Union Falls – Yellowstone National Park

Date: July 15, 2016
Miles: 16.2
Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft
Start Time: 8:23 am
Duration: 7:23 hours

Union Falls Hike
Union Falls Hike

We have had Union Falls on our list for three years now. In fact, last fall we slept in our car near the trailhead overnight only to bail on the plan after it rained all night. This is not a cold rainy day hike.

Continue reading “Union Falls – Yellowstone National Park”

Lake Solitude July 2016 – Grand Teton National Park

Date: July 13, 2016
Miles: 15.5
Elevation Gain: 3,200 ft
Start Time: 7:16 am
Duration: 8:11 hours

Lake Solitude Hike
Lake Solitude Hike

Hiking to Lake Solitude is very special to us. It was the first big hike we had done together soon after we got married. It was a significant hike for us this time because it would be a great test to see if we were going to be able to overcome the onslaught of physical ailments that have hit us this year. This is very important to us because in just less then a month we plan to hike the JMT and the hike to Lake Solitude is very similar to the average day on the JMT. Sandy injured her rotator cuff in a fall while jogging so she was sporting an arm sling and I had my feet taped up with strategically placed lamb’s wool to soften the blow on my feet from bilateral bunion surgery on both feet. We have a long list of other stuff wrong with us but I won’t get into it.

We caught the first boat shuttle ride across Jenny Lake which was great for many reasons: We got the best parking space, we hiked when it was cool, the shuttle only cost us $5 round trip versus $15 and we had very few people in front of us other than backpackers for most of the hike.

The first part of the hike we took the horse trail up to Cascade Canyon which allowed us to hike up a steeper trail laden with horse crap without having to deal with those pesky views that taking the Inspiration Point trail would have burdened us with.  Mainly it was shorter and there were no people in front of us to contend with.

Cascade Canyon
Cascade Canyon
Cascade Canyon
Cascade Canyon
Cascade Canyon
Cascade Canyon

After joining with the main trail that came up from Inspiration Point we soon entered Cascade Canyon. We’ve been here several times over the years and it never gets old. Cascade Canyon is bordered by huge mountains on each side. The trail goes west on a very easy trail for about three miles before reaching the junction to South and North Forks. Cascade Creek meanders through the middle of the canyon giving us a beautiful scene while providing perfect habitat for moose.

We were excited to see that we had been to all of the destinations on the trail junction sign.
We were excited to see that we had been to all of the destinations on the trail junction sign.

A little more than half way up the main canyon there are several cascades coming off the steep mountains around us which gives the canyon its name. We came across a cow moose about a half mile before the junction. Just as we get to the fork the trail becomes more steep and we cross the river over a beautiful bridge. After reaching the junction we generally go up the South Fork a few hundred yards to take in a small waterfall. We then turn back and head up the North Fork of Cascade Canyon.

Right Fork Cascade
Right Fork Cascade
Right Fork Cascade
Right Fork Cascade

It’s only about 2.5 miles from the junction to Lake Solitude but it seems longer because it is decidedly more uphill than the previous 3 miles. It starts in the trees for about a half mile and then opens up to spectacular vistas after that. Once we reached the open section of the canyon we were blown away with the incredible views. The other times we’ve been here it was either a high snow year where we hiked through avalanche debris, rainy and cold, smoky from wild fires or later in the season when most of the plants turned brown. On this day the visibility was limitless, the temperature was a perfect 55 degrees, there was no snow on the trail and the foliage was as green a lush as we have every seen.

North Fork Cascade
North Fork Cascade
North Fork Cascade
North Fork Cascade

Cascade Below Lake SolitudeAs we head further up the canyon we went through several open rocky areas with occasional forested sections where campsites were located. The more we climbed up the canyon the more stunning the views became, especially as we looked back towards Grand Teton. The rocky sections of the trail were bad enough but they built stairs into rocks which my feet didn’t appreciate very much. As we got closer to the lake the stairs became more constant and we knew we were close when with reached the bridge next to a beautiful cascade. From there it was a few hundred yards of stairs and we reached Lake Solitude.

