One of the things I find so fascinating about the Tetons is how they appear to magically rise straight up from the valley floor. There are no foothills in front of the major peaks. Periodically throughout the last 10-13 million years, earthquake-producing movement has occurred at the base of the range along a fault called the Teton fault. The mountain block continues to move skyward while the valley block hinges downward. Because the mountains are formed in this fault block fashion, the Teton range lacks the foothills typical of folded mountain ranges such as the Rockies. This geologic feature is one reason the Teton Range is unique. Anotherunique feature is that the individual peaks stand clearly apart from each other, and are in full view and clearly identifiable from almost any angle. It has been an unending source of fascination to me to see how many different views I can find of each of the peaks, depending where I am in the park.
The Tetons' array of glacial lakes also sets them apart. A dozen lakes lie right at the foot of the mountains, on the valley floor, with twice as many sprinkled throughout the canyons of the mountains. In general, the lakes at the base of the Tetons are the largest. Formed by glaciers that advanced out of the canyons about 15,000 years ago, they occupy deep depressions in the valley floor. Soil and rocks carried out of the mountains by ice were deposited at their terminal ends, building up berms called moraines. When the glaciers eventually melted back into the mountains, they left lakes rimmed with higher ground, called piedmont lakes. Bradley and Taggart lakes are examples of these piedmont lakes, and were our hiking destination that morning.
The route we followed was about 6 miles, starting and ending at the "you are here" marker. We took the right fork going up to Bradley Lake, then the squiggle down to Taggart Lake, then followed the south, circling back to the start through Beaver Meadows.
The trail starts off wide and level through the sage-brush dotted meadow.
Turning right at the junction we started getting into a more wooded environment, and crossed Taggart Creek.
We now started climbing "gradually" up and over the moraine that I talked about earlier.
We had great views of the Teton Range, especially Grand Teton. It did keep going up, though!
This section of the trail went through areas that had burned in a fire in 1985. You can see how the forest uses the fires to regenerate growth.
We huffed our way up to the first view of Taggart Lake, high on the moraine.
Catching our breath we continued the trek to Bradley Lake.
From this viewpoint you can't see Bradley Lake too well. It's smaller than Taggart, and more enclosed by trees. I think "maybe" if we continued around the lake towards Garnet Canyon we may have gotten clearer views, but our junction circling back to Taggart arrived and we were on a bit of a timetable....less folks hike to Bradley Lake so it was pretty quiet at this point; just the way we like it :-).
More uphill climbing, and 1.3 miles later we arrive at our second destination, Taggart Lake.
The trail finally heads down, and we are soon standing on the shoreline. The water is amazingly clear...and cold!
A clear calm morning allowed for some really nice reflection pictures. Beautiful views back into Avalanche Canyon as well.
Foot traffic was really picking up at this point, and we found a nice clear area on the shoreline to have a long drink and snack. Have I told anyone how much we love it here?
At this point hikers have a choice: you can head back the way you came in, if all you did was the Taggart Lake trail, or for us it would be a cutoff trail back to the main trail, or you continue around the end of Taggart Lake to the footbridge and take the Valley Trail to Beaver Creek Trail back to the parking area. We decided to take this route, figuring less folks that way!
The trail switch-backed up, initially making us regret our decision ;-), but then leveled out into beautiful views and huckleberry meadows.
Now bears are supposed to love huckleberries, so we were keeping a careful eye all around us, and yes, we were sporting our bear spray; alas, once again, I was bear "skunked"; not a sign anywhere.
We were rewarded with more spectacular mountain views however.
From here the hike was pretty much an easy downhill run all the way to the parking area, which, by the way; was filled to over-flowing when we returned around 12PM. We considered an auction for our parking space ;-) but decided against that idea.
Some of the wildflowers we saw along the trail, and red huckleberries.
It was another great hike just about 6 miles in length. Bear in mind that I am behind in my postings, as usual, and we did this hike towards the end of July. For something a bit different, but just as much fun, our next adventure took us on a 7 1/2 mile kayak on String and Leigh lakes with our good friends Carol and John Herr. Hopefully, I'll have that post up shortly...I'm trying to catch up, I really am!