Saturday, September 29, 2018

Floating the Snake River in a Super Small Raft

It was almost time for Jen and Eric to leave but there was still one thing left. I had asked them if they and Matt wanted to float the Snake River. When they all said yes, I booked us on a guided small boat whitewater trip. The water level had dropped but the temperature of the water was quite a bit cooler then when Val and I floated the Snake last year.
The other change was that we had floated the in a larger raft, but for this float I booked the super small raft. There would be seven of us in a twelve-foot raft and I remember the ten-foot wave at the Big Kahuna Rapids.
All of us arrived early at the Mad River Rafting Company. I had rented neoprene booties and the three kids, I know they are all mature adults, wisely opted to rent neoprene wet suits. I had three layers of polyester clothing and my full Gore-Tex rain suit, so I felt that I would stay dry enough to stay warm
Loading onto the Mad River bus, we rode twenty miles to West Table Boat Ramp. There we met our guide and after donning another waterproof outer shell we put on our whitewater life vests. A quick trip to the restroom and we climbed into super small raft!
The guide asked if the two strongest people would take the front positions and Eric and Casey took them. Matt had floated the Snake once before and on that trip the raft had flipped with all of them ending up in the river. Jenny and Clint were next with Matt and I taking the last two seats. Our guide, Corry, showed us how to lock our feet into position and instructed us on how to remain in the raft.
He also told us how to safely float downstream if we were thrown overboard, we were to keep looking downstream and to keep our feet raised so we would not catch on a snag and be pulled under.
Finally, he told us how to pull someone out of the water using the strap on the back of the life jacket.
Pushing off we practiced rowing as a team and I immediately noticed that the rowing was quite a bit more strenuous than when I floated last year in the larger raft. As the guide only had a single long paddle, which he used as a rudder, our safe travel through each rapid would really depend on our paddling, and of course the expert rudder work of Corry.
The first rapids approached and heading into we all got splashed with cold water. The sun was out and we all quickly warmed back up. More small rapids and more splashes and I found out that my layers were working, I was staying warm!
We rounded a bend and looked up to see our professional photographer, Renita taking shots from the highway pull off. Waving and smiling it was obvious we were all having fun. More rapids followed and then a long stretch of still water. Corry asked us if we wanted to swim but no one took him up on his offer.
We passed a family group of fresh water otters and they paused in their play to watch us as we floated by. A little further a bald eagle sat perched on a tree and an osprey also perched on another. They were probably waiting for us to leave so they could resume their fishing.
The stretch of quiet water ended, and we approached a larger set of rapids. I didn’t remember the name, but it was a larger trough and we blasted through the wave, everyone getting wet. I was still warm, but my bottom half was soaked. The sun had disappeared behind some clouds and it was colder.
After several more rapids we approached the largest challenge of the day, The Big Kahuna. Rowing hard we plunged into the ten-foot hole and completely disappeared before smashing through the giant wave crest.
The next wave was smaller and continuing to paddle we reached quieter water.
A few feet downstream we entered the last challenge, a wave called the lunch counter. Due to the low water level it was only one large wave.
Earlier in the year, with much more water, the Lunch Counter was a series of seven big waves!
The last rapids was called the Champagne Rapids due to all the bubbles that formed as the water plunged into a deep hole. There were so many bubbles formed that a Mackenzie fishing boat, with an expert guide had lost its buoyancy and sunk. The guide and his client had to swim to shore and the boat had not yet been recovered. Our guide aimed the raft at the sunken boat and we passed over it. It was weird when my oar hit the sunken craft with a loud thunk!

There were several smaller rapids and we easily negotiated them before reaching the take-out point. Renita was waiting and snapped our pictures after the successful float. Jen, Eric, and Matt were all cold, despite the wetsuits and while I was drenched, my layers had kept me warm.
We rode back on the bus and changed into dry clothes. Renita had brought towels for us, besides being an ace photographer, she was also an ace mother hen!

