Thursday, October 6, 2011

First snow in the Hole! :)

It's snowing here today! :) Here's a short video I took of the event:


And now some photos:

Officially listening to Christmas music now... :)

Unofficially have been every so often anyways. :)


My Longest Hike... ever... forever.

Well to make a long story short, last Saturday Josh Stafford and I hiked 43 miles with around 8000 feet of elevation gain in Grand Teton National Park. We planned (Josh likes to say that I was the one who planned it...) to hike from Paintbrush Canyon all the way up and around the Tetons and out Death Canyon. It was supposed to be around 35 miles and 6000-7000 feet elevation gain. We added a bit more... by accident, you could say.

So we woke up at 4:00am, ready to go conquer a good hike. Kenton drove us to the trailhead and Josh and I started hiking at 5:30am or so. We had to hike around an hour in the dark, which was a bit unnerving I must say, being in bear country. So we headed up Paintbrush Canyon, which was absolutely gorgeous in the sunrise.

Looking down Paintbrush... we started around those lakes down there.

With my new point-and-shoot camera, I can take some video now! :)

Fall colors on the ground, looking down Paintbrush at sunrise.

After reaching near the top of the canyon, we started hearing elk bugling in the distance. What an awesome experience! Then we hiked a bit further and ran into a couple right on the trail! Unfortunately I didn't get out the camera before we scared them off... hiking took more priority than photography on this trip: we had probably 30 miles left to go. Maybe next fall I can get some elk photos up here. :)

Our next challenge was to hike up to Paintbrush Divide (the place we went to on the backpacking trip - dividing Paintbrush and Cascade canyons). The trail is a little make-shift at the moment because of snow I think. So we had a slightly sketchy climb up a boulder/scree field till we finally reached the top and could finally hike downhill for a while.


Video! :)

Josh and I at the Divide... silly me hadn't taken my headlamp off yet. Oh well.. :)

So we started hiking down from the Divide into Cascade Canyon, going past Lake Solitude and our camping site on the way. There is a fork in Cascade Canyon, with one trail heading up to Solitude (where we were coming from), and one heading south up to Hurricane Pass (which is directly behind the Teton mountains, as you'll see). So we hiked from Lake Solitude down to the fork, filled up water, and started the hike up the south fork of Cascade. On the way up some switchbacks, we had another wildlife encounter: black bear! The slightly-larger-than-cub black bear was right on the trail (sound familiar?), so we both immediately take out our bear sprays, ready if he should charge us. We tried scaring him off, but he didn't pay much mind to us (which isn't too good). Finally he moved off the trail enough so we could pass and move on. So once again, no photos... but we were on a mission, eager to finish this long trek. So we continued. I was definitely starting to feel my legs on the last uphill section of Hurricane Pass, but we made it up and were able to hike downhill for a while again! Here's the view from the top of Hurricane:

Looking down on the left, where we came up Cascade Canyon. Middle Teton (far right) and Grand Teton (next to Middle) right in front of us.

Full panoramic view of the Pass. Pretty sweet view! Bottom right corner is Schoolroom Glacier (with the cool water). Mountains again from right to left: South Teton, Middle Teton, Grand Teton. :)

Schoolroom Glacier.

Another shot... :)



Josh Stafford, my good hiking buddy who was crazy enough to join me on this hike.
So we continued on, with about 20 miles or so left in my estimation. We went downhill for a while and stopped at a stream to snack some more and fill up water. There were some pretty flowers there (including indian paintbrush and lupine), so I took a few shots:

