We love hiking and this is what we do when we’re not working or chilling, but we usually only do long 10-15-mile day hikes. In Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming), we raised the bar and spent two days hiking with one night in the wilderness! One tiny night seems like nothing, but for us it was kind of a big deal —last time I had trekked over several days was in 2003 in Peru with a group and donkeys carrying my stuff (it’s cheating), and Henri had just never done anything like this. We were lucky to try this in some of America’s most beautiful mountains with the best mentors in the world.
In Jackson Hole (the valley between the town of Jackson and Yellowstone), we found a free campsite (email me if you want the coordinates of this one) with the worst access road and no facilities, but the best view and the best people.
The Teton Range is really, really beautiful. My third thought after seeing these mountains for the first time was “How does it look on the other side?” (the first thought was “WOW” and the second “Why did the French call it Nipple?”)
We spend a few days enjoying lovely lake hikes in the park…
Meeting the local fauna (we seemed to be the only ones finding these playful marmots exotic, for the record seeing a SQUIRREL is very rare in France so this is a cultural thing).
We took a detour to Wind River Range for three relaxing days, in equally beautiful mountains. I even found a little town with my nickname there.
On the Saturday evening, in Jackson Hole again, our secret campground got really busy… we shared our campfire with our friendly, adventurous Californian neighbors who had a lot of experience and passion hiking the backcountry. Long story short, our new friends kindly offered to try a two-day backpacking trip with them and we made it happen. (find the newbie in this group of hikers)
Packing for two days in the wilderness
Things started to get real when we had to pack our stuff for two days. We bought a Junior tent (a euphemism for “kids tent”) which was supposed to be 180 cm long so that Henri would fit in but trust me, it does not work this way, there are at least 30 unusable centimeters. It really is a kids tent, but it costs less than 20 bucks and it weight less than 1 kilo. I mean look at this perfect demonstration of balance, I’m lightweight all the way.
You just can not really bring anything on a trip like that. Everything has to be carefully measured, or you’ll quickly suffer from the weight. I must say I was pretty ignorant regarding packing and learned how to downsize more thanks to our friends. Even your food needs to be optimized, so you bring the best calorie vs. weight ratio. It’s a pretty fun exercise and I think if every human being living in the Northern Hemisphere had to do this once, the world could be a better place.
Death Canyon to Static Peak Divide, via Alaska Basin
It’s hard to tell a hike but I’ll give it a go. Our two-day hike started early on a Friday in Death Canyon of Grand Teton National Park, which definitely does not deserve its name. It’s pretty bright out there and there is no shortage of alpine flowers.
After a 10-mile hike we pitched our tents near the end of the canyon. There is not much to do in the wild besides being very careful with your food (bears), eating the food, playing cards, reading and talking. It was really great and I can’t wait to experience that kind of peacefulness again. We fell asleep at around 8:30 pm. It’s strange but somehow your body seems to match the new environment.
On the second day, we started a 15-mile hike to Static Peak Divide, via Fox Creek Pass and the Jedediah Smith Wilderness (at this point it’s not even a “park” or the “forest”, it’s just the “wilderness”). I’m not sure I remember all the names but it should be pretty accurate.
There were some pretty tricky snow passages, but what caused me more trouble is crossing a bunch of rivers. I stupidly dropped my iPhone in the river while crossing 10 feet on slippery stones. FYI, I picked it up and it still works, but it could have gone with the river, which would have been a pretty bad source of pollution. “Leave no trace”!
One more picture of me making a weird pose with the poles and we’ll almost get to Static Peak Divide:
… We made it to what we considered “the top”! At this point we did not have enough energy left to climb the few hundred feet to Static Peak, but it was already a nice achievement.
The trailhead seems close, but it’s still three hours to get there…
After that Henri stopped taking pictures as we were struggling a little bit! It was hard but we completed our 25-mile hike (or maybe more 27…) without too much trouble.
I thought a lot about this 2-day hike and what it means for me. For Henri and I it was hard to disconnect our experience from the relatively poor state of wilderness that we know is the reality in France (just in the Mont-Blanc trails 3 tons of trash is collected every year, and the French Alps became a gigantic ski resort based on unsustainable economical development policies in the past decades). When you ask for a permit to stay in the mountain in a US national park, you are trusted to respect a certain number of rules. Being trusted means that you’re also held responsible, so as soon as you enter the wilderness you become an actor in preserving the fragile ecosystem of the mountain. For me it was a healthy break, and it was really eye-opening about all the little details that make us unconsciously careless about our environment. It’s great that we had this first experience with responsible and knowledgeable mentors (guys, if you read this, thanks again and you are really the best). I feel more trained and ready for when we will do it on our own.