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Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Friday, August 29, 2014

Awesome Kayaking: String and Leigh Lakes

August 8 we went on a totally awesome kayaking expedition with John and Carol Herr, our summer companions this year. We've had some really good times with them this summer, and looking forward to even more. It's so wonderful how we meet like-minded souls out here on the road.

Anyway, they had already done this kayak trip earlier in the season, but enjoyed it so much that they went again, joining us on our day off. String and Leigh lakes are two of the beautiful and accessible lakes strung along the base of the Teton Range. Most were made by large glaciers that pushed out of the mountain canyons and left deep impressions that were further dammed by moraines. Other lakes were formed in basins scooped out by massive glaciers that moved through the valleys.

We arrived at String Lake early Sunday morning. It's a popular destination and the parking area fills up quickly, not only with kayakers but folks hiking around the lake and families enjoying the picnic and swimming areas.

After getting properly outfitted we pushed off from the shore. John and Carol have hard-sided kayaks, while we were in our SeaEagle tandem inflatable kayak. In Florida we have pretty much the same kayaks that John and Carol have, but just travel with the SeaEagle.

String Lake is a clear, shallow lake that looks more like a wide channel between Leigh Lake and Jenny Lake. It sits right against the steep lower slopes of Mount St. John and Rockchuck Peak, where periodic avalanches have kept the slopes clear of trees.

We were very happy to have gotten an early start, as String Lake becomes very crowded with swimmers and picnickers. 

The soft morning light and clear air made for nice pictures as well.

String Lake comes to an end, and then there's a short portage across dry land to arrive at the put-in for Leigh Lake.

The portage involved carrying the kayaks down this set of steps...which meant also carrying them UP the stairs on the return trip...well, we'll think about that when we get there.

Kayaks down the stairs and ready to go again. One of the prettiest lakes in the park, Leigh Lake has a sandy eastern shore and fantastic views across to Mount Moran. Mount Moran is one of the most highly visible and prominent landscape feature here in the Teton Range, and Carol really wanted to actually touch the mountain itself....so our goal was to get to the base of Mount Moran. 

Off we went, paddling into this beautiful scenery.

Sometimes one just has to kick back and relax....and I love my Keen water shoes, they are extremely comfortable....except I forgot to put sunscreen on my feet and ended up with little red patches of sunburn on my feet :-).

John admiring the majesty of Mount Moran.

One more peninsula to go around...

and we start heading into the bay where we can beach the kayaks and head ashore for some lunch.

It's absolutely breath-taking.

A close-up view of Mount Moran's summit....the black chunk of rock is called a diabase dike; we saw the same thing on the shore of the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia last summer. It's a block of magma that shot up through a crack in the mountain during volcanic activity. The difference between this dike and the ones in Acadia are height of course (Acadia's are at sea level this one is over 12,000 feet in elevation), and size (Most of Maine's were not very large, being several feet wide; this one on Mount Moran is 150 feet wide). You can also see at the tippy-top of the mountain a light-colored "cap"; this is a sandstone patch, the remnants of a vast sheet of sandstone that once covered the continent. Geologists generally regard this sandstone as the basal layer of "marine transgression" that flooded most of the continent under seawater at one time. Subsequent to this "flood" the mountain block called the Tetons was lifted and then sculpted by glaciers.

Just a few steps from the landing area, we spotted a great fallen lodgepole pine trunk, seemingly just right for a picnic lunch. We had a peaceful lunch here by the creek, not another soul in sight. Carol was also very happy, having accomplished her goal of touching Mount Moran!

Lots of wildflowers, I believe this is the Lewis' Monkeyflower.

We heard that there was a cascade-type waterfall about a quarter of a mile inland from our picnic spot, so of course we headed out to find it. It involved navigating lots of rocks...

crossing the creek a couple of times....

practicing our balanced walking..

and finally found them! One creek crossing had us wading up to our knees, but I have no pictures of that, too busy keeping myself and the camera in an upright position :-). Yes, the water is COLD!

The upper level of the cascades, flowing through those two rocks at the top. It was really cool, but too risky to climb up any further. I didn't realize I needed to bring our hiking poles on a kayaking trip!
So, what is the difference between waterfalls and cascades? It was explained to us this way: waterfalls are like falling down a very steep set of stairs without touching any of the steps. Cascades are like falling down a set of stairs and bouncing off of each step on the way down. I say "ouch" either way.

Back to the landing zone we go....down past the last bush on the left is our thigh-high creek crossing is! There's also a "rest bush" in the area....who knew I would need to ever carry bear spray with me to attend to pit stops??

Back in the kayaks to head home. We had seen other waterfalls to the left of this picture and thought we could check them out as well, but it involved some serious bush-wacking that we are not ready for.

We paddled around several peninsulas, hugging the shore, watching for wildlife.

All we found was this pretty little mule deer as we portaged our kayaks back to String Lake.

Carol and John on String Lake; still beautiful but the sunlight is much harsher in the afternoon. String Lake is also VERY crowded with swimmers and boaters, especially close to the picnic area. 

After packing up all our gear, we headed back to the campground that Carol and John are staying at this season, the Gros Vente Campground near Moose, WY. We had a delicious grilled dinner of shishkebabs and fresh corn on the cob. It was a great day, and two weeks later we had plans to kayak on Yellowstone Lake, the largest natural lake at high elevation in North America. In between these two weeks we also made another trek to Yellowstone by ourselves, and spent our day off exploring Norris Geyser Basin and other neat stuff. But that will wait for another blog :-).


  1. Absolutely beautiful scenery and your narration is wonderful. I feel like I've been there and didn't have to do any of the hard work! So glad you are enjoying your summer.

  2. You were rewarded for getting out there in the early morning light... Your photos are spectacular!!! That is an amazing place to spend your summer:o))

  3. Really nothing prettier than a mountain lake- thanks for sharing- I feel cooler just reading your post :)

  4. It was so much fun to go again on this lovely paddle trip through your eyes and blog. What a great day make more special by sharing it with both of you.

  5. What a beautiful paddle! We need to work harder at getting out earlier. Obviously, it's very worth it! :)
    BTW, Rick wears Keen's all the time and his feet have tan tiger stripes all over them :)

  6. So beautiful, thanks so much for sharing. Thanks also for your Bar Harbor tips, they were very helpful. Looking forward to seeing you in January.

  7. Wow I've been without internet for a week and you've had a really fabulous looking adventure and have more planned. Your pictures of this day are just stunning. Wow is all I can say! Sure would have loved to have been there with you. This is absolutely my kind of day.

  8. Wow! You set my kayaking fire that's definitely going on my list ! The pics are just great !Thanks *