This is our last day in the Rockies. Since I haven't been
walking or running much the last few days, I wanted to get in one more
trail adventure before heading home. Susi and Hans enjoyed the trail at
the end of the Teton Canyon Road so much last week that I decided to
head that way.
There are several trails that lead up into the mountains on the west
side of the Teton Range through the canyon. They all seem to start with
the same segment that branches out after 2.7 miles (we don't have
a detailed map or atlas of this area). Since I still don't know what's
wrong with the knee I hurt three weeks ago climbing Mts. Oxford and
Belford, I used my brain and not my heart and did just that 2.7-mile
segment (for a total of 5½ miles) and not the enticing "Devil's Staircase," one of the longer
That sounds like it's just made for an adventurous trail
runner, doesn't it?
I expected lots of company on the trail this holiday weekend, and I
got it. We saw only five or six people outbound, but many more on the
way back to the parking lot. I was happy to see so many runners, hikers, and equestrians
enjoying the trails. No bikes are permitted because it's the Jedediah
Smith Wilderness Area.
The drive was short, just a couple miles beyond our campground in the
canyon. We heard the parking lot fills early but Jim and I were able to
get a spot when we arrived about 10 AM. We read the information board,
including warnings about grizzly and black bears in the area. That
prompted us to put both dogs on their leashes.
The first mile of the trail was mostly shaded by trees because the
morning sun was still low in the sky. The open places were already
pretty hot, however.
Jim and Tater turned around before the trail really opened up. He
went back to the camper and returned later for Cody and me. He was still
pretty tired from the race and didn't want to push his body too far.
I enjoyed the trail through the more open canyon in the second and
third miles better than the shaded part because of the vistas. The trail
was also smoother there and more runnable on the way back down. The
elevation at the trail head is about 6,600 feet and rises to about 7,000
feet at the multi-trail juncture. I did more walking than running on the
very gradual ascent.
The canyon is fairly wide, always within either eyesight or earshot
of the tumbling Teton Creek. There were several places where the dogs
could swim and drink water:
I enjoyed views of rock walls and the surrounding mountains but
couldn't see much of the higher Teton peaks from this trail. The farther
into the canyon I got, the more the nearby peaks like Table Mountain blocked their view.
You can see the tip of Grand Teton in the photo above but it's hidden
farther along the trail:
I thought the bulging half moon was pretty cool to see above the
walls at mid-morning:
I loved the soft pinkish color of these tall
were in full reproductive mode with all their seed fluff flying in the
Some of the plants were over six feet tall. I didn't
know what they were until an astute reader who lives in the area and
runs in the canyon wrote to tell me what they are. I saw flowering
fireweeds in the Leadville, Colorado area last month, but didn't realize
what they look like in the fall. Thanks, Dan (another ultra runner!) for
the ID. Here's a close up of the silky fluff:
Half a mile before the trail intersection a man and black Lab ran
past Cody and me:
A couple minutes later a hiking couple came toward me and warned me that they'd just
seen a big black bear. They were sitting on a log at the intersection
when the bruin came within six feet (they said) and showed interest in
the apples they were eating. They decided to quietly but quickly vacate
I kept walking, intrigued. Some of the best
moments I had along the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies, the
Shenandoahs, and in New Jersey were black bear sightings, and I wanted
to see another one. Now if they'd said they saw a grizzly bear I would have immediately turned around!
In less than a minute the runner and his dog came back toward me. He
saw the bear amble off toward the nearby creek and out of sight, but
didn't want to push his luck by going any further.
I went on another couple hundred feet to the intersection and Cody went nuts.
His whole demeanor changed, tensing his body and frenetically sniffing where the
bear had walked. He's a very strong little rascal (80 muscular pounds)
and it was all I could do to hold him back on
his leash. Although we couldn't see the bear, Cody could smell it. He is
very good about heeling next to me even off-leash when we see large animals like deer and cows, but he
sure wanted to go after this bear! I think it was a new scent to him; he wasn't with me on the AT any of the times I saw bears there.