It was a great ending to a great week. It had been a fun week of hiking, bears, moose, and sightseeing! After hugs and kisses we said our goodbyes, returning to our summer base camp at Star Valley RV Resort. The following week was composed of doctor visits, three, in Idaho Falls and then to Salt Lake City. Passing with flying colors we are now hurriedly packing up as its time to head south. Clear skies, and safe travels

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Hike to Delta

The next day we planned on getting an early start as Jen and Eric were going to try to hike the Delta trail. They arrived at our house and as we were getting ready to leave I discovered we had a nearly flat tire. Using my slow air pump, I was able to get in partially inflated and after a quick drive to our nearby gas station, I was able to fully inflate the brand-new tire, (of course it was bad brand-new valve stem).
 I waited at the tire store while everyone else went to the trail head at Lupine Meadows. It didn’t take long to get the new valve stem replaced but I decided to take a shortcut and turned on the Moose Wilson road. Of course, I got caught in a bear jam and it was a terrible mess. There were nor rangers directing traffic and people had parked their cars to see the bears. Both lanes were completely blocked, and it took a while before the bears wandered off.
Arriving at Lupine Meadows, I met Renita who said that Jen and Eric had already taken off. Renita and I had already decided that we would take a short hike for about three and a half miles. It was uphill for most of the way and so we relaxed and took our time.
The hike was fun, it was a cool morning, and we didn’t chance upon any bears. We did hear elk bugling in the trees, (Renita did, I need hearing aids). We also stopped at several locations with great views and I thought that we should go further but three and a half miles was a good day for us.
Returning to the truck we had lunch and then drove to some of our favorite wildlife viewing places, Renita did spot a cow elk at Willow Flats but that was it, as far as viewing wildlife went. Tired we decided to head back home and wait for Jen and Eric to give us the safe call. Jen had told us that they were planning on getting back to their car at four pm and that if we didn’t hear from them by six pm, to call the rescue team, (you should always have an out time and a contact person).
They called at three thirty and told us they had experienced an incredible hike to a beautiful mountain lake. The hike is one of the most popular hikes to a place that was rarely attempted just a few years ago, (google Delta Lake and the Delta Lake Trail).
It turns out that the lake is in Glacier Gulch. I had hiked the trail forty-six years ago while I was doing my summer geology fieldwork with Iowa State. On that hike the instructor had told us the location and sent us map less, up the trail. Of the thirty-five students, eleven reached Teton Glacier and two got temporally lost on the way down, (I was one of the two, the four instructors stayed at the bottom).
Jen and Eric had a blast and were rightly proud of their ascent to Delta Lake, (there were three rescues on the trail in July). Renita and I had enjoyed our own hike and we asked ourselves why we don’t do more trail hikes? Between pickle ball, hiking and some biking we are certainly able to enjoy more places off the beaten path, (and we have both lost weight, I have lost twenty six pounds in the past year, on the keto diet to control our blood sugar). So now we have some new goals for next year!  Clear skies.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Crossing Teton Pass, and a Very Close Bear

We decided to take a break from the hiking and instead take the scenic route to Jackson. So, we drove to Alpine before we turned to Victor, Idaho. One more turn found us heading up to the top of Teton Pass. It’s a steep route, about ten percent grade and a truck was ahead of us, so it was a slow ascent to the pass.
Pulling off, we all got out and looked east toward Black Tail Butte, The Gros Ventre Range, and the City of Jackson. Avalanche shuts were devoid t of trees and any brush and each year massive avalanches thunder down the pass, frequently closing the highway. A plan was made to build avalanche sheds to save lives but the Wyoming Legislature decided to not appropriate the funds.
Heading down the pass we turned on the Moose Wilson road. There have been four moose struck and killed and one wonders at the idiots that don’t pay attention to the warning signs! Entering the park, we drove the road but didn’t see any bears to moose. Jen and Eric were planning on hiking a very difficult trail, and so we headed to the park headquarters to ask for directions.
Asking about the Delta Trail at the information desk the young park interpreter looked at me and must have decided that I was too old for such a trail. He said that they already had three rescues on the trail and wouldn’t tell me the critical turn to Delta Lake.
Now I had climbed there years ago but I didn’t argue as it wasn’t worth the effort, (Jen later approached the same person who told her the way to get to Delta Lake. Either it was because she is thirty years younger than I am or perhaps he wanted to impress her with his knowledge.
We next drove to the trail head which is located at Lupine Meadows. It’s the same trail I took when Terry Rypkema, Steve Gardner, and I climbed Teewinot, a 12300-foot peak just north of The Grand Teton. Figuring things out, Jen, Eric, (Renita and I weren’t going to hike to Devils Lake), we drove back to the Moose Wilson Road.
A few miles down the road we got caught in a bear jam but as we reached the location of the bears, they had moved back into the brush. A pull off was nearby and Renita pulled in and parked the truck. Soon people started to move our way and sure enough the Black Bear sow and her cub were walking right towards us!
The bears were only thirty feet away, when they turned and walked along a trail right in front of us. It was the closest we have been to bears this year and with an occasional glance towards us the sow continued down the trail closely followed by the cub.
To see bear here, you must know where they are, at different times of the year, and you must be lucky. Jen and Eric brought us their luck!   Clear skies
The bears disappeared over a rise and after high fiving each other we got back in the truck and drove back to Thayne. What a great day!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Hiking to Taggert Lake, (and Bradley), and A Fall Bear

