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Pinedale Online:Photo Gallery:Dave Bell:A Lousiana Families Hike Up Table Mountain!:Grand Teton

Grand Teton. Photo by Dave Bell.
© Photo by Dave Bell
Grand Teton

Steve Hughes, part II....

From the trailhead, about 3 hours of steady walking brought us far up the Teton Creek drainage to where the switchbacks start. Behind us was a relatively easy pull with lots of beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way. At the bottom of the switchbacks, a crazy young woman met us on her way back down - jogging!!!... she wasn't showing much wear, so we were encouraged (in retrospect, I believe she was training for the Olympics). My son Wyatt spotted our destination at this juncture and pointed it out. It was so far ahead and up that an I-phone photo would not even show the peak unless you zoomed the photo as much as possible. With the destination in sight, however, we started on up the trail with renewed vigor.

This part of the trail becomes fairly steep and zigzags upward until it becomes lost in the haze. The sun is excessively warm here, and within a couple of hairpin turns, you will be stripped down to your boxers. After a couple more switchbacks the trail dust was blending well with our perspiration, coating us in a comfortable sheath of hot mud. We were being overtaken regularly on the trail by seasoned hikers, singles and pairs mostly, who were all polite and did not comment as we collapsed trailside while they passed. Hearing a shout of "Ally-Oop"! far behind us, we looked back to see a troop of cub scouts emerge from the trees a couple of miles back. The scout master was encouraging the chubby little rascals with an occasional shout, and was jogging up and down their column to keep them motivated. We were amused at the troop and quite astounded that they had made it all the way up Teton Creek to where the trail starts out of the drainage. Sending down a resounding "Hoorah"! to honor their accomplishment, we started back up this devil of a trail.

We labored along back and forth, back and forth making slow progress. Our rhythm was continually interrupted by those behind us needing to pass. Looking back once, I saw that the scout troop was actually coming up the switchbacks. I guess the leader wanted to give them a small taste of a tough pull. Amazingly, they had gained quite a bit of ground on us. Continuing on, my legs burned like fire and the dry air cooked my lungs with each ragged gasp. It seemed I was barely able to climb out of my footprints. I kept my woes to myself, knowing that things had to be much worse for Melinda and Wyatt. Watching them closely for signs of fatigue or dehydration, I was surprised at how well they seemed to be coping. Melinda appeared to be tireless and Wyatt was still fresh-looking - despite the fact that he was carrying all the extra water.

I kept my eye on a distant point far above that appeared to be a significant trail milestone - the grade seemed to diminish from there up and NO MORE SWITCHBACKS! Plodding for another 30 minutes (and a couple of turns) gained us another 80 - 100 vertical feet. Stopping for a breather, I lay down to rest. Melinda was over my face with a worried expression, dabbing my brow with a damp neckerchief. I reached for my water bottle and swilled the last little bit. As the sky finally stopped spinning, I was able to sit up - just in time to hear "Ally-Oop"! The scout-master was a cheerful sort, stopping to check on me while the troop jogged past, chanting and singing some crappy marching song. He said the trail was only a couple more miles to the top. The switchbacks were almost over, then a gradual slope up until the last half-mile, where it steepness up a bit. He told us that a lot of flatlanders quit at that point, but if we made the top, the view would more than reward us. "Ally-Oop"! Away he went - catching up to, then passing his diminutive, happy column. Feeling much better, I got to my feet. I asked Wyatt for one of the extra water bottles to replace my empty one with. "We're out", he responded. No wonder he looked so fresh! He had carried four full bottles of water since the trailhead, but most of the way, inside his stomach! No problem - we're almost there.

All photographs used on this page are copyrighted by Dave Bell, © 2001-2012, and are used with permission by Pinedale Online. All rights reserved. May not be used without permission. To contact Dave, please e-mail:

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