A Fall Foray into the Teton Wilderness

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Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
May 31, 2015
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1,749
October 11-14, 2019.

This may look familiar to you because @scatman already shared his awesome report from the trip. Here I am a few weeks later to tell just about the same story. We had watched the weather for weeks, hoping that we wouldn't get snowed out. I believe Hugh had actually been planning this route for a few years now. We were going to do it in 2018, but a good winter storm caused us to scrap the plans. Anyway, despite some snowfall in the days leading up to the trip, the weather forecast looked good (if a little chilly) and it was a go. This would be my second time in this wilderness area.

Woke up at 4:40 a.m. to get all my things together and get to Hugh's. We got breakfast at Sill's in Layton and were on our way as the sun was just coming up. We reached the trailhead after a brief lunch stop in Jackson.

There were some hunters camped at the trailhead with their horses, but they were the only people we'd see until we got back to the trailhead Monday. The told us a few times to be safe, and made sure to ascertain when we'd be coming back in case they needed to call in SAR. Very kind people.

We headed up the muddy, still partially frozen trail. Missed our turnoff by a little ways and backtracked to get back on the right path.

IMG_20191011_132305.jpg


IMG_20191011_140704.jpg


IMG_20191011_142345.jpg

Pacific Creek looking nice.

IMG_20191011_150348.jpg

Back on the right path. Didn't look like anyone had been through in a while.


We worked our way out of the woods into a series of grassy meadows. There was plenty of evidence of bear activity.

IMG_20191011_152207.jpg


IMG_20191011_155241.jpg

Likely where a grizzly had dug for roots.

IMG_20191011_161724.jpg

Nice views deeper into the wilderness.

IMG_20191011_162234.jpg

More evidence of grizzlies digging for lunch.

IMG_20191011_163557.jpg


We dropped down to Whetstone Creek and were faced with a ford. The gaiters+waterproof boots combo proved to be a great solution.

IMG_20191011_164655.jpg

Sizing up the crossing.

IMG_20191011_173935.jpg

We got to a nice spot and set up camp before it got dark and cold.

IMG_20191011_185920.jpg

Despite the lack of clouds to accentuate it, the sunset was nice and made for a very wintry scene.


It got good and cold that night. Also due to the shortening days, we spent about 13 hours in our tents each night.

The next morning was a hike up the east fork of Whetstone Creek. We had originally intended to do a loop of the east and west forks of the creek in one day, but our explorations proved that that would have been a tall order given the amount of daylight and our ability to find the trail along the lower part of the east fork.


IMG_20191012_104406.jpg

The creek had a thick layer of slush on top from the cold night.

As alluded to above, we had some trouble finding the trail. We found remnants of the old trail through the area, but we later learned that it had been re-routed (not indicated on maps) up on the bench above the creek. We got to thrash through plenty of willows.

IMG_20191012_110744.jpg

Looking down at the bushwhack ahead.

IMG_20191012_115525.jpg

Climbing up to the proper trail. This is looking back toward the lower bits of the creek.

IMG_20191012_120915.jpg

Up on the bench. Pleasant walking. We followed a grizzly's tracks for quite a while up this trail.

IMG_20191012_121559.jpg

A big meadow full of orange willow.

We got a good ways up the trail and decided to turn around so we could have plenty of daylight at camp and attempt to make a fire (we had failed the night before). We learned about our mistake in taking the wrong trail in the morning and it was a pretty simple walk back.

We didn't get a fire started the second night either. The wood just wasn't drying out quickly up there with the fairly recent snow, cool temperatures, and hard freeze every night.

Our boots were frozen solid in the morning.

IMG_20191013_085502.jpg


I whacked my boots repeatedly with a rock to break up the ice and get them to be more flexible. It kind of worked.

Today was a walk up the west fork of Whetstone Creek.

IMG_20191013_103135.jpg

Came across these smaller tracks in the snow just a little ways outside of camp.

IMG_20191013_105824.jpg

We walked through lots of burn. It was interesting seeing that some stands of trees survived the fire and others didn't. Also that the burned areas didn't really have much new growth despite looking like they burned a long time ago. I've tried to figure out when this area burned, and my best guess is that we were in the southernmost reaches of the Huck Fire, which was part of the Yellowstone fires of 1988. Happy to be corrected on that.

IMG_20191013_113031.jpg


IMG_20191013_114922.jpg

Interesting pond along the way.

IMG_20191013_124621.jpg

Getting close to the very top of the drainage.

IMG_20191013_130749.jpg

Views at the top were great. We could see way into the park. We're pretty sure we could even see Yellowstone Lake far out there in the distance.

