Fortunately, this week Jim and I have run into very few other trail
users and the few cyclists we've seen on the trails have been courteous.
In the last
entry I talked about the first section of the Grand Teton Race (GTR) course and
showed you pictures going up and down Fred's Mountain, the literal and
figurative high point on the course.
Here's the GTR map again so you can reference it as I describe Sections B and C
of the course in this entry, with photos from my run-hikes this past week:
SECTION B: MILL CREEK TRAIL (5.6 to 20
After runners check into the Base Aid Station at 5.6
miles, they head south and begin the longest section of the race.
As you can see on the map above, it's an
out-and-back two-way segment with a big convoluted clockwise
The first few miles of Section B are mostly downhill on dirt
roads and the Mill Creek Trail. The trail ends down in
Teton Canyon, at about 7,000 feet the lowest elevation in the
race, on the road that goes to our campground. If runners look
to their left as they approach the road, this is what they see:
View of the Tetons as runners reach Teton
Now scroll back up to the map. Can you see "Teton Canyon Road" at the bottom left?
The race course is shown in red on trails and dirt/gravel roads
and black (far left side of map) where runners go up paved Ski Hill
Road for 3+ miles. This is the big black-line switchback
you can see on the map:
Long and winding road . . . runners come uphill toward
the camera during the race.
The only time Jim ran any of this section during the week was on
Tuesday after climbing up and down Fred's Mountain. He didn't
run any of the paved road. The dirt roads and trails weren't
marked yet but he remembered the route. He ran the outbound
direction for about five miles down to Teton Canyon Road,
thinking what a great trail this is!
Yes, but in the race you have to go back UP that section, too, I
reminded him with a grin.
I'd already gotten a little taste of going uphill from the
canyon road on Tuesday. After Cody and I got done with Fred's
Mountain, we drove
down Ski Hill Road to Teton Canyon Road and the intersection
with Mill Creek Trail. There's a nice parking lot there, right
next to boisterous Teton Creek. Then we hiked up about half a mile until
we met Jim flying down. I was disappointed that I didn't get to
see more of the trail that day.
Above and below: views near the bottom of
Mill Creek Trail
Not to worry. I got another chance this morning. Only I decided
to go UP the trail from Teton Canyon Road to Targhee Base
instead of down, so it'd be easier on my knees. That meant it
was mostly a five-mile hike and not a run since I was going from
7,000 feet to 8,300 feet at the high point about a mile from the
Base Aid Station location. Most of the gain was gradual, with
about a mile of downhill running on Peaked Peak Road at the end
of the section.
Route-finding was not a problem for me because this section was marked
two days ago.
I enjoyed the lower couple miles of single-track trail through
mostly shady pine and aspen forests. Since I haven't run the
race before, it didn't feel like I was going the "wrong way,"
although this is opposite the direction the course will go in
After I passed the intersection with Cold Springs Trail, where
the race course loop "closes," I was on the two-way section of
Mill Creek Trail and going the same direction runners will go as
they return to the Base Aid Station. The trail goes through more
open meadows full of flowers here, and morphs into a dirt road
near the Cat Ski Platform after about a mile.
I expected a creek, since this is the Mill Creek Trail,
but we weren't near any creeks and there was no water for Cody
the entire way. Ditto the rest of the course, come to
think of it. It's in stark contrast to the South Teton Creek
Trail we ran/hiked yesterday.
I thought the most scenic part of Section B this morning was along the rough dirt and
rock road between the Cat Ski Platform (above left) and the Sacagawea
chairlift. It was uphill for almost a mile in the direction I was going, and open to the hot sun.
Despite that, I
thoroughly enjoyed the colorful flowers, bright blue sky, green
aspens and pines, and scenic vistas through this section:
What runners see going the other direction on the
At the top of that hill runners hop onto a short single-track
trail (below) that takes them under the Sacagawea chair lift.
There are great views from this part of the course.
The last mile back to the Base Aid Station is downhill on the winding dirt Peaked
During the race runners go the other way outbound, turn right
(clockwise) around the loop that includes Teton Canyon Road and
paved Ski Hill Road, and head back (right) into the woods on a
jeep road at the Cold Springs Aid Station at mile 14.6. I
have not run or walked on any of the four road miles but I've
ridden on it several times. I'm counting that as parts of the
course that I've seen.
