October 2013

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By Katharine

We have finished with our Epic Trip! We made it home late on Friday night (10/11) and have been settling in to our new life rather than updating our blog and finishing up trip reports. But finally we are getting back into it, so here’s a write up on a few days of hiking in the Tetons with my family back in early September. There are still a lot of Epic Trip posts to come after this… Teton Crest Trail, Yellowstone NP, Great Basin NP, Zion Narrows, Grand Canyon, Balloon Fiesta, Jack Daniels Distillery, and more! So stay tuned ūüôā

Day 40-43: Grand Teton National Park, WY (9/12-9/15)

Nathan took a break from the Epic Trip to visit his ill grandmother in San Diego while I stayed in the Tetons with my family. While the guys did another day of fishing, the girls did a nice hike around String Lake with baby Will (the cutest nephew a girl could ask for) in tow.

Alex was a champ carrying Will the whole way.

 

Will seemed to enjoy the ride, taking a nap at the beginning and then smiling the rest of the way.

 

 

Another afternoon we all hiked about halfway around Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls.

The whole family made it together, with rainbow colored backpacks!

As we were having lunch at Hidden Falls, it started raining pretty hard, so we hurried to the boat dock and took the boat back to the trailhead. It cut the afternoon a little short, but we managed to avoid getting soaked, so we considered it a win. It was a great day in the Tetons and great to get the whole family out!

 

 

Day 32: Stuart- Glacier National Park, MT (9/4-9/5)

Written from Nathan’s Perspective

As we posted earlier, we spent 3 nights and 2 days in Glacier National Park. Our trip report ended with the perfect day, but we left out what happened on the last night.  This is a story that we will always remember and will always bring a smile to our faces and a shiver to our shoulders.

10:20 PM The milky-way is spectacular spanning the night sky from one mountain range to another.  We arrive at our tent and I quickly start to unload my camera gear, backpack and tripod.  I set up my camera in the meadow nearby, pointing up at the stars for a time lapse photography session.

10:30 PM I return to the car and sit in the driver seat sorting through our memory cards.  Suddenly there is a scurrying sound.  It was odd how close it sounded, I wondered if there could be something under the car? I look under the car but there was nothing so I return to the driver seat.  Soon enough I hear the scurrying again, so I look behind my seat and see my camera backpack. Oh no, I thought, maybe a mouse jumped in my backpack while I was setting up my camera.  I quickly grab my backpack and lay it on the picnic table.  I stand there staring at it with my headlamp waiting for the scurrying sound to return.  Katharine returns from the bathroom and I explain what I thought was going on. I gingerly open my pack, stepping back and waiting for a mouse to climb out.  After staring at my backpack without any movement I thought I must be crazy and ask Katharine to sit in the car and listen for odd noises.

10:35PM She walks to the car and opens the passenger door. AHHHH!! She let out the loudest scream I’ve ever heard her make.¬† I turn and see a small field mouse on our passenger seat.¬† I looked at Katharine with her hands over her mouth and then around the pitch black and silent campground.¬† Not one flashlight, tent zipper, or voice, no one was concerned.¬† Amazing how a blood curdling scream from a woman in the middle of the night in grizzly bear country didn’t get one bit of interest or concern from the fellow campers. Katharine was actually glad though, she was pretty embarrassed to have screamed so loudly over a little mouse.

10:40 PM We stand in shock as we watch the mouse explore our car.¬† We were helpless watching him effortlessly scurry from driver seat over backpacks, gear, and clothes to the back windshield.¬† Our evening just got complicated.¬† Tomorrow we have a 10 hour drive to Grand Teton.¬† We can’t do that safely with a mouse in the car, so we have to get rid of it‚Ķ but how?

10:35 PM We decide he might just be looking for a way out, so we open the back hatch.  The mouse ran to the edge of the car, but retreated after seconds of looking outside.  Of course that would have been too easy; we needed another idea.  We peered through the windows with our headlamps watching him stuff his cheeks with dropped nuts and Clif bar crumbs under the seat.

