Canoe Camping in Grand Teton National Park

July 20th, 2009

Paddling on String Lake

Getting on the water at String LakeFor a few years when I was a kid my family was big into canoe camping. Well, all camping actually, but we’d just bought a canoe, so: canoe camping. There aren’t a whole lot of places to go around my neck of the Rockies since a lot of rivers have big whitewater and there aren’t that many lake systems. Yes, many places have no canoe camping opportunities at all, but the Yellowstone area isn’t a particularly big canoe destination. It is a “destination” in the general sense though. Which means that the canoeing opportunities there are, are spectacular.

The canoe on Leigh Lake

The portage from String Lake to Leigh LakeOne such gem from my childhood is the String Lake to Leigh Lake trip in Grand Teton National Park. The put-in is on the smaller, aptly named String Lake, which you paddle up until you come to a 200yrd portage. I don’t know how long it actually is, but I wouldn’t recommend a huge boat as there is a hill involved. The portage lands you on picturesque Leigh Lake. A much larger lake than String, it is peaceful (no motorized boats) and scenic, running right up to the foot of Mount Moran.

Mount Moran from Leigh Lake in Grand Teton National Park

CampfireThere are maybe 8 designated campsites around Leigh Lake. Previously I had camped at the one at the mouth of Leigh Canyon. The trouble is that since there are a limited number of sites, they have to be reserved. Some are reserved months ahead of time, in the spring, and some are kept open to be reserved just a day in advance. It’s a good plan to allow both, I think. My girlfriend and I planned on taking advantage of the “day of” reservations, by showing up really early in the morning. The problem was that it turned out the “day of” reservations are actually “a day before”. This is a bummer if you are not going to be in Jackson the day before - like us - since it means all the sites will probably taken the morning before. But (with backup plans in mind) we figured it was worth a try.

A large school of fish at the bottom of Moran - carp?Happy CanoerLittle fishies

We got lucky! Mostly. We got there right when the Visitor Center opened and all of the sites right on the lake were already taken… but there was an open site on Trapper Lake, just a short hike past Leigh Lake. That meant our trip would still have all of the canoeing we hoped for, plus a short walk! And it turned out great because there’s only one site on Trapper Lake, so we had our own private lake. :)

Boulder Island huckleberriesTrapper Lake - our own private lake!Mmm huckleberry pancakes

More TetonsAn OspreyThe Tetons reflecting on Leigh Lake

The weather was pretty much perfect, and our little one night camping trip was everything I hoped it would be. I caught (one) fish, enjoyed padding all around both lakes, took in stupendous views of the Tetons, did a little climbing on Boulder Island, found some early Huckleberries, swam, and on top of it all got to share it with my lovely lady friend. :)

Boulder Island on Leigh LakeBouldering on Leigh Lake's Boulder IslandThe main "boulder" on Boulder Island

The Tetons!

Massive clouds in the afternoon

A little Photoshop fun

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Urban Canoeing in Seattle

July 11th, 2009

Canoeing under highway 520

This might seem very ho-hum to most city dwellers, but to a guy from the Rockies this was kind of mind blowing. Canoeing under a freeway??

Canoeing on Lake WashingtonMy girlfriend and I were in Seattle to see some friends, for her to take me to a Tori Amos concert, and for us both to run a 5k race at Fraternity Snoqualmie. Part of that “friend seeing” was her sister, who is going to school in Seattle. Looking for something to do on a sunny Saturday, we decided to go down to Lake Washington and rent one of the canoes provided by the UW Waterfront Activities Center. You could canoe anywhere from that dock there (I guess) but one of the better (and easier) bets is to head across Union Bay to the Washington Park Arboretum. There are some nice channels in the Arboretum away from the big Lake Washington boats. What I didn’t realize is that we would be padding directly under the 520 Freeway! It was strange to be in what was - for the most part - a lovely, pastoral nature spot complete with ducks and turtles and herons… with the sound of traffic overhead. It’s a lovely little paddle though and I recommend it if you’re looking for something to do in Seattle (if only for the surrealism of the experience!).

