May 23, 2003
Jenny Lake Campground

Wildlife count:

  • 2 rabbits (both in camp)
  • 3 squirrels (one chirping indignantly at me from a pine branch to get out of his territory, while his tail stood out bottle-brush style, much like an agitated cat)
  • 3 chipmunks (one a few feet away, glancing at me with puffy cheeks and a mouth full of twigs)
  • Countless small blue/purple butterflies
  • Two fluorescent yellow bits of veiny moss that looked suspiciously like slime molds

We hiked Taggert Lake trail today, through landscape touched by fire a decade or two ago. The fire had left the land remarkably open, letting one see across vast sweeps of green slopes and small trees, over what would normally have been dense forest. Made it feel like we were hiking on the top of a ridge, in some high alpine valley, for all that the Tetons still towered many thousands of feet above us.

As we hiked, clouds of small blue-purple butterflies scattered at our approach.

Larry took the turnoff to Taggert Lake, while I hiked on another mile on to Bradley Lake. It was a warm day, but as I hiked over the small ridge from one lake’s valley to the other, abruptly I found myself descending through snow. The air was still warm–trickles of water from the snow melt were everywhere–but the trail became entirely defined by the footprints of other hikers over thick snowpack. The snow was soft– my footprints sank above the tops of my hiking boots, chill melting through my socks even as I sweated beneath the sun. Fascinating, if slow, hiking.

Near Bradley Lake (just close enough for a view) the trail looped back toward Taggert Lake. At the top of the ridge on my way back, there were some stunning views of Taggert Lake.

A snapshot: the still, blue Lake stretched out far below me, down at the end of a green slope; the gray Tetons towering and snow-streaked to my right. I turned, and saw a chipmunk watching me from the left, cheeks puffed and twigs sticking out the edges of his mouth.

The trail went steeply downhill after that, and the snow abruptly disappeared. Things levelled out near the lake, and I came to a place where fallen fire-scorched tree trunks lay to both sides of the trail, clearly cut away just wide enough to let the trail through. The effect was rather bone-like, as if I were walking through a tree graveyard.

I kept walking, and after a while saw small pines began growing amid the dead old trees– new growth among the bones of the old. The pines grew slowly taller as I re-met up with Larry, happily settled in on a stone jutting out into the lake.

As we continued back to the trailhead, the new pines grew to a few times our height. They densely lined both sides of the trail, creating a dense, young, almost too-neat forest path, even and straight, yet with the young trees still small enough that we could see through to the sky. (They were about the height, in fact, that one would expect of a new Icelandic forest, planted a few decades back.)

It was a pleasant, inviting trail–the sort I would mistrust, were I in a fantasy novel.

This trail led us back to the trailhead easily enough, though, in time for a pleasant, quiet afternoon back at camp. The camping here (at Jenny Lake) is just spectacular.

Miles hiked: 4.7

Camp food:
Dehydrated eggs with cheese and summer sausage (breakfast)
Lentils with summer sausage, creamed corn, and pine nuts (dinner)

Random knowledge: chilly mornings make squirt cheese sluggish; better to stick to real cheese instead.

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