Backpacking in The Tetons

The highlight of our Wyoming trip was heading out into the “backcountry” of the Tetons, which is VERY different from, say, the backcountry of Denali. In the Tetons, there are visible trails and all sorts of signs that provide such important information as how many miles it is to the next checkpoint (always too many), that you are entering a camping area (which usually prompts tears of relief), and even where the established campsites can be found.

After some careful planning  i.e., Bob flirting with one ranger in the Visitor Center while I diligently studied the map and did not flirt with the other one, we decided to hike up Cascade Canyon and down Paintbrush Canyon. It wasn’t a full circumnavigation of the peaks, which is what I would have liked to have done if we only had more time. Another day.

The whole hike was about 20 miles, and annoyingly energetic morning people enterprising hikers can do it all in one day. We decided to take our time and spend two nights out there. At first, I felt very guilty about this choice, like I was being lazy or something. I guess I somehow got the notion that backpacking is some sort of race and your daily mileage and elevation gain a sign of skill level. My mind has (thankfully) been changed: if you can take an extra day, take it, especially if you have any interest in photography. You’ll be grateful for the extra time to nap explore.

I was a little worried about the weather, as several days before had been overcast, and the Grand is apparently a shy peak that likes to hide behind the clouds. But the morning we headed out, we were greeted by the peaks in their full glory.


The Grand then put on some cloud pasties.


I was all like, “No one’s looking at you anyway, Grand! Our eyes are on the foliage!” (Foliage in the Tetons is sort of like a cocktail waitress to a stripper.) The Grand does not like to be one-upped, so it finally bared its bre– . . . soul.



Even the clouds put on an amazing show.



Our campsite the first night was near Lake Solitude.


I spent that evening trying to find a perfect spot for sunset photography, but once I did my camera died, so I had to run back to camp to get my other battery, which happened to be suspended in a bag up in a tree because, you know, bears, and then I couldn’t find my original spot so I had to scope out another one and all the time the sun was quickly setting and then when it started to get dark I realized I had no idea where Bob was and he wasn’t back at camp and I began to fear the worst because, you know, bears, but just as I was gearing up to go find his remains he showed up with a bunch of awesome sunset pictures that he had taken on his cellphone just enjoying the sunset.


And then it was bedtime.


We woke up raring to go.


After a slow climb to Paintbrush Divide, we descended down to Holly Lake, where we would spend our second night.



My favorite part about Holly Lake was this windblown tree that you can see on the left side of the picture below. Nope–that’s not a Photoshop distortion.


I think Cascade Canyon is far prettier than Paintbrush, but the view we found that evening


was even better in the morning.


During the last stretch of a backpack, I’m often unable to enjoy nature because all I’m thinking about is a shower and the big fat burger I’m going to eat as soon as is humanly possible and the tasty beverage that will wash it down. (Bonus points if you get that reference.) But the end of this hike was along String Lake, which was pretty impossible to ignore.


By the end of the day, the clouds had returned, so we really lucked out weather-wise.  But the clouds did make for an amazing sunrise the next morning, which I enjoyed with a lovely photographer from Mexico and her nephew whose expensive set-ups I eyed with envy.

As is often the case, though, I can’t decide if it looks better in color


or black and white.


The End?

9 thoughts on “Backpacking in The Tetons

  1. Ohhhh myyy!!! You were right! The Tetons are more beautiful than Yellowstone!
    They are so unbelievable gorgeous. Unreal. Incredible. Just wow! I know what I´ll be dreaming of this night;-) Camping in the Tetons!
    Absolutely stunning photos!

  2. I’ve never thought much about the Tetons, as if they don’t get the name recognition of other national parks. And dammit, based on your pictures the Tetons really don’t get the focus they deserve. Beautiful stuff, in black and white or color.

    And YOU get bonus points for cloud pasties. That needs to be in urban dictionary.

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