After our warm up hike, our next goal was to hike the Taggert and Bradley Trails. Renita and I planned on just trying to complete the Taggert Trail, while Jen and Eric figured they would also do the Bradley Lake Loop.
We started up the trail and at first it was easy going but as the trail steepened Renita and I slowed down. Before too long we had to take a break and rest and Jen and Eric disappeared around a bend. It was obvious that we couldn’t stand their pace, but we still tried to keep up with them.
 The first part of the trail was steep, for us anyways, but we plodded on, putting one step after another.  As we walked we looked for berries, a sure-fire bear attractant, but we never did spot any. One false crest after another appeared but we at least we knew we were nearing the top of the moraine, (this hike is up a terminal moraine formed as an alpine glacier piles rock at its snout).
Cresting the moraine, the lake appeared and reaching the shore we were rewarded with the beauty of a small glacial lake. The lakes are often colored by rock flour, dust made by a glacier, but this lake was clear as many lower alpine lakes are.
Jen and Eric decide to head up the Bradly Lake trail, but we stopped for lunch before continuing the three-point four-mile loop. As we sat and ate our lunch a mature bald eagle flew over, adding a wildlife viewing dessert to our cold lunch meat sandwiches.
After lunch we headed up a short and small but steep series of switchbacks that crested on a ridge. From there the trail plunged downhill. Taking it slow, I have sometimes rolled my ankle, the trail met a small clear mountain stream. That part was called the Beaver Lake trail and it wound through a series of glades.
It was almost all downhill and so we really enjoyed the easy hike. We were glad we hadn’t taken the left fork as it would have been a long uphill climb. Renita heard elk bugling in the distance, but my hearing is really getting bad and I couldn’t hear them.
We never did see any berry patches, but we were still glad we were carrying bear spray. A hunting guide was mauled and killed just outside the park last week and so there is a lot more concern about bear safety for many of the park visitors.
Reaching the trail head, we listened to a park interpreter explain a recent encounter with a black bear. He told people to not use their bear spray unless he told them to spray! Last year a person tried to spray a bear and didn’t pay attention to the wind. You can guess what happened as the spray blew right back into the people.
Jen and Eric arrived, they had successfully completed the Bradley Lake Trail, and loading into the car we headed back toward the park entrance. We drove the Moose Wilson road and first stopped at a small pond. As we walked along a short trail Eric noticed movement and was the first one to spot a cow moose charging out of the forest canopy.
It waded into the pond and before long a calf must have gotten the all clear signal from its mom and came out running to join her. With the increase in bear and wolves the moose and elk must be constantly vigilant!
We also noticed a group of people staring in the same direction and joining them, they pointed out a huge bull moose. It was laying down just inside a tree line and was closely watching us. The bull moose had a huge rack and you really had to look close to see it at all.
(the black bear is only about twenty yards away, if you magnify the image you can see its face, this is why its so easy to walk up on a bear and not notice it) One of the people asked us if we had seen the bear and returning to the car we headed down the road. Sure enough, two seasonal park volunteers were guiding traffic past a black bear. It was laying on its back and pulling down branches. The branches were full of dried hackthorn berries.
(There is a huge moose laying down in the above image, look for the paddle!)The bears right now are in a hyperphagia feeding frenzy as they try to eat twenty thousand calories a day. This is their last chance to put on the fat layers necessary before hibernation. It was the first time this fall we had encountered a black bear!
It had been a great day with a fun hike, sightings of three moose and a black bear. What a great day in Grand Teton National Park! Clear skies

