Incredible experience: Trekking the Tetons

By: 
Hannah Gross, NLJ Correspondent

Submitted photo

This is the sunset view at the top of Jackson Peak during the three-day Jackson Hole Bible College backpacking trip in early September. Although the students already hiked up to the peak twice earlier that day, five decided to trek the two-and-a-half-mile uphill trip a third time to watch the sunset, and they were not disappointed. 

 

few weeks ago, I wrote about the incredible experience I had attending Jackson Hole Bible College. Unfortunately, I didn’t have room to share the many adventures we had on the weekends or during field trips, and many of them come with quite a story.  

Let me start off by saying I love hiking. My mom and I often spend what little free time we have in the summer by hiking. I thought I was an avid hiker with my four- to even seven-mile stints, but I thought wrong. This past year, I went on some incredible hikes that I’ll never forget.  

One of our first adventures took place a mere few weeks into the year. The warm fall and delayed winter allowed us to enjoy the outdoor weather much longer than most school years, and we took full advantage of that. A previous student who lives at the school offered to take us on an eight-mile round trip hike two hours away in the Wind River Mountains to see the crash-landing site of a World War II bomber.

Those of us who showed up on that early Saturday morning were excited to tackle this adventure despite the warning that it was “very strenuous.” We began hiking up the trail at 11 a.m. at an easy pace, taking frequent stops, and I was surprised that it was considered hard. It was a mild uphill compared to what I was used to at home.

But then it kept going. And going … and going. The topography was beautiful and always changing, but I began to wonder why we hadn’t reached our destination of 4 miles because it had already been a couple of hours. Then we hit the uphill, and I finally understood why it was considered strenuous. It was one of the steepest uphill climbs I had ever done, and no matter how slowly I went, I was huffing and puffing — sweating profusely — and huffing and puffing some more.

When we finally reached the top, the view was totally worth it. Fragments of the plane were scattered everywhere among trees that were evidently not there at the time of the crash. Five or so of us decided to climb up the rocks on our hands and knees to view the gorgeous panoramic of the canyon we had walked through.

After spending a good chunk of time exploring, we decided to head back. We were already sore and exhausted, and we still had the whole trek back. I remember thinking, “I’m either out of shape or this has got to be more than 8 miles.” When we finally reached the vehicles, it was past 6 p.m. and sure enough, our eight-mile hike had turned into 13.5 miles. 

Still having a two-hour drive home, we decided to get food in Dubois, but every restaurant had an hour-long waiting list. Our only option was Family Dollar, where we bought chips, candy and cold chicken noodle soup. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It was a bonding experience, and we laugh about it now. 

That was only the beginning. The following weekend we decided that if we could hike 13 miles, we were ready for anything. So, we traipsed the grueling five miles uphill to the glacier-fed Delta Lake in the Grand Teton National Park. Along the way, we spotted a cub bear rustling the bushes about 10 yards from where we were walking. Not wanting to find its mama, we soon continued trudging up the switchbacks. 

The final stretch was by far the hardest as we were literally bouldering for at least a quarter-mile. Climbing up the last rock at 9,000 feet, I was instantly surrounded by the most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen. The water was a beautiful turquoise, perfectly reflecting the mountainous backdrop — it was almost unrealistic. 

Our next scheduled hike was a school-sponsored backpacking trip near Jackson Peak, only three miles into the mountains. We felt well-prepared. After setting up base camp, a few of us thought it would be fun to watch the sunrise on top of Jackson Peak, which was an intense two and a half miles up. 

Going to bed early, I joined some of the staff girls in the hammocks rather than the tents. Sleeping — or not sleeping — in trees underneath the stars, I tried desperately to stay warm in the crisp, autumn night. By the time morning came, I was ready to get moving. 

Trying to race the sun, we scaled that mountain with record speed. Later that day, the large group was hiking up, so we joined them and hiked up the peak again for a noon view. When we returned from the second hike, totaling 10 miles for the day, we rested our tired legs in the afternoon sun while tossing a football and playing Spikeball (yes, someone carried the net on top of his backpack).

With both a sunrise and midday view, we joked about climbing the peak a third time to watch the sunset, laughing at how insane it sounded. Before we knew it, five of us were on top of the peak again, watching the sun descend. It was worth it.  

As much as I enjoyed the adrenaline and sense of adventure, the people I experienced them with are what made it so memorable. Unfortunately, the homework load got heavier, the weather a little snowier and our hiking adventures ceased and were filed away for winter. 

Our adventures of first semester were only the beginning — unbeknownst to us, there was much more to come in the days ahead of us. But that’s another story for another time.

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