When we reach Lake Solitude at 5PM we have it to ourselves and Jeanine now adopts its proper name. Without a tripod we have to settle for pictures of each other but the evening light could not have been more beautiful. The day’s considerable efforts have all been worth the beauty and serenity of this destination. We sit back, have a light snack and just take it all in.

By 5:30PM it is time to head back to our campsite to ensure we do not run out of sunlight. We make it back with 30 minutes to spare and are sound asleep by 7PM.

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When we reach the North Fork we make camp in one of the established campsites, take on a little food, and rest for a few moments before continuing on to Solitude Lake. To this point Jeanine has alternatively referred to our planned destination as Sacrifice Lake or Suicide Lake clearly reflecting a perspective distorted by fear of bears and/or the weight of her pack. We set out at 4PM to complete the last 4 miles of the day’s hiking with little more than our water and a camera making the final ascent to Lake Solitude much more agreeable.

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It is not long before we spot this cute little Pika, actually a member of the rabbit family. Pika’s gather as much as 50 pounds of plants which they dry in the sun and store to last them through the winter months. Along the way we encounter several moose and have come to recognize their preferred habitats.

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Along the trail we enjoy breathtaking views of Teewinot Mountain, Mount Owen, and snow capped Grand Teton through the fall foliage in peak color. During the summer months this trail is fairly crowded with day hikers but at this time of year when snow has usually set in we find very little traffic.

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The first part of the climb is rather steep and takes us past Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, the common destinations for most tourists who explore this trail. Our destination will require the better part of 8 hours to reach as we move slowly under the weight of our packs (Jeanine is carrying 30 pounds, I have 40) and the lack of oxygen at this altitude (Solitude Lake is at over 9,000 ft). Once we enter the main part of Cascade Canyon, the trail levels off following Cascade Creek and offers a variety of ecosystems along the way (dense Pole Pine forests, open meadows, and rock falls).

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Our goal is to hike the Cascade Canyon trail to Lake Solitude and overnight along the North Fork trail where back country tent sites have been established. The total distance is 19 miles but we are happy to shave off 2 miles by taking the Jenny Lake boat shuttle in lieu of hiking around the lake. Today is the last day that the shuttle will run for the season and dictates our 10AM start time.

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We make a quick dash to the Jenny Lake Lodge where we have 8:15AM reservations for their world famous breakfast. The meal lives up to its reputation and we eat heartily as this will be our last civilized meal for some time. The lodge is petite and unassuming with an awe inspiring view of the Tetons.

Our next stop is the Grand Teton Ranger’s Station at Moose Junction where we double check forecasted weather conditions, obtain our back country camping permit, and sign out a bear-proof food cannister (required for all food storage on overnight camping excursions).

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Today we are on the road by 5:30AM for what will be a very long day. We arrive at Oxbow Bend pre-dawn to enjoy sunrise on one of the most iconic views of the Grand Teton’s with the Snake River in the foreground. I experiment with many compositions and settle on this one as my favorite.

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Comfortably settled in our cabin, we head out to the Antelope Flats area. It is not long before we find a herd of bison which eventually surround our rental car as they traverse the road we are on. They were literally feet from the car. Shortly after this encounter we locate a herd of Pronghorn and finally as the light is beginning to wane we spot our first moose.

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After picking up our rental car we check in to the Rustic Inn at Jackson Hole where we settle into our log cabin. The weather is uncharacteristically warm for this time of year and the forecast is calling for no rain or snow during our stay.

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Not too many airports feature an elk antler arch over the tarmac entry door. Elk shed their antlers each year which the local boyscout collect and sell each year.

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At 4:30AM Kyle drove Jeanine and I to the airport where we departed for a 5 night getaway in celebration of our twentieth wedding anniversary. It is also my 52nd birthday. We are travelling to Wyoming where we will enjoy equal measures of backcountry hiking/camping and rustic resort pampering. Pictured here are the Grand Teton’s with Jenny Lake in the foreground taken on final approach to the Jackson Hole airport.

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I purchased a new 50L backpack for my upcoming backcountry hiking adventure with Jeanine. Maya is happy to model it for me even with a 40 pound load. Maya is no stranger to backpacking having completed an 11 mile hike with a 10 pound load during her Farm & Wilderness summer camp. She will be loaning her pack to Jeanine for the trip who will be carrying 30 pounds.

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Maya is dressed for her first ballroom dance class. My father taught ballroom dancing to finance his PhD and met my mother doing so. They are still dancing well into their 80s. We hope Maya will enjoy ballroom as much as her grandparents and will continue the family tradition.

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The older kids were much more reluctant to let me photograph them but a little perserverance paid big dividends. All photos of the event can be seen at this link (Mattson Block Party).

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