The last day of summer. Okay, you’re thinking it’s not September yet. Let’s get one thing straight. This is Yellowstone. Grant Village is at almost 8000 feet above sea level. Weather here is different. It is said that there are only two seasons here; winter and July. So, in the Yellowstone world, July 31st is the last day of summer
Most of my hikes have been in the 4 to 6 mile range, some relatively flat and others with a 1500 feet gain in elevation. This day, July 31st, I am readying myself for an 11 mile hike with an elevation gain of well over 3000 feet. This is a big one.
The morning is a balmy 39 (many mornings are below freezing) as I drive the half mile to work. I’ve already gassed up the van and did the pms check the day before. It’s a full hike with 4 Taiwanese, 1 Thailander, 1 Romanian, 1 Bostonian, and myself. Eager to get started we all board the van at 8 am and are speeding south! This hike is deep in the Grand Tetons National Park (GTNP). Almost 2 hours later we arrive at Lupines Meadow Trail Head. And thank goodness there are facilities there (many trailheads do not have them). After a long drive, facilities are a good thing.
The trail is well marked and initially, pretty wide. We will follow this trail and eventually take a spur heading to Amphitheater Lake. It traverses through pinewoods, lupine meadows, crosses streams and slowly gains elevation. After about 2 miles, it gets steep and the trail goes through many switchbacks. Elevation gain is quite apparent as we can view the valley floor through the trees.
On a break to catch our breath and to view the valley below I give some history. Part of my job besides just leading hikes, is to give some history and folklore about the area. Jackson Hole, Wyoming has an interesting story. Early trappers, fur traders, and explorers came into this area usually through the mountains from the east or north (Yellowstone). This (w)hole place sits in a “bowl”, or as the early explorers saw it; a hole. The town of Jackson is often referred to as Jackson Hole but the reality is, Jackson Hole refers to the whole valley. Our hike continues.
One question that often arises is how did the Grand Tetons get its name. We continue upward through many switchbacks. I leave the question unanswered …intentionally. When we get to Amphitheater Lake (in Paul Harvey fashion), you’ll hear “the rest of the story”. Will (Bostonian), Barb (Romanian), and Ti (Thailaner) were experienced hikers and doing quite well. The other four were struggling, especially as we got to within a mile of our destination. I sent the three ahead with instructions if we aren’t there by 1:00, to eat lunch and come back down. It appeared the other four would not make it. On our last rest stop (almost 1:00), I told the remaining four that we will not go on (one girl was especially struggling). Tough decision to cut a hike short but it appeared we still had a ways to go up (hard to tell as the forest was quite thick at this point) and I did not want to put anyone in danger. Then a returning hiker was coming down and he said, “It’s right there, less than 5 minutes!” The girls perked up and continued! And the hiker was right! We summitted at 1:05, just as the rest of our party was getting ready to head back down. We celebrated, ate lunch, and took selfies (a ton of selfies!) And then it was time to head back down.
Amphitheater Lake & the crew at the lake
The Rest of the Story: And so it was! Time to answer the question. Early explorers were a funny bunch and the trappers and fur traders were mostly of French background. The French are romantics at heart. One such Frenchman, probably lonely and missing his girl back home (remember, these guys are often away months, if not years, from their love ones), looked at those mountains and said it reminded him of the big breast his girl has. (Hey, they apparently have a good imagination too!). And so it came to be …the Grand Tetons! And the name stuck.
The hike back down was a joyous one, mostly because we knew we had made a great accomplishment and enjoyed the views. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood. And we weren’t on the road more than 5 minutes before everyone (except Will and myself) were sound a sleep.
On the trail and yes, that is snow
Trail head, Taggart Lake & stream into Surprise Lake
Editors note: I changed the names of the participants but the areas they are from are facts. This was my most challenging hike. We started in Jackson Hole (elevation 6400’) and summitted at Amphitheater Lake (elevation 9600’).
STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”!
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Coming Soon!!! YouTube channel with movies of the adventures!