After a fun but exhausting few days in Denver for a travel blogging conference, Dustin and I hired a car and headed out of town. From Colorado to Wyoming we crossed, leaving our cares – and cell phone service – behind us in the dust.
The skies were huge and the roads were long as for two days we made our way westwards, beginning an eleven day Road Trip of Awesome that seemed to take in every scenic location on the way to Seattle.
First stop: Grand Teton National Park.
Arriving in Teton Village mid-afternoon and checking into the only affordable accommodation for miles around, we found a short hike to do for an hour or two in preparation for the real test the following day.
We were going to Cascade Canyon.
Recommended as a ‘moderate’ 10+ mile hike, we spotted a hot air balloon slowing rising into the sky nearby as we drove to the trailhead. I’ve long worked on the theory that if you are awake in time to see balloons taking off, you should go back to bed…
The boat ride across the lake was pretty, in a I-can’t-believe-this-costs-a-buck-a-minute kind of way, and we were soon striding uphill in the most strenuous part of the day, the climb up to Inspiration Point.
I’ve no idea why they call it that…..
It was the perfect day for hiking, the morning chill slowly replaced by warm sunshine as we walked into the canyon. The well-formed trail meandered through the trees, a burbling river our constant companion for several miles.
The scenery changed dramatically throughout the day, from lush forest to exposed cliff faces. The soft crunch of pine needles under our feet was replaced by exposed rock and swirls of dust for a while. Onwards we continued, the trail welcomingly level after the early elevation gain.
After five miles or so we hit the proverbial fork in the road, the path leading both north and south. We had been warned there was a high chance of snow no matter which way we went, and indeed had already walked over a couple of small patches a little further back down the trail.
North it was, for no particular reason except that it was apparently a little shorter that way. I don’t carry hiking boots with me these days, and my running shoes aren’t exactly designed for hard-core alpine trekking.
It wasn’t long before the predictions were proved correct. Initially the snow was hard and fairly easy to walk across, but as the trail opened up and we crossed large sunny areas, that all started to change. My walking pole was called on several times to help me avoid creating unplanned snow angels.
With wet feet and a disappearing trail, it was time to admit defeat. Not that it mattered – the joy was in the hike, not the final destination. Cheeky marmots skittered around nearby as we paused on a rocky ledge, the peace and quiet of this beautiful spot disturbed only by the greetings of the few other hikers who had made it this far.
Maybe the heat of the day had accelerated the snow melt, or perhaps it was just my imagination, but the roaring rivers and splashing waterfalls seemed much more impressive on the way back down. I had to stop every few minutes to take yet another photo of raging rapids or powerful falls.
Footsore and tired, we were nearing the end of the road when we came across a small cluster of other hikers looking off the trail. There had to be something worth seeing, we thought, and indeed there was.
I finally got to see my first moose.
Damn those things are big. I kept a respectful distance from my new friend Bullwinkle, but he seemed happy enough to quietly chew his cud amongst the trees as we clicked away.
And that was pretty much it. Somewhere around 13 miles, seven hours, two sore feet and one t-shirt tan later, we were back in the car and headed towards the hostel for a well-earned shower.
If this was an example of what a day in America’s national parks was going to be like, the next week and a half was going to be amazing…