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Be sure to check out Death Canyon to Alaska Basin first!
Day 3: Teton Creek to Sunset Lake, 2.5 miles, warm and intermittent rain all day.
Slept in until 7:45a, and a slow morning. I made my favorite trail meal- bacon and pancakes. We pack in pre-cooked bacon, complete pancake mix, a bit of coconut oil, and syrup or honey. So easy, so delicious, so worth the weight. Greg and Ryan hiked ahead again to find us another campsite just a couple miles down the trail, but closer to Hurricane Pass. An unexpectedly big hill to climb in those 2.5 miles but gorgeous views, and Sky carried Jamie’s pack for the last half mile or so. The Jamies are strong, independent women, but we are happy as larks to give our packs up to men.
Camped above Sunset Lake with a view of Idaho to the west and some big ol’ peaks to the north. The wildflowers around camp were incredible. Broke our first branch while hanging bear bags but no one got their noggin crushed, thankfully. We watched a big storm gathering in the valley and were in the tents by 4:00p to wait them out. The storm brought big thunder and lightning so Greg and I gathered Blake up and the three of us huddled under trees on the balls of our feet until the lightning passed. We just let the others fend for themselves.
We all took long afternoon naps until the rain finally stopped around 8:00p and everyone bailed out for a quick dinner by headlamp. The light and the clouds and fog from the storms were amazing. As soon as we were finished eating everyone pretty well went right back to bed. Backpacking is such a simple life- up with the sun, eat when you’re hungry, bed when it’s dark. Perfect.
p.s. noted in my journal: “Worst gas ever.”
Must’ve been all the pasta.
Day 4: Sunset Lake to North Fork Cascade group site, 6.1 miles, warm and sunny all day.
Up at 5:00a, still dark and a beautiful fog blanketed us. A quick oatmeal and peanut butter breakfast. I have a love/hate relationship with oatmeal; it’s fast and easy, but I gag with nearly every spoonful. Crunchy peanut butter certainly helps, but we only pack in creamy peanut butter packets for convenience. Hiked out through tall grass and wildflowers, still soaked from storms and fog so we were all quickly soaked too. It was an easy up, up, up to Hurricane Pass and the views on the way up got better and better and better.
From the top the views were unbelievable. In my journal I wrote “Stunning, unreal, other-worldly”. We soaked it all in and I started to feel really bad for all the first-timers. Greg and I have hiked in some amazing places all over the world- New Zealand, Nepal, Alaska- but that view from the top of Hurricane was one of the best we’d ever seen. Like, sorryboutcha! It’s only going to get worse from here; all your other backpacking trips will pale in comparison to this one. But Hurricane is totally rad because it’s relatively easy to access from the Idaho side. Next time Greg and I are going to hike the eight miles up from Idaho to Alaska Basin and basecamp and dayhike out of there, bypassing all the national park shenanigans. I would recommend that hike from the Basin over Hurricane Pass to anyone who’s ever put, or dreamed of putting hiking boots on their feet. Just be aware Hurricane didn’t get its name because of the tropical storms that blow over it, but the gale-force winds that do.
The first glacier most everyone had ever seen, and we brunched under it but no one was willing to take a dip. Down down down through the South Fork Cascade camp. What sites! Have no desire to hike up to them from Cascade Canyon, though. We definitely hiked in the right direction. The subadults took to hiking far ahead of us real adults and we didn’t see them for at least an hour. When we finally caught up to them we had lunch and we discussed their waiting for us should they come to any trail junction without us, and everyone verbalized understanding.
After lunch Blake stayed back with us while the other three young’uns hiked ahead. Blake is a damn fine hiking companion- he just talks and talks the whole time. We came up on the Cascade Canyon and North Fork Cascade Canyon junction and I’ll be derned- there were a ton of people milling about but none of our subadults in sight. The Wardens were behind us so we waited for them, then started asking hikers coming up from Cascade or down from NF Cascade if they’d seen three young men hiking together. One guy thought he might’ve remembered some funky sunglasses on three boys headed up the NF, so we hiked toward camp and hoped they were there and that we wouldn’t have to send someone down Cascade Canyon to find and possibly kill them. They were at the group site, just waiting for us. We sent the Wardens up ahead to have their words and Greg, Blake, and I hung back and hunted for pikas among the rocks. Lesson learned, everyone!
Some hikers coming down the trail told us there was a black bear sow with two cubs on up the trail a few hundred yards so we all went up for a look. The bears ended up coming out onto the trail about 100 yds away heading in the opposite direction, the only thing between the them and us a hyperactive, over-excited, moronic Texan hell bent on running her down. Sky yelled out “Hey bear” to warn her and the guy actually turned around and shhhh’ed him, and said “I’m from Texas, we do stupid shit like this all the time.” I told the boys to get their cameras ready, as we were about to witness a mauling. (Un?)Fortunately she got off the trail and meandered further down into the canyon where we could watch her from a safe distance and the Texan could do no damage.
The North Fork group site is gorgeous, and the regular site just to the south of it even more so. We played Farkel under the alpenglow, and hunted for more pikas. I was watching Blake climb higher and higher up a boulder field to look for them and I heard Merik yelling “Behind you!” I turned around to see a fox run right by me and down the trail, dead marmot in her mouth.
One of the best trail days of my entire life.
Stay tuned for North Fork Cascade out Paintbrush Canyon!