Nobody likes a 3 a.m. alarm.
A few people may tell you otherwise, but trust me, they’re probably lying. Sure, I entertain alpine starts as often as the next outdoor enthusiast, but only because they are the precursor to fresh powder, empty trails, and tall summits. Egregiously early alarms are a tribute for a later reward – but not something that you enjoy. Such was the case in August, on the day we ran the Teton Crest Trail.
Starting on Teton Pass west of Jackson, Wyoming, the Teton Crest is a 43-mile jaunt along the length of the Teton Range, mostly above 10,000 feet. The route, widely considered one of the most scenic trails in the country, offers views of wildflowers, wildlife, and the iconic Grand Teton, although with a dozen or more major peaks in the area.
In our early morning stupor we made coffee, filled water bladders, and checked headlight batteries – due diligence for the long run ahead. Starting at a slow and steady pace, we spent our first few miles climbing, working upward to the plateau on top of the range. A late spring and wet summer had combined for something unexpected this late in the year – a lush and vibrant variety of flowers, gorgeously coating the length of the trail.
By sunrise we were nearly a quarter of the way into the run, and decided to stop for water and to drop a layer. A quick check of our watches assured us that we were in no rush – we could allocated the rest of the day to climb into Alaska Basin, over Hurricane and Paintbrush, and enjoy smaller moments of the trail, too.
By noon the temps had rose to the upper 70s, with bright sun and far-off glimpses of the Grand Teton. Most of the middle section of the trial, from Death Canyon to Cascade, is up on a plateau at 10,000 feet, with views of Idaho to the west and Wyoming to the east. We found ourselves in the rhythm, stopping every handful of miles to eat, and every other stream crossing to refill our bladders and take a short break. The trail is truly pristine (and surprisingly under-used).
As the day got longer and hotter, we took breaks to jump in rivers and make angels in snowfields. Our banter ebbed and flowed with our energy; sometimes we were loud and full of laughter, other sections we would go miles without saying a word, just taking in the scenery, one step after another.
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