Cascade Canyon  
  In my early backpacking days, when backpacking alone, I would keep a daily journal. This was my way of documenting where I was both physically and mentally. This is an excerpt from my backpacking journal which was written while I was backpacking Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for the first time in September of 1975.

My plan was to do two backpacking trips in Yellowstone and one in Grand Teton before returning to St. Louis. As I had never been to either park, I did not know what to expect. Yellowstone had nice backcountry but it also had a lot of touristy stuff. I assumed Grand Teton National Park also had a lot of touristy stuff as well.

I finished my first trip in Yellowstone a bit behind schedule and thought that I should head down into the northern part of Grand Teton National Park to do the “sight seeing” things. What followed was a life altering experience which was captured (to the best of my ability) in my journal.

  Friday: September 12, 1975  
  I was finished with the tourist bit (in Yellowstone) around noon, had a hot dog and Coors (with the new top) at Lake soda fountain and figured I’d head down to see the Northern portion of the Tetons as I would only have late Sunday to get to the southern Tetons after my 2nd Yellowstone backcountry excursion. And now comes the major decision: skip the 2nd trip in Yellowstone and head for the Tetons (then I would probably also have time to stop by and do some backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park).

Best decision I ever made in my life. The Tetons, Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake are so incredibly beautiful it’s hard to describe it. The mountains themselves (which make the area) are so much more young and rugged than Yellowstone. The area seemingly is a Mecca for climbing, trail riding and backpacking. Also from what I have seen so far, the tourists (far fewer than Yellowstone) stick pretty much by the resorts which are really nice… especially the one at Jackson Lake. It could almost be described as posh but this didn’t stop the bearded hippie from looking around the place. Out the window of the main living/lounge room is a view of the Teton Range with Jackson Lake in the foreground. Quite a sight.

Dinner - on the trail in the South Fork of Cascade Canyon

Had to put on my nightly ration of Cutter’s (insect repellent) before I got started. That is some good stuff.

My campsite is not too bad tonight… I’m within 25 feet of a small creek in a little clearing surrounded by trees. I’ve been walking along a meadow and Cascade Creek for about 5 miles. Many good campsites. Oh I forgot, right in front of my tent is the backside of the Grand Teton and behind my tent is Table Mountain (the Table Mountain reference does not make sense to me given my current knowledge of the area. There is only one thing I would define as closer to heaven than this.

The trail today started off at the South Jenny Lake Ranger Station, etc. (climbing school, campground and general store) a true Mecca for outdoor folks. I tried camping there last night but all 63 tent sites were full at 5 PM.

From there the trail (I was too cheap to take the ferry) followed Jenny Lake until coming to Cascade Canyon so named I would imagine since Cascade Creek literally cascades through the whole length of this canyon. The canyon is roughly 8400 feet in altitude. Seeing as though Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies is 6642 and is the highest point, this is some canyon. When climbing into the canyon from Jenny Lake, I came across two points worthy of note. One was Hidden Falls which is a three cascade falls of Cascade Creek. I would say each cascade is approximately 25-30 feet (I would guess more at this point). Very pretty. The other was Inspiration Point which overlooks all of Jenny Lake straight ahead and the Tetons to the right. It was inspiring.

The trail through the canyon has mountains on each side with Cascade Creek between you and the mountains on the left. It was a gradual climb most of the day and I did approximately 10.6 miles. I have about that to do tomorrow but considerably more climbing. Hurricane Pass (my first climb) is 10,372 feet alone. This will be a test of my knee. It has held up pretty well thus far.

As the sun sets, there are just about a half dozen wisps of clouds. Otherwise the sky is so blue. I wish I had someone young and blond (horny bastard to share this with me now. It’s nice to see things this beautiful but you want to share them with other people. This log seems so inadequate --- especially in the Tetons.

I camped by the Signal Mountain Lodge last night and had dinner and breakfast there. God were their portions huge (e.g., a double quarter pound hamburger with cheese plus fries and cole slaw. I almost couldn’t finish). Boy will I have a tough time getting back to my diet routine when I return after this trip.

