planned to camp. I’ve actually been hoping to see some bears…from a distance, of course. But so far, I haven’t seen any bears on the CDT. Even on the entire AT, I only heard one bear while hiking at night and saw just a glimpse of another as it bolted over a ridge.

One thing that did happen is that I ran out of battery. Fortunately, I happened to impulse-buy a paper map of the Tetons at the ranger station. Thanks to my childhood in the Boy Scouts, I know how to read a topo map. If you don’t know how, it’s easy to learn and a great skill to have.

With my phone dying, my photos for the rest of the Tetons are very limited. But frankly, the views of the Tetons from the west side are limited anyway. That’s not to say the Jedediah Smith Wilderness isn’t beautiful, it just doesn’t have the grand views of the Tetons that you can get east of the range. Even so, I got a few photos and videos.

Back to Jackson hole

After I finished the Teton High Route, I was just five miles away from Yellowstone. However, I needed to get back to Jackson Hole to resupply. It was quite a long way and took me three hitches. The last hitch was a fellow photographer. He took me to the famous TA Moulton barn, touted as the most photographed barn in the world. Really made me wish I had my full camera setup and not just my crappy phone camera. Oh well.

Once back in Jackson, I got my resupply. My repair job of my trekking pole after the first Porcupine World War was starting to fail, so I headed to the hardware store in search of some E6000 adhesive. Along the way, I see this guy across the street staring at me with his arms out. WTF? I stare back…Oh wow! It’s Nick again!

I give him a big hug. We get caught up. He climbed Grand Teton without ropes. He’s been staying in town for free basically, camping in his car at a local park and getting free food from the local Whole Foods where they give away the day-old kitchen and bakery items. Resourceful guy. Cost me more to camp in the woods than for him to stay in the outrageously expensive Jackson Hole.

Bennett and Nick
Bennett and Nick.

I had planned to hitch to Yellowstone that day, but ended up staying around town longer than expected. Too late to hitch to Yellowstone, and the hostel in town was full. Nick came to my rescue again and drove me to that same hostel inside the park where I had managed to reserve the last available bunk. Thanks again, Nick! Keep living the dream!

The next day I was able to hitch to Yellowstone. Yellowstone has been on my bucket list since I was a little kid, specifically to see Old Faithful. The CDT literally passes in front of Old Faithful. More recently, I’ve been wanting to see the numerous hot springs, and maybe catch a dumb tourist trying to get a selfie with the wildlife.

Oh, the stories I have to tell about my trip there. But those will have to wait until my next post.

Truffula Trees

In the meantime, I wanted to announce that I found the nearly extinct truffula trees growing in the Tetons! (And if you don’t get that joke’s reference, are we really friends? That source was highly influential in my conservation values. Comment below if know the reference.)

Fungus Among Us

I wasn’t joking about the mushrooms. Here’s a small sampling of the hundreds of fungus photos that I took.

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