No more photos from this point on... we were too busy finishing the hike. :) So we headed down, and up, and down, and up again, and so on until we finally thought we had climbed the last uphill on our hike. Well, we got to the top of the ridge and found that the trail had at least some more ups left. So we started climbing, and climbing, and climbing... and it seemed that we were just getting way too high and far away from the canyon we wanted to be in. So we took out our trail map, inspected it, and decided we must have missed another trail that headed where we wanted to go. So we headed back down and cut across, off-trail, to try and find the other trail. This is where we added some miles and elevation gain to our hike. We went all over the place in this little canyon/saddle/bowl/thing, and finally climbed up to the top of the ridge on the other side, looked back, and to our great disappointment saw the trail we were on before actually started headed down exactly where we wanted just a bit further down the canyon. We were pretty upset with ourselves, but lesson learned! Get a better map! Follow the trail in front of you! So anyways.... we went all the way back across to our trail, and hiked up to Static Peak Divide. I think this is the highest point yet on our hike, at about 11,000 feet. From here it was all downhill to Death Canyon and Phelps Lake. It seemed to take forever. Thankfully, our legs actually felt pretty good and we were able to go down pretty fast without hurting. We finally reached Phelps Lake, after hiking down Death Canyon in the dark, and had to hike another 4-5 miles around the lake and to the road where we were hoping a car was waiting to pick us up. We tried talking (and Josh sang that 100 bottles of coke on the wall song) for a while, but by the end we were both pretty quiet. It got pretty tiring to keep on hiking, and we were both ready to end. Finally we reached the road and saw Jared's suburban waiting there for us. Praise the Lord! It was about 9:20pm. We were happy to be finished.

So that's the hike that I'm pretty sure totaled around 43 miles and 8000 feet elevation gain or so. It topped Josh's day hike record of 40 or 41 miles that he did while on the Appalachian Trail, and it sure topped my previous record of around 20 miles! A great experience, for sure... but we both decided that we're keeping day hikes under 30 miles from now on. :)

So thankful to the Lord for this awesome experience, and the strength He gave us to complete it! :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My favorite place... Delta Lake. :)

Yesterday I found my favorite place in the world, as of this moment. It's name... is Delta Lake. It's absolutely gorgeous. But possibly the best part about it, hardly anyone knows of it... and so it's undisturbed and 999 out of 1000 times you will be all alone. Scott Austin happened to stumble across a few photos of it a few weeks ago... and we instantly fell in love with the place, even though none of us had ever been there. So finally, Kenton and I got to hike up there yesterday. It was a great hike. So here's the short story of our adventure...

Kenton and I headed out to Lupine Meadows trailhead and started hiking by 10:30 in the morning. It was a promising day: blue skies, not a cloud in sight (which is perfect for a reason I'll say later), and nice cool air for hiking. We headed up the trail, with Kenton being the only one who'd ever even been up (once) this main trail that lead to Amphitheater Lake. All we knew was that we needed to go off of the trail at the "first switchback". So we get up a couple miles and we hit a switchback heading north, the direction we wanted to go. There was a slight trail heading off that way, and we decided that this must be where we go off-trail. So we cut down this hill, and start trekking up the side of the canyon. It was quite the off-trail experience. Bush and tree all over, with extremely steep inclines, it wasn't the easier hike that we expected. Delta Lake was supposedly a half-mile off of the switchback trail and only 500 ft up in elevation. So we were expecting to see the lake over the top of every hill we couldn't see over. But it just kept going, with no clearing in sight. We must have had a dozen of ideas of where this lake could possibly be. Finally we came out from the trees and found ourselves at a boulder field. A few more guesses came about on where the lake was. We started heading up through the boulders, and came across some rock stacks that lead us up through them, so we were excited to know we were probably on the right track. About halfway through the boulders, we couldn't find the next stack of rocks. So we just kept heading up the boulders, fairly sure we would find the lake at the top of the hill. Here's the view looking down the boulder field:

We came from all the way down there... in the middle of the photo.

My fearless companion.

So after another good climb up some big rocks, we finally started seeing a sign we had been looking for: the Teton mountains, looming dead ahead of us. We knew from the photos of this lake that the Tetons were directly behind it. This was good. This was exciting. We finally came to the base of what we knew would be the last hill, and we headed up to the top of it side by side. Here's what we saw:

Delta Lake below us.

We had gone too far up, not far enough North. But no problem, it was just a short walk down the hill and to the base of the lake. We were overjoyed to finally find it. We hiked down to it, took off our packs, and just sat down and relaxed a bit on a big rock overlooking the lake and mountains. We brought some lunch along too, so that was refreshing. After a bit of a break, we started exploring around the lake. So here are some of the many photos that I took:

Pretty sweet view, right? Well guess what? These photos don't even do it 3/4ths justice... it is so amazing to be there in person... the mountains are so huge and towering right in front of you.

