Erik Trautman logo crest shield seal

Erik Trautman

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
-- Pablo Picasso

The Tetons

A very busy day began with a chilly morning wakeup in the teepee. We combined possessions, loaded up the bike, and set out for Jackson, WY on rt 33. What a great ride! It as full of long and twisting climbs into the mountain passes, reaching over 8000′ before descending again to the valley of Jackson.

Jackson, WY is a beautiful town that looks like it’s just waiting for the winter snows. The buildings are typically made from thick logs with good strong roofs that look about as awkward as wearing a wool sweater in July. We grabbed lunch at a cafe with a view of the mountains that ringed the valley… only they weren’t there.

The air was, according to the locals, as hazy as they’d seen it in years. The horizon just sort of melted into a soupy gray where you could just barely make out the rise of the land. Smoke from the Idaho wildfires had filtered into the basin to the point where you had to blink a lot to dispel a gentle stinging sensation of the eyes that sort of hovered at the edge of consciousness.

We rode through the valley to the base of Teton National Park, not entirely sure what we were going to see. Once we had arrived at Jenny Lake, though, we knew we were in for a treat. We took a boat across the lake to the base of the Cascade Canyon hiking trail (it was getting late enough that we couldn’t risk taking the long route around) and started heading into the pass.

The hike to Cascade Canyon, which cuts between two mammoth sized mountains, was one of the best of my life. The late-day sun shone straight through the cut in the mountains and brought the jagged rock of the surrounding landscape to life. Our first leg took us up to Inspiration Point, an overlook of Jenny Lake and, on a normal day, the mountains in the distance.

We stopped to rest and were greeted (borderline harassed) by some overly-socialized chipmunks.

The rest of the hike followed a rapidly flowing and freezing cold stream back into the canyon. The air carried a refreshing mixture of the smells of evergreen, cool water, and rock dust. It was starting to get late, but we took the time to have a little fun along the way. It was hard not to… the raw beauty of the scenery provided one jaw-dropping view after another that was like a little shot of adrenaline each time. I wanted to be among epically awesome mountains, and I’d found them.

We returned to the bike and regretfully hopped on for the long ride up to West Yellowstone, WY. We ended up cutting north through the lower side of Yellowstone National Park, though it was getting late enough that it was difficult to fully make out all the surrounding scenery. There were vast tracts of pine trees and lakes and a winding road through the woods that seemed to never end. We passed a couple of different traffic jams resulting from moose sightings and overeager tourists, but it was hard to get too excited about it when it really just made me more nervous about the early-evening riding through the wild woods.

We passed the section of the park that held Old Faithful and the other geysers just as true darkness fell. It was pretty eerie to look off to the side and see the ghostly plumes of steam rising from the ground amidst a cracked and barren landscape. It was really just a preview, though, of what we’d see the following day.

Late in the night we finally arrived at our campsite, a little tent-and-teepee settlement by the curve of a river that was difficult to make out in the darkness. We watched the meteor shower for a bit and headed to bed. Sleep, though, was hard to come by due to the combination of near-freezing temperatures (I sure didn’t expect that) and the howling of wolves in the distance. I suppose you can’t really ask for a more authentic Yellowstone experience, and at dawn I strolled around for a real look at our surroundings, tired but ready for another big day ahead.