As we scanned the area we realized that we were the only ones there. Sweet! We quickly walked over to a rock formation on the lake’s shore that is the real garden spot of Lake Solitude. Sandy claimed a rock and guarded our stuff from the marmots while I took pictures. I treated her to a bag of a variety of flavors of Dornan’s chocolate balls and she soon realized that she was in heaven.

Arriving at Lake Solitude
Arriving at Lake Solitude
Enjoying Garden Spot at Lake Solitude
Enjoying Garden Spot at Lake Solitude

Lake Solitude has never looked more stunning than it did this day. It was impossible to even take a mediocre photo of this scene. This is why we hike! (We use that phrase a lot)

Lake Solitude
Lake Solitude
Lake Solitude
Lake Solitude
Lake Solitude
Lake Solitude

We decided that we would take in the north shore of the lake. We passed a backpacker who walked up while we were sitting in the garden spot but he was still the only other person at the lake. After negotiating a large marshy section of ground we made our way over to the trail on the north shore. The lake seemed much bigger from this side. We walked up the hill to get a better view of the lake but as soon as we stepped off the trail we kicked up a swarm of small insects. After applying a liberal layer of Ben’s 100% deet we only occasionally encountered adventurous gnat’s attempting to penetrate our invisible deet force field by aiming for the ear hole.

North Shore of Lake Solitude
North Shore of Lake Solitude
North Shore of Lake Solitude
North Shore of Lake Solitude
North Shore of Lake Solitude
North Shore of Lake Solitude
Northwest Side of Cascade Lake
Northwest Side of Cascade Lake
Grand Teton from North Cascade
Grand Teton from North Cascade

After taking in the north shore we headed back around the lake. As came around the lake we noticed a few more groups of people arriving at the garden spot. Then as we began the descent down we ran into one wave of hikers after another. They all seemed quite impressed that this lady with a sling on her arm was already coming down while they were grinding it up the hardest part. We stopped to talk to a nice couple who we stood in line with at the boat ramp earlier in the morning. It seems they were there the same time we were two year ago but they turned around after reaching the avalanche area so it was nice to see they were going to make it this time.

Just before reaching the junction we ran into a bull moose just off the trail. I doubt anyone will believe me but Sandy knows that this moose was not only in the same area that we had seen a bull moose on our two previous hikes but he was standing exactly where the previous two stood. In fact, the last time we were here I took my hiking pole and slowly dropped it to point at the location we had seen the moose the year before only to have it land directly on another moose. I would have done it again this year except that some oncoming hikers told us he was there. This year was a little more interesting because as we were taking in the bull moose a cow moose and calf came down the hill behind him. We’ve never seen a cow moose with calf come anywhere near a bull moose before so we weren’t sure what would happen. As it turns out they just checked each other out and then moved on.

MooseDown the trail another mile we ran into another cow moose nursing a calf. Then we ran into another small bull near the bottom of Cascade Canyon which made this a seven moose hike. I’ve heard of seven moose hikes before but this was our first.

We decided to take the Inspiration Point trail down this time to see the improvements they had made over the past two years. We weren’t impressed. They made the narrow section where people used to cling to the wall for fear of heights into a wide safe staircase. Sucked all the fun out of it.

View from DornansWe were exhausted when we got to the boat but no body parts broke down. We did this hike without full packs but we are starting to feel more optimistic about the JMT now. Of course, we finished off the hike with our celebratory pizza and calzones at Dornan’s.

