Friday, July 26, 2013

Morsels of Mindful Living

Kneeling in the garden I pull back the Lavender with one gloved hand to pull the grasses and weeds around the base with the other gloved hand and I pause...

I feel ...

The pressure of my knees on the kneeling pad, just pressure no pain today;
The warmth of the sun on my back and soaking through my hat to my hair and scalp, as if the hat weren't even there;
The patient movement of my fingers as they work to pull the weeds slowly from the earth to obtain the most root possible.

I smell...

The warm earthy scent of the ground as I break it open;
The scents of the Lavender, Honeysuckle, Echinacea, Mint, Thyme, and Sage that surround me;
How these scents all intermingle and become more focused with the intensity of the sun.

I hear...

The bee's going about their work on the Lavender and Russian Sage.  They buzz all around my head, but we have an understanding that we are beneficial to each other and we allow each other to calmly go about our individual efforts.
The leaves of the trees and the tall grasses as the welcome breeze blows through on the top of our hill.

I follow my breath as I inhale the smells and the garden into my soul were it creates and grows it's own garden of flower memories that will last all winter until spring first blooms again.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Teton Crest Trail

Some are aware that Joe and I recently embarked on another backpacking trip.  This one slightly shorter than the past, Uinta Highline Trail, Wyoming Range Highline Trail, the length of the Wind River Range, or the John Muir Trail, but still 38 - 41 miles (depending on who's GPS you believe) is still worth a WooHoo!  So, here's a little info and a lot of pictures from the trip.

We completed the Teton Crest Trail in 4 full days and 3 nights.  This was another trail happily hiked with our great friends, Lorna and Marco. 

Day One
We hiked this trail from South to North we entered the Teton Crest Trail at Teton Pass.  These days many people take the tram up and start there, but no ... that is not acceptable to our men as it's not the official start.

Day one was a day of rolling green up hill climbs, expansive views and flowers, such as the below Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

We took a break around Phillips Pass late morning.

Marco took some really great pictures, like the one above and the next two and many throughout this post.  We are very grateful for his pictures as our camera went dead during the afternoon of day 3.  It's pretty much impossible not to look silly in these hiking hats, but one needs shade during long days of hiking in the sun.  Here's a picture of Joe and I after the break.

Here's Joe with quite the expanse behind him as we head down the other side of Phillips Pass into a new valley with Moose Creek at the bottom.

Day one we camped in the Middle Fork area.  Here you can see the favorite first activity when we are done hiking.  Lorna and I are pumping (filtering) all our water for dinner, the evening and morning coffee, while getting to soak our tired feet in the cool ... ok cold, water.  There were mosquitoes on this night, but it turned out to be the worst night of the trip - which means, surprisingly not too bad!

Day 2
Day two started out gray, but it's kind of nice to have some clouds to keep the sun at bay.  We actually broke camp and hiked a couple miles to Marion Lake to have our breakfast and coffee there.  It turns out I shouldn't hike a couple miles on an empty stomach - live and learn.

It cleared to a partly cloudy/partly blue sky day. 

On day two we saw the Grand for the first time and we began our experience with Marmots.  Our first view of the Grand Teton.

The beginning of the marmots.  After this we saw a lot of  marmots, especially at camp.  On night 2 we hung our packs in the trees to keep the marmots from chewing on them, but they still managed to chew the handle on Lorna's walking pole.

We also saw this grizzly print on day two.  Sorry we didn't put our foot next to it to show you how large it was, but trust me - it was large!  We saw sign of bear, but never an actual bear.

Our lunch spot on Day two was on the edge of the Death Canyon shelf. 

Just a little later we saw this beautiful view of Death Canyon.

On Day two we had a variety of trail types to walk over and through including snow and water. We would end up walking through quite a bit of snow by the end of the trail, which is tiring as it's a bit like walking in sand.

We had two river crossing on the afternoon of day two and Lorna and I like to take our boots off and wear our sandals across.  It keeps our boots dry and always feels so good on the tired feet!

I love my chacos for this and for changing into in camp.

Here, we hiked down toward our day 2 camping spot near Sunset Lake.

We enjoyed our camp spot seen below from the dinner rock.  It was amusing at first to watch the marmots, but we soon realized they were serious.  We finished dinner, hung all the packs, and as we were getting inside our tents rain started to fall.  We were treated to a real storm complete with thunder, lightening, and hail as we lay in our tents.

Day 3
Day 3 started out beautiful!  We packed up and climbed up and out of our basin toward Hurricane Pass.  We paused in our climb to take this picture back over the beautiful Alaska Basin that had been our home the night before.

The morning of Day 3 was exhilarating.  It was a good climb up to the pass, but the person who made that trail did a great job and we just kept climbing up and over.  Then we just all stared.

And took pictures and stared some more....

For this was it, the holy grail of hikers and climbers alike in the Tetons.  The Grand, Middle, and South Teton mountains all lined up for us.  To top it off, three in our party, Lorna, Marco and Joe, have summited Grand Teton.  It was really special for them to see the mountain from this side.  The Grand is the first one in the picture from the left.

The valley below the mountains was almost as impressive and we knew that was our next destination, so after a few more pictures we headed off.

Unfortunately, we didn't take the easy way down.  We missed the trail and ended up belaying down a bit. Joe belayed us all down and then from below a marmot showed us the trail so he backtracked and took the trail down. But turns out it was good practice for day 4! If you look closely in the next picture you'll see me on belay backing down.

The views and valley were as impressive as promised, full of flowers, views, and waterfalls.

In an interesting turn of events as we headed down South Fork of Cascade Canyon the clouds came in and we ended up hiking the last couple miles in rain.  I didn't mind the rain so much, and I was tired that afternoon so just kept hiking headed for our destination of North Fork Cascade, instead of stopping and waiting for the rain to break.  We got there in the rain, but it soon cleared and Joe and I were able to make camp without rain.  The view from camp, yet another view of the Grand, didn't suck.

That night the boys figured out a way to hang our packs from this rock, clear from the marmots.

Day 4
Everyone agreed to get up early on Day 4 as we had a long hike out.  The morning dawned clear and beautiful with the sun rising on the Grand, making it easy to get moving.

After we broke camp, we headed up to Lake Solitude for a brief stop.  We were at the lake by about 7:50 AM.  This is a striking lake.  In the following picture, the lake behind us is so clear you can barely tell the difference between the mountain and the reflection.

We hiked out on Day 4 and it was a full days hike out to String Lake.  Looking at the map you'd think, "can't be too bad, it's all down hill."  You'd be wrong, day four was complete with belaying, using the ice axe to cross long snow fields and then a long down.  The down hills are always harder on my body than the up hills.

In the next picture we are standing at the bottom of a very steep snow field after Paintbrush Divide.  We actually ended up belaying down first snow then rock in the upper right hand corner. The climb up to Paintbrush Divide and then the roping up took a good chunk of our morning.  We are standing here at 11:13 AM.

We then headed down Paintbrush Canyon and out, with increasing views of Leigh Lake, Jackson Lake, and the valley beyond.

At 1:35 PM we took our last break to pump some cold water and soak our feet one more time before heading out and not stopping again until String Lake.

We cooled off briefly at String Lake and then had to head to pick up the other car at Teton Pass.  Joe and I drove back to Missoula that evening, getting in around midnight. 

This was a beautiful, but hard trip.   I ended the trip with only one dead toenail, but my feet were sore for many days.   That said, I'm glad we did it.  To see Grand Teton for three days every time you look up is amazing, not to mention the views, flowers, birds and all other aspects of the trail.