Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jackson and race scouting

We came through Jackson on our way around to Pinedale, and it was a nice place to spend a few hours.  Jackson Hole Roasters was a favorite, and I was hoping our pre-race bus ride would stop there on the way to the starting line, but no such luck.  Ah well, I guess we just have to go back sometime.

Our first pass through town was before the race outline was released, so I played around with some guesses like biking on the nice paths through town.  One particularly excellent mural in one of the bike path tunnels:


Maybe we would packraft on Flat Creek?


Someone seems to think it's feasible to put a boat on the creek:


Or maybe that was just part of a film shoot of some type:


Maybe a climb up Snow King Mountain?  It's a nice place for a hike, with good view of town and the Tetons in the background:


Lovely trail:


This is about as close as I came to getting a relevant shot that day - a view to the south, toward the mountains we would hike during the race:


Wildflowers at the top of Snow King:


Ah the Tetons, so beautiful:


Aspens, yay!


Marveling at the bear spray for sale at the grocery store check-out line - we aren't in Texas anymore, Toto:


A random shot of me testing out my mosquito head net while biking up in the hills - yep, this should work (and again, yay for not needing it during Cowboy Tough):


Our second trip back to Jackson was much more productive.  It happened to coincide with the release of the race course outline, so I had some great info to work from.  The first leg was to be a 3-mile loop starting from the Jackson Hole Tram and returning to the same spot.  Excellent!  I hiked up the Wildflower Trail for a look around:


Looks like the perfect place for a starting line vantage point for the race photographers:


The trails around the ski area are great for summer hiking, very pretty and lots of flowers:


And great views of the valley (and the tram):


More wildflowers:


By this point I was further away than the race would probably send us, but it was interesting finding this fellow near the trail:


Leg 2 would be 7 miles on a paved trail to a river put-in, so it was obvious we'd be running beside Moose Wilson Road to the put-in at the Snake River.  I rode down it on my bike just for kicks.

Much more interesting was the Snake River itself - as soon as I figured out that we'd be packrafting 19 miles down the Snake, I found a way to check it out firsthand.  Many rafting companies in Jackson offer floats on a large section of our race course (the first 13 miles), and it took only a couple calls to get onto one of the trips on short notice.

Practicing for the pre-race bus ride  :)


Setting up at the put-in:


More gorgeous Teton views - and it was good we saw it in July, because by August the forest fire smoke from Montana had started to obscure the purple mountain majesty:


I took a camera down the river, asked a bunch of questions of the guide, and tried my level best to remember as much of it as I could.


Our excellent river guide on the float raft:


The river moves fast, but there weren't too many obstacles or things that worried me.  A few fun standing waves here and there:


More views of the mountains behind us:


Occasional strainers that were almost always visible with plenty of time and room to avoid them:


I figured the biggest challenge was avoiding the shallow parts that would drag the rafts over rocks and slow us down.  There are tons of braids/splits in the river, and if you pick the lesser path you could easily get hung up on something like this:


I took a gazillion photos so I could study pictures of all the splits to try to remember enough to pick the most efficient routes during the race.

Following the lead raft down the main river channel:


A bald eagle, yay!  We saw several on trees along the banks.  I never get tired of this:


Sometimes when two channels came back together, one was higher than the other and the water would drop back down in little waterfalls, pretty cool even though I didn't get a decent photo of it.


Further down there were sets of decent-size standing waves - those could be fun and maybe even slightly "interesting" in a smaller packraft.

Video from the float:



We took out at the next bridge, with the guide promising that the following section (the last few miles of this section of the race) are the easiest of the whole river - no braids, no major waves, just nice moving water.  Excellent.  I felt a lot better about this part of the race, knowing that the river should be pretty straightforward.

We found the probable trailhead for the start of the first big trek.  I would have loved to do some of that section beforehand, but it was long and remote, and we had a bike box to build.  Plus, it's just a trail from here to the other side of the mountains, how hard could that be?  (!)


We played around with possibilities for the river take-out, with John betting on river left, while I liked the looks of this spot on river right.  It was accessible from a large parking lot up top, and although it looks wavy, there's a big eddy at the shoreline just past here:


Over there is the likely trekking trailhead location:


The steep stairs up to the parking lot - except this would have been easy compared to what the race ended up making us do.  Oh well, I can't get everything right.


Scouting the Hoback Market where maybe we could stock up before the trek?  Again, this was assuming an exit on river right.  Bathrooms, colds drinks, clean water for the Camelbaks, sure would have been nice...


