Side trip to Cheyenne and Grand Teton National Park, Part 1
After an impromptu invitation from Carrie’s friend Jill, we turned South to Cheyenne. Along the way we encountered historical markers from the Oregon Trail and even got to see the ruts carved into the rock that allowed the wagon wheels to pass over the mountain.
A Cheyenne native, Jill provided us with a complete tour upon our arrival Monday night and in addition to a pull out couch (!) and use of her shower, kitchen sink, and washing machine. Luxury! On Tuesday morning however she took us out to Medicine Bow State Park which easily beat all that; the park boasts eroded boulders, rich animal habitats, and clear, secluded reservoirs. We spent the morning and early afternoon climbing up the smoothed mountains of boulders, pausing to take in spectacular views of the surrounding prairie and the magnificence of the rock itself. Jill drove us along the marshy river rich with beaver and heron before we headed up for a swim to a cold, clear lake nestled in the cliffs. With only one person fishing on the lake, we followed the shoreline around a bend until we found a spot all to ourselves. After the day at Medicine Bow Jill brought us to see her horse Diva, which Carrie took a turn riding.
We spent another night in Cheyenne before departing early on a cross-state drive to Grand Teton National Park. Arriving in early evening we acquired our permits and hiked out 4 miles to Bearpaw Lake to set up camp and jump in the cold glacial outwash. We set off early the next morning, leaving most of our gear at camp for the 14+ mile roundtrip hike to Inspiration Point. Hiking in the previous night we had seen a taste of the sheer beauty of the park: the soaring snow-capped mountains overlooking the forested valleys, dotted by blue lakes, and the meadows of grasses and flowers. Today however we saw the new light reflected off each surface, the colors all impossible bright and vibrant. Purple mountains surrounded the turquoise waters of the glacial lakes on the West while thick, richly green forest ended abruptly at the lakes’ sandy beaches to the East. The gradations of color in the water alone caused us to pause many times on our route.
Continuing toward the mountains overlooking Jenny Lake we passed torrents of current in the crystal blue rapids and finally began our ascent to 7,200 feet. We crossed several times over the freezing rush of water until we passed Hidden Falls, set back behind dense tree cover. The trail then became rocky and steeper until we reached our destination, from which we could see miles upon miles of the staggering perfection of the park, spreading out below us as the Teton range rose steeply at our backs.
On the return hike we stopped twice to submerge in the chilly waters of String Lake and Leigh Lake, reviving our exhausted legs and tired backs. Although freezing, the glacial lakes of Grand Teton were the best I have ever swam in: clean, clear, refreshing, and of course, surrounded by unspeakable beauty. We fell asleep early that night, too tired and sore to spend much time by the campfire.
The park has almost too much beauty to take in; even though we eventually hiked the same route to and from the trailhead from our campsite four times for example, we stopped at least once every half mile to just gawk at the amazing landscape. The contrast of glacier and snowy, craggy mountains with the crystal azure waters reminiscent of Caribbean bays was captivating unlike any other sight I have seen in my years on this planet. It was almost too perfect.