The experience I was most looking forward to during our trip to Wyoming was taking a hike in Grand Teton National Park. When my family visited the area in 1992, we did lots of activities at the base of the Tetons (rafting, horseback riding), but we never went into the mountains to hike. (I can't imagine why my parents didn't want to take a whiny ten year old and a whiny thirteen year old hiking?) So this time I was really looking forward to getting IN the Tetons. Larry and I only had one day to hike, so we wanted to pick a good trail - an all day hike that was somewhat challenging with gorgeous views. We settled on Cascade Canyon.
View of Cascade Canyon from across Jenny Lake.
I was slightly apprehensive about this hike. For one, you have to carry bear spray when hiking in the Tetons. This is GRIZZLY country! Be bear aware! And two, this hike was 9 miles, which would be the longest hike we've ever done. (Remember, I'm a gimp.) The trail continues on and you can actually do a 24 mile loop that climbs a total of 4,200 feet...if you're a badass/insane. While we were opting for the "easy" 9 mile portion, hiking 9 miles through the mountains in grizzly country is not something we do every day.
Me and my gimp sticks.
But we laced up our boots, filled up our* Camelbaks with water and Bobo's Oat Bars, strapped on our bear spray, and hit the trail. It turned out to be the best hike we've ever taken. I'm running out of adjectives to describe the Tetons, but the entire hike was breathtaking. We ended up hiking a total of 11 miles (and climbed 100 flights of stairs according to my FitBit) and I felt great the whole way, which I credited to my newly plant-based diet and my #yearofactive challenge. Having a great** hiking partner helped, too - I'm so grateful I married a guy who loves nature and travel and doing outdoorsy things together.
* By our I mean, Larry. He carried all the water/gear because I was loaded down with a backpack full of camera equipment.
** Except for when we got separated on the trail and Larry hiked ahead of me without looking back for an entire mile, chattering the whole way to the hikers behind him who he thought were me. Meanwhile, I'm freaking out because I'm alone on the trail and he's the one carrying the bear spray!
The cool thing about this hike is that you have to take a boat across Jenny Lake to get to the trailhead. (You can walk around the lake if you want to add four more miles to your hike.)
The most strenuous part of the trail is the first 2.5 miles from the trailhead to Inspiration Point. It's fairly steep and rocky, and also a lot of fun. (This is one of the most popular hikes in the park, but most people turn around there and miss hiking into the canyon.)
Once you get past Inspiration Point, the trail flattens out as you hike through Cascade Canyon deeper and deeper into the mountains. I loved that the hard part of the hike was over with at the beginning and then it was smooth sailing while enjoying views of Teewinot (12,325 ft), Mount Owen (12,928 ft) and Grand Teton (13,770 ft) and the river pools in the canyon. A truly phenomenal hike in a phenomenal place. Not surprisingly, I took a zillion photos...
We celebrated our successful day on the trail with beers (Odell Brewing's St. Lupulin - one of the best beers I've ever had) and veggie burgers (inappropriately, but hilariously named The Bushy Beaver) at The Bird, before heading back to the campground to soak my feet in the icy river. As far as vacation days go, this one was an A+.