Grand Teton N.P.
Dates: September 17-21, 2020
People: Mark, David
9-17 (Travel Day/Lower Grandeur Peak Loop)
9-18 (Teton Crest Loop)
9-19 (Teton Crest Loop)
9-20 (Teton Crest Loop)
9-21 (Travel Day)
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 17
For my 8:05am flight I worked it out for Sarah and Luke to drop me off at the airport at 6:35am before they then dropped Luke off at the carpool for school. Security was moderately crowded and masks were mandatory for everyone in the airport due to COVID-19.
Wearing masks made air travel very uncomfortable given they were worn in airport and especially on flight. The only break offered would be if you were eating or drinking.
We boarded on time and were about to kick back on time when we hit a "slight delay". They announced something about paperwork needing to be submitted for a small maintenance issue. At 8:18a they came on and said 5-10 minutes more. Between the discomfort of wearing the mask and the concern I only had a 50 minute layover in Midway, I was a little perturbed about the delay. At 8:28a they came on again and said they are watching everyone's connections and people (like me) should be okay with the delay. They said just a few more minutes of paperwork they say. 🤬🤬
At 8:31a they finally shut the doors and said we were good to go. It was a quick flight. With COVID-19 they only served little cups of water and some snack bags. No soft drinks or alcohol at all. We arrived 20 minutes late at 8:35am central. I made a brisk walk from gate A4 to B5. I arrived there with just enough time for bathroom and grabbing a drink. Then it was my time to board at slot B9. We pushed back in MDW on time heading for Salt Lake. I watched the 2016 version of the Magnificent Seven in flight.
We arrived at 11:20am mountain which was about 20 minutes early in SLC. I headed for baggage claim and my bag was one of the first to come out. I then headed out to the garage for Budget car rental to grab our car. The line was short and the attendant fairly easy to work with. We were supposed to get some kind of Jeep but they didn't have one. Instead they offered us a Chrysler Pacifica. I gave it a quick thought and realized this would be great for us with the extra room. I figured out how to put all the seats down and we would have a massive back end for our gear and more.
I left the airport at 12:15p and found a Chick-fil-A in Salt Lake to go to for lunch. I went to the 1206 E 2100 S location. It had a huge line but they kept it moving. I took my lunch to go and ate it on my drive over to REI on the east side of town. I finished my lunch there and went inside for some quick browsing. I wanted to check out ultrarunning vests.
After REI it was a short drive to the trailhead for Grandeur Peak.
After hiking I drove to a very near by Walmart. Did a bit of walking around to cool off and kill some time. Then grab some snacks and drinks for the car. I headed to the airport and was there about 20 minutes early and found a nice convenient Park and Wait lot as I waited for David. I picked up David around 4:15p. We immediately started driving north. We hit a bit of traffic moving through Ogden but were then on our way north to Idaho and Wyoming.
We hit the Subway in McCammon, Idaho for supper. They were so slow and it took us 25 minutes just to get our sandwiches and then hit the road again. We found the driving through Idaho to be quite scenic until it got dark. We nearly hit a couple of deer on the road.
It was 9:30p when we hit Jackson and drove on through up to Grand Teton N.P. No one was at the entrance gates so we drove on in. We had been thinking of hitting Jenny Lake for camping but unsurprisingly it was already full. We had debated hitting a National Forest Site along the way but decided we would either hit Jenny Lake or sleep in the van. As we drove into the park we found Taggart Lake TH with the nice large lot and decided this would be perfect.
With the seats down we had room to both setup mattress pads and sleeping bags and just have enough room for our bags on the side. It made for a great bed. The van was a pretty decent temp at first, but by morning we would find it cooled considerably.