After reading the trail signs and going up the Devil's Backbone trail about
a hundred yards (rats, couldn't see much!) I decided it would be a good
idea for us to leave the area, too. I wasn't worried about an attack,
but didn't want to bother the bear any more. It was his territory, not
ours. I'd guess, however, that the black bears are fairly accustomed to
seeing humans, dogs, and horses on this heavily-traveled trail. It
didn't sound like this one was aggressive, just curious and hoping for
I was able to run most of the way back to the parking area because
the trail was generally downhill or flat on the return. It felt so good
to run! I've mostly been walking since I messed up my knee, afraid that
running might make it worse. Until I know what's wrong, which will take
an MRI, I have to be really careful.
Here are two of the beautiful views I had going back to the parking
Some foliage was already turning to its fall colors. Guess the snow
will be flying soon -- time to go home! (We're snow-phobes.)
Jim and Tater came back just about the time I reached the parking
lot. We spent the afternoon doing laundry and getting supplies in town,
reorganizing our running gear from the race, and getting the camper
ready for the 2,000-mile, four-day drive home. We'll leave in the
It was 80 degrees in the shade at our camper, so I know it was hotter
on the exposed sections of trail I ran. I consider this the beginning of
my summer heat training -- finally. We know it's gonna be hot as soon as
we hit lower elevations tomorrow, and very humid east of the Mississippi.
FAREWELL TO THE ROCKIES
Although we wish we could stay in the Rockies longer, we are more
ready to leave now than we were right after the Leadville race. Our
mission is done. It wasn't exactly accomplished, but it is
over for this summer. We always have ambivalent feelings about returning home after a
great trip, and the longer we're gone, the harder it is to leave one
place we love for another place we love. Once we get home, it feels good
to be back.
This is a fitting farewell photo from our campground in Teton Canyon,
a colorful sunset over Grand and Middle Teton Peaks:
I'll write more of a summary of our summer and our future plans in a
few weeks, after we get home and settled back into our routine there.
I'll also let you know what my MRI results show. I may or may not have
run my last ultra. Hopefully, it's something that can be fixed so I can
continue my passion. I'll also write about our fall and winter
race plans. We signed up for several races before my knee was injured.
WHAT IS A COW'S IQ??
I'll close this entry in a humorous vein.
We're very familiar with the numerous cattle guards out West in
open-range territory. You don't see them nearly as much in the East.
They are hard for people to cross on foot with shoes, and impossible for
animals. I have to watch the dogs when
I encounter one on a trail because they'll fall through -- as will cows.
Cows probably learn about the hazards of cattle guards when they are
young and curious calves. I don't know how many times it takes them to
learn, but eventually they do and they remain inside their boundary.
Below is a photo of a real cattle guard at our campground in the
Teton Canyon. It keeps cows OUT of the campground (as does the fencing
all around it):
Now look at this cattle guard on paved Ski Hill Road about a mile
below the Grand Targhee Resort:
Notice anything different??
We drove over this one about three times before realizing it was
PAINTED on the pavement!!! I think that is just hilarious. Apparently it
works just as well as a real cattle guard or someone would have
installed one of those contraptions here. I wonder how many of the other runners
the fake one on their way to and from the resort and didn't think anything about
This is a first, and it still amuses me. I mentioned it to Susi and
she and Hans got a good laugh about it, too, when it dawned on them that
it was a "trompe d'oeuil" effect. Guess a real cattle guard
would slow down the rollerbladers and skateboarders that like to fly
down this road, huh?
So long from the Rockies! My last entry will be at the end of
ADDENDUM SEPTEMBER 14
After four long days on the road, we arrived home
safely last Friday night. It took several days to empty and clean
the camper, stock the refrigerator and pantry, remember where things are
located (not as much CRS as last summer's return, though), get our desktop
computer fired up (see dead laptop screen below), start weeding the flower
beds and watering the dead lawn (we missed a very hot, dry summer in
Roanoke), and try to get back into a normal routine.
It'll take us longer to adjust to the heat and humidity and clean up the
mess Appalachian Electric Power left when they lopped off numerous big limbs on
trees in their right of way through our side yards. One phone call got them to come back
four burly guys who spent three hours clearing some of it out, but they still left us
with many hours of work. <sigh>
"For travel to be delightful, one must have a
good place to leave and return to."
- Frederick B. Wilcox
We love our home. We just wish there wasn't so much to
do each time we return to it!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil