Teton Crest Trail: Day 1

"I'm Rick James, Fly. I'm gonna f*** your shirt!"

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Today's hike felt like we'd wandered into a Bob Ross painting. In fact, the whole thing was rather surreal. We awoke at sunrise and struck out from Teton Hostel in the crisp mountain air, searching for coffee. The horizon glowed pink, and the sun looked like a pulsing red orb slowly making it's way over the mountains. After trying a couple local cafes and discovering that Jackson is not filled with early risers on Sundays, we headed to the Snake River Lodge to pilfer some of their lobby coffee. I'm staying there after our hike is complete, so I didn't feel too guilty getting a head start on their complimentary caffeine.

 Weighing our packs with Jon's hanging scale. Mine clocked in at 39 lbs.

Weighing our packs with Jon's hanging scale. Mine clocked in at 39 lbs.

Suitably fueled, we headed home and got to work. Usually before these trips I'm very ceremonial. I like to relish my last night in a bed, my last shower, and of course my final shit in a proper pot. This time, however, I was just anxious to get out on the road. I rinsed off quickly in the small hostel shower, brushed my teeth, and filled my pack. After gulping down some instant oatmeal, we trekked down to the aerial tram. Hot air balloons and hang gliders dotted the sky like banners heralding the beginning of our trek, and our packs felt optimistically light.

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We were positively giddy on the tram ride to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, cracking jokes and mocking the tour guide. At the top we shot some photos, hit the baño one last time, and nervously shuffled around a bit, waiting for someone to say, "start!" After a rousing chorus of "Part of Your World" by Tess and I, we finally donned our packs and trucked toward the trailhead.

There were a few other couples starting with us. We all set out at a brisk pace. Our first leg was a pretty steep descent down the ski slope into a canyon. We stopped briefly at the trail marker to snap a photo and we were on our way. 

For the first 1.5 miles we descended through a lush pine forest. The floor was carpeted with wildflowers and the air perfumed with a pine scent. About 1.5 miles in, we emerged from the woods and began our first climb. Every hill we crested was more stunning than the prior. We felt like the Von Trapps trekking through Switzerland, although with substantially less stress.

 The wildflowers were ridiculous!

The wildflowers were ridiculous!

We stopped for lunch a little over half way in and sat in a bowl marveling at the scenery. One of the couples we started with passed by and we chatted briefly before they continued on. As we ate, we consulted the map and we realized the hill we were looking at was our next destination. We wrapped up our meals, basked in the sun a bit, and finally shouldered our packs and started up the hill.

Jon led the pack and I followed behind him much slower than I had been going that morning. We trudged up the hill cursing the very hot, very direct sunlight. When we stopped for a breather though, we quickly snapped back into a state of awe. We crested the hill amid a field of lumpy limestone boulders and stood for a few minutes, taking in the panorama and trying to process the abundance of color around us. When we'd finished admiring (and snapping photos), we descended into a beautiful, lush, floral scented valley and began looking for a place to camp.

We found a spot across a creek, just beyond the entrance to the camping zone. Next to running water, in a patch of wild flowers, surrounded by a ring of mountains, our campsite was beautiful!

Unfortunately, though, my serenity was short lived when I realized that I had allowed a few packing oversights that threatened to make my trip very difficult. I had packed a small, 4oz fuel canister. Although I was confident that it would last me 8 meals on the trail, I'd swapped meals at the last minute and added in more pasta dishes which required longer burns in place of my Backpacker's pantry meals. I'd also gotten the idea to make trail pancakes, which I was really excited to eat but would also require the use of more fuel.

I also took my filter for granted. Since I was hiking in a group, I didn't take the time to check my gear as closely as I usually would, or pack backups. I would normally bring either iodine tablets or my steripen as a backup for my sawyer filter, and I would always test my sawyer before hitting the trail, but this time I just didn't. After reaching camp, filling my dirty bag, and sitting down to filter, I realized that the rubber gasket that forms a tight seal around the dirty bag was leaking and the filter was useless. Pretty major fail!

Finally, I failed to clean my camelbak before setting out on the trip. I knew in the back of my mind that it was something I should do, but I kept putting it off because it's a pain. In the end, I didn't have time to do it, and my punishment was sea-monkey-like particles floating in my water bladder. I cleaned the bladder as best I could, but definitely cursed my lack of preparation. It felt like amateur hour. 

In the end, it was a testament to the benefit of being in a group. I owned up to being a jackass, one of those hikers I hate, and my friends teased me for a bit and then offered me their filters, their extra fuel should I need it, and the reassurance that as we faced continuing challenges over the course of our hike, we'd do so together. All in all, a pretty sweet first day!