Plans have been hatched to run the mythically beautiful Paintbrush to Cascade Canyon but the forecast is grim. Sunday morning dawns with a cloudburst so the plans are scrapped in favor of a loop closer to home: Devil's Staircase to Alaska Basin, from Teton Canyon. This loop, despite entering the heart of the Tetons, does not cross into GTNP, so Sophie is invited along.
She whines with excitement at the trailhead where she usually gets to go on bike rides, but the car keeps going, to end of the road. The rain has dispersed into mist. She runs in front of the people, through vegetation that towers over her head and showers condensation on her. They climb the Devil's Staircase and it looks like some Scandinavian brochure porn--gloomy skies and miles of exposed granite and tiny brilliant wildflowers.
The Teton Shelf is high and lonely and bare except for low-growing grasses. The rain begins in earnest. Sophie trots along to the cadence of cold wet, cold wet. She hates rain and darts under boulders, which offer little shelter. Her sullen ears are pressed against her head. The people stop at what must be a lightning strike: a deep scar in the earth, rocks charred. Just then the thunder rumbles. Spooked, they run faster. Sophie, who mostly depends on sight, sees brown lumps in the distance that make her uneasy. Bear or rock? She cagily approaches. The people laugh at her.
They leave the shelf and descend hewn rock switchbacks into Alaska Basin. Sophie spots a fat marmot and chases it over a horizon line. She finds herself on a ledge with six feet of cliff above and below her. She barks a little and roots around in the hole into which her prey darted. The people have to rescue her, to their annoyance.
They stop in a little cove and eat food and complain about how cold their hands are. Sophie's person feeds her kibble. Alaska Basin is all green green green and granite slabs and rushing water. The descent is long and rough and wet. Sophie has to cross more cold streams than she would prefer.
They enter dark woods and she senses something. Around a switchback a bull moose appears and she chases it as her person screams at her. It runs away instead of stomping her face. Lucky dog indeed.
The loop is longer than a quick map estimate implied, and it's raining harder. The people run stiffly, hoods up and fists clenched, but Sophie maintains her light, smooth trot. She sees hoof prints in the mud and hopes to encounter the moose again.
They finally reach the car and her person towels her off. At home she deigns to play with her roommate Kaha for a bit, but when he gets too amorous she goes in her room and curls up in bed, a warm and tired little dog.
06 July 2016
I was buzzing at the Death Canyon trailhead, hopping up and down after the long drive. We had a solid crew of six, friends from both sides of Wydaho. Everyone was tying shoes and buckling packs and smearing on sunscreen and I wanted to RUN!
|Pics courtesy of Erin and Cy|
The miles passed in a blur. The smell of shale and serviceberry and pine needles and the feeling of sweating and running and power walking up loose pitches was so evocative of Tahoe, but the landscape was so unlike Tahoe, thick with rampant greenery, forested to 10,000 feet, ice cold melt feeding the stream that rushed through the canyon.
Our group had varied paces and I waited a lot. Somehow it was not too terrible, lying on a rock in the sun over some incredible vista, eating Oreos, unconcerned by the usual worries of temperature, time, or daylight.
Patrick, a freelance marketer for cool companies, commented that I could net a lot of free gear with my athleticism, my blog, and some more effort on the social media front. My ego puffed up like an airbag but quickly deflated. I have such conflicted feelings about social media and smartphones and the commodification of image. On one hand, I'm as much of a narcissist as anyone and would love the constant validation of having a real following, and the pleasure of possessing some good images of myself doing quasi-cool things. On the other hand, I feel like enough of a compliment-fishing dork sharing my blog, and feel uneasy with the emptiness of documenting every experience to further promote yourself instead of existing in the moment. I could write a treatise of indecision on the topic.
I couldn't go five minutes without stopping and, with a manic grin, throwing my arms wide to absorb every bit of beauty. What an amazing world we live in.
Cy and I were moving faster than the rest of the group so we opted to summit Static before the questionable clouds to the west shut us down. The views from 11300ft prompted from me a string of joyous profanities. After luxuriating in the panorama and taking pictures with American flags (that social media thing...) we picked our way back down to the saddle to hide from the wind. Our gang caught up and the skies cleared so we decided to rally for a second summit. Just as wonderful.
I was peeing the whole day. This denotes unprecedented levels of hydration, even after I dug myself into a hole racing bikes and drinking in the sun the day before.
The final homeward stretch was clogged with couples and families going out for a holiday weekend hike. I sprinted past, uttering pleasant "Howdy!"'s and less pleasant "Scuz me!"'s when the groups blocked the trail like oblivious cattle. I felt so much cooler than them, dusty limbs and stripped down gear instead of wicking polos, Crossfit attire, and hulking overnight packs. But pausing at the gorgeous Phelps Lake overlook, I had to adjust my stupid localler-than-thou attitude.
Hundreds of thousands of people come here to this sacred and breathtakingly beautiful place, traveling long distances in cars and planes to spend time in the stoney embrace of the Tetons. I live forty minutes away...ten as the crow flies...and I take it for granted too often. I can't wait to spend more days in the park, getting slapped in the face with majesty.