Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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" . . . Together the mountain range and [eastern] valley frame a majestic landscape of eight
large lakes and many smaller ones, glaciers, numerous snowfields, and extensive pine,
fir, and spruce forests. The Tetons are among the youngest mountains on the continent . . .
Few mountain ranges have a greater variety of glaciated canyons than the Tetons.
The block-faulted mountains of this alpine park are rare in this country . . .
- Partial description of Teton National Park from the 2003
AAA Tour Book for Idaho, Montana, & Wyoming, p. 153



After picking up our last USPS priority mail package from home at Driggs, ID, on Wednesday, we  drove through Alta, WY and up to the Grand Targhee ski resort at 8,000 feet in elevation. Along Ski Hill Road we had great views of the three Teton and adjacent peaks from the west side. Very cool!

We began seeing some tri-colored ribbons hanging from the trees along the paved road to the resort and Jim recalled that two or three miles of the Mill Creek Loop follow the road. At a pull-off a couple miles from the resort we found RD Jay Batchen and ultra runner George Velasco putting blue, yellow, and bright pink ribbons up. We stopped to talk for a few minutes, then continued up the road.

We had several camping choices for overnight or all weekend: an expensive private campground with full services about twenty miles from the race site, two national forest campgrounds at $10/night eight to ten miles from the start/finish, a couple of pull-outs closer to the resort (good for only that night, realistically), maybe $25/night in a remote parking lot with no water or other services at the resort, or some combination of these. Each had its advantages. We'd have to weigh them after some investigation.

We went directly to the resort and parked in a close-in lot to check out the place.


Jim had already talked on the phone to Mike Evans, a resort employee and 100-mile race entrant. We found him in the ticket sales/restaurant/commons area at the base of the Dreamcatcher ski life and talked for a while. The photo below shows the back side of the resort complex. The main (base) aid station would soon be set up near the gazebo to the right of the blue-roofed chairlift:

This all-purpose area serves as the race start, finish, and base aid station. The 100-mile runners pass through this AS a total of twelve times during the race, which has three loops done four times each. That set-up will be unique for both of us -- for Jim as the runner and for me as the crew. There are two other places I can crew for him along the paved road to the resort. I'll describe the course more in tomorrow's entry.

When Mike had to return to work, we enjoyed our Lift & Lunch deal: $15 each for a ticket up another 2,000 feet to the top of Fred's Mountain (10,000 feet elevation) plus anything we wanted on the menu at the Trap Bar and Grill for lunch. Since menu choices ranged from $7 to $13, and a single lift ticket alone was $10, it's a no-brainer to get the combo deal if you've never seen the grandiose view from Fred's or just want to enjoy it again.

It was already about 1:15 PM. We ate lunch first (my grilled salmon/roasted veggies/salad meal was excellent, but Jim said his grilled chicken/veggie/taco salad was only so-so), then went up to the top of Fred's Mountain on the chairlift.

The twenty-minute ride was fun and a novelty since neither of us skis or had been on a lift more than a couple times before. Jim had a lot of questions about the mechanics of the operation and got them answered satisfactorily by the employees at the top and bottom.

We'd read from Rick Sandison's 2006 race report that the panoramic views from Fred's were outstanding and well worth the trip before the race. Indeed they were! Although we've seen the Teton Range from the eastern side in the national park, we haven't seen the "rear view" this close from the Idaho side until now.

The chairlift operator at the top recommended we head to the right and up a hill behind a little building for the best views. What a panorama from north to south with over a dozen peaks in the 10,000 to 13,000+ foot range: Ranger, Eagles Rest, Moose, Bivouac, Moran, Thor, St. John, the three Teton peaks, Wister, Nez Pierce, Buck, Prospectors, Hunt, Fossil, Housetop.

The most prominent from this direction is Grand Teton (elev. 13,770 feet) with its distinctive rounded top that reminds me of a shark's fin:

This is another view of the "shark's fin" from down the road:

That one's not on my list to climb because it's too technical.

We could see what looks like a glacier on this side, but its gray color blends in with the rocks so well that it might be rock instead. It's dead center in the close-up below:

To the east we were facing an interesting rounded basin formed by glaciers:

Mt. Moran is one of the peaks in the distance above. The next view is to the left, facing north:

We could see a road coming up Fred's Mountain from the south but we didn't know for certain until race day that it's the road runners use to get to the top.