FRIDAY September 18
We were up at 7:00 a.m. this morning after a pretty decent sleep in the minivan. The inside had fogged up a little bit as we didn't vent the windows. It was pretty chilly in the van so we were reluctant to get up from our sleeping bags at first. The highlight though was looking out the windshield and seeing views of the Tetons. The Taggart Lake parking lot is a pretty sweet spot. We ran the engine of the minivan for 10-15 minutes to get things warmed up a bit in there. After hitting the bathrooms and getting teeth brushed we decided to drive over to the visitor center to check that out. It was 7:45 a.m. when we went over there and it was closed. We found about six people in line for the backcountry permits already. It was a bit too chilly and a bit too much time for us to want to wait out there for an hour.
We drove back into the park and into the Jenny Lake area. That Visitor Center was already closed for the year. We walked around and took some pictures of the lake and then we hit the general store. Time was starting to move and we decided to drive back to the visitor center to get in line now for the permits.
Our original itinerary did not need permits for the backcountry. But that itinerary also had us hiking 29 miles on Saturday and then 25 miles on Sunday. We decided to see about getting a permit for Friday night to break up the long first day. So we hopped in the permit line at 8:45 a.m. and there were now maybe 25 people ahead of us. We really weren't sure if all of the camping zones would be full already or if we would find a spot. They're typical procedure is to release the permits the day before which meant that tonight's permits were already made available 24 hours prior. So we really didn't know what would be left. The building opened at 9:00 a.m. and they started moving the line. When we finally got inside they had a sign posting what was still available. I can't remember exactly which sites were already full, but the areas we were looking at were all available. We were thinking either Phelps lake or Lower Granite Zone. We decided on Lower Granite which would give us quite a few miles to start with already on Friday and shorten Saturday's hike in the rain. The walk-in permit fee was $35. After grabbing the permit we hit the bathroom, grabbed some bear spray in the visitor center shop, and then began our drive back to Jenny Lake.
We were sort of in hurry up mode now wanting to get ready for the hike and get out of the trail as quickly as possible. When we hit Jenny Lake at 8:00 a.m. there was plenty of parking still. Now at about 9:45 a.m. it was very full and difficult to find spots. People were beginning to park out along the road and we did not want to do that leaving the car there for two overnights. so we split up, David went on foot to help find a spot and I drove around. After about 10 minutes, ironically we both found spots at about the same time. We liked David's spot and so took it.
We took some time to make sure we got all our gear together and grabbed water and food for the next couple days. In our haste we made the mistake of forgetting the permit in the car. How ironic. This made me a bit nervous about our first night and wondering if a ranger would give us trouble.
It was 10:45am when we started out from the Jenny Lake parking. We started out onto the multi-use trail heading south.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 19
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 20
We made it back to civilization at 4:14pm. It was a delight to get back to the Jenny Lake area and to reach the parking lot at the same place we left it. We dropped gear in the car and I ran off to hit a bathroom and wash up my hands. Once we had things settled we started to drive out of the park and decided to try Dornan's for a much deserved supper. They had a bit of a line and were taking orders outside. We placed orders for two of their 12-inch "Thor Pizzas". They had italian sausage, pepperoni, canadian bacon, and caramelized onions on them. While waiting for pizza I found us seating on their upstairs deck with amazing views of the tetons. David was inside grabbing us two pints of beer. I tried their roadhouse troutwhistle pale ale. The pizza was great and the views even better. I was able to Duo chat with Sarah and Anya while we were up there.
By 5:45 p.m. we were ready to head out of Jackson. We made a gast stop and then were on our way towards Salt Lake. We spent much of the drive trying to figure out where we should try to sleep in the van overnight. We had considered a hotel parking lot figuring we would blend in, but ultimately we knew that was private parking and a bit risky. We had considered Walmart parking lots as well but not all of them allow it. We finally figured out that the Cabela's in Farmington was known to allow overnight parking. They even had six designated slots for RVs. So we targeted that. We had a rest area about 45 minutes out of Salt Lake just to do bathroom, get water, and I even brushed my teeth. The one challenge of parking overnight in the parking lot would be no access to water and bathrooms.
