Well, it has been awhile since my last blog. I got so wrapped up in summer I put many things on the backburner and focused entirely on the experience. Wyoming was just that — an experience. Albeit a little apprehensive to the idea of living in Wyoming, I am so blessed to have done it. The lessons, knowledge, and connections made there will last a lifetime. When you fully immerse yourself in God’s creation you gain a greater sense of who God is. You see the beauty around every corner, from small waterfalls to giant mountains. The views were incomparable. When I looked at the Tetons, I would get chills every time. Even when talking about it to others I still get chills. It’s a blessing to be able to move around and truly experience the world God so carefully crafted.
While the entire summer was a blast, certain parts were more fun than others. Since graduating from the SUWS Outdoor Program almost 10 years ago, I have yet to return to the backcountry. This summer was full of backcountry camping. It is really the only way to truly experience the Tetons. Several stories of my time in the backcountry come to mind. Let’s start with one of my first adventures…
It was early in my time out in the Tetons, maybe first couple weeks, the weather was looking great, and I wanted to get out and camp — I just needed to get away from the employee village. It started with just two friends and quickly swelled into 8 (when a cute girl, or girls, want to join it’s hard to say no). Let’s just say this was the most ragtag group of backpackers I have ever met. Only two in the group actually came prepared, just so happens it was my two friends I initially asked. As the unofficial group leader, I found a great area to go camping. I called all the ranger stations in a futile attempt to get all the info I needed.
We all assembled at the trailhead ready to set out on what we thought was a modest 5 mile hike. We had to be the funniest group of campers in the Tetons history. 3 guys, 5 girls. Not everyone was able to find the appropriate gear, so in addition to tent space for 6, and sleeping bags for 7, the girls ended up using their Jansport backpacks they used in college, and bunjee corded sleeping bags and blankets onto it. Let’s not forget the footwear. Two had hiking boots, I wore Nike’s, and one even had combat boots — really? Combat boots for hiking? Yes, that is how my crew rolled that day.
After meeting at the trailhead, we headed out. I knew the trail was a bad idea when members started falling back and we hadn’t even made it a mile. That trail kept going, and kept going, higher and higher we climbed. About 5 miles in, a friend of mine and I discovered that it was certainly not a 5 mile hike, and we had at least another 5 to go. Although it was not the longest mileage-wise hike of my time out there, it certainly felt at least twice as long as it was.
The only thing that really continued to motivate the group was the views. Stunning. As we wound through the canyons it seemed like every turn resulted in a better view. As we rounded one of the final turns and start heading down into a canyon we look down and saw a large black bear running through the meadow. That was the first realization this was the real deal. We are now intertwined with nature. Shortly after watching this bear run wildly in the meadow we rounded 2 more corners and — WE MADE IT!
<–Bear was running around down here
It seemed almost in sync, everyone let out a huge sigh of relief and threw their packs to the ground, plopping down and hugging their pack as a pillow. One would think that’s enough excitement for one trip but no, no, this was just the beginning. Right next to our campsite was a beautiful river, and we all decided we needed to head down there for awhile. <—River through camp
As the night progressed the group slowly started to split up, with each going off adventuring in different areas. The girls decided to hang out on a bridge over the river and have “girl time”. The guys on the other hand decided we wanted to drink glacier water. Vertical hiking was the only option. Remember I have Nike SB Dunks (skate shoes), one had Nike cross trainers, and the other decided barefoot was the best option (don’t even ask me why). Up we went! We climb up a solid 1500~2000 feet and looked out at the valley below us. We decided to take a seat and just take in the beauty around us. Suddenly, a very questionable cloud starts to roll in over the mountains. It’s so thick and heavy you can actually see the rain pouring out of it. We have to rush down the hill, having to save glacier water drinking for later. Just as we make it to camp it happens, the cloud sits over camp and starts to dump water. BAD. <–If you look closely you can see the fresh glacier melt-off near top center.
If you don’t know me, there is nothing I hate more than being wet in clothes. This rain just didn’t stop. Now flashback to the story’s beginning, this is my FIRST backcountry trip since my survival program. We didn’t use tents in my program, this whole idea of tents was new to me. Flash forward, its pouring rain. I of course thought tents were waterproof, so didn’t set up the rainfly at all. Things went from bad to worse. Water is leaking into my tent, I’m soaked from it. Fortunately for me I had my experienced, and still barefoot!, friend looking out for me. (ALWAYS take one person that knows what they are doing) Despite being wet (have I mentioned I HATE being wet) that day will go down as one of the best days ever. 8 People crammed into 3-2person tents, configured so our doors were facing each other, pouring rain — does it get any better? The stories and experience shared that night will be remembered for a very long time.
Eventually we all fell asleep and awoke to a beautiful sunny morning. My barefoot friend and I decided to climb for glacier water again while the rest of the group had had enough and headed out. The water was well worth the trip, so pure. Best water ever. After getting our fill we charged home, walking back in less than half the time it took to get out there — typical.
That was just the beginning to an amazing summer…