10:50 PM We decide we needed to remove his food supply. We agree that we needed visual confirmation that the critter had left the car so Katharine watches the open door for any escaping rodents while I nervously unload the gear behind our seats and begin removing wrappers.  I cautiously reach for wrappers half under the seats in fear of a mouse biting my fingers.  After all the food and crumbs were removed we stand back again waiting for a disappointed hungry mouse to jump out of our car.  Instead the chubby cheeked mouse continued to run around the car without attempting to escape.

11:15 PM We name the mouse Stuart, after Stuart Little.

11:30 PM We need a more aggressive plan so we decide to reduce his hiding spots by emptying the car.¬† Again I nervously removed our bags, bins and clothing hoping a mouse wouldn’t crawl up my arm.¬† Soon the car was barren, and cleaner than before the trip.¬† We stood watching the open hatch and waiting for him to voluntarily leave.¬† Again he ran to the back bumper, but wouldn’t jump.¬† A neighboring camper walked by looking puzzled as we stood in the dark amongst our stuff staring at an empty car.¬† “There’s a mouse in our car”, we told him.¬† He replied, “yeah I had one in my sleeping bag last night.” We can’t decide which would be worse.¬† He then headed back to his tent.

11:55 PM We are two engineers staring at an empty car held hostage by a simple field mouse.¬† We are tired, frustrated, but not defeated.¬† Maybe he’s afraid to jump we thought, let’s build a ramp.¬† We lean a duffle bag from the ground to the back bumper and waited again.¬† The mouse ran to the edge, but wouldn’t take the easy exit.¬† Instead a second mouse raced from the darkness to the foot of the bag.¬† No! We lunge forward, scaring the second mouse back into the darkness.¬† We quickly remove the bag.

12:05 AM We notice Stuart would spend a few seconds at the edge of the bumper, so what if we gave him a little nudge?  I stood near the brake light holding an extended trekking pole.  He ran to the edge and I slowly lowered the pole behind him and in one swift move my nudge turned into a bat swinging for the fences. I miscalculated that the ski-pole-like disk would raise the pole a half an inch from the floor allowing the mouse to play limbo under my swiping trekking pole.  He made a quick second loop toward the bumper and in frustration I turned the pole into a skewer, jabbing the pointed end towards the pest but obviously missing him.

12:30 AM It’s been two hours and we are depressed, how could this be happening to us?¬† Fatigue is setting in and we can’t think straight.¬† I chase him around the car trying to scare him toward an open door, but there were too many hiding spots for a mouse.

12:40 AM We change tactics in desperation – no more Mr. Nice Guy, it’s on! I pull out a canister of Cutter’s bug spray.¬† Katharine watches the back hatch as I spray the noxious gas under the seats.¬† The fumes make me cough and back away from the car.¬† There is no way he can survive in the DEET fog, he has to leave now.¬† We wait, but there is no more scurrying, no more mocking appearances, maybe he’s gone, maybe he’s dead‚Ķ

1:00 AM We’re about to give up the fight for the night when suddenly a mouse appears on the roof of our car under our roof box.¬† “You have to be kidding me!” I exclaim.¬† I immediately maced the little pest with the bug spray.¬† He ran down our windshield and disappeared between the windshield wipers and the hood of our car.¬† I pop the hood and look around the engine and realize the search is impossible.

1:05 AM We give up. There isn’t any sign of the mouse, but we realize he can probably come and go as he pleases through the engine and dashboard.¬† Who knows, maybe there is more than one.¬† This is a losing battle and we are defeated.¬† We load our gear back into the car verifying everything is sealed and zipped. ¬†We turn off the time lapse photography of stars that had been running the whole time and put the camera away. Our final move is placing a small cashew crumb in the center of the diver seat floor mat.¬† If the nut is gone in the morning, we’ll know he’s still here.