We pulled in to the Cabela's lot just before 11:00 p.m. there were a number of RVs and even a vehicle pulling a trailer in some of the regular parking spots. we decided to pull in near that trailer and set up for the night. We had already set up our sleeping bags at the rest area so upon arrival at the parking lot we wouldn't have to be flashing our lights around and could simply lay down and go to sleep. We didn't get bothered all night. We did have two trash trucks pull up very near our vehicle to handle dumpsters. So the big downside of parking in the lot was it was just a bit noisy through the night. Strangely enough so I got some of my best sleep of the trip there in the van. I assume I was just that tired.
MONDAY September 21
We were up at 5:30 a.m. this morning. We immediately drove out of the Cabela's parking lot and headed for the airport. We headed for the park and wait lot. David resituated the last bits of his gear and was ready to go. I drove him into the terminal and dropped him off. I then pulled back around to the park and wait lot to take care of a few of my own things in the van. they Park and wait lot there at Salt Lake City proved incredibly useful for us this year. It was very accessible and a quick on and off from the highway into the airport. They had nice parking as well as a service plaza and a burger king. it was a great space to be able to take care of things just before you hit the terminals.
It was still only 6:15 in the morning and a lot of things are still closed and it was dark. I headed inside the service plaza to use the bathroom and check out some snacks. And then headed out to back to the car to take care of my gear a little bit and make decisions for the rest of the morning period. I was looking for a good place to walk or hike and I found the City Creek canyon. it was over by the state capitol building and a pretty easy drive and so I headed over there. I couldn't figure out the parking at the trailhead proper and so I drove up the road and ended up parking across the street from the state capitol.
I looked on the map and could see where the trail at the base of the canyon began and so walk down the road to a set of winding stairs and headed down. It was a lovely park with lots of people walking and running and walking dogs. There was a road running through its as well as sidewalks and even a dirt trail running along the creek. so I ended up hiking about two and a half miles out and back along the dirt trail period. a blister on my left foot kept me moving pretty slow but it did seem to ease up a little bit as I proceeded.
After my walk I regained the car and made choices on my next steps. the trailhead for Ensign Peak was very close by and very tempting, but I wasn't sure I would have enough time. so instead I found a gas stop and then headed back to the park and wait lot at the airport. I figured I would have time to finalize drawing the tent and get all my stuff packed.
I opened all the doors and windows on the van and I was able to lay out the tent and the rain fly in the car and get them fairly dry. I got the rest of my gear all packed up and everything ready to go by just after 10:00 a.m.. car rental was due at 10:30 a.m. so I headed to the airport a little early to take care of business.
I got the car returned without any problems. We had driven 691 miles on it based on the mileage. In the airport I got my bag checked and then headed for security. the line was long and it was not moving hardly at all. it seemed like they only had a small portion of their security area open. it may have been because they're adding a bunch of new machines and they were yet unavailable. after finally making it through security I had the very long walk out to the f Gates where Southwest was.
I wasn't able to get checked in yesterday since we were still in the backcountry and when I finally did check in I got B42. this flight then appeared to be the perfect time to test out the free upgraded boardings I get with the Southwest premier card. so I went to the counter and they said it would be $40 and they could get me A5. Sounded good. as a side note a week later I checked the credit card and sure enough they had already reimbursed the $40.
I did lunch at the Popeyes near my gate. they didn't have the spicy chicken sandwich so I was stuck with doing just some chicken tenders. they got us boarded on time and we left Salt Lake on time. I watched spy game during the three-hour flight to Chicago midway. We arrived in Chicago 15 minutes early. they looped us around to the east side of the airport and over Lake Michigan which meant I got amazing views of downtown as we flew into the airport. I took a number of pictures.
In Chicago I grabbed a snack and a drink. We were able to leave on time for detroit. I watched an old favorite movie High Fidelity while sitting at the gate and during the short flight. We arrived early in Detroit which was of little use to me. I had been hoping to grab supper there in detroit. But all the restaurants are already closed already. it was just before 8:00 p.m., not sure if this is just because there's not enough traffic in the airport these days. so I'm on my way to baggage claim got my bag and then found a chair to sit and read for a while as I waited for pickup.