Dates: 7/11/22 – 7/17/22
Commentary: Monday morning my calves were still sore from the race. I’d hoped to join the women’s run to knock out a Lost Souls route, but I opted to rest instead. Knowing I had a big backpacking trip on the horizon, I opted to rest the entire work week. Thank goodness I did!
Last year my husband and I hiked what we thought was the entirety of the Teton Crest Trail. When I returned to work after our trip, a coworker informed me you needed to go down Paintbrush Canyon instead of Cascade Canyon to have officially thru hiked the TCT. A quick Google search confirmed his accusation (although a recent Google search yielded no such confirmation). That’s when I decided I needed to do the actual TCT this summer.
Four other friends joined me on the adventure, including the one who told me I hadn’t done the TCT. The hike is point-to-point, so one friend picked me up from the end, we got our permit from the visitor’s center, and headed to the start.
Thankfully, the friend who shuttled me is a fairly fast hiker. The other three started around 7:15am, and he and I didn’t start until 9:20am. Two hours and six miles of uphill hiking and we caught up with our group! We expected to catch up with them closer to camp, so it was a pleasant surprise to meet up with them earlier.
None of us were in a hurry to get to camp, so we took our time. We hiked at a leisurely pace and took plenty of breaks to soak in the beauty around us. Because of the wet spring season, the wildflowers were spectacular! Our planned campsite wasn’t near a water source, so we stopped and had dinner at a lake about two miles from camp. The water was cold, and most of us hopped in to rinse off the sweat from our hard day of over 4,000 feet of climbing.
Our campsite wasn’t the best as far as flat space goes, but the views more than made up for it. I woke up to an amazing sunrise and quietly enjoyed it while everyone else slept. We started our day and stopped at the first water source for breakfast.
Again, we took our sweet time making it to our next home for the night. We stopped at Mirror Lake for lunch and swim, and took another break at Sunset Lake to enjoy the views. Then it was up, up, up to Hurricane Pass. From the pass we could see Schoolroom Glacier and the little glacial lake below it. We detoured to the lake because we wanted to see how cold it was, and man, was it cold!
The mosquitos were attacking me, so I separated from the group and picked up the pace in an effort to avoid getting bit. It was also my job to scout out a home for the night. This was a wee tricky. The first night we slept outside the park and didn’t need a permit. The second night we had a permit to camp in the park. The permit isn’t attached to specific site but rather a camping zone. Because of this, the further into the zone we went, the more likely it was we would have to turn around because the campsites were full.
To add to the trickiness, I wanted to get as close to the end of the camping zone as possible because day three was a loooong one. The further we made it on day two, the easier day three would be. With a little bit of anxiety, we passed up quite a few free campsites in search of one near the end of the zone. We got lucky and found one with great views. It also included views of the last two campsites in the zone, which were both occupied.
Sunday morning we hiked to the trail intersection where one member of our group split off from us. His right big toe and the toe next to it were sprained, so he opted for the easier route back. I can’t say that I blame him! The rest of us started our gradual ascent to Lake Solitude.
At the lake we took a lunch break and a skinny dipped in the lake. Another hiker approached as we were disrobing, and my friend, “Be prepared to see some naked ladies!” The hiker laughed and told us he was about to be naked to as well. After he jumped in the water and was back on shore he said, “That was better than naked ladies!” We all got a good chuckle out of that.
After lunch we continued climbing, heading to Paintbrush Divide. The incline wasn’t steep at all, which made the ascent quite pleasant. Near the divide we stopped for a water break, and I took advantage of the one bar of cell phone signal I had to chat with my husband. Up at the divide we chatted with other hikers and got some good group photos.
We were a little worried about the descent because we heard talk of sketchy snow sections. Thankfully they were mostly melted, and we didn’t even need to wear the microspikes we’d carried the entire trip. At one snow crossing I saw glissading evidence on the snow-covered slope below the trail. Of course I plopped on my ass and slid down the snow! My friend slid down as well, and I got a great video of her!
The rest of the hike out was relatively uneventful. The views were nice, and the mosquitos were horrible. About four miles from the parking lot my feet started hurting, and I started counting down the miles until we were done.
All in all, the trip was spectacular! I would 100% do the TCT again. I think next time I would take a day off and make it a four-day trip though. Someday…
Endlessly seeking adventure.