7:00 AM I wake up eager to check for the nut on the floor mat.¬† It’s gone! So, the war isn’t over.¬† We empty the car again preparing for another assault.¬† With the light of day and a fresh mind I decided to make some new weapons from aspen branches.¬† I used my knife to whittle a thin flexible rod that can reach the small hiding spots under the seats.¬† I also cut a branch that resembles a broom hopefully more effective than the trekking pole at sweeping Stuart out of the car.

7:15 AM I crouch down resting my head on the floor mat looking under the seats.¬† My anger and frustration overpowers any fear of the mouse darting out and attacking my face.¬† I use the aspen branch to systematically clear every nook and cranny.¬† I listen for the scurrying, but there is just silence.¬† We stare at the empty car and our gear.¬† Then it dawns on me if he won’t leave maybe we could trap him.¬† We whittle a small branch and prop up a bucket upside down.¬† We then removed my shoe laces and created a rope and tied it to the branch.¬† With a quick jerk the bucket falls a couple inches.¬† This totally would have worked last night when he was active, but now he’s gone silent.¬† Maybe he’s gone, or maybe he’s asleep in the dashboard.

7:30 AM We have a long drive ahead of us and couldn’t waste anymore time battling the mouse.¬† We had to do the unthinkable; drive 10 hours with the potential of a mouse surprising us on the road by running up our legs or appearing on our shoulder.

8:00 AM The car was loaded and we were ready to hit the road.  Of course we had 5 miles of bumpy gravel roads to start the nightmare drive.  Maybe the jarring will wake him up causing him to make an appearance, which might be better now than on the interstate.  We make it to the pavement with no mouse.

12:00 PM We stop at a Wal-Mart and buy 8 mouse traps.¬† We bait and arm 4 wooden death traps and take a break for lunch.¬† Later we returned to the car.¬† Nothing, the peanut butter is untouched, no Stuart.¬† Maybe he’s still asleep.¬† We still had hours ahead of us so we bravely headed south.

7:00 PM It started getting dark and we had another hour left of driving.  Would Stuart wake up and be active in the dark?  Every once in a while we felt a phantom tail or tickle on our legs.  It was the most suspenseful 10 hour drive we had ever made.  We arrived in Jackson Hole, WY and reset the traps throughout the car and collapsed in our motel room.

5:00 AM We have an early flight to Chicago.¬† I check the traps again, nothing.¬† My confidence that Stuart was gone grew and I knew he wouldn’t be able to ignore the peanut butter if he was still in the car.¬† We left the traps armed in the car over the weekend just in case, but after several days they remained untouched.

The Stuart chapter was over.  Finally we could get into our current home, our car, without hesitation.

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 39
  • Mice in the car: 1 (that we know of)

We are currently backpacking in the Havasupai Indian Reservation (near Grand Canyon) which luckily is not affected by the government shutdown. We were fortunate to finish our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim backpack before the shutdown, and we are hoping the parks will be open by Sunday so that we can finish the rest of the trip as planned!

Day 37-39: Grand Teton National Park, WY (9/9-9/11)

We spent over a week in the Tetons since it’s one of our favorite parks and Katharine’s family and close family friends met us there.¬† This trip report only covers the wildlife we saw during our trip and some fishing on the Snake River.¬† There will be a couple more posts to come.

Grand Teton is one our favorite parks because it’s where we got engaged just over three years ago, but there’s a lot to like, especially all the wildlife.¬† In the mornings and evenings we would drive the park roads and keep an eye out for elk, moose, or bears.¬† This year we saw all three and then some.

 

 

 

 

 

Katharine’s dad and brother are avid fly fishermen and will jump at the idea of spending time in Jackson Hole.¬† We were lucky to join them on a float trip down the South Fork of the Snake river.¬† We started early in the morning catching fish in the river mist.

 

 

 

 

We spent so much time focused on the river and our flies drifting downstream that we often would forget to look up at the beautiful surroundings.¬† Osprey and Bald Eagles stalked the trout below, and every once in a while we’d see a bird flying off with a catch.