Some of the many ducks in the Washington Park ArboretumA Blue Heron in the ArboretumLake Washington turtles

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July 5th Skiing on Sacagawea

July 6th, 2009

Finding summer snow on the main trail up Sacagawea

We are a fanatical bunch, here in Bozeman. July is not ski season, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet when my girlfriend and I hiked up Sacagawea on July 5th to make some summer turns, there were probably more skiers up there than any day in the winter. Every last swatch of dirty, sun-pocked snow had tracks on it! I love this place. :)

Sacagawea and The Great One (the snowy chute to the left, on Naya Nuki)Little red alpine flowersUp the ridge from the saddle to Sacagawea

Last year I went a little crazy and skied every month of the year. I have neither the time nor the ambition to keep that up for a second year, but I could think of no better way to spend my July 5th than up in the mountains searching out a few sunny, slushy turns. Even in the summer, what is the fun in just hiking up a mountain if you can ski on the way down??

Little yellow alpine flowers

Our shady July 5th lineThe usual goal for summer turns in the Bridgers is The Great One - a keen little line off of Sacagawea’s neighbor Naya Nuki. Or goal was just to ski… whatever. Since my girlfriend had never done any summer skiing before and I’ve still never skied The Great One, I didn’t want to take any chances and end up with an Epic. So we ended up skiing a small line in the main bowl right by the trail. It was an easy hike up the trail to the top of the line, and it ended right back on the trail again.

The Southern Bridgers from the summit of Sacagawea

We dropped our gear at the top of the line to bag the summit of Sac quickly. That was short work (and full of people!), so I suggested we hike along the ridge a little to Naya Nuki. I wanted to get a look at The Great One, and thought we might see some goats if we ventured off of the beaten path. And so we did! There was a whole herd of goats chilling right at the top of The Great One. Some skiers were chilling there two, just a few feet away from the mountain goats. Pretty cool.

Mountain Goats and skiers atop The Great One on Naya Nuki

Bridger Range vista from Naya NukiBridger mountain goat on Naya Nuki PeakTop view of The Great One on Naya Nuki Peak

Rocky, thin July skiingAfter seeing how awesome and filled in The Great One was I regretted leaving our skis back at the other line. Our line was going to be easier hiking still, like we planned, but it was really thin and rocky. Nothing to be done about it now though, so we hiked back to the gear and skied it. And it was even thinner and rockier than I anticipated! It would have sucked, actually, except for the fact that skiing in July never sucks. :) Rain showers were moving in by the time we took our skis off so we headed for the car. Another great adventure in the mountains!

July skiing on Sacagawea!Little white alpine flowersThe bitter end...

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Baldy Bike’n'Hike

July 1st, 2009

Baldy Mountain from somewhere up Sypes

Sypes canyon trailThe other day I rode up Sypes Canyon on my mountain bike. It’s a fun out-and-back ride just outside of Bozeman, on the West side of the Bridgers. I recommend it if you are short on time and need a punishing hill climb. Like most trails (except the new Leveritch one) you just need to be careful of hikers on the downhill. Once you hit the first ridge there are fantastic views of Bozeman, too. Great little ride.

At the “top” of the ride you hit the perpendicular “Bridger Mountain Trail No. 534″. I’m pretty sure it links up with the “M” and other Bridger trails, but I’m not positive since I always turn around and head back down. A third, smaller branch of the trail continues heading straight up the hill too steeply to ride, pointing right towards Baldy Mountain. After reaching this junction I decided I wasn’t really that tired and since I’d never been up on top of Baldy my decision to ditch the bike and continue on foot was fast and easy.

Rain over Bozeman and the Gallatin ValleyThe trail, however, is not fast and easy. It’s fun, but whatever crazy trail I was on clearly was not an “approved” one. Some places it was almost too steep and washed out to walk up. Eventually it joined up with a more used (and sane) trail, which I assume is the way most folks climb Baldy.

By the time I got to top the afternoon thundershowers were looking very threatening, so I signed the log book and turned right around. According to the Internet the summit log on the big bald “top” of Baldy is not actually the top, but, whatever. When I finally get around the hiking the entire Ridge I’ll bag the official summit. An hour of so after I left my bike I had returned to it and then got to enjoy the best part of Bike’n'Hike combos - ripping effortlessly downhill back to the car!

Baldy Mountain "summit"

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