Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hiking Trip Grand Teton Mountains

Below is a 2 min. video scroll down to read my journal of the trip and at the bottom are the pictures.

I kept a journal on this trip that goes along with my pictures, so I hope you enjoy both. At the top of this post is a little 2 minute video and at the bottom are the pictures. The first picture is titled Hiking Trip Grand Teton Mountains. So look for that picture and you will know you are at the first one. You can double click on the pictures to go to a bigger screen or just watch them in the post. I hope you enjoy. The journal will explain the pictures.

Well, the flight from Botswana to London was uneventful. I left at midnight and arrived in London at 9 am.

Meet Larry and Eddie in London, seem to be ok guys. We have two hours to kill before our flight to Minneapolis. Then we have a 3 hour layover, then continue on to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I think Larry and Eddie might be on the other team especially Eddie.
(Not that there is anything wrong with that) Eddie keeps asking me to take pictures of himself with Larry using his iPhone and then he emails them to someone with captions about Broke Back Mountain.

Once we arrived in Minneapolis Eddie wanted to visit all the men’s rooms. Eddie and Larry spent 20 Minutes in one of them. Eddie then came out with a banana in hand and wanted a photo with it in his mouth which he emailed to some friends on his iPhone-very mysterious. Then when they saw that the Republican Convention was in town they were so excited hoping they might run into Sen. Larry Craig from Idaho in one of the restrooms. I did not think I would be able to get them on our next flight.

In case you want to hear more from Larry Craig click on the below link.

I was finely able to round up Larry and Eddie and off to Jackson Hole we went. On the flight from Minneapolis to Jackson Hole, “FATMAN” was in the window seat in the row that Larry and Eddie were in. Eddie made Larry take the middle seat, half way through the flight “FATMAN” spilled his diet coke all over Larry, Eddie was laughing his head off. Larry was not happy. The issue here was Eddie was in Larry’s aisle seat and yet Eddie felt no guilt and rather only showed glee when the soda spilled. “FATMAN” = needs a seat belt extender when flying.

Landing was so cool! The Jackson Hole Airport is in Grand Teton National Park and as you land to the south the Grand Teton Mountains are on the right. They are majestic, rising up from the meadows.

The town of Jackson Hole is a typical cowboy/ski town. We stayed at the Antler Inn. Not sure why, but for some reason Larry had his own room and I was rooming with Eddie. Remember, I am a guest on this trip that Eddie had set up, so some of the events are a surprise to me.

At 8pm our guide, Brad Armstrong showed up for our pre-trip planning meeting. I think we got the “B” team with Brad. Not all that sharp, more to come on that later. He gave us our gear; backpack, tent and sleeping bag. He outlined the trip.

Day One: Backpack to the back country.
Day Two: Do some day hikes.
Day Three: Depending on weather head back straight away or do a short day hike and then head back

We had a concern about weather. The forecast was as follows.

Day One: Sunny low 50 high 75
Day Two: Some rain low 45 high 65
Day Three: Rain/snow low 35 high 55

So there was concern about getting caught in a mountain storm.

Brad said he would pick us up at 9am the next morning. We asked if we could go earlier since most likely it would be the best day weather wise. Brad said how about 8am? Eddie said how about 7am? Brad made it clear 8am was the earliest. He put Eddie in his place with a very stern, “NO!”

Brad picked us up at 8am sharp. We had already eaten breakfast at the Teton Steak House. All you could eat buffet for $5.99. Larry really stuffed himself, I think he was really trying to get his moneys worth.

We had a couple of stops before heading to the mountains, get gas for Brad’s truck, get some sandwiches for lunch, and the best one, go see if we could find Brad's hiking boots. Yes, our hiking guide forgot his hiking boots. What happened was he lent his jeep to a buddy and left his boots in the jeep. We spent 40 min. searching the streets of Jackson Hole looking for a green jeep. No luck in finding the jeep or boots. Remember I said I think we got the “B” team with Brad, this is more proof.

Next stop, Brad's house to get an old pair of shoes that almost passed for something you could hike the backcountry in. The smallest hole was two inches in length. Again, reinforcing to us we got the “B” team. Maybe even the “C” team. We finally made it to the trail head it was 11am. On the ride to the trail head, Brad explained that the owner of the hiking expedition company had taken a full time job elsewhere. We had an enthusiastic conversation about Brad taking over the company with advice on how to accomplish. After further thought, Larry decided not to say another thing about the topic suddenly realizing Brad had no ability to run a company if he couldn’t even find his shoes. Brad, who seemed enthused at the time, never broached the subject again either-go figure.

The plan was to hike to a place where we could camp both nights and take day trips from there. We were starting the hike in the Grand Teton Wilderness area, or at least that is what Brad told us. It was really the Jedediah Smith Wilderness. We would end up hiking in the Grand Teton National Park if things went as planned.