 

 

Nathan even got a chance at the oars while our guide started up the motor.

 

 Trout Fishing Pirates

After fishing we stopped at our guide’s house and were impressed by the domestic turkey and all the chickens.

 

There was one feisty rooster that didn’t like the looks of one of the guides hats.¬† Eventually the hat won and the rooster was caught.

 

 

Wildlife photography and fly fishing in the Grand Tetons… it doesn’t get much better than that!

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 39
  • Miles driven: 5189
  • Fish caught: 3
  • Pronghorn Antelope: Numerous
  • Bison: Numerous
  • Elk: Some
  • Moose: 4
  • Bears:1

 

Day 33-35: Chicago, IL (9/6-9/8)

 

After Glacier NP, we drove to Jackson, WY to park our car and fly to Chicago. Katharine’s good friends from Kenyon, Kathryn & Joe, were getting married and we couldn’t miss the wedding!

We arrived on Friday morning and got to spend the day with Katharine’s friend from study abroad in Munich, Melissa. We had a great time just hanging out in the city, eating excellent sushi, and enjoying some delicious wine that Melissa selected. We also appreciated having a friend’s place to stay Friday night after the Rehearsal dinner!

 

The wedding was on Saturday in a beautiful chapel in downtown Chicago. Then we headed to the Ravenswood district to the Architectural Artifacts for the reception. The Architectural Artifacts was a really great venue with tons of interesting items for sale, most out of our price range, but it was such a cool collection. We had a lot of fun exploring while the wedding party took photos during cocktail hour.

 

Great guestbook idea

 

 

 

 

 

The reception was really fun with lots of dancing and a chance to catch up with some old friends from Kenyon.

 

It was great to see old friends and well worth the side trip!

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 35
  • Number of airplanes used on our road trip: 2

 

We’ve been busy backpacking, which hasn’t allowed us to edit many photos or write up our trip reports… so we’re about a month behind now! We’re hoping to crank out a couple more trip reports before our last backpacking trip in Havasupai!

 

Day 30-32: Glacier National Park, MT (9/2-9/4)

Glacier National Park was one of the bigger parks that we haven’t been to, and we had high expectations.¬† Everyone we know that has been there has raved about the beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife, so we were excited to check it out for ourselves.

We only really had two days to explore the park so we decided to day hike the Highline Trail (11.8 miles) along the Going-to-the-Sun-Road one day and the trail to Grinnell Glacier (11 miles) the other. Without the park shuttle running after 9/2, the Highline trail becomes more difficult to do as a through hike… it requires hitch-hiking! ¬†Encouraged by park rangers that it’s totally legal and common, we gathered our gear, made a sign, and successfully and safely hitchhiked from ‘the Loop’ to the trailhead at Logan Pass.¬† This was a first for both of us, and we felt a bit silly holding a sign and smiling at empty cars as they passed by without stopping. ¬†But after only 10 or so cars passed by, one pulled over and two nice climbers picked us up.¬† They said they had never picked up hitch hikers before, but we looked pretty harmless.¬† I’m sure we did with our well maintained hiking gear and smiling faces.¬† They also seemed pretty harmless as they moved the two kid’s car seats to the trunk of their SUV.¬† It was a short ride and before we knew it we were at the trailhead.

Of course as soon as we began hiking it started to rain, but we were prepared with rain jackets and pack covers, so a little rain wasn’t going to stop us.¬† After the first couple miles the rain turned to a drizzle and pretty much stopped, but the dreary gray clouds remained.

 

 

We were quickly distracted once we spotted a small heard of bighorn sheep grazing on the hillside.¬† Nathan tried to climb the hill but the steep grade, loose gravel, and the sheep’s ability to quickly climb prevented him from getting any worthwhile photos.¬† Later we saw a kid (baby mountain goat) and its nanny (mother) also grazing on another hillside.¬† We stopped and watched the little one gallop across the loose rocks as it tried to keep up with its mom.