Nice elk sculpture outside the market:


Fun first scouting days!  It was neat having so much pre-race info and the time to check things out in person beforehand, quite the luxury.  And quite enjoyable for me.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Glacier Trail backpacking

Gannett Peak is on our state highpoints list, so we based ourselves in Dubois for several days and set off into the Wind River Range on a backpacking trip.  The forest rangers told us that the "big snow" winter was making it difficult to clear out the long approach trail, so we might find it challenging to get to the peak.  I didn't really have that much time to spend in the wilderness, as we were just getting going with my bike box creation and gear lists and all kinds of race prep that was about to take over my life.

But I definitely could use a couple days of hiking and carrying a big pack as race training.  And John was preparing for a week of trail work and carrying a heavy pack himself.  We decided to go explore the Glacier Trail anyway and see what we could see.  So we packed up like maybe there was a slight chance we'd be feeling peppy and want to make a run for the peak.

Loaded for bear.  And mosquitoes.  And glaciers.


It was actually really good mosquito preparation.  Even though the Cowboy Tough race course didn't actually throw many bugs at us, surprisingly, and happily.  My reports back to the team about being molested by those tiny buggers was enough to get everyone solidly prepped for the possibility of it.  And now I have a real strategy for whenever we head into mosquito infestation areas.

Starting off into the beautiful Wind River Range:


Thundering water pouring out of the mountains from all the snow melt in the warm weather.  Good thing there's a bridge here:


Heading up the first valley in the lovely morning sunshine:


Yes, it's another blog post about beautiful scenery:


Hello, marmot!


The start of the climb out of the valley:


John and his magic wand:


John wondering when I will stop taking pictures and focus on hiking:


OK, you carry the camera for a while  :)


The high pass led us over toward the snowy peaks, through willows and across marshes.  Yep, wet feet would be the norm up here, even with occasional bridges to help us out:


An interesting burn area and the stark trees:


Contemplating the creek below one of the many lakes.  I think we're aiming for that snow bank.  John isn't fond of aiming for snow-anything:


Amazing how much snow was still there.  It must have been super deep last winter.


Scrambling over the snow was worth it for the views of the next several lakes:


That's about where the trail was cleared to.  After that (we heard) there were blow-downs, multiple creek crossings, trail finding challenges, and plenty slow going.  It didn't take much (including my right foot getting sore) for us to decide to camp up here and call it a training hike.  We would have needed significantly more time to get all the way to Gannett under these conditions.

Not to mention food.  We thought we brought a lot, but it wasn't nearly enough for a longer effort.

So anyway, we found a wonderful spot above a beautiful lake and got to experience a night sleeping in the Wind River Mountains.  Excellent!

As we were setting up the space for the tent, John found a multi-tool that someone had dropped.  He tossed it to me, and even before I looked at it I said "Son of a gun!"

Actually, yes, it is an "SOG", how about that?


Ta da!  A superb tent spot above Double Lake, I like it!


We watched dark clouds occasionally loom over the mountain to the west, but they would all dissipate before reaching us.  I now know that they were probably raining on Pinedale, an afternoon occurrence.  This might be the dry side of the mountains.  Anyway, it worked for us and we didn't need the rainfly overnight, awesome.


A little trek above our camp to see more of the area:


Fun rocks to climb up:


The next lake over:


Filling up water and testing the Sawyers system as a way to send filtered water back into a Camelbak:


A most excellent place to hang out for the evening:


The mosquitoes were relentless outside the tent.  I was so happy in my long pants, long-sleeve bug shirt with hood, and head netting.  John said he has never seen me so calm in the face of biting bugs.  Didn't even need Deet.

Inside the tent, the no-mosquito zone.  This guy wasn't happy that he couldn't get in to torment me:


Sunrise from my sleeping bag:


Happy campers:


Packed up and ready to head back:


Morning lake stillness:


Mountain flowers:


It really is a nice trail.  It's just long and it takes a while to get cleared out in the springtime.  Apparently it's still springtime (this was July).  Anyway, it sure is pretty:


More reflective views:


"Why are you still taking pictures of me?"  Or maybe he's just coming in for a hug:


Lovely wildflowers:


Well, we made it back, had almost enough food (with rationing) and thankfully had more in the truck so I didn't get (too) grouchy, and we were happy with the training.  Lots of good scouting about what it might take to get to Gannett Peak eventually.  And lots of excitement about seeing part of the Wind River Range.  It's really something!