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Month: February 2017

Grand Teton National Park in a Single Day

Grand Teton National Park in a Single Day

Despite your best plans, nature always wins. We had planned a trip departing from our Airbnb in Bozeman, Montana to Grand Teton National Park, then spending the night camping at the border of Grand Teton and Yellowstone, and exploring Yellowstone the following day. Well, Mother Nature had other plans. A forest fire evacuated our campground and we had to quickly adapt our plans. Luckily this was pretty easy, and we did a quick drive through of Grand Teton on our way from Salt Lake City to Bozeman.

Jackson Hole

First, I have to talk about Jackson Hole. What the actual heck. I was really excited to visit Jackson Hole, and we considered staying in an Airbnb there. To put it mildly, it was a disappointment. I’m not sure what I expected, but I couldn’t get over how flashy and obnoxious the main part of town was. I really think I’m more suited to dirty mountain towns like Moab rather than these sparkly mountain resorts (Breckenridge excluded, I love that place). So after a quick buzz through town I was ready to keep moving to get to Grand Teton National Park.


Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton seems to be weirdly overshadowed by Yellowstone, its neighbor to the north. But this park is really worth the trip south. Grand Teton National Park gives off more of a calm, quiet, yet still overwhelmingly impressive vibe than Yellowstone. Huge peaks like Grand Teton and serene glacial lakes like Jenny Lake are focal points of the park. There is so much to do and see in this park that you could easily spend many days or weeks here. We had about…half a day. Could we really see the park in a day? YES! And I’ll tell you how we did it below.


Jenny Lake

After a quick stop at the park Visitors Center we headed up to see the famous Jenny Lake. From the Jenny Lake Overlook we were able to take in the beautiful lake and look across to the dramatic Cascade Canyon. Teewinot Mountain, Grand Teton, Symmetry Spire, Mount St. John, Rockchuck Peak and other mountains rose quickly and sharply from the flat lake in the foreground. All covered in haze from the nearby forest fires.


Snake River (Oxbow Bend)

Our next stop was along the Snake River at Oxbow Bend. This river is powerful, complicated and over 1000 miles long. Created by volcanic and glacial activity, the river looks calm and inviting but can actually be quite fast moving and dangerous. Since this was only a day trip through the park we weren’t able to join a rafting tour, but we’d like to float down this river someday. Even though you’d only be moving a few feet from the river bank I imagine you get an entirely different perspective on this area from the water.


Schwabacher Road

Our last stop was by far the most exciting of the day. Schwabacher Road is a great place to visit for some mountain reflection pictures in the river. While yes, that was true and pretty, there was a much more exciting sight to see. A mama moose and two babies! As with all wild animals, you need to keep your distance. The same goes for moose, especially a mother with young moose. Between a mother and her calves is the most dangerous position you can be in and should always be avoided. Luckily there was plenty of room between us and this little moose family as they ate at the edge of the river. It was great to see other observers giving the moose plenty of space, too.

There was so much moose excitement I really didn’t pay much attention to getting a good picture of the mountains reflecting in the river. Maybe next time.


On To Bozeman

Despite our love of hiking, we weren’t able to do any in Grand Teton National Park. We were traveling with our two dogs who aren’t allowed on hiking trails in the park. However I would love to return to do some hiking in the future. After our half day auto adventure through the park we were off to our next stop, Bozeman, Montana!

Sunset on the road to Bozeman
Sunset on the road to Bozeman

Have you visited Jackson Hole, Wyoming or Grand Teton National Park? What did you see and do there? Any other recommendations for a single or multi day visit? Tell me about it in the comments!

Cecret Lake & Sugarloaf Peak, Alta, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge | Hike 32

Cecret Lake & Sugarloaf Peak, Alta, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge | Hike 32

The last hike of my time in Utah! 52 Hike Challenge Hike #32 was a big one – hiking in Alta first to Cecret Lake, then up towards Sugarloaf Peak. The most challenging of my entire year-long challenge and wish I could do it again!

Cecret Lake

Pronounced like “secret.” It’s not much of one. I had heard that this place was popular and even on a weekday this place was hoppin’. I still like my nature time quiet and with as few people as possible, but it is cool to see other people out enjoying the outdoors. The water looks inviting, but since it’s used for Salt Lake City drinking water supplied by snow melt, there is no swimming allowed. Bummer.


Sugarloaf Peak

Sugarloaf Mountain, in the Wasatch Range, tops out just over 11,000 feet and is the easiest way to bag a Utah 11’er. From Cecret Lake there are two trails up to this summit, a foot path and a service road. This mountain is the site of the Snowbird and Alta ski resorts in the winter.


The Cecret Lake Trail

Just getting to the trail head can be an adventure, as it requires traveling up a steep, unpaved road (that is doable in any regular vehicle). However, the trail head isn’t difficult to find. The well-marked road will lead you to a parking area for the Albion Basin campground. You pick up the Cecret Lake trail just next to this camping area.

The hike to Cecret Lake is considered easy, but steadily heading up. Flora and Fauna are everywhere along this hike. Along this section of trail I saw a few wildflowers, signs of moose (scat!) and a hoary marmot sunbathing on a giant rock. Tall, stately conifers surround the area and far off peaks provide even more scenery.

Even though I hit the trail early there were already quite a few folks at the popular lake. I found a rock to call my own and hung out for a bit, enjoying the nice weather and having a snack. After watching some salamanders swim for a bit I decided to head up toward the summit.


The Sugarloaf Peak Trail

While not considered especially difficult, Sugarloaf Peak did challenge me in one way. My lungs. At this point along the trail I’m huffing and puffing at around 10,000 feet and my lungs are burning. The trail becomes much steeper beyond Cecret Lake and the incline plus thinner air did a doozy on my respiratory system. However, I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of a lung-burning climb and enjoyed this one immensely.

I chose to hike up the service road since I was alone and it seemed less likely I’d get lost this way. Some sections of the gravel road were quite steep, creating a footing challenge on the sliding rock. I forgot hiking poles that day. Lesson learned.

Much of this hike travels under ski lifts. I find it oddly satisfying to walk up a mountain that many use a machine to climb. On this day, one of the lifts was running, perhaps for maintenance, and it was actually quite creepy. An empty lift with no operator in sight, varying speed out in the wilderness. It was like a lift for lazy ghosts.

I didn’t see many animals along this section of trail except a surprise encounter with another marmot and a few birds. As the trail steadily gained elevation, I could really only travel a couple dozen steps before having to take a rest. I didn’t see another hiker, just a noisy construction crew on the way up.

I reached the ski lift and took a selfie break. Unfortunately this also became my turn around point, as I realized my cell phone was rapidly losing power. Since I hadn’t seen any other hikers I didn’t want to scramble rocks at 11,000 feet with no way to call for help. So, sadly, I headed back down. Safety first, especially when hiking solo.


The Return

The return hike was uneventful, except for passing one other solo hiker heading up. He had the brains to bring poles and I was very jealous of his ability to keep his balance on shifting rock. I also felt better about my struggle up the peak, watching him stop about as often as I had. My phone died entirely about 5 minutes before reaching my car in the parking lot.

I would absolutely hike this trail again, hopefully hitting the summit with a fully charged phone and hiking buddy! Have you ever hiked this trail or another huge peak in Utah? Tell me about your favorite ‘high’ hike in the comments!


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