It's been an unusually warm and very dry summer here in western Wyoming. The dryness has been bad for the wildfires, and we have had several in the area since the beginning of July. Yellowstone currently has four or five, and we occasionally see the smoke from the Berry Creek fire in the northwest corner of the Tetons. It has made for a wonderful summer season for visitors, however, who have been enjoying the weather and participating in all kinds of outdoor activities in the park.
Last week , for the first time in what seems quite awhile, we had no set plans or chores scheduled for our days off. So we strapped on our Camelbak water packs, laced up the hiking boots, and set off on a couple of hikes :-).
Our first hike, on Tuesday, was a longer hike, eight miles round trip. We started off at the String Lake picnic area, hiked the shoreline to Leigh Lake, then followed Leigh Lake's shore all the way to the north end. From there it was a short way to another lake, much smaller, called Bearpaw Lake. We haven't done this hike before, but we have kayaked across String and Leigh Lakes.
String Lake is the beginning of this hike. I always recommend that guests head over to String Lake for swimming because it's so shallow that the water warms up quite quickly. It's a beautiful lake for any and all water activities and becomes packed with people quite quickly every day. We were here bright and early in the morning :-).
As we followed the shore of String Lake, we could look backwards and get a great view of the southern end of the Teton Range.
I like this hike because it's quite shaded, as well as following the lake shore. This makes for more comfortable hiking, especially when the sun is out in full force :-).
We crossed a short spit of land, about 100 feet, between String and Leigh Lakes, and had our first sight of the southern end of Leigh Lake.
Our first year here in the Tetons, we had paddled these lakes and went around this spit of land to approach the base of Mount Moran. Mount Moran is our friend Carol Herr's favorite mountain, and she wanted to "touch the base" of it!
About halfway around Leigh Lake, there is a sandy beach area. Up to this point, we had seen a few other hikers, but we left the last couple here at this beach. From here to Bearpaw Lake we didn't see anyone else!
The trail entered a more open area and it looked as if there had been a fire in the area at one time. We also started gaining some elevation at this point, although overall it was a pretty flat hike.
Four miles in, we reached Bearpaw Lake. Compared to the other lakes, it's relatively tiny, but it was so peaceful here. Our only company for our morning snack ad drink break was a pair of ravens and a bald eagle. I keep telling people, especially this year with the increased numbers of visitors, that all you have to do to find some solitude is get away from the overlooks and high-traffic areas. Once you strike out for the backcountry, you leave 95% of the people behind!
It was finally time to retrace our steps and head back to civilization. One more shot of the mountain views across Leigh Lake.
The next day, Wednesday, we had a day off together with Dan and Jonell. Jonell has finally been able to take the "walking boot" off of her broken foot and wanted to attempt a shorter hike. Our first year out here we did the Taggart Lake hike, so we set off to see how she would do. It was another beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky!
The hike follows a small creek for a while and then starts climbing at a moderate grade.
I really like the great mountain views of this hike.
We reached the shore of Taggart Lake.....
and it did not disappoint :-)!
We relaxed for a bit, chatted with other hikers, and then finally moved off for the return back to the trailhead. We had decided to take the south loop trail, which goes through an area called Beaver Meadows, and once again, left behind a majority of the crowd. There was a pretty significant climb uphill before heading back down, and it probably scares off some of the folks. We didn't mind :-).
The trail also goes through many huckleberry groves, but we didn't encounter any bears. It was all quiet.
Altogether, the trail was about 3 miles, and Jonell said she did great. She'll be back walking circles around me again in short order :-).
I had started this blog several days ago, and since then, we've had a pretty significant fire start up. We've had several throughout western Wyoming this summer, with dry weather conditions not seen since 1988. Lightning started a fire about 19 miles to our northwest, in a remote area of Teton National Park, and it was a pretty small fire, not causing any problems, until yesterday. Low humidity along with high winds yesterday caused the Berry Creek fire to mushroom from about 800 acres of remote wilderness to over 6700 acres, moving 5 miles in one day, jumping the highway. We are now cut off from the southern entrance to Yellowstone, necessitating an extremely long drive south to Jackson, west to Idaho, then north up to West Yellowstone. Fortunately, the fire is burning to the northeast, away from our area, but it will really impact our guests' experience. So far, people are taking it in stride. It has certainly been giving us some pretty eerie sunsets, though.
This is one of the prettier sunsets one night before the smoke haze started settling into the valley.
The sunset was just as pretty looking east behind our campsite.
We are keeping on top of the fire news, and there are no worries at this time for our area. I know it's a natural part of nature, but it sure is sad seeing all the burned land. That's all for now, and I'll be back soon with a special post about the 100th birthday of the National Park System :-).