Whetstone Creek, Teton Wilderness - October 11-14, 2019

scatman

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Day 1 - Got up early on Friday, October 11th to drive up to the Pacific Creek Trailhead in the Teton Wilderness for a four-day backpacking trip up the Whetstone Creek Drainage. @Jackson had graciously decided to join me on this trip (a bout of temporary insanity I think) :) and we arrived at the trailhead around 1:30 in the afternoon to a balmy 29 degrees. There are three things about backpacking this time of year that you can count on in the Teton Wilderness: cool temperatures, elk hunters, and bear activity.

Our first day was a 4.5 mile (a bit more because we missed the turnoff for Whetstone Creek the first time. Ooops!) hike to our base camp on West Whetstone Creek. The trail was mostly frozen with some snow along the way. We were able to find a dry patch to set up our tents when we arrived at our campsite.

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Overview map of our trip

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A hunter was kind enough to take our picture at the trailhead. Notice the Rottweiler keeping us in line. :)

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Trailhead sign

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Within 100 feet of the trailhead

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Some of the aspen down low still had some yellow color left though most had already turned brown.

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Pacific Creek

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Trail junction that we missed and had to come back to. We were too busy checking out Grizzly and wolf Prints to pay attention to junctions signs. :)

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More snow as we head higher up the trail

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Breaking out into some meadows on the Whetstone Creek Trail

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First look at Whetstone Mountain

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A look down into the Pacific Creek Drainage

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Grizzly dig near the trail

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Jackson, fording Whetstone Creek, something that we had to do multiple times on our way to our campsite

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A dry patch for our tents located near the confluence of East Whetstone Creek and West Whetstone Creek

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West Whetstone Creek, looking towards Bobcat Ridge. This is the spot were we cooked and ate our meals.


Day 2 - A day hike up East Whetstone Creek. (9 miles round trip)

A cold 14 degrees when we woke up on day two and the sun did not shine on us until about 8:30 in the morning. We had originally planned on doing a loop hike from camp, starting up East Whetstone Creek and coming back down West Whetstone Creek. Unfortunately our Teton Wilderness Map, and our 7.5 minute maps only had the old trail up East Whetstone on them and not the new maintained trail up on the ridge. So essentially, we spent all morning bushwhacking through willows up East Whetstone Creek until eventually the two trails married up with one another. We set a two o'clock turn around time and decided if we weren't at least halfway through the loop that we would just turn around and head back the way we had hiked up. The trail up East Whetstone was covered in Grizzly tracks that headed both ways.

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East Whetstone Creek - on the old overgrown trail

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Still on the old trail, looking back down East Whetstone Creek at Whetstone Mountain

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Found the current, maintained trail at this point

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Large meadow of willows along East Whetstone Creek

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Looking up towards the headwaters of East Whetstone Creek with Big Game Ridge in the far distance.

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On our way back to camp. Looking down at the meadow where our tents are located.

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Dinner time on West Whetstone Creek. Jackson in the distance heading to our eating area.


Day 3 - A day hike up West Whetstone Creek (11 miles round trip)

Only 18 degrees this morning. :thumbsup: Since we didn't complete our loop on the previous day, we decide to hike up the trail that follows West Whetstone Creek (originally, we had planned to hike to Moss Lake). We hiked all the way to a saddle where we could look north, down into the Pilgrim and Coulter Creek Drainages and off into Yellowstone National Park.

My boots were so frozen when I got up that I had to take my shovel to loosen the boot strings, then pry the top of the boots apart with my hands so that I could get my feet inside them. Quite the task! I won't even talk about trying to get the gaitors on. :)

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Cold morning on West Whetstone

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Grizzly tracks on the edge of our meadow where our tents were located

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Whetstone Mountain

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Bobcat Ridge

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The trail up West Whetstone Drainage

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Some fall color hanging on

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Unnamed, frozen pond along our route.

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Jackson was kind enough to take a picture of my good side. :D

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The saddle that we are hiking to is just left of center of the image.

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Looking back down West Whetstone Creek towards Pacific Creek and into the heart of the Teton Wilderness

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Jackson, checking out the northern end of the Teton Wilderness and Mount Sheridan and Mount Hancock in Yellowstone National Park.

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Mount Sheridan and the Red Mountains, located in Yellowstone National Park

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Mount Hancock and Big Game Ridge, located in Yellowstone National Park

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Gravel Mountain to the south, located between Pacific Creek and Lava Creek

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On our way back to camp, looking down at the meadow where our tents are located.

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Victory! We finally got a fire started on evening number three.