This view is more to the right, facing more directly south:

I walked partway down the south side of the mountain toward the service road but not to it. You could also climb up to the ridge where we were from that road.

To the west were expansive views of the broad valley nearly 4,000 feet below us and the Caribou Range to the southwest. We could see Alta and Driggs clearly, and Grand Targhee Resort, of course:

Surrounding the resort and to the south are 1.8 million acres of the Targhee National Forest, named for a Bannock Indian chief. From the top of Fred's Mountain (10,000 feet) we could look down on most of the GTR100 course, although we didn't know exactly where it went on its three "loops." I'll describe the course layout in the next entry.

The next photo is more to the right (north) of the one above and shows Rick's Basin:

Grand Targhee resort prides itself on its "green power" facilities management to conserve energy and promote sustainable ecosystems. Among many other conservation and efficiency systems, it relies heavily on solar power. We could see solar panels everywhere, including the top of Fred's:

Behind one of the solar panels was an EarthScope GPS monitoring station that collects data regarding earthquake and volcanic activity:

Nearby was a device we couldn't identify. Jim thinks it's an antenna. I joked that it looks like it landed from Mars, so Jim put his hat on it and posed in front of a Teton view:

We noticed several experimental devices, below, with glass, plexiglass, and other coverings and just had to ask what they were. The chairlift operator told us that a nearby university is conducting research regarding global warming, using pine seedlings.

I took this photo on the way back to the lift. One of the aid stations during the race is located on the far (north) side of the lift:

There is a viewing platform a little way down the gravel road on the other side of the lift platform but I didn't check it out until race day. The views are similar there but it's an easier walk if that makes a difference to you.

L to R above: Mt. Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Teton Peak

Mt. Moran (12,605 feet) middle right, above

We enjoyed the warm sunshine and wonderful views on the way back down the mountain via the chairlift. Locals and tourists enjoy hiking, running, and cycling on the resort's trails and dirt roads. On race day I saw lots of bikes on the chairlift for cyclists who don't want to ride up the mountain, only down it. That sounds like fun, but it's not much exercise!

We went for a two-mile walk in Rick's Basin, part of the race course. The course wasn't marked there yet but we did go the correct way for the beginning of that five-mile loop.


I'll show more photos of Rick's Basin in tomorrow's entry as I describe the course.


Because of the lack of water and no place to dump our gray water in the resort parking lot (and the possibility we'd have to pay $25/night for no services and little shade if we stayed there overnight) we decided to camp at one of the forest service campgrounds farther down in the beautiful Teton Canyon at about 6,600 feet. We found a beautiful site for a reasonable $10 per night. Since most of our camping has been free this summer, we don't mind that fee.

The campground is quiet, shady, has creeks on either side, and has the cleanest restrooms we've ever seen in a forest service facility. The campground hosts are delightful and suggested several hiking trails. We have free-ranging cattle to entertain us on the other side of the fencing around the campground (more about them on race day) but we haven't noticed any odor.

And the best thing of all? This is the view from our living room window:

That alone is worth $10 a day! That's the Grand Teton "shark's fin" on the left.

On Thursday Jim went down to Driggs for fuel and an internet connection (no Verizon service at our campground). I took the dogs for a walk across Teton Canyon Creek but had trouble finding as many miles of trail as Cathy-the-CG-hostess told me about. We did a U-turn after running into part of the cattle herd to the east and the trail dead-ended the other direction. When I have time, I'll investigate the popular trail at the eastern end of the canyon toward the Tetons.

Even though it would have been more convenient to be camped right at the resort during the race, this campground worked out well because it's just down the road from the lower Ski Road aid station during the race. I was able to crew Jim at both aid stations on that road each time he did the 14-mile Mill Creek loop and return to the camper to feed and walk the dogs, get more food and supplies, run the generator for a few minutes, etc.

If we ever return to this race, we'll probably camp in Teton Canyon again. It's about equidistant between Driggs and the resort.

Next entry: the Grand Teton 100-mile Trail Run -- race description, briefing, and packet pick-up.

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil