Read about the first part of my hike here.
One of the things I liked best about the national parks is that they forced me to live a more simple life and get back to basics. After my strenuous hike I made my dinner, then walked around and did photography until it was dark. By 8 pm it was pitch black. I was alone in the darkness with nothing to do. There were no technological distractions like email, Facebook, or video games. So I just went to bed. The night was amazingly quiet, except for the sounds of my sneezing. Apparently I was allergic to something up there.
Going to bed early means I’m up for sunrise. I did photography, ate my granola, packed up, and hit the trail. It was cold and the sky looked ominous. I met a group of a half dozen Texans traveling together on the shelf.
After a few short showers, the storm started as we were climbing off the shelf. Cold wind, sustained rain, thunder, and lightning, with no signs of it stopping anytime soon. I came prepared, with a big waterproof bag for my camera and a built-in rain cover for my backpack. Unfortunately, the waterproof bag was buried somewhere in my backpack. The rain was pouring and there was no shelter, so I didn’t want to stop to take my backpack off, put it down in the mud, and open it to the rain. I was pretty worried about the camera gear I was wearing around my waist, but the little rain covers built into my camera holsters proved highly effective in this worst-case scenario. As for my Eagle Creek backpack’s rain cover, it wouldn’t even stay on in the wind.
I trudged along with the Texans in the pouring rain. We travel through a muddy wasteland, free of trees. We climbed down switchbacks, then back up. Eventually we came to some trees, and a half dozen more Texans. It was the rest of their group. The rains stopped, and the sun came out.
Because of my long day yesterday, I didn’t have much of a hike today. It turns out we had arrived in Alaska Basin. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and the basin was incredible. A small rocky wonderland between the mountains, with green trees everywhere. I was to spend the night here. But I was worried about my long drive to Arizona. I pressed on with the Texans, who were headed for Sunset Lake. We climbed out of the beautiful basin until this lovely lake came into view.
It was only noon and I was almost to Hurricane Pass. The weather was beautiful and I had my lunch on the shores of the little lake. The Texans invited me to camp with them, but since it was still so early, I decided to go over the pass into Cascade Canyon.
As soon as I started the 800 ft climb up to the pass, the weather started looking bad again. Pretty soon a huge thunderstorm started while I was on the exposed trail. I had learned to deal with the cold rain, but I wasn’t too thrilled about the lightning. Eventually a lone British hiker came the other way and said the summit wasn’t far.
The storm subsided a bit as the Grand Teton loomed into view. Eventually I had an incredible view of all three Tetons as I reached the summit. It was cold and windy, so I was eager to start my descent into Cascade Canyon.
The scenery had been spectacular for most of the hike, but it was ridiculously spectacular in Cascade Canyon. Rocks, waterfalls, and trees were artfully arranged between the mountains. And because of the terrible weather I had it all to myself.
I hiked down among the waterfalls into the camping zone, looking for a good campsite with a nice view. I eventually picked one, set up my tent, then wandered down the trail with my camera. But the weather was threatening again. I headed back to camp and cooked my dinner in the drizzle. The drizzle turned to rain and I took shelter in my tiny tent, where I was trapped for hours. The rains became torrential and the gusts of wind became serious. As I lay in my tent the wind was coming close to blowing it over. I had to consider the worst-case scenario. What would I do if my tent blew over? I would be deep in the woods in a pouring rstorm with no shelter. Not good. There was a large bear box in my campsite. It was so big it would be possible for me to fit inside it. That was my plan if my tent was destroyed, although I wasn’t eager to spend the night in a metal box during a lighting storm.
Luckily it didn’t come to that, and my trusty little REI tent survived, although it was pretty dirty. The next morning the weather was beautiful, and I leisurely walked down the canyon, enjoying the scenery. As I got close to Jenny Lake I started to encounter hikers. At first just a few hardy souls. Then groups with their bear bells jingling loudly. Then horseback riders. As I started to encounter people in flip flops with no backpacks I knew I was almost to Jenny Lake. A quick ferry ride and I was back to my car. I had a long drive to Arizona ahead of me.