As soon as that sun dips behind those mountains, it sure gets cool. I think I’ll go make some soup now.

I forgot to mention in describing the campsite (probably because I was away from it as I described it) but there are many, many beautiful yellow, purple and red mountain flowers. The yellow ones have a gold and red pistol area, the purple ones have a yellow (probably Showy Fleabane) and the red ones have green (probably Indian Paintbrush). I don’t know what any of them are called but I also notice some violets too.

  Saturday: September 13, 1975  

My original plan was to continue up the South Fork of Cascade Canyon and take Hurricane Pass into Alaska Basin and then Static Peak Divide down into Death Canyon. Death Canyon was closed to backpacking. I changed my plan and did a long day hike from my base campsite in the South Fork of Cascade Canyon.

Well I’m having my lunch (gorp) at Sunset Lake (9,608 feet) just inside Targhee National Forest adjacent to Grand Teton National Park. The Wall which is flat topped shear cliffs for about 100 feet from the top and rockslide down to the lake. It is not a large lake but it is extremely clear.

The trail up from my campsite to Hurricane Pass (10,372 feet) consisted of many switchbacks and some excellent views of many glaciers. The most impressive is the Schoolroom Glacier just at Hurricane Pass. Below it is a huge bowl into which the melted water from it flows. Very neat for someone who had never seen a glacier before this trip.

Looking backward from Hurricane Pass there was an outstanding (have you noticed, I’m starting to run out of descriptive adjectives) view of the Grand, Middle and South Tetons reading left to right. They looked so proud and majestic.

Well I’d best get going as it is onward to Static Peak Divide (10,800 feet) and that is 1,200 feet up from where I am right now.

  Sunday: September 14, 1975  
  I got back too late last night to record in the log. I hiked over 20 miles and was one pooped mother.

The trip was very rewarding (and tough). On the trip to Static Peak Divide, you pass through Targhee National Forest. It is not nearly as scenic as the Tetons (or very much for that matter). It could not be made into a resort, farm land or anything so why not make it a National Forest? It wasn’t all that bad but in comparison not much.

In the final 1.5 mile approach to Static Peak Divide, I had to cross over four glaciers as they went right across the trail. From the looks at the edges, I would say they ranged from 2 to 6 feet in depth. The trail itself at the end consisted entirely of switchbacks. Each looked down into a canyon about 2,000 feet below. Once at Static Peak Divide, the view was magnificent (hey, that’s one I don’t think I’ve used). To the south, you could see all the way to Jackson. To the east, the Snake River and the mountain range on the other side. To the west, back into the canyon and Targhee National Forest. To the southwest, one could see a mountain with three glaciers… one shaped like a giant footprint pointing downward. At the bottom of those glaciers was a lake carved into the side of the mountain. That was really neat from above.

Also they have planes that fly folks around through the Tetons on tours. I was sitting at the Divide higher than the planes. What a feeling of power.

The way back to my base camp was over previously covered trail but God was the trip up Hurricane Pass tough and long. By the time I got back to camp, I was tired but still had a tough time getting to sleep because of such an emotionally high day.

Coming back to South Jenny Lake Ranger Station today, I met many folks… quite a few who were out for day hikes. Some were really dressed fit for the kill (leisure suits, etc). I would like to have followed them to watch them crap out on the way to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Would have been fun to watch the Jackson Lodge crowd bite the dust. Oh well, life is too short, besides I had a burning desire to get back to Signal Mountain Lodge for another Mountain Man burger (so good again).

In recent years, when I see backpackers coming out, I tell them I am a mind reader and that they are thinking of a cheese burger and a beer. Most of them smile and agree.

Jumping ahead in my journal:

I could get the same feeling as a gal I ran into approaching Static Peak Divide. She said she has quit school twice over the Tetons and now cleans houses in Wilson. I can understand why someone would do that after experiencing this. That is something everyone should do in their life. I never thought I could be so moved by a mountain range, after all I’m a trees-and-water freak right? There are now serious doubts.