Lava Creek, Teton Wilderness - October 6, 2017

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I've been taking advantage, weather permitting, of the Columbus Day weekend for a number of years to head up to the Teton Wilderness and get some October backpacking in. These trips tend to be the last of my backpacking for the year, so I always look forward to a short trip before the snow flies.

On Friday, October 6th, we drove up from Salt Lake and arrived at the trailhead around 2:30 in the afternoon. The temp at the trailhead was 46 degrees according to my Subaru. I had some inklings about hiking in with my kilt but wised up and thought better of it.

At the trailhead, there was a group of four hunters who were unloading there horses and one mule (yay) and getting them ready for their ride into the wilderness. An older gentleman leading the outfit came over to us and asked us where we were heading and we told him that we planned on hiking into Lava Creek, setting up camp and then doing a day hike to Moss Lake on Saturday. He responded with, "Do you have bear spray?" which, of course , we did. He then proceeded to tell us of a large boar at the top of the ridge that was searching for gut piles and of a sow and her cub of the year that was using the Lava Creek Trail regularly. Above and beyond those bears, he said that he had seen two other grizzlies along Lava Creek itself. I was fortunate enough to seen grizzly bears on my last three hikes into the Teton wilderness, so it sounded like there might be an excellent opportunity to make it four years in a row. Well, we said goodbye to the hunters and made our way across the road to the trailhead to begin our trip.

The first part of the hike is fairly steep and we quickly notice the sloppy condition of the trail. Along our way, the hunters eventually passed us going up the hill, where in a short distance, they will stop to rearrange the packs on one of the horses, whereby we pass them, only to have them pass us again on the way down to Lava Creek. Along the trail, the aspen are changing color and there is a bit of snow on the uphill side of the ridge. Once crossing over the ridge and on our way down the north side the snow became much deeper. Needless to say, we don't see the boar on the ridge.

We made our way down the north side with a lot of mud to contend with, but eventually we made it to Lava Creek where we crossed, and then made our way up a side stream to find a camp site. Though it was only 4.3 miles in to our camp, it took us nearly three hours to get there due to the muddy conditions.

When we arrived at out campsite, we set up our tents, hung our food bags, then set off to make dinner before it got dark. We could see the first stars by 7:07 pm and we hung around the campfire and watched the moon rise above the trees before turning in for the night.

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Map of our route into our campsite.

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Hard to believe that I could find someone to join me!

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Yours truly

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Information sign at the trailhead

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A little ways up the hill, we had a good view of Buffalo Fork and surroundings

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View straight ahead on the trail - not a whole lot of snow

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A mule! Sorry, I like mules so I must include a few pictures. :) @Bob, I think the mule has the same expression as the Scat!

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The question here is: Who is the horse's ass?

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Passing into the Teton Wilderness

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Now it looks to me like there is plenty of room on the mule's back for my pack, but the hunters were not very receptive to my idea. :(

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Getting tired of the mule shots yet? This was typical for the trail conditions across the ridge and down the north side towards Lava Creek. Slow going!

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More trailside scenery along the ridge. The snow is beginning to get a little deeper at this point

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Grizzly cub track taken on the way down to Lava Creek

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Our first sighting of Lava Creek

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Backpacking up the side stream looking for a place to set up camp.

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Our camp in the late afternoon


Day two started out with a chilly 15 degrees and would include a planned day hike up Lava Creek and on to Moss Lake.

The sun didn't begin to hit our tents until 8:20 and it was hard for me to leave my warm sleeping bag. I eventually got the nerve to get up and get some breakfast before heading out. We eventually started our hike to Moss Lake a little after ten and we set up a turn around time so that we would not be hiking back in the dark.

We quickly found the Lava Creek Trail again and headed northeast towards the junction with the Moss Lake Trail.
Soon we passed the hunters camp and could see the horses grazing nearby. Not too much later, we began hiking through meadows full of willows. At one point, we ran into a pond with Canadian Geese and ducks. The ducks all flew off but the geese remained for us to observe. By this time, the trail was completely full of bear tracks going both ways.

As we gained elevation, obviously we started to encounter more snow along the way. Before reaching an old post that served to mark the intersection with the Moss Lake Trail, we ran into wolf tracks that I believed belonged to a pack. There were multiple sized prints and it looked to me that there were five or six wolves on the move. I'm not sure if this constitutes a pack or not. I needed @Artemus to straighten it all out for me.