IMG_20191013_134422.jpg

Looking back down the west fork drainage out into the Teton Wilderness.

IMG_20191013_155027.jpg

It was very warm in our tents when we got back, thanks to the strong sunlight. I tried to dry out my boots and my socks. Not successful. I always forget how much sweat can build up inside of waterproof boots.

IMG_20191013_171959.jpg

Finally got the fire going on the last night. We managed to stay up a little later than usual since we had it to keep us a tad warmer.

We got up and headed out the next morning.

IMG_20191014_101329.jpg

Proof that I was actually there.

IMG_20191014_104717.jpg

We came across some bear tracks that weren't there on our way in. These were frozen into the ground.

We got back up to the meadowy spots on the lower parts of Whetstone Mountain. As I was busy staring at the ground looking for more bear tracks, my thoughts were interrupted as Hugh said "grizzly." Good thing he was looking because I would've walked right by just staring at the ground. We had come across a grizzly maybe 50 yards away. My first time seeing one not from the roadside in Yellowstone or in captivity. I'm not sure that he had noticed us right away, but as we stood there, we watched as he caught our scent and looked up. He found us quickly, watched us for a second, got up on his hind legs for a better look, and went back to grazing. He did that a few times, and then took off running away from us. Such an amazing and awe-inspiring experience. I don't know that I've ever felt that vulnerable while out in the woods. You can never be certain how they're going to act, but that was probably just about the best encounter I could have hoped for.

IMG_20191014_105557.jpg

One of the crappy shots I got of it a bit before he started paying attention to us.

The rest of the hike out went well. The trail was fortunately still frozen in a lot of muddy spots, so that saved us a lot of grief. The hunters we had met on the way in were packing up and heading out when we got back. We had a nice chat with them. They had talked to some other hunters who had seen 5 grizzly bears during the few nights they were in the wilderness. What a wild place.
 
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Titans

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Great TR, super cool bear tracks. Glad you and @scatman got to see a Grizzly so close by.
Yah, the nights are long in the tent. Do you stay awake till your ‘normal’ bed time? I pass out early and then wake up super early. How cold did it get early morning?
 

Jackson

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Joined
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Great TR, super cool bear tracks. Glad you and @scatman got to see a Grizzly so close by.
Yah, the nights are long in the tent. Do you stay awake till your ‘normal’ bed time? I pass out early and then wake up super early. How cold did it get early morning?
I usually try to keep myself awake until about 9 or so at the earliest. I generally sleep poorly when camping, so it ends up working out ok because 13 hours in a tent ends up being 6 or 7 hours of sleep, tops. Haha. The only hard part is that it's nearly a guarantee that, spending that long in a tent, I'll have to get up for a bathroom break at least once before it's actually time to get up.

The coldest I believe was something like 12-14 degrees. That was the first night/morning. The next two nights were high teens, I think. @scatman was the guy with the thermometer so he could tell you for sure.
 

scatman

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Who's that scruffy guy you're backpacking with (not the bear)? He looks like he could use a shower and a shave - not to mention someone needs to jerk a knot in his tail for not realizing we had passed the Whetstone Creek Trail! :p It was a great trip Jackson, and thanks for taking the time to post your shots. I think my toes are still cold from the trip. I need to sit down one of these days and figure out where to go in the wilderness next October. I sure would like to see Moss Lake one of these years. :)
 

Titans

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The first night it got down to 14, the second night 18, and the third night 21.
that’s pretty chilly @scatman . I’m interested to hear what combo of clothing, sleeping bag and pad you both use to stay warm in those temperatures? (Or maybe you were not really that warm, if @scatman ’s toes are still frozen :) ).
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
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Messages
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I need to sit down one of these days and figure out where to go in the wilderness next October. I sure would like to see Moss Lake one of these years. :)
Keep the Lee Metcalf/Madison Range on the radar too!

And thanks for having me along. Best Columbus Day weekend I've had!
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
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Messages
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that’s pretty chilly @scatman . I’m interested to hear what combo of clothing, sleeping bag and pad you both use to stay warm in those temperatures? (Or maybe you were not really that warm, if @scatman ’s toes are still frozen :) ).
For the coldest night, I slept in my 15° bag (which probably has a higher effective temperature rating at this point due to age and use) with a fleece liner inside. Pad was a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra. Can't remember its R-value. I wasn't cold using it though, even at 14 degrees. And then I wore Under Armour tights with Adidas warmup pants over them, a Merino wool long sleeved top with a down jacket over it, some wool socks, and a beanie. Nice and warm for most of it. Toward the end of the 14 degrees night, the toastiness started to wear off, but I was never uncomfortable.
 

