Failing to Backpack in the Tetons

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Jan 4, 2014

Back in the spring, my friend Richard broached the idea of backpacking in the Tetons. I said I'd be down if I could get the time off. When the idea came to include summitting South Teton, I was more down. And voila it worked out that I could have a long weekend for the trip.

So off I went to the Tetons!Garnet Fail-1.jpg
I left a day early to make meeting the group easier (since the drive across not even half of Wyoming takes a minimum of 6 hours...) and I got to check out an area I heard had nice camping. Sure enough, it did. I highly recommend Shadow Mountain for some of the best free camping around.
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the next morning dawned gorgeously. I was shocked when I met up with the group and heard a snowstorm was forecast. I figured surely not.
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So we headed up the trail. Three years and almost exactly a month before this trip I had made the hike up to Garnet Canyon seeing no one. This day, it was like a backpacker train going up the trail. Twas ridiculous but reassuring. Why would all these people be going up if indeed a storm was coming?
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Well pretty much right as we hit Garnet Canyon the storm hit. It really wasn't bad, at first. After all, I was still taking pictures.
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Then it did get bad. Right as we hit the Meadows, where we were going to camp, the storm intensified. Thus proceeded the worst camp experience I've ever had. Gale force winds made setting up the tent impossible until Richard ran off and found a spot by a large rock (I think he was afraid of my swearing) and the drizzle had turned into a deluge of sleet. The spot we found worked, but was meant for a smaller tent so a lot of rocks had to be moved while the tent was sorta staked down. Due to gravely soil, two of the four stakes could actually sit well in the ground, the others were cussingly cairned out. Getting in the tent, it was wet. Taking off our rain gear, we found we were soaked through. Richard and I sat for an hour in the tent, wondering how the rest of the group was, wether we were the only ones thinking we should have not set up and whether we should leave. So when someone arrived outside our tent saying one of the group's tents flooded from an overflowing stream and another was leaking pretty bad, and that they would be headed down, we hopped up and broke everything down. In hindsight, we should have not set up in that crap, should have waited it out, or heck, not have headed out with our backpacks at all. It was nasty, and likely what all camping will be compared to from now on until something worse happens.

And curse the storm for breaking up as we left! (Don't worry, it came back and with a vengence, thunder and deluge at the trailhead.
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While everyone else bailed, Richard stuck around with me. After all, we both had time off, we wanted to use it! So we went back to Shadow Mountain, luckily found the same campsite I had the night before open, and settled in for a sub freezing night. Waking up, seeing our camp, and seeing the mountains, we were glad we left.
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So we spent the next day going up to Yellowstone. The weather was wishy washy all day, further validating our choice to leave. We even did one and a half hikes I had not done while I worked in the park.

First we hiked around West Thumb Geyser Basin, probably my favorite because it is next to the lake. The Absarokas were snow capped to the east.
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The first was the hike to Lone Star Geyser. We even lucked out and arrived shortly before it erupted.
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The half a hike that we did was the scenic overlook portion of the trail to Mystic Falls near Old Faithful. We of course conjoined it with Mystic, because Mystic is cool, so it made a good filler.
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As we drove back to the south the weather cleared out. The Tetons looked great from Jackson Lake and we couldn't help stopping at Signal Mountain Lodge for their epic nacho platter.
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The next day I bid fairwell to Richard and headed to YNP again, wanting to take the scenic route back to the Bighorns. As I rounded the lake I got nostalgic, and had to visit my old home and workplace: The Lake Hotel. It totally doesn't fit the park, but it was a darn nice place to base my summer out of.
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Then with more nostalgia flowing I had to make the short walk out to Storm Point. I probably hiked that trail 20 times while I worked at the Hotel, it was my relax spot and it still holds a special place in my heart.
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Then I drove through the Absarokas to Cody WY (a darn gorgeous drive in itself, really cool mountains out there) and then across the basin to Greybull and Worland (a darn horrible drive in itself, really desolate wastelands out there) and then over the Bighorns to home (I have mixed feelings on that part ;)

Overall, a great time off. Lessons learned and gorgeous country all of it.

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hey, looks like you got hit with the same storm that pegged me about 100 miles to the West/NWest. I was expecting rain and got sideways snow. I was kind of stuck there so threw up the tent quick and didn't even take time to dig my gloves out and my hands literally quit working while trying to secure the fly. I was in my bag at 3pm and had no need to get out until the next day. The storm lasted much of the night and some of the morning but cleared out by afternoon the next day and I didn't lose any body parts :)

Bummer, but sounds like you made the best of it and still got some hiking in.
Spent last week on the Lake Plateau in the Beartooth's and that same storm had us sitting for a day at Favonius Lake. It caught us right before Columbine Pass and as above, the fingers were not working too well getting the tent up.