The day was perfect weather wise. The only problem besides the late start, was Larry having a hard time with his pack, my guess is the packs weighed between 35 and 45 lbs. Larry was complaining the pack was digging into his shoulders, He also seemed to be getting winded from the elevation, which was 7,000 feet when we started and we would camp at 8,200 feet. Camp was 6 miles from the trail head and as I mentioned a change in elevation of 1,200 feet.

Eddie, I will call him “Steady Eddie”, has got to be the slowest hiker I have ever seen, he keeps moving, does not complain, but boy does he go slow. I had no issues with the hike once I got my pack set right, my strength and endurance are pretty good since I have been training for the Philadelphia Marathon (more on that in future posts).

Camp was a spot 100 feet off the trail. A place Brad decided was as far as he wanted to carry his pack. At this point in the hike we had made it to the Lower Basin. Larry was all for stopping, boy can Larry complain. Steady Eddie wanted to keep going to the Upper Basin. Brad actually had some logic to his reasons for stopping and eventually won Eddie over. We set up our tents, and then from a high tree hung all our food along with anything that might have a scent that could attract bears.

Brad had all these rules about camp; the tents had to be 200 feet away from where we cooked, you had to pee at least 100 feet from any trail or water source, if you pooped you had to bury it in a hole at last 8 inches deep and you had to carry the TP out. Fun stuff, I decided to go with Camper Belly rather then having to deal with the pooping rules. In order to have an incentive and since I was not making any money on Poker this week, I asked Eddie and Larry to bet me $1 each that I could go the whole 3 days without pooping, they both took the bet, I won.

Once settled in we decided to go on a short hike. Larry was complaining, but we pushed him to join us. For some reason Larry and Eddie brought their packs. Not sure why the only things we needed was water and maybe a snack.

We hiked up to the Upper Basin where there was a small lake. The hike was fairly steep we climbed 1,000 feet in one and a quarter miles. Larry complained the whole way, while Steady Eddie went as slow as possible the whole way. Both Larry and Eddie had walking poles. Brad noticed that Eddie’s poles had a logo that said, “Designed for Women”. I do not know of a woman that would walk as slow as Eddie walked. Despite all that the views of the mountains were incredible and the colors of the wild flowers were amazing.

It was about this time that Larry said he was hungry having not eaten at base camp like we had as well as thirsty. Just as he went to drink from his water bottle, he asked Brad who had filled his bottle at Base Camp from the stream, whether he had purified it. Brad looked at Larry questioningly and said “No, I thought the other guys did.” Eddie and I nicely volunteered to share water with Larry but in doing so, everyone became short on water. Fortunately at the next stop, we found other campers who kindly allowed us to use their water purifier. Good thing Larry didn’t depend on Brad to follow through on the water.

From the Upper Basin Eddie wanted to go on to Alaskan Basin, which was another two miles and 1,000 foot climb. At the pace Eddie walks that would be 4 hours, the rest of us said, “NO!” We felt we did not have enough time before dark. We decided to hike back to camp, but go a different way, one that was a little longer but not as steep. The views were even more spectacular then the way up. It was a little farther then Brad had said it would be, 4 miles rather then the 2 miles. We were starting to get use to Brad’s miss-information. He was getting an “A” for effort but “C’s” and “D’s” in everything else. The good news about the longer walk was it gave us more time to listen to Larry complain, both about how far he was hiking and how tired he was.

For dinner we had this packaged chicken casserole. I am sure it was not very good, but after the 11 miles of hiking we had done it tasted like the best meal we had ever had. We were all asleep by 7:30pm. I woke up once that night and looked outside; the stars were so vivid the constellations were clear as could be, not a cloud in the sky. The Milky Way was so full of stars it looked like a Milky Way.

At 6:30am Larry woke up full of piss and vinegar. To start with he had not gotten much sleep because his tent was set up on a slant, which caused him to keep sliding into the corner. It was raining and Larry was miserable and wanted to go home. We convinced Larry that the day could only get better. Brad made breakfast while Eddie and I helped Larry move his tent three times. The first move Brad said was to close to where the food was, the second time it was to close to the trail, the third time was just right. After breakfast Eddie wanted to start hiking but Larry and I enjoyed an after breakfast siesta to freshen up prior to the day’s events and to allow the rain to pass.

At 8:00am the sky cleared and it was a gorgeous day. Even Larry was happy. We decided to hike to the top of Alaskan Basin. The first mile and a quarter would be a same hike we had done the day before up to the small lake. Then we would have another 2 miles and 1,000 foot climb, we would hit an elevation of 10,500 feet. The hike was great, the day was beautiful, and the views of the mountains and landscape were awesome. None of us had packs, except Steady Eddie, who was carrying a water purifier because you could not drink the water right from the streams. He also had our lunch in his pack.