Titans

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Joined
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Messages
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For the coldest night, I slept in my 15° bag (which probably has a higher effective temperature rating at this point due to age and use) with a fleece liner inside. Pad was a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra. Can't remember its R-value. I wasn't cold using it though, even at 14 degrees. And then I wore Under Armour tights with Adidas warmup pants over them, a Merino wool long sleeved top with a down jacket over it, some wool socks, and a beanie. Nice and warm for most of it. Toward the end of the 14 degrees night, the toastiness started to wear off, but I was never uncomfortable.
thanks @Jackson ! Rick is warm in just a t-shirt with our new set-up (Marmot Trestles 0, Thermarest pad R=4.9 plus the silver Thermarest foam underneath) , but I got cool on my upper body even with several layers ( probably the wrong layers). My feet were warm every night in Merino socks. Based on what you mentioned, I should probably invest in a warm long sleeved merino base layer top. My Merino socks are way too warm now to hike in, but great at night, so maybe a warm merino top as base layer will do the trick at night too. Thank You.
 

Born to Hike

Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
90
October 11-14, 2019.

This may look familiar to you because @scatman already shared his awesome report from the trip. Here I am a few weeks later to tell just about the same story. We had watched the weather for weeks, hoping that we wouldn't get snowed out. I believe Hugh had actually been planning this route for a few years now. We were going to do it in 2018, but a good winter storm caused us to scrap the plans. Anyway, despite some snowfall in the days leading up to the trip, the weather forecast looked good (if a little chilly) and it was a go. This would be my second time in this wilderness area.

Woke up at 4:40 a.m. to get all my things together and get to Hugh's. We got breakfast at Sill's in Layton and were on our way as the sun was just coming up. We reached the trailhead after a brief lunch stop in Jackson.

There were some hunters camped at the trailhead with their horses, but they were the only people we'd see until we got back to the trailhead Monday. The told us a few times to be safe, and made sure to ascertain when we'd be coming back in case they needed to call in SAR. Very kind people.

We headed up the muddy, still partially frozen trail. Missed our turnoff by a little ways and backtracked to get back on the right path.

View attachment 84546

View attachment 84547

View attachment 84548
Pacific Creek looking nice.

View attachment 84549
Back on the right path. Didn't look like anyone had been through in a while.


We worked our way out of the woods into a series of grassy meadows. There was plenty of evidence of bear activity.

View attachment 84550

View attachment 84551
Likely where a grizzly had dug for roots.

View attachment 84552
Nice views deeper into the wilderness.

View attachment 84553
More evidence of grizzlies digging for lunch.

View attachment 84554

We dropped down to Whetstone Creek and were faced with a ford. The gaiters+waterproof boots combo proved to be a great solution.

View attachment 84555
Sizing up the crossing.

View attachment 84556
We got to a nice spot and set up camp before it got dark and cold.

View attachment 84557
Despite the lack of clouds to accentuate it, the sunset was nice and made for a very wintry scene.


It got good and cold that night. Also due to the shortening days, we spent about 13 hours in our tents each night.

The next morning was a hike up the east fork of Whetstone Creek. We had originally intended to do a loop of the east and west forks of the creek in one day, but our explorations proved that that would have been a tall order given the amount of daylight and our ability to find the trail along the lower part of the east fork.


View attachment 84558
The creek had a thick layer of slush on top from the cold night.

As alluded to above, we had some trouble finding the trail. We found remnants of the old trail through the area, but we later learned that it had been re-routed (not indicated on maps) up on the bench above the creek. We got to thrash through plenty of willows.

View attachment 84559
Looking down at the bushwhack ahead.

View attachment 84560
Climbing up to the proper trail. This is looking back toward the lower bits of the creek.

View attachment 84561
Up on the bench. Pleasant walking. We followed a grizzly's tracks for quite a while up this trail.

View attachment 84562
A big meadow full of orange willow.

We got a good ways up the trail and decided to turn around so we could have plenty of daylight at camp and attempt to make a fire (we had failed the night before). We learned about our mistake in taking the wrong trail in the morning and it was a pretty simple walk back.

We didn't get a fire started the second night either. The wood just wasn't drying out quickly up there with the fairly recent snow, cool temperatures, and hard freeze every night.

Our boots were frozen solid in the morning.

View attachment 84563

I whacked my boots repeatedly with a rock to break up the ice and get them to be more flexible. It kind of worked.

Today was a walk up the west fork of Whetstone Creek.