During the race tomorrow I plan to run all or part of the 2.3-mile
Cold Springs Trail, which closes the loop end of this section. That's the only part of the course I haven't
seen yet. Runners will turn left at the Mill Creek Trail and go
back up to the Base Aid Station like I did this morning.
At that point, they will have completed 20, 40, 60, or 80 miles
of their race.
This is what the base area looked like this morning, with race
tents and cones set up, as I finished my run:
SECTION C: RICKS BASIN (20 - 25 miles)
I've seen "Ricks Basin" with and without an apostrophe. The race
website uses "Rick's" (singular possessive) but the Grand Targhee
"Ricks," so that's what I'll use here. It's on their
property, after all. I think the basin is named after
a family with the last name of Ricks. There are a lot
of Ricks families in the area. So how come it's not
Ricks' (plural possessive)??
That grammar exercise aside, I'll tell you that this is my favorite part
of the GTR course. It's five miles of scenic, rolling, fairly
smooth, mostly single-track trail that I can actually run.
It's also popular for cross-country skiing, mountain biking,
and horseback riding. Add in adjacent Quakie Ridge and you've
got another couple miles of trails to enjoy.
This is what Ricks Basin looks like from the summit of Fred's
Ricks Basin is in the center of this photo.
It's not as flat as it looks from here!
Check the GTR course map again and look for Section C at the
During the race runners head north from the Base Aid Station on dirt service roads
(one is shown below) for about 3/4th mile until they reach a ridge where the
Jim and Cody on the southern ridge of the
basin, nearing the single-track
Runners follow the trails in a clockwise loop and return to the
start/finish area on a different dirt road that parallels the
first one they took outbound. It sounds a little confusing, but
the trails are so well marked on race day that runners shouldn't
It is quite possible to get off-course if you get out
there before it's marked, however! Ask me how I know . . .
Off course? Who cares?! This is a
great view of Fred's Mountain.
The chairlift housing is the little blip at
the top of the ridge on the right.
Jim and I ran this section with Cody on Wednesday morning. RD Jay Batchen and his trail crew had
not marked this section yet but
there were some markers left from a recent bike race that we
sort of followed. Jim
couldn't remember exactly how the course went but he got
almost all of it correct.
That's OK. I was happy to get a bonus mile during our training
run when he missed a cut-off used in the GTR to make the loop
the right length. That's how much I enjoyed our run! It was over
too soon for me.
I know we're back on course here:
Ricks Basin is full of wildflowers this time of year . . .
. . . and there
are great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys,
especially from the ridge on the far side of the loop:.
Above and below: I think that's
pointy Mt. Moran in the far distance, about 1/3 from the left.
Good view of Fred's and Table Mountains
At the end of the outer loop in Ricks Basin runners return to
the start/finish area along a different dirt road that goes
under the Blackfoot chairlift, reconnects with the other dirt
roads on the outbound part of the
course, and continues downhill to the Base Aid Station. The
start/finish area is shown below on Wednesday, before the race
tents were set up:
That's the Dreamcatcher chairlift on the left. The Base Aid
Station will be in the grassy area in the center of that photo.
I'd love to tour Ricks Basin in the winter on cross-country skis
but that's not likely to happen unless Jim develops a sudden
love for snow and I learn to stay upright on Nordic skis! There are about nine miles of trails that are
used for Nordic skiing at the resort, most of them in the basin. Here's a little photo I copied from a
Grand Targhee Resort
Brr! The summer season is so different. It was certainly warmer
and greener this week, although there are a few signs that
autumn is approaching as grasses and other plants gradually turn
more red or brown:
We ran through mostly open fields but also some aspen groves
that provided a brief, shady respite.
It was hot
in the bright sunshine at 7,918 to 8,224 feet but
not quite as hot as in the nearby valleys of Idaho, where the
temps soared into the 90s F. that day. Two years ago Jim wasn't
sufficiently heat-trained for this race; we think he's
better trained for the heat this time after the warmer
temperatures we've had here this week and in Utah recently.
Next entry: Jim's ready. Let's run the race!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil