The Tetons - July 2017
This summer I flew out to Jackson, WY, to help W and his field crew with some ecology work, mainly in Yellowstone. We stayed at a lodge in the Grand Teton National Park, just about an hour or so south of where we were doing most of the fieldwork.
I had just arrived in Jackson a few days earlier when we decided to go on this hike. Originally we wanted to backpack and spend the night at a campsite or alike, somewhere in the mountains, but with all the logistics we figured that a day hike was a lot easier and maybe more doable given the circumstances. I always want to see some grand views during my hikes, and if you can fit in some forest, streams and alpine tundra into that mix I am all for it. A couple of other friends had done this hike the day before and said it was amazing, so we also went on that same hike. If you are planning on doing this hike I would recommend to adjust to the altitude first. Jackson, Wyoming sits at an elevation of 6,237 feet, which also makes the area very dry. I burned my lips so bad this summer in the Tetons and Yellowstone. Holly Lake sits at 9,416 feet, so you will gain many many feet before you reach the end of this hike. I think I got a very light version of altitude sickness, which happens if you are not adjusted to the high elevation.
Paintbrush Canyon, Lakes, Mountains, 2,900 Feet and 13 Miles
The start of this hike is very mellow, walking along the shoreline of String Lake and watching Mt Moran as it mirrors itself in the lake. At this point the trail is all flat, but you will soon slowly start heading up in elevation. The forest along the trail is a typical mixed conifer forest that you will find in large areas of the park, consisting of lodgepole pine and spruce-fir. You cross Leigh Lake outlet that connects to String lake, and it basically looks like a large stream.
As always we marvel on this landscape, and the ecology behind it. We are both ecologists/biologists, so even the tiniest things matter to us. This hike is usually has an amazing wildflower display as you go up in elevation. We were a little early for that display but got some wildflowers along the trail within the forest.
Paintbrush Canyon - Mountains, Creeks and Forest
We were greeted with forest, streams and flowers, right of the bat. We would have to earn the mountains and the alpine ecosystem of course, some total elevation gain of 2000 feet. The deep forest, consisting of a mix between lodgepole pine, spruce-fir species does remind me about the Swedish forest to some extent, but at the same time this forest is extremely different. This is bear country too of course, and we had our bearsprays and voices of course. Clapping and talking loudly is something we are both very used to. They warn for moose too along some of the brushy edges of the creeks up along paintbrush canyon too. As we slowly make our way up and onwards we walk through deep forest. And when you least expect it, it opens up and give you these amazing views. Just like when we were driving through Canada I almost feel saturated with mountains, but there is more.
Eventually we get high enough in elevation that we start seeing more and more snow on the ground. It’s July, and temperatures down in the park and around Jackson has been around 85-90F. Up in elevation we have a panorama view of mountains, snow and waterfalls. The tree line is still present here, although the trees are more and more sparse as you continue upward.
We were treading through a rugged landscape mixed with deep forest, creek crossings, and snowfield traverse. The end point of our hike was an alpine lake, Holly Lake. A beautiful lake at an elevation of 9416 feet. Originally W wanted us to continue after the lake, up on the ridge, before heading back, but that did not happen. We were satisfied with the lake being the end point of this hike. I for one was happy about this, because I was pretty beat after that approach. The last few miles before the actual lake we were treading through snowfields that were starting to melt. But what a view once we got there. I am always so blown away by these landscapes. I have to pinch myself in the arm to make sure it's for real. We hung out at the lake for a while, watched some kind of small animal roam around on the other side of the lake. Watched these waterfalls that were on display. We were really lucky about the weather too, but as always in the mountains the weather can quickly turn.
Most often I am not a fan of out and back trails, with the exception of hikes that includes a view, which seem to be the norm nowadays. Usually when you hike up you keep looking back at the landscape behind you, and you get treated by that landscape all right in front of you when you walk down. Every single view of this hike was absolutely spectacular! These fantastic rock outcrops mixed with a constant view of creeks, small waterfalls and huge trees are like something from a different planet.
Just like the way up, we had an amazing view walking down. Creeks, waterfalls and forest. What more can you ask for?
Have you done any hiking this year that blew your mind away?