View attachment 84564
Came across these smaller tracks in the snow just a little ways outside of camp.

View attachment 84565
We walked through lots of burn. It was interesting seeing that some stands of trees survived the fire and others didn't. Also that the burned areas didn't really have much new growth despite looking like they burned a long time ago. I've tried to figure out when this area burned, and my best guess is that we were in the southernmost reaches of the Huck Fire, which was part of the Yellowstone fires of 1988. Happy to be corrected on that.

View attachment 84566

View attachment 84567
Interesting pond along the way.

View attachment 84568
Getting close to the very top of the drainage.

View attachment 84569
Views at the top were great. We could see way into the park. We're pretty sure we could even see Yellowstone Lake far out there in the distance.

View attachment 84570
Looking back down the west fork drainage out into the Teton Wilderness.

View attachment 84571
It was very warm in our tents when we got back, thanks to the strong sunlight. I tried to dry out my boots and my socks. Not successful. I always forget how much sweat can build up inside of waterproof boots.

View attachment 84572
Finally got the fire going on the last night. We managed to stay up a little later than usual since we had it to keep us a tad warmer.

We got up and headed out the next morning.

View attachment 84573
Proof that I was actually there.

View attachment 84574
We came across some bear tracks that weren't there on our way in. These were frozen into the ground.

We got back up to the meadowy spots on the lower parts of Whetstone Mountain. As I was busy staring at the ground looking for more bear tracks, my thoughts were interrupted as Hugh said "grizzly." Good thing he was looking because I would've walked right by just staring at the ground. We had come across a grizzly maybe 50 yards away. My first time seeing one not from the roadside in Yellowstone or in captivity. I'm not sure that he had noticed us right away, but as we stood there, we watched as he caught our scent and looked up. He found us quickly, watched us for a second, got up on his hind legs for a better look, and went back to grazing. He did that a few times, and then took off running away from us. Such an amazing and awe-inspiring experience. I don't know that I've ever felt that vulnerable while out in the woods. You can never be certain how they're going to act, but that was probably just about the best encounter I could have hoped for.

View attachment 84575
One of the crappy shots I got of it a bit before he started paying attention to us.

The rest of the hike out went well. The trail was fortunately still frozen in a lot of muddy spots, so that saved us a lot of grief. The hunters we had met on the way in were packing up and heading out when we got back. We had a nice chat with them. They had talked to some other hunters who had seen 5 grizzly bears during the few nights they were in the wilderness. What a wild place.
Sounds like a fun trip! Coming across a grizzly that close had to have been almighty awesome - and an adrenaline rush at the same time!
I struggle keeping my weight down with all the extras to keep warm hiking late in the season - did you happen to weigh your packs the 1st day in?
 

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Jackson

I like to go outside.
.
Joined
May 31, 2015
Messages
1,749
thanks @Jackson ! Rick is warm in just a t-shirt with our new set-up (Marmot Trestles 0, Thermarest pad R=4.9 plus the silver Thermarest foam underneath) , but I got cool on my upper body even with several layers ( probably the wrong layers). My feet were warm every night in Merino socks. Based on what you mentioned, I should probably invest in a warm long sleeved merino base layer top. My Merino socks are way too warm now to hike in, but great at night, so maybe a warm merino top as base layer will do the trick at night too. Thank You.
I'm pretty sure that the down jacket is what really did the trick for me. The wool shirt is comfortable to have as the bottom layer, and then the down just insulates so well. It's a lot of clothing to wear to sleep, but it's cheaper than buying a whole new bag! I will probably buy a new bag in the next year or two though.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
.
Joined
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Messages
1,749
Sounds like a fun trip! Coming across a grizzly that close had to have been almighty awesome - and an adrenaline rush at the same time!
I struggle keeping my weight down with all the extras to keep warm hiking late in the season - did you happen to weigh your packs the 1st day in?
Major adrenaline rush! A little unnerving not knowing his intentions when he's staring right at you.

Same here. Being warm at night is worth the heavy pack though. I didn't weigh mine, but I'd estimate it was around 35-40 pounds. I think Hugh's was closer to 45-50.
 

Miya

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Nice share, looks like a fun time!
I like the frozen bear tracks!
 

Born to Hike

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Messages
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Major adrenaline rush! A little unnerving not knowing his intentions when he's staring right at you.

Same here. Being warm at night is worth the heavy pack though. I didn't weigh mine, but I'd estimate it was around 35-40 pounds. I think Hugh's was closer to 45-50.
Wow 35-40 pounds is a good weight for 5-6 day trip in the summer for me!
 

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