We eventually made it to the junction and began heading north towards Moss Lake. No one had been on this trail since it had snowed, except for a lone elk for stretches. As we made our way up the drainage, we began to see many
deer that would stop and look at us before taking off. Of course, the snow was getting deeper as we climbed and when we reached the saddle there was 8-10 inches. As we started to head down the north side, the snow was over twelve inches deep. About a quarter mile down the hill, I realized that we were approaching our turn around time. We had eighteen minutes left and were still one and a quarter mile away from Moss Lake. I new we wouldn't be able to make it all the way to the lake so we turned around at that point and made our way back up to the saddle, then we hiked up the hillside to find a dry spot to eat out lunch. Once again, I didn't reach my goal due to my general slowness, a sloppy trail, and breaking the trail through the snow. Or as I call it 'Old Man's Disease." Maybe if I had worn my kilt I could have made up some time? Hmmmm. :)

After lunch, we made our way back to camp. I stopped along the way to take lots of shots of the willow thickets since the sun was now at a good angle and I like willows. We had found a thermos by the trail on the way up and we stopped by the hunters camp to give it to them before returning to our camp.

Once back to camp, we went to eat dinner and to our surprise, we had had a visitor during the day: a fresh set of grizzly tracks stopped to investigate our fire ring. Well, that got us pumped up a bit as we ate dinner. The wind had really picked up by this time making our fire absolutely useless so we turned in early for the night.

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Day 2 day hike

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View of Grand Teton from camp

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View of Mount Moran from camp

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Chilly morning.

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Bomber cap time

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Wolf track prints right below the embankment were our tents were pitched.

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Gravel Mountain

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Hunters' camp


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Nice colors along the Lava Creek Trail

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Looking down the drainage at Grand Teton with somebody mucking up an otherwise gorgeous view.

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Starting to see more snow in the meadow

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Canadian Geese

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Looking back the way we had come

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From the pack of wolves heading in the same direction as we are.

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Quick break for an energy bar.

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The post marks the junction of the Lava Creek Trail and the Moss Lake Trail

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One of the 26 deer we saw on this trip

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Two more deer

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Typical conditions of the Moss Lake Trail

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Approaching the saddle

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Lunchtime!

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Heading back to camp

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Small frozen ponds along the trail

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Grizzly cub print

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The grizzly cub is meandering back and forth across the trail while the sow is religiously in the trail. The cub must have a lot of energy to expend.

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Love the maroon color of the ground cover - anyone know what this is?

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View from the trail

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Willows

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More willows

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And even more

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A horse at the hunters' camp

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Tree near our campsite

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Grizzly tracks at our fire pit

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Sunset on Lava Creek


On Sunday morning we awoke to some spitting ice pellets which wasn't too bad but after thirty minutes or so, dark clouds rolled up Lava Creek and we had a pretty good snow storm on our hands. We broke down our tents and packed our packs and headed back to the trailhead. Once back at the car, we drove to Signal Mountain Lodge for some food and drink.

On our way back to Salt Lake, we stopped in Alpine, WY at Melvin's Brewery and to my surprise they had a beer named "Hubert". I'm going to pretend they named it after the Scatman. :D

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Woo Doggie! :cold:

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Peaceful on the way out.

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Some aspen holding on

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View of the Snake River Canyon from Melvin's Brewery with a storm brewing (no pun intended) - Home of the Hubert Beer.
 
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Jackson

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#3
YES.

Wow, I'm sad I wasn't able to go on this one. And it's too bad you got so close to Moss Lake. Regardless, it looks like a great time. I love that third-to-last shot. What an awesome time to be backpacking out there.
 
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#4
Awesome trip report, especially the cool wolf and grizzly tracks.
 
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Bob

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Thought you gave up backpscking
 
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YES.

Wow, I'm sad I wasn't able to go on this one. And it's too bad you got so close to Moss Lake. Regardless, it looks like a great time. I love that third-to-last shot. What an awesome time to be backpacking out there.
Not reaching Moss Lake just gives me a reason to go back. Hopefully you can join the group next year.
 
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Awesome trip report, especially the cool wolf and grizzly tracks.
Thanks Rockskipper. This year's trip and last year's up Pilgrim Creek both had an abundance of bear track. I don't recall seeing any wolf prints along Pilgrim Creek though.
 
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Thought you gave up backpscking
It's all about the knee brace Bob. I wore in and out but I din't wear it on the day hike.

You should join us on one of these Columbus Day trips.
 

Bob

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Maybe next year..... Still in construction mode
 
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The grizzly cub is meandering back and forth across the trail while the sow is religiously in the trail. The cub must have a lot of energy to expend.
If it anything like my kids, it was complaining about being tired about 5 minutes later :)

nice report, hard to believe there is that much snow already, I'm wearing flip-flops today in KY
 
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If it anything like my kids, it was complaining about being tired about 5 minutes later :)

nice report, hard to believe there is that much snow already, I'm wearing flip-flops today in KY
It's the most snow I've encountered on my trips over the Columbus Day weekend thus far. I have cancelled trips in years past when the forecast had stormy weather for the whole weekend. I don't mind the snow, I just don't want to be relegated to my tent for a majority of the time .
 

WasatchWill

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#14
Frosty! Good stuff!
 

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