Day 4 - Hiking back out to the Pacific Creek Trailhead.

A slow warm up on our trip as it was a toasty 21 degrees the morning of our hike out. During the night though, we were serenaded by coyotes twice, once at around midnight and a second time close to one o'clock. Both times, they yipped, yapped and howled for a long period of time. Pretty cool!

Even though we had been following bear track the entire trip, it wasn't until we were headed out that we ran into a bear along the trail. We stopped and watched it for a couple of minutes just being a bear, before it got wind of us and left the area. It was busy grazing and digging for grubs as it made its way down the hillside towards the trail when it stopped and started smelling the air. After taking a sniff of us it started standing to get a better look. It eventually figured out where we were and gave us a long hard look, standing a couple more times before moving on back up the hill.

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Grizzly tracks heading both ways

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More tracks along the frozen trail

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Grizzly above the trail

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Giving us a look

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Standing, before it dropped to all fours and wandered off.

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Another look at the south side of Whetstone Mountain

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Didn't miss the junction on our way out. :)

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Still frozen Pacific Creek Trail. Normally this trail is a muddy mess this time of year with all the horse traffic.

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Our ride home.

Once we left the trailhead, we didn't see another person until we got back to the trailhead. We had the whole Whetstone drainage to ourselves, other than the Grizzlies, Elk, Deer and Coyotes of course. A great short trip for sure. Hopefully Jackson will give us his perspective on the trip and share some photos that he took, and thanks Jackson for hanging out with the old man for a few days and congrats on your first Grizzly sighting in the backcountry. :thumbsup:
 
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No cold weather kilt? :devil: Fine report @scatman ... definitely an area I'd love to visit some day! Thanks for sharing ...
 
Thanks for the great trip report and photos! Loved It!! Nice Grizzly encounter you had. Yes winter is starting to set in up in the high country now. Scatman, it seems every year you have a trip somewhere in this country right at this time of year when winter is just starting to come into the country.
 
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It is crazy how early winter sets in up there, here in KY we have finally had fall show up with lows in the upper 30s. Your photos make me ready for winter and snow.

You need a blaze orange kilt for hunting season, but I guess it might be a little drafty ;)
 
Great TR @scatman - lovely photo of the two of you, even with a Rottweiler right behind your rear end!
Best Grizzly tracks I have seen on BCP and the standing Grizzly photo is amazing - probably the highlight of the trip?
Do you know what kind of food the Grizzly was looking for while digging a hole?
 
No cold weather kilt? :devil: Fine report @scatman ... definitely an area I'd love to visit some day! Thanks for sharing ...

You are always welcome to join us @kwc. This trip is always tricky though, if the forecast calls for a storm for the majority of the trip then it is cancelled. I usually wait until one or two days before departure to make the call if it is a "go" or "no-go".
 
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Great trip guys! Love that late-season solitude.

We usually have to share with outfitters and elk hunters, but I guess they didn't feel their opportunities were very good up the Whetstone Creek Drainage.
 
Thanks for the great trip report and photos! Loved It!! Nice Grizzly encounter you had. Yes winter is starting to set in up in the high country now. Scatman, it seems every year you have a trip somewhere in this country right at this time of year when winter is just starting to come into the country.

You are welcome @Kmatjhwy. Yes, I try to get up that way every Columbus Day weekend if the weather cooperates. We were supposed to do this same trip last year but got snowed out.

If it was not for your wonderfully descriptive trips into the Teton Wilderness, along with your stories and advice over the years, I probably wouldn't be making the yearly trip. You've certainly have been an inspiration to me. So thank you.

PS - I think I still owe you a beer. :)
 
Great TR @scatman - lovely photo of the two of you, even with a Rottweiler right behind your rear end!
Best Grizzly tracks I have seen on BCP and the standing Grizzly photo is amazing - probably the highlight of the trip?
Do you know what kind of food the Grizzly was looking for while digging a hole?

Thanks @Titans. My guess would be some kind of rodent (ground squirrel or vole(?)) or roots and bulbs. I'm not sure what this exact dig was for though. We passed by another dig site that looked like it might have been a sow and a cub doing the dirty work.

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You are always welcome to join us @kwc. This trip is always tricky though, if the forecast calls for a storm for the majority of the trip then it is cancelled. I usually wait until one or two days before departure to make the call if it is a "go" or "no-go".

Thanks for the invite ... October is definitely a tricky time for scheduling a backpacking trip, even here in the northeast.
 
It is fun seeing how much your trip reports differ!
Love the photo bomb of the Rottie haha
 
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