From the top of Alaskan Basin you could see the entire Teton Mountain Range. On the far side was a glacier that ran down into a glacier lake. Larry was in a great mood and was not complaining; in fact he suggested we hike down to the lake, so we did. It was only a half mile hike and a change in elevation of 500 feet. I put my feet into the lake I would guess the temputure was above 32 and below 40 degrees. It was soothing to my feet which were sore from hiking or so I thought.

As usual Eddie wanted to continue hiking, the rest of us were ready to head back. Then we looked up at the sky and saw a storm was coming. This made for an easy decision to head back to camp. With 2 miles to go the rain got us and it was a cold rain. On the bright side, while we saw a Moose with a calf feeding just off the trail. With the rain coming down Larry and I went ahead and Brad stayed back with Steady Eddie. Larry and I got off course and we were lost for a bit then we saw Steady Eddie and found the trail.

When we got back to camp we were a bit wet and fairly cold, our guess was the temputure had dropped from 70 degrees to 50 degrees. Before we left for the hike Brad had suggested we leave our tents open to air out from the morning rain. Larry followed Brad’s suggestion so his tent was fairly wet when we got back, another example of Brad being on the “B” team. Eddie did close his tent, but since he had put his rain fly on upside down it was leaking like a sieve. We found out later that Brad had told Eddie his rain fly was upside down, but Eddie didn’t fix it. Eddie is not the sharpest knife in the draw.

As Larry and Eddie tried to dry out their tents, I hung out in mine which was nice and dry. While we hung out Brad made us dinner, rice and beans. After dinner unless you wanted to sit out in the rain, it was off to sleep. Larry and Eddie changed roles, with all Eddies stuff wet he was the one complaining. The good news, I was having a great time, my stuff was dry, I was happy, the hikes and scenery were unbelievable. That did not last to long, the part about me being happy, that is. At the end of the hike my left foot was aching a little, I did not think much about it. Half way through the night I realized I was having a gout attack.

In case you’re not familiar with gout, Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate around your joint, causing the inflammation and intense pain. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines, substances that are found naturally in your body, as well as in certain foods, such as organ meats, anchovies, herring, asparagus and mushrooms. Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine. But sometimes your body either produces too much uric acid or your kidneys excrete too little uric acid. When this happens, uric acid can build up, forming sharp, needle-like urate crystals in a joint or surrounding tissue that cause pain, inflammation and swelling.

To put it simply, it feels like you have broken glass in all the joints in your foot. I tossed and turned all night. I had some pills that would help with the pain, but they were hanging in a tree 100 yards away to keep the bears from eating them. There was no way I could crawl that far in the rain and get them down from the tree. At 3:00am an ice storm came through, sheets of ice formed on the tent, this helped a little as I was able to take some ice and put it in a bag and ice my foot. It ended up being a very long and painful night.

In the morning I was able to get some pills. I was still concerned because they usually take 24 hours to kick in and at this point I could not walk and we were 6 miles from the nearest road and I had a 40 lb pack to carry. Fortunately Larry had some awesome pills not sure why he had them or what they were, but I took them and in an hour the pain had subsided to a minor ache. I was able to walk with a hobble. If it was not for my training in the Botswana Special Forces I am not sure I would have been able to endure the pain through the night. My body might still be on the mountain. Larry and I really pushed the hike down to the trail head. For me it was the pain, I figured the quicker we went the faster I could get off my feet. For Larry it was the outhouse at the end of the trail. Larry poops 4 times a day and I think he was tired of digging holes and carrying around used TP. We made it to the trail head, Brad and Steady Eddie caught up to us 30 minutes later.

The trip was a great experience, great hiking, camping, views, the company was a little strange but what do you expect when two guys invite you on a hiking/camping trip after reading your blog.

Weather worked out as perfect as it could be, warm the first day, rain in the AM and PM the second day, but clear during the day, an a Ice Storm the last night but clearing for the hike down.

Once back in Jackson Hole we got cleaned up and had an awesome dinner at the Cadillac Grill., we all ordered the wild game sampler, which had Elk, Buffalo and Wild Boar with mash potatoes and vegetables. What a great dinner to celebrate a great trip.

The flights back to Botswana were fairly straight forward with one funny situation. On the flight from Jackson Hole to Minneapolis Eddie and Larry had a middle and aisle seat respectively, as they were getting on the plane guess who was in the window seat, none other then “FATMAN”. The very same “FATMAN” that was on the flight down that had spilled his soda on Larry, when Eddie saw “FATMAN” he started laughing and went right by his row and found another empty seat. What are the odds?

I hope you enjoyed the journal of the trip and the pictures. I am off to France for two and a half weeks on Sunday so I am not sure how much poker play I will get in this week, so do not be shocked if I have a low hand count.

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