The water was absolutely incredible. Totally undisturbed, and it looks like gatorade! I wanted to jump in... then I felt it with my hand. It was pretty cold. I wouldn't be surprised if it was frozen earlier that morning. :)

Can you tell we're having a good time? :)

Higher vantage point brings some more color to the water.

Why is the water this color, you ask? It's due to all the glacial silt that flows into this lake from glaciers above. Basically glaciers crush this mineral into fine dust, and give the water this milky blue color when the sun reflects on it. This is why a clear sky was just perfect for us.

My personal favorite shot from the day.

Though I like this one too.

It looks so yummy!!

I like this one too.

Higher vantage point = more aqua colored water.

Kenton scrambling down the boulders.

Looking at the lake from the other side... you don't get the color because the sun isn't reflecting right at you as much.

All of the "glacial silt" mud on the other side. Don't venture too far without expecting to sink.

Looking up at the Tetons.

Stream running down from the glaciers.

See that bottom left corner? Yeah, that's water that's been iced over... told you it was cold!

So yeah, I really like this place. We took our time up there and when we finally headed back, we found the trail that we were supposed to take. Turns out there's a small trail pretty much the whole way to the switchbacks. And we turned off the trail oh, about maybe 2 miles too soon. :) So we went the hard way. Oh well... we know where to go now. It happens to be the first switchback, but specifically up the Amphitheater trail... which didn't start until about 2 miles after we turned off. A funny side note... on the way down, once we reached that point that we turned off, we noticed a small sign by it. It read "Shortcuts cause erosion". We had quite the laugh over that one... because it turned out that we took the "shortcut" that was really anything but a shortcut. All in all, it was a great, fun, amazing hiking experience. Praise the Lord for blessing us with these awesome opportunities to enjoy His creation!

Thanks for looking! :)

JHBC Backpacking Trip

Last week was the JHBC students' backpacking class. I had the honor and pleasure of helping lead one of our three groups that went out for 2 nights throughout the week. Kenton (the guy's head RA), me, Cally (women's RA), and Analea lead a group of 13 students up to the group camping site below Lake Solitude in Grand Teton National Park. It was a great hike up there (7.5 miles, 2000 ft elevation gain to the campsite), and we went on a great day hike the next day. Overall, a great hiking experience. But for me, it was an even greater experience to assist leading and guiding the trip. I even had the privilege of sharing a devotional with the students on the second night. For those who know me well, you know that speaking in front of everyone isn't my strongest skill or desire. But praise the Lord, everything went quite smoothly and I was able to share God's Word without stumbling through it all. Only by His strength. :)

Anyways, I also took my camera along. But shock of all shocks, I didn't take my nice big DSLR camera and lenses. I took a little Canon G12 point-and-shoot. What!? Derrick, using a point-and-shoot!?? Believe me, I surprised even myself. It's not the worst point-and-shoot camera, but that's not the point (pun intended :). It was small, compact, easy to access, and I didn't have to take an extra bag along. So believe it or not, I decided to tip the scales towards hiking rather than photography. So with that said, let me know what you think of the results! Can you tell a difference? :)

Hiking up to Lake Solitude, looking at the side of the Teton range.

Some moose!

Waterfall coming down from glaciers.

Stream running out of Lake Solitude, Mt. Owen (left) and Grand Teton (right) in the background.

Sunrise the next morning. Quite the view right from our campsite. :)

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind living here a while. :)

Sunrise looking down Cascade Canyon with backside of Tetons.

On our day-hike, headed from Lake Solitude up to Paintbrush Divide (basically a big ridge between Cascade Canyon and Paintbrush Canyon - dividing the two :).

Lake Solitude.

Headed up the Paintbrush Divide trail.

With quite the view the whole way. :)

Some flowers, including some Indian Paintbrush (Wyoming's state flower - the red/orange flower that has petals coming out that look like the ends of a paintbrush).

Walking right into the Tetons...

Looking back at the trail.

Great views once you reach the top of the ridge.

Looking down at Paintbrush Canyon from the Divide.

Here's most of our group!

Another view from the top, our group taking a break.

Kenton and I.

Looking down at Lake Solitude.

Thanks for looking! Hope these point-and-shoot photos didn't bore you! ;)