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Continued from the previous page.


All the snowmelt and/or rain have produced more alpine and sub-alpine wildflowers than I’ve ever seen this time of year, too, but only up to the snow level.

Lupines and other sub-alpine flowers in the basin

In the tundra above approximately 10,200 feet there were fewer alpine flowers and fewer kinds of flowers than I've seen previously in some places because the snow either just recently melted or it is still covering the ground:

Above:  lots of flowers in the upper basin in this spot, then very few
a couple hundred feet later where the snow just melted (below)

This hike was kind of schizophrenic in that regard -- so many summery flowers juxtaposed with so much remaining winter snow.

The flowers were just awesome all the way up to the basin and in sunny places where the snow has already melted – fields of yellow balsamroot, shorter yellow “buttercups,” two kinds of blue lupines, dark blue monkshood and larkspur, white, pink, and red Indian paintbrush, blue, white, yellow, and pink columbines, purple asters, purple fleabane, bright pink fireweed, pale pink wild geraniums, scarlet gilia, tall white cow parsnip, etc.

They were so distracting that I took numerous flower photos. It's a wonder I ever made it back to the camper!

With all the flowers, snow, and scenery that looked different to me this time, I took over 600 photos today. Gotta edit and delete some of those, eh? 


This is a more detailed map section of the area where I looped through the basin. It's a picture I took of my large waterproof National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map of the Tetons:

1 = Sunset Lake; 2 = intersection of Alaska Shelf and Basin trails below Buck Mtn.;
3 = Teton Crest Trail going south toward Meek Pass (I didn't go that way today)

Alaska Basin covers all of the area inside the trail loop and much of the area within the wide blue line, which indicates the Grand Teton NP boundary. The basin also extends to the left where you can see the Alaska Basin Trail. The pink section is where campfires and horses/pack animals are prohibited.

When I got up to Alaska Basin from the Teton Canyon AKA Alaska Basin Trail (#027) -- a distance of just under eight miles -- I turned left (north) on the Teton Crest Trail (#008). 

Teton Crest Trail on the way to Sunset Lake

It goes up fairly steeply, which is easier on my knees than coming down that way.

I came to the intersection with trail #026 (Alaska Basin Shelf Trail) in 6/10ths of a mile but continued down several hundred feet on the Teton Crest Trail so I could get a photo of Sunset Lake. (I marked the lake #1 on the map above.)

View toward Sunset Lake and Battleship Mountain


Then I returned to the intersection with trail #026 (Alaska Basin Shelf Trail) and went clockwise around the upper part of Alaska Basin:

I've never been on this trail before. I had a general sense of its location because I had my map with me but I wasn't sure exactly where the trail went.

Route-finding through the first mile of the Shelf Trail through the northwestern part of Alaska Basin was easy, although the footing was sometimes wet or rocky:


Marsh marigolds are one of the first flowers to bloom when the snow melts.

There were some very pretty fields of flowers, colorful rocks, and good views toward Buck Mountain and the peaks on the south rim of the basin:


Fields of flowers as I head toward Buck Mountain (R) in the distance

There were patches of snow in the first mile of the Shelf Trail but both navigation and footing became tricky after I dropped down a little to the southeastern part of the basin, which apparently doesn't get as much sunshine as the northwestern part.

There were so many snow banks to cross, some 300-400 feet across, that I repeatedly lost the trail in the 2+ miles to the intersection with trail #027. I marked that intersection on the map above with #2.


Each time I lost the trail I had to do some cross-country hiking on the other side of the snow banks until I found it again. That was mostly fun but it took extra time and effort.

Despite losing the trail repeatedly, I never worried about getting lost in the basin. There are too many prominent landmarks to get lost up there unless you have no map or sense of direction.

My main concern was all the time it was taking me to cross over or around all the snow.

A secondary concern was safety since it was obvious no one else was up there or had even been there recently -- I didn't see footprints anywhere along the Shelf Trail. I had a phone signal in the basin but I wouldn't have been able to reach Jim in the valley because he didn't have a signal.

I listened carefully each time I approached a snow bank to hear whether a creek was running underneath.

I was concerned about falling through into water and maybe being unable to get back out but I never once post-holed, let alone fell through. The snow was solid where I walked -- sometimes around the edges of the mass, sometimes straight across.


My arrows show the trail on either side of that patch of snow.

As you've already probably noticed in the snow photos, many spots were pink or red from minerals in the crystals.

I slid down a couple snow banks that were white – and when I got to the rocks below, my butt slides  in the snow were red! My pants probably were, too. Here's one of my butt tracks: 

And here's a really wide red track that looks like a GIANT butt-slid down:

I didn't do that! It's much too wide. Just thought it was funny in comparison.

Not only was all the pink and red snow interesting but so, too, were the various sculptures where the snow has melted in some artistic designs:


As I got closer to the intersection with the Alaska Basin Trail (#2 on the map 'way above) the Shelf Trail climbed higher and I could see the lower part of the basin where I was headed:



Intersection of the Shelf and Basin trails

I'll show more photos from the Alaska Basin Shelf Trail in the photo gallery.

Continued on the next page . . . hiking the second half of the loop through the southern part of the basin, hike summary, and how Jim spent his day

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil