Bear spray. River crossings. Snow fields. These are nifty terms that I had no context for until three days ago when I hiked Table Mountain in Grand Teton National Park.
In order to prepare myself for this hike, I did the following: set my treadmill on an incline and walked until I didn't feel like it anymore; Googled "hiking tips" to see if there was any new wisdom on hiking downhill, at which I suck; diligently avoided looking at too many internet sites pertaining to the actual hike for fear that I would discover it might be impossible for me.
And so, on the morning of July 12, 2012, my last day of being 41 - I got up really, really early and packed my peanut butter and jam sandwich into my borrowed Camelbak. We left Rexburg, Idaho for the trailhead in Wyoming about an hour away. There were six of us women riding in a minivan toward the sunrise and chatting casually about many things completely unrelated to bear spray, flares, whistles, toilet paper-in-a-baggie, and other elements of emergency preparedness which were included in our backpacks.
Just before we met up with the seventh woman in our party, it was established that I was the oldest in the group, and also the only hiker coming from a low elevation. Henderson is 1,330 feet above sea level. All my fellow hikers are from Rexburg, situated at a handy 4,865 feet. I tried not to let this discourage me, and, in fact, it didn't. I wasn't discouraged until three minutes into the hike when I had to start panting. Read this little tidbit about the beginning of "The Face" trail we ascended to Table Rock: "Rather than gain elevation gradually,
it leads straight up the hillside with hardly a switchback to
moderate the ascent. It gains 2,100 feet within a
mile of leaving the parking lot. In addition, much of the trail is
covered with loose rock and "ball bearing" gravel (gravel
round enough to roll underfoot when stepped on). In fact, just as
The Face trail
leaves the parking area, a prominently placed sign warns 'Trail Not
Maintained, Very Steep, Not Recommended.'"
Our plan was to hike up The Face, and down a separate trail called Huckleberry. It was a 12-mile round trip hike with an overall elevation gain of 4,100 feet -- topping out at 11,300 feet.
Here I am with my sister-in-law, Rachel - who I love and admire and was happy to be standing next to near an aspen grove probably at that first mile mark. So far, so good.
To read plenty about the technicalities of this hike, here are some fun sites: Trail Mutt; Yellowstone Park; and a blog we found written by another hiker mom.
On the eve of my birthday, I couldn't have picked a better way to celebrate than hiking in the mountains surrounded by flowers, trees, and the sound of birds chirping. It really was poetic. In fact, in addition to spending some of my hiking time (I had 11 hours!) praying for my husband and children, I also brought to mind some Robert Frost poetry. It was marvelous. Also, I had a hard time believing it wasn't all a dream. How crazy to be hiking so far from my usual setting - in July! - and come across snow! We even hiked through it a couple times. Here you can see our first close-up sighting of it as well as our first tiny stream crossing.
If you say, "That looks like a breeze!" I will kill you. This picture doesn't do justice to it's difficulty. In fact, as I look at this, I think it appears that you could walk right up whistling a tune and picking at your fingernails. To lend some perspective, we probably had a good mile to go at this point and there is scrambling involved to reach the summit. Peeking out on the left side is none other than The Grand Teton - all 13,770 feet of it.
We reached the top just five hours after our start. My feet were cramping and I felt the elation I've only felt two other times: upon successful completion of four natural childbirth and three half-marathons. Some shots from the top: