Caren Ware's Blog

August 13, 2012

Hiking instead of biking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 12:13 am

So here’s my experience of solo trekking. The park’s majestically glacier carved canyons and faulted, jagged peaks makes it a popular place to acquire backpacking permits. .  Teton National Park only allows overnight camping in limited zones in the mountains. I respect that.  This helps preserve and protect from overuse of wilderness areas and lets me relax.  When I pack in, I will always find only a few tents and parties in each canyon or by only certain lakes. We all hope that this beauty remains for years and years and years to come.  This is one way to try.

There were no permits available the days I was free to hike.  I had picked up a few hours at a store in Jackson called SKINNY SKIS.  Skinny skis is an outdoor apparel and product store in the summer.  It becomes the leading expert store in Nordic skis in the winter…thus the name SKINNY SKIS.  It is owned by Jeff Crabtree and Phil Leeds, accomplished Nordic skiers, great business men, family men, and active members of the community.    I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to learn about amazing products made by key outdoor companies like Patagonia ( Climber, Yvon Chouinard , still owns and buys up land to preserve for parks), Marmot (leader in 900 proof down, a lightweight, warm down that blasts to the end of the factory room when tested with a fan, Mamut (not to be confused with Marmot), Ice breaker (New Zealand wool that doesn’t carry body odor) , and Arcteryx (that bird fossil emblem is used by a company that makes nicely fitting  outdoor clothes)  There is not a lot of pay in store floor retail, but I am meeting people.  And getting to sell all the cool things that make people enjoy being outside.  And I get pro discounts on product.  I needed to end my backpack excursion in time to get to work by 10am in a few days. I also wanted to test out some new product I had acquired.  Mainly, do the boots fit?  Does the Jet Boil stove work?  Is the pack adjusted to my hips and shoulders?  I was told by the rangers I could enter through the park up Death Canyon, cross Alaska Basin and camp in the Jedidiah Wilderness, an area known for Grizzlies, remoteness, and horrendous lightning and hail storms, but didn’t require permits.  I accepted.

It took too long to get away.  I had to buy packable meals, find my socks, dig through boxes to retrieve my sleeping pad and stuff sack.  Who knows what kept me so long.  I found myself bumping up the dirt road to Phelps/Death Canyon Trail head around 5:30 pm.  I would be hiking by head lamp. I was already leery.  I passed a few hikers returning to their cars and knew those were my last folks to cross paths with.  There would not be any overnight campers in this canyon.  They were not permitted.  I would have to make it all the way over the pass and into Alaska Basin.  The viewpoint over Phelps Lake is quite spectacular.  After it, there is a huge section of ravines and avalanche torn rubble and bushes.  Then the trail climbs through a narrow canyon with a cascading brook.

I didn’t make it to the pass.  Dusk, turned to darkness.  Although I had a head lamp, I was tripping over the rocks and it became futile to keep going.  I also had checked the weather and knew I had a window of no rain.  Taking my chances, I had brought no tent.  I was going to camp solo style under rock overhangs very common in this area.  Now I couldn’t  even make out the rock formations.  I was stuck.  And it was that same dark, dark that I had been introduced to when getting lost in Nevada.  I didn’t like it than, and I certainly wasn’t enjoying it now.  Again, I was to feel that dreadful feeling of the UNKNOWN, not knowing what you couldn’t see.   I punishingly told myself.  ‘Why did I do this, knowing I don’t like the dark?”  And I don’t.  This darkness asks all  kinds of pasts in…and the very real, present fear of bears.  They are out this time of year trying to eat as much berries and food as they can find.  I didn’t want to be an option for a food choice.  And I certainly didn’t want to flush one out on the trail as I tried to stumble up it in the dark.  So I hunkered down on a very lumpy rock and spent the night reading a book, Teewinot, Climbing and Contemplating the Teton Range by Jack Turner with my headlamp; which was really an excuse to keep the headlamp on and scan the trail as far as the little beam would reach.  I had to put up with an occasional moth.

This is as much help as the moon gave.

The moon did eventually appear from behind a peak, but it was just a taunt.  It was a little speck of light barely in competition with the little beam of light my headlamp could throw.  “Thanks a lot.  I whimpered” and read to the first rays of light started to calm my world.  What was I to fear anyway?  See, I was fine in the morning.  The brook bubbled nearby.  I cooked breakfast and headed on.The next day, I packed out before dawn could be called dawn because I needed to be at work by 10am.  I nearly ran the descent with my pack on.  When I came to the avalanche torn area I knew I was within a mile to the truck. Yahoo.  That’s when I saw movement.  It was black and it was a black bear.  He stood up on his haunches to get a look at me. He was very little.  I skirted by his berry picking area and only 400 yards later ran smack into another.  This one had a radio collar on and he was agitated.  He popped up on the trail and did what I hoped no bear would do….took two leaping lunges at me.  But it did not seem an attempt to get near me.  It seemed a move to get me away from him.  He was scared.  Instead of grabbing my bear spray hooked to my hip belt, I reached back and un-foiled my hiking map and wave it like a matador.  That bear is probably still running.  I have never seen something tuck its buns, spin on its quarters, and leave a county faster than that little bear.  Both bears were young.  I wanted out of there and to my truck before I encountered their sow.   I noisily scurried to my vehicle.  A week later, the forest service closed that area and canyon for a week.  ‘To give the bears time to move through.  We are experiencing a high number of bears.”, the newpaper reported.  When I inquired about them with the locals, they said the closure wasn’t due to little nuisance black bears.  There were three grizzlies sighted and they wanted them to keep moving past that canyon where I had been.  I don’t think my map matadoring would have worked on a grizzly.It’s rare for the bears to be this low.  But we are having a rare drought year.


  1. You need a partner…

    Comment by Scott T. Metcalfe — October 13, 2012 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

    • Saw you spent time in Antarctic. Any tips on where to wander once Im down there. Going end of Feb 2013 to run that marathon. Wondering what Patagonia is like and how hard it is to get there.

      Comment by carenware — October 16, 2012 @ 6:56 am | Reply

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