In September 2013, we hiked the Teton Crest Trail with my brother-in-law, Matt, and his girlfriend, Kelsey. The permitting system at Grand Teton National Park can be difficult, but we planned for delays and were able to secure a permit for the day after our arrival. We took the free day to explore Yellowstone National Park. You can view the photos from the Yellowstone portion of our trip here.
The morning we were scheduled to begin the hike, we drove back to Grand Teton National Park from Yellowstone. It was a particularly beautiful morning and we stopped to take pictures of the morning light shining off the mountains. We parked our car where we planned to end our hike and waited for our pre-arranged shuttle to arrive and take us to the starting trailhead. When the shuttle arrived, Matt realized that he somehow lost his camera, phone, and wallet on the way to the park. We deduced that he must have left these items on top of the car when we stopped to take pictures earlier. Joe and Matt decided to take the car to try to retrieve the lost items while Kelsey and I waited with the shuttle driver. Fortunately, the driver was understanding to our plight and patiently waited almost thirty minutes for Joe and Matt to return. Matt lucked out and was able to find his lost items exactly where we thought they had fallen.
After a bumpy drive to the starting trailhead, our shuttle driver dropped us off and quickly drove away. As we were getting our packs organized, a ranger walked up and asked us for our permits. It was at that point that I realized that I had left our permit in the car. Crap! We had no way of returning to our car to retrieve the permit because our shuttle driver had already left. Panicked, I clumsily fumbled through my backpack looking for the permit and incoherently tried to explain to the ranger that we had a permit, just not with us. He didn’t seem amused and didn’t seem to be buying my story – truth or not. As I pondered how many thousands of dollars we may all be fined for not having our permit, the ranger was able to radio the main station to confirm our permit status and was able to issue us a new hand-written one. Whew!
After an eventful morning, we were all ready to hit the trail. We were treated with delightful views and were able to find a nice campsite that evening. As we finished up dinner and set up our tents, a thunderstorm rolled in. The rain began pouring down and the thunder began to crack. I started trying to count the seconds between the lightning flashes and thunder claps. It did not take long before they were almost simultaneous. Not a good sign. After a close lightning encounter I had in the Maroon Bells, I read numerous lightning safety articles to try to learn what to do when lightning is near. I remembered that you are supposed to get out of your tent and take the ‘lightning position” in the safest location possible. It’s tough to make yourself get out of your tent in a rainstorm. You are in your warm, dry sleeping bag, wearing your warm, dry sleeping clothes, and you’re supposed to get out of your warm, dry tent into the freezing cold rain and squat in the “lightning position” until the storm passes? Really!?!? Who thought of this?!?! After a bit of discussion, we all decided to put on our rain gear and squat in the lowest lying, uniform-ish strand of trees that we could find until the storm passed. As the thunder clapped around us, I felt completely helpless and prayed that we would be spared from getting zapped in the next flash. After about 20 minutes of squatting in the “lightning position”, the flashes became less frequent and the thunder became a distant rumble.
The rest of the hike was phenomenally beautiful and mostly uneventful. Except that we had a black bear walk through our campsite one morning as we were breaking camp. We all lived, so that was neat. After the hike, we laughed about our mishaps over beers in Jackson Hole and checked out their outdoor bouldering park – it must be tough to live in Jackson Hole.
I highly recommend this to anyone looking for their next epic – just be sure to get your permit and remember to carry it with you!
You can see more of our pictures here. Questions and comments are always welcome!