Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Teton Crest Trail

I'm excited by a prospect that was pointed out to me; that a government shutdown without the petty Obama in office might well mean that the offices of the national parks are closed but the gates left open.  This is just a long-shot what-if scenario right now, but if suddenly I find that I can go hike Grand Teton National Park without needing to get the hard-to-get permits because there's nobody there to disburse them or to check them either one, you can bet I'd bump my Maroon Bells plans in a jiffy and find a way to rearrange my schedule to go hike an extended Teton Crest Trail as quickly as possible.  Sometime in August would probably be ideal for a weather and conditions perspective, but my hiking companion this year already told me August is off for him, which is why I've been looking at September/October.

On the other hand, he works for the federal government too.  Maybe he'd suddenly free up, if his position is deemed "non-essential."

Here's my caltopo for the Teton Crest Trail (expanded) itinerary.  One thing that I've noticed is that my days are quite short.  They're sorta based on the traditional stopping points, so when I'm doing my northern extension, for example, I'm doing longer marches, because I'm finding my own spots.  Ideally, if the weather holds up and allows uninterrupted hiking days, I'll do something more like 7-11 miles a day, which means that Night #2 (Marion Lake) and Night #4 (Alaska Basin) might be skipped altogether, making this a 5 night (6 day) trip.  In other ways, that seems a real shame, and do I really want to rush my trip?  I dunno, but on the other hand, do I really want to do a 7 night 8 day trip?  That's fairly long.  I may not be able to get that much time off work, especially if I need four days of driving to get to and from the Tetons anyway.  Of course, if I'm not worried about permits, all of this is a bit of a moot point anyway, right?

I think, therefore, that my ideal itinerary would be to miss those two stops, and have the following rough outline.
  • Leave work early on Friday.  Drive as far as I can that night, and Saturday.  Get to Jackson Hole on Saturday night.
  • If I can find a very early church service on Sunday morning, I'll go to Sacrament meeting, otherwise, I'll just start hiking on Sunday morning at the trailhead noted.  Hike about 7½ miles to Moose Lake, where I spend the night.  
  • On Monday, hike another 7 to 7½ or so miles to somewhere in the middle of Death Canyon Shelf to spend the night again.
  • After another 6 miles or so on Tuesday, at Hurricane Pass, ditch the official Teton Crest Trail, and after a little less than 2 miles, make camp at the trail terminus for that trail that goes up to Table Mountain.  I've seen a Youtube video of a guy hiking this ridge, so I know it's not terribly difficult, even though there's no trail, and there's not much in the way of exposure.  Should be doable.  Could be a windy and dry campsite, which means getting water when I can, but hey—no mosquitoes that way, right?
  • On Wednesday, another 4-5 miles or so cross country will take me to the shadow of Little's Peak, overlooking Lake Solitude, and the official trail below.  I've seen the same guy camp up here, and this looks relatively easy and safe to hike, although with a fair bit of up and down.  This is kind of a short day miles-wise, but I might appreciate that given that it's a few days in and there's lots of up and down.  Might need to recover a bit before embarking on what is possibly the most challenging leg the next two days.
  • Thursday is a rather high, cross country day where I anticipate going about 8 miles or so, to the remote Lake 9610, unofficially called Ortenburger Lake.
  • Friday is the longest (but probably among the easiest) days; I log a good 12 miles, but after a quick jaunt downhill, it's all flat, and gets me back to the main Jenny Lake and visitor center area.
  • This gives me Saturday and Sunday both to get back home, so I manage to contain the entire trip with only taking a 5-day work-week off.  Although I'll probably be pretty beat on Monday morning.
Unresolved major issue: this is a point to point hike.  How do I get my car from the trailhead where I'm dropped off to the trailhead where I come back off the trail?  Will some of the commercial shuttle services be running?  Can I talk some relatives in Utah into driving a few hours to come move my car if not?  Can I hitchhike on Friday evening from the Jenny Lake area back to the trailhead, especially if the park is technically not open?  This is, admittedly, a pretty big deal.  I can probably get an Uber or Lyft driver from Jackson in a pinch, right?...

The Wigwams (left foreground) and the classic Tetons (center background) at sunset.
Also; bear canisters?  I mean, nobody will check if I have one, but nobody will be in the offices to give me one either.  I'll either have to buy one myself, or do without.  The latter isn't a great option, because bears are active all through this area, which is why regulations require them; these actually aren't dumb regulations (for once) these are regulations with a pretty good purpose.  I wonder if I could rent one from REI or something?

Anyway, the whole thing is probably a pipe dream, because the conditions that would need to exist to make it make sense for me to drop everything with relatively short notice and go hike the Teton Crest Trail permit-less are unlikely to actually happen.  And sadly, if it does, it'll probably be in September, when it's a moot point, because it's not that hard getting permits in September relatively speaking, and the weather is iffy for doing the hike then anyway.  But, a guy can dream, right?

UPDATE: Wow, an even bigger expanded Teton Crest Trail hike.  The real whole thing.  But he did it way too fast for my taste.  80 miles in four days?  Nah, in terrain like this, that's at least a full 7-day week.


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