After getting the car jumped at Devil’s Tower in the morning, I backtracked to an auto parts shop and replaced the battery, then continued on through Wyoming (Devil’s Tower is at the extreme Northeast Corner of the state).
Wyoming is an interesting state. There’s extreme beauty at either border (Devil’s Tower/Black Hills, Grand Teton, Yellowstone), but the center is… desolate. This is an adjective I head from people who live in Wyoming! The center of the state is a square of dirt and dead scrub 200 miles on a side. At one point, I saw a forest fire and 5-6 fire trucks flew past. I don’t know how they were going to get water to put it out, though.
Powder River Pass, the pass through one mountain range in the Rockies
I spent the night near the western border of the state with some family friends, where I was stuffed with plenty of home-cooked food. They lived in a little tree-filled oasis on the outskirts of the nice border of the state.
Another view of the pass.
We went to a local state park after eating and saw huge lazy trout, and a fundraiser. It seems this state park had a mountain goat that would constantly ram cars (but never people). This goat was named Bam-Bam and was, as punishment, shipped to another state park, where he eventually died. The fundraiser was to get the goat shipped back, stuffed and put in the visitor center (“as an honor”).
The Tetons via Snake River.
The next morning, freshly showered, laundered, and filled with food, I headed to Grand Teton, possibly the most picturesque mountain range in America. From a distance it looks like a solid, serrated slab of granite, but many of the hikes are in the valleys between the mountains, so it’s not so monolithic as it appears.
My first priority was to get a campsite – since Teton lies directly next to Yellowstone, and is a major tourist destination. With that secured, at about 2pm, I decided to go on a hike.
The view up Cascade Canyon.
I chose Cascade Canyon, and it was probably the best hike I’ve ever been on. It was a straight out-and-back 13 miles, starting by skirting the picturesque Lake Jenny, and then ascending a few hundred feet to Inspiration Point, and finally hiking up the canyon next to Grand Teton itself.
The views from the canyon were absolutely stunning: huge snowcapped peaks, crystal-clear streams; the vegetation in the valley made me feel like I was in Alaska. There was an additional perk: two moose lounging on an island in the middle of the stream. When I got to the end of my hike, I didn’t want to stop – but it was getting late and I didn’t want to hike in the dark.
Two sleepy moose.
Emboldened by my 13 miles, I decided on something more ambitious for the following day: a 20 mile loop (Granite Canyon -> Open Canyon, if you’re curious). This proved overly aggressive: I followed the most scenic hike I’d been on with the most difficult. The hike started fine, and it was only after the initial 7 miles of moderate grade that it began to ascend steeply and soon I was in what could only be described as alpine meadows, which were filled with flowers.
The trail continued to ascend… and ascend. The problem wasn’t the steepness of the trail, but its altitude. Once I hit 8500 feet I began to feel altitude sickness. I’d never experienced something like it before: 10 minutes of hiking along a slight incline and my heart was beating, my legs felt like they could barely function. It was a peculiar sensation. The air didn’t feel thinner, and I didn’t feel that out of breath. Just… exhausted. Soon I was walking for 10 minutes and resting for 10 minutes. The sun was blazing, but at this altitude it was too cold to sweat.
The previous highest mountains I’d hiked were some of the high peaks in the Adirondacks, which were only 4-5 thousand feet. The pass between the two canyons here was 9710, so just a slight contrast.
The Mt Hunt Divide, above the snow line.
After I reached the pass, the Mt Hunt Divide, it was only 8 miles back to the start of the trail! In total, I estimated that I covered 20 miles, including 2 miles above 8500 feet. Oh, and on no food. It was rough.
The view from the divide.
I slept well that night, and the next day I relaxed, going kayaking for 2 hours and swimming in the park’s lake. The next stop was the adjacent park, Yellowstone.