Grand Teton National Park has a certain amount of backcountry campsites throughout their park that need to be reserved. The reservations aren't specific, they relate to camp zones, not particular campsites. Luckily they also hold a certain amount of reservations back for those that walk in and intend to begin their hike within the next 24 hours. Intent on obtaining a backcountry permit for our backpacking trip, I woke the family and we drove to the Moose visitor center in GTNP to line up for a backcountry permit. We arrived before the visitor center was open, adding to the line that had already begun to form. We were able get a permit on 7/3/18 for the lower paintbrush canyon camp zone and a permit for the upper paintbrush canyon campzone on 7/4/18. The information from the park rangers said there was significant snow at Holly Lake and portions of the Upper Paintbrush canyon camp zone. Ready for an adventure, we went with it.
We arrived at Leigh Lake TH and started pulling our packs out of the car. The sky's began to darken as we prepped for our departure, the rain began to fall just as we tightened our packs, it was raining hard enough for us to take off our packs and put on our raincoats, then packs on our backs once again and we were off.
Once we were ready to proceed with our hike we ran into a volunteer park ranger. She informed us that she was from Boston and asked to take our picture since we had little American flags strapped to our packs in honor of the Fourth of July. We talked about our trip plans and the volunteer ranger informed us snow travel was very difficult on the last portion of the trail to the Upper PB Canyon campzone. I informed her that I had wanted to stay in the Lower PB Canyon camp zone for both nights but that wasn't an option when I acquired the back country permit. The park ranger said she could change that and asked for our permit, she wrote on it and Voila! we had two nights in the Lower PB Canyon Camp Zone.
By the end of our conversation with the Volunteer Park Ranger we had numerous mosquitoes extracting blood from our legs, so we applied Deet before taking off once again. The trail wasn't too bad, a fairly easy ascent most of the way. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall of snow melt for a breather, soon after the waterfall we entered the lower PB camp zone. We looked at the 2nd camp area available, it was a very nice spot with picturesque views of the mountains; we arrived at this camp spot at about 5pm so we decided to make camp. As we started putting up camp some mosquitoes started bothering us, and when we began making dinner it was evident that the mosquitoes would be relentless. After dinner we tried to enjoy our surroundings, but the mosquitoes drove us inside our tent. There Sophia and Kelli took turns reading a book Sophia brought for some good entertainment.
That night, Kelli had ventured out of the tent. She prompted me to come outside. I stepped out to take in a sky full of stars that called to us from the Back Country. The moon lit the steep mountain face that bordered us, the air was refreshingly frigid and the bugs had gone to bed. these are the moments I live for.
While Sophia and Kelli got ready for the day, I went to the kitchen area and prepped food. I was getting ready to go back to the tent when something caught my eye; a yellow bellied marmot. The next thing you know, like magic he pops up next to the kitchen. I shooed him away and watched him make his way down to camp. I told Kelli and she took action, making sure our gear was safe. The Park Ranger at Moose informed us that these critters like to eat the salt from trekking pole handle and backpacks!
We discussed plans for the day, the previous evening was so relentless with mosquitoes that we decided to hike out after a day hike to upper paintbrush canyon camp zone. I carried snacks, 1st aid kit, water filter and layers, then we were off.
The day was filled with incredible scenery. As we gained elevation forests thinned and we entered the beginning of alpine country. We crossed a scree field covered with snow, adventured into canyons with edges rising brilliantly over us. All the while the sound of rushing water filled our ears as new snowmelt created crystal clear trickles, then streams that turned into rushing white water. I can't find the words to convey the beauty that surrounded us. After about 3 hours of hiking and playing we turned back, 1 hour later we were at our camp.
Everyone was feeling pretty good when we returned to camp. It was much hotter when we reached the lower elevation (approximately 7,600 ft) The mosquitoes were beginning to make their appearance once again, so we packed up and headed out. The long day of hiking accompanied by the increased activity of the mosquitoes began to take its toll. We finished the hike, returning to the Leigh Lake Trailhead feeling a sense of accomplishment and embracing the beauty from which we had just emerged.
Horseback riding is always on the agenda. We decided to use Shoshone Guest Lodge and Ranch. We booked a two hour ride, but arrived quite a bit earlier than we needed to. No GPS in the mountains, so weren't exactly sure how long it would take us to get there. Since we had a little extra time we ordered breakfast before our adventure and what a fantastic breakfast! The staff was very kind and helpful. We ventured down to the horses and greeted them. Soon we were joined by other adventurers and asked about our experience with horses. One of our leaders, William, gave a great introductory lesson about how to work with the horses. The horses we rode was based on our experience and the horses temperament. I rode "Drummer", Kelli rode "Otis" and Sophia rode "Trixie". The trail was in the Shoshone National Forest providing some excellent views.