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Periodic Spring, 2018

The largest periodic spring in the world, there are only three listed, is located about twenty miles from our base camp. Its located along Swift Creek and after a short hike, about ¾ of a mile, finds you at the base of a steep trail that leads to the crevice where the spring emerges.
Jen and Eric had arrived from Florida and as it was my birthday I suggested that we all go for a hike to the periodic spring and then a picnic along Swift Creek. Taking the truck, it’s not a place for a rental car, (it’s a good road but its narrow and so you may be forced to scrape the sides of your car with willows), its about five miles from Afton to the end of the trail head.
The leaves have started to change, and the hike isn’t that steep, so we enjoyed the fall colors as we trekked to the base of the spring. There were quite a few fellow hikers and even some small children making the final ascent to the spring.
We reached the spring just in time to see the magic! The substantial flow from the spring lessened and then stopped completely. Rocks were uncovered, and the stream dried up. Sticking our heads near the opening you could hear the gurgling as the inner containment basin started to refill and it took about fifteen minutes before we could hear the water approaching the spout.
First a trickle appeared and then it quickly became a gushing torrent. As the stream flowed down the channel it took a few seconds to refill each waterfall and pool and before long the stream was its usual series of small waterfalls and plunge pools.
Jen tested her new water purifier system, (and it worked as she didn’t get sick), and both enjoyed the magic of the disappearing and reappearing spring.
They watched it several times. after all, where else can you see such a sight, before carefully hiking back down to the actual creek and then retracing our steps to the truck.
It was a good day’s hike, but the day wasn’t done as Later our son Matt joined us to celebrate my birthday! Matt and Jen surprised us by taking out to dinner at the White Buffalo restaurant in Jackson.
It’s a place we would never go, as its pretty fancy, but the food was excellent. We all had one of the steaks and I just had to choose the New York strip Buffalo steak.
It was by far the best tasting buffalo steak I have ever eaten, and it was the end of a perfect day! Thank you Matt and Jenny and thanks to all our friends and family that wished me a happy birthday! Clear skies

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A Late Summer Kayak on The Salt River

Our rv park has emptied but it was nice enough for us to go on another float on the Salt River. This time we used our kayaks and Valarie, Renita, and I unloaded our kayaks before Renita and Val dropped off Val’s truck at the takeout point.
Pushing off, the fast current, caught Renita off guard and so she ended up floating backwards through the first small rapids. I pointed out to her that it’s easier to go bow first and she thanked me for the suggestion, well not quite a thanks really.
Still she turned bow first and kept her kayak pointed the right way for the rest of the float. Val was in her class two yak and I was in my twelve-foot boat. Now the girl’s boats are both ten feet and quite frankly my boat is too long for the small river. Anyone want to buy a used kayak?
I was also trying to fly fish and my kayak just didn’t work very well. Fish were rising all along the float and my boat was so awkward that I had to spend too muck time paddling. I missed some nice bites before pulling over and caching a small fish. As I sat there two large cuts played in front of the boat but wouldn’t take my fly.
I pretty much gave up fishing and decided to stay with the ladies as they were having fun birding and wildlife viewing as they floated along.
An adult bald eagle perched on a post allowing Renita to get close enough for a photo and a little further downstream an immature bald seemed totally unconcerned as we all floated past.
Several muskrats also entertained us and of course the cows had to see what we were doing as we floated past the herd.  Clear skies
A flock of geese flew overhead, all in all it was a great day to float the Salt River!

Ps I saw two familiar faces talking to our new next door neighbors, Robert and Jo. They looked familiar and sure enough they were fellow 2007 classmates( A Classmate is a fellow Escapee who retired in 2007, sold their house, and went fulltime rving), John and Lora. It truly is a small world and that’s why we always tell friends we will see you down the road!