Here’s a YouTube video of our Hike:

Tram/Marion Lake/Granite Canyon – Teton NP

Date: July 12, 2014
Miles: 17.75
Elevation Gain: 2,700 ft
Start Time: 9:19 am
Duration: 7:36 hours

Teton Village Tram/Marion Lake/Granite Canyon Trail
Teton Village Tram/Marion Lake/Granite Canyon Trail

This hike actually begins on a tram that goes from Teton Village to the top of Rendezvous Peak. Unfortunately, the first tram doesn’t leave until 9 am so we aren’t able to get our jump on everybody else but as it turns out there was nobody in front of us on this hike.  There was a very good reason nobody else was in front of us because during the 2013/14 winter the Tetons got 150% of normal snowpack. Continue reading “Tram/Marion Lake/Granite Canyon – Teton NP”

Paintbrush Divide Loop – Teton NP

Date: September 5, 2014
Miles: 19.0
Elevation Gain: 4,500 ft
Start Time: 6:42 am
Duration: 10:13 hours

Paintbrush Divide Loop
Paintbrush Divide Loop
String Lake
String Lake

The trailhead for Paintbrush Canyon begins at String Lake. String Lake is actually a wide section of the river between Leigh Lake and Jenny Lake. We have begun early morning hikes at String Lake dozens of times over the years and it never disappoints.  Usually there is a mist that comes off of the water and it offers a great reflections of the Teton peaks behind it. Continue reading “Paintbrush Divide Loop – Teton NP”

Death Canyon to Hurricane Pass – Teton NP

Date: September 2-3, 2014
Miles: 36.8
Elevation Gain: 7,767 ft
Start Time: 9/2/14 9:01 am
Start Time: 9/3/14 8:09 pm

Death Canyon to Hurricane Pass
Death Canyon to Hurricane Pass

This was one of those four day, three night leisurely backpacking trips through the Tetons that evolved into an overnight mega-hike.  We got a permit to stay in Upper Death Canyon for day one and then Alaska Basin for night two and then back to Upper Death Canyon for night three.  It didn’t exactly play out that way. Continue reading “Death Canyon to Hurricane Pass – Teton NP”

Fairy Falls/Imperial Geyser – Yellowstone NP

Date: August 31, 2014
Miles: 6.94
Elevation Gain: 500 ft
Start Time: 9:34 am
Duration: 2:43 hours

Fairy Falls Trail
Fairy Falls Trail

This is our long time favorite hike in Yellowstone. I don’t remember the first time we hiked it but it was before Stephanie was born because we remember walking through the forest before the big wildfires of 1988 tore through the area. We have taken the kids on this hike more times than I can remember and I have hiked it with just Sandy even more times. It’s a flat trail and has excellent geyser action as well as a very tall waterfall. Continue reading “Fairy Falls/Imperial Geyser – Yellowstone NP”

Osprey Falls – Yellowstone NP

Date: August 30, 2014
Miles: 9.32
Elevation Gain: 2,080 ft
Start Time: 7:46 am
Duration: 4:10 hours

Osprey Falls Trail
Osprey Falls Trail

We had wanted to hike to Osprey Falls for several years but since it’s up in the northwest corner of Yellowstone and our condo week in July every year is down near Teton Village it has never been in the cards. This time we came up over the Labor Day weekend and spent the night in Gardner just so we could do this hike. Unfortunately, since it wasn’t the middle of summer is was a cold and rainy day. Continue reading “Osprey Falls – Yellowstone NP”

Island Lake – Wind River Mountains

Date: August 22, 2015
Miles: 10.8
Elevation Gain: 1,900 ft
Start Time: 7:13 am
Duration: 5:20 hours

WR-Island Lake
Island Lake Trail – Wind River Mountain Range

Sandy grew up in Lander, Wyoming which is nestled at the eastern side of the Wind River Mountain Range.  Although this was hiding in her backyard she was never into hiking as a child so this was the first time either of us ventured into the Wind Rivers.  We came to Lander to attend the wedding of the daughter of our very good friends Luanne and Rory but the wedding wasn’t until the afternoon so we saw this as a good opportunity get a hike in while we could. Continue reading “Island Lake – Wind River Mountains”