|Alpenglow down the canyon from our campsite area.|
|Sun finally lighting up the top of the mountains across Shoal Lake. Taken from the outlet of the lake, where the best fishing was.|
On our final day of the trip, we decided -- very reluctantly -- not to fish. Let me tell you, it was very difficult to walk by the lake's outlet and see all the fish through the clear water and watch them rise to the surface everywhere. But we were ready to head home, so we began our ascent out of the canyon to the other side of the trail loop.
After reaching the top of the switchbacks on the other side of the lake, we were greeted by wide-open vistas of rolling hills with cliffs and mountains surrounding the area. Hiking over rock and through streams with wildflowers everywhere was an awesome experience. There was no trail, only cairns and my map to guide our way.
|Wildflowers were crowded along the streams running down the valley.|
|Stafford taking the lead as I stopped frequently for photos. :)|
|Panorama of the amazing landscape we hiked through.|
|Pretty cool cliffs like this in the area. Kinda similar to "hoodoos" in Bryce Canyon NP.|
|Hiking through streams was a common occurrence on this trip.|
|Stream with cliffs in the background.|
|Slightly epic shot of Stafford hiking up this hill with Black Peak looming above.|
|Lupines with Black Peak in the background.|
|Another epic shot of Stafford with Black Peak in background.|
|Sign that sorta points back to the right where Shoal Lake is.|
|Panorama looking northwest, Tetons can be seen in far background in the middle.|
|We were considering climbing this mountain (Antoinette Peak) on this day, but decided against the extra effort.|
|Looking back towards the cliffs seen in the right of the panorama above.|
|Just about all downhill from here -- very painful downhill at times.|
|Hard to complain about views like this.|
|Both sides of this loop have amazing views, but we strongly believe this side was better to hike down than up.|
|Cool little marsh/pond with flowers throughout.|
The rest of the hike down actually got quite steep and loose at times. Some stretches would have been killer to hike up with heavy packs! Another reason we like going up the other side of the loop. We made pretty good time with a couple snack breaks. We passed by a large group from AWLS (American Wilderness Leadership School) who were doing a day hike up this side of the loop. The rest of the hike was fairly uneventful and we picked up the pace to get it over with. Extended downhill hiking is not too fun on the joints.
We were glad to reach the parking lot, though I think we each would have loved staying at Shoal Lake for at least a few more days. We were greatly blessed by the short time we had!
Hope you enjoyed these few blogs, and hope they encourage you to get out and explore this area! It's so worth it, even to choose over the Tetons! It definitely taught me to not overlook "lesser" mountain ranges around here; they all have their own beauty.
One final note:
ALL photos were taken with a Canon G12 compact digital camera. This camera has been on the shelf for a long time because the screen had broken, but I considered it for this trip and got it working again! I absolutely love using it for trips like this. The tilt screen makes it easy to compose fun angles on the fly as you're hiking. The quality still doesn't compare to my DSLR system if you look at details closely, but did you notice that? One of my best photos was taken with this camera and turned out great on print! I'm looking into better ways to carry my DSLR on hikes like this, because the main reason I like the G12 better on hikes is because it's so easily accessible (mounted on my backpack strap in front of me). The weight and size is a factor too, so I may continue to use the G12. Now with all the mirrorless cameras out there, there are many great options for a compact camera that takes DSLR-quality photos. I may eventually upgrade my G12, but for now -- I'd say it still works fine!
Thanks for reading! Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!