Steve Hughes, Part III....
The trail quickly reminded me that my somewhat refreshed feeling was delusional. Soon, my blurred vision was only of the trail directly in front of my shoes. Methodically, I plodded along while Melinda questioned me occasionally to make sure I was still conscious. Suddenly, we cleared the last switchback!! To celebrate, I fell to the ground to give my quivering legs a break. From here, the trail appeared to be a gentle climb up through a long saddle, past some brownish snow drifts. After a short rest, I dragged myself erect and we started up the trail again. This part was relatively easy and somewhat pleasant, the bald ridge top giving way to clusters of pines that offered a little shade along the way. Melinda still had a half-bottle of water. We wet our lips periodically and almost chatted a time or two. Large groups were passing us now, one of which was from the local retirement community, I'm quite certain. I feel almost euphoric because of the ease of this trail section. As we break out of the last cluster of trees, the end is in plain sight. The trail follows on through the rock-strewn remainder of the saddle for another couple hundred yards, then abruptly becomes a quarter mile of boulder field, which spans the ridge. Past that, the path develops a distinctive upward curve, becoming more "vertically" pronounced with distance, until it touches the base of what appears to be a slope-sided mesa. The path then squiggles up this slope and ends at the top of Table Mountain - less than a mile away!
The boulder field was not too terrible, but you're tired of hopping before you reach the other side. Also, the sun is back in full force, reminding us that all our water was squandered along the trail. I reflect back to the beginning of the switchbacks where we forded the last feeder spring to Teton Creek. That water was icy cold and so clear, gurgling over the rocks...
The upward curve of the trail is significantly steeper than it seemed from below. Each step now was a chore - thigh muscles are screaming with each step, the air is acidic when dragged into the lungs. Wyatt doesn't wait - he scrambles on up the trail and is soon working up to the mesa top. I think Melinda stays back with me out of pity. Six steps, stop... six steps, stop... I was thinking about random crazy stuff. People kept passing us and I cursed them one and all. We could hear Wyatt yelling for us to come on - he looked like an idiot dancing on top of the mesa. I don't know how we got there, but finally, the base of the "mesa climb" was realized. Melinda made some wise crack about it being easier since we could pull with our hands as well this last steep 50 yards. Hell - I had been on hands and knees for the last quarter of a mile - my hands were tired too.
When we topped out, we were met with cheers from about 50 folks on top - hikers, cub scouts, senior citizens, paraplegics, etc. I suppose Wyatt had described our (my) trek to them, but they all had ample time to watch me struggle as well. They all appeared to be sympathetic, as well as elated that I had made it. Someone offered me a water bottle and I greedily sucked it down. Then I looked up... and around.. God! This is where he picked up the spatula when he finished icing the world!
The view from Table Mountain is indescribable! My jaw dropped in awe as I met the Grand Teton face-to-face. She was right there - just a brief span of emptiness between us. We sat and marveled for an hour. When the scout troop left, they topped off a bottle of water for us and took a couple of empties to filter / fill and leave for us at the bottom of the switchbacks. I mumbled thanks to the boys and returned my gaze to God's beauty. As I said - it cannot be described, so I attached a few I-phone shots to give you an idea.
Dave - if you haven't before, make this trip. Better yet, have someone drop you off at the top from a helicopter. You won't regret!