17 July 2017

Thirty-Six Hour Vacation

In Gilmore, Idaho, there is a piece of cardboard nailed to the side of a shack with a handwritten for sale message: “Lot and house $10,000.” There is nothing available in Teton Village for under a million.

But six miles up the road is a campground more beautiful than any car-accessed one in Grand Teton National Park, a small cerulean lake abutted by a towering chunk of rock in a cirque of crumbling spires. On a Saturday afternoon in July, there are two sites free out of fifteen. We claim one and immediately try to figure out how accessible that chunk of rock, Gilmore Peak, is.
Next to the lake there is a broad mellow trail through woods carpeted with rich greenery.  We branch off it and follow a faint trail churned into the talus on the shoulder of the cirque. We are on top barely twenty minutes later, looking across the basic at Gilmore, but a storm is scudding toward us so we bail. Tomorrow!
Waking up is so easy in summer. Oatmeal, coffee, ablutions, and back up to the ridge. We scramble over dalmatian-spotted feldspar, waiting for the difficulty of the route to match the drama of the scenery, but it never does. We summit by nine. Long couloirs and precipitous drops and warm-colored peaks of red and ochre surround us.
Descend fast, feet in the lake, drinking Coors at ten. We get restless and pack up camp to pursue another adventure—a twenty-mile backcountry ride. The road is studded with tombstones that scrape and jolt the little car. A cow-wallow stops us several miles before the trailhead so we start pedaling.
The hot, unpleasant doubletrack turns into a long mellow singletrack climb from the mouth of the gulch to an alpine pass. We contour around the base of Yellow Peak, spot elk cows and calves below us in a clearing, and push up a darkened shale path unlike anything I’ve ever traveled by bike. I throw myself into the snow patch up top and stuff my hydration bladder with snow. I’m out of water, it’s hot, we already climbed a mountain this morning.
The descent is appropriately backcountry’esque, rock-cluttered erosion channels, downed trees, mud bogs, but also huge views of adjacent peaks. We slog through the last five miles thirsty and hot.

The closest open gas station is a hundred miles away but we still have cherries and Oreos and snow to melt and beer to drink. I am shelled, burned, my eyes red and my lips chapped, but I am content. 

Most of my Saturday mornings are consumed by bike practice but I’ve gotten much better about GTFO of the valley the second practice ends and taking advantage of my full thirty-six hours of weekend. There are incredible places within a five-hour drive of here and I’ve only scratched the surface.

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