 

We were really excited to finally see mountain goats and bighorn sheep (especially rams), but we weren’t close enough to fully capture the moment with our cameras.¬† We continued hiking though the mountains and enjoyed the trail despite the clouds.

 

Once we reached the Granite Park Chalet and we knew the views of the valleys and open hillsides were over and it was just a matter of hiking back down to the car.

 

After driving the Going-To-The-Sun Road toward the east we started searching for a campground.¬† Usually Katharine has every campground and hotel booked, but after Labor Day, the campgrounds in Glacier become first-come first-serve.¬† This style of campsite reservation doesn’t work well for us since we spend the days hiking and we only return to the campground to sleep.¬† We circled all the major campgrounds and they were completely full.

Luckily there was a primitive campground a bit farther from the main part of the park. Since it required driving a few miles on a dirt road and didn’t have running water, we figured it wouldn’t be too popular. Sure enough, there were several sites available when we arrived. Plus, the drive on the dirt road through a cattle and horse pasture was beautiful in the sunset.

 

The campsite was just our style; small, quiet, and had a great view of the mountains.

 

The next morning we headed to the Many Glacier area to hike to Grinnell Glacier. Finally we had a sunny day, but we quickly found the hike had little to no shade.  The first couple miles of trail traveled along side a few lakes, but then quickly climbed to various rocky shelves as it approached the glacier.

 

Suddenly we came to a small crowd fixed on a ram bighorn sheep only 30 yards away.  Nathan and another photographer climbed up the rocks to get a little closer.

You could see the sheep panting in the hot sun, but it continued to forage for food.

While Nathan was taking pictures Katharine was talking to hikers returning from the glacier who said there were more sheep closer to the trail around the corner.  We quickly ditched the other photographer and headed up the trail.  As the other hikers claimed, these sheep were much closer and more active!

 

 

These sheep weren’t too afraid of people as they jumped from ledge to ledge above the trail. ¬†Some hikers were unaware of the sheep until they looked up at which point they usually gasped as they fumbled for their camera.

 

After we took 50+ photos of the sheep we decided to finish the last mile of the hike and check out the glacier, the real focus of the hike.

Grinnell Glacier

 

It was early afternoon and the sun was beating down on us so we thought we would dip our hot feet in the cold glacier melt water. It felt great for the first second until the freezing water felt like needles in your feet.  It took minutes to warm our feet up after just seconds in the water.  Sadly it took several tries to get this photo.

 

It was getting late in the afternoon and we still had 5.5 miles to hike out, and we had forgotten to eat lunch with all the sheep chaos.  We hiked just a short while until we reached a small rest area along the trail which has some rustic benches to sit and eat lunch.  After 5 minutes we were interrupted by three sheep passing through to reach a creek.

 

This of course led to more photos and less eating.  Amazingly these sheep approached us even closer than the ones before, forcing us to retreat because we felt uncomfortable.  It was a bighorn sheep extravaganza!

 

Finally feeling like we had enough sheep photos and noticing the sun getting lower in the sky, we started hiking quickly back to the trailhead.  Of course with the day cooling off, more sheep appeared and it became more of a herding activity than hiking.

 

Katharine and one ram startled each other as she came around a tree that it was eating.  Both of them jumped back and paused for a Katharine-Sheep showdown stare.  We slowly backed up and the ram did also until we had reached a safe distance.

 

Check out the sheep in the background

We enjoyed the rest of the hike down paying more attention to the flowers, rocks, and incredible glacier carved valleys.

Glacier park lived up to the hype with the incredible landscapes, flowers, and animals. ¬†We couldn’t have been happier after two 10+ mile hikes in two days.

We couldn’t include all the photos in the trip report so check out more in the gallery below.

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 32
  • Nights in a tent: 22
  • Miles driven: 4563
  • Miles hiked: 133
  • Bighorn sheep photographed: 18
  • Photographs of bighorn sheep: 312
  • Mountain goats: 15