Paintbrush/Cascade Canyons 21M Loop Hike/Run, Grand Teton N.P., Wyoming

Max Elevation:  10720'     Elevation Gain:  4900'

Scrolling Photos
July 30, 2015 - Following a day of climbing the Middle Teton I should have been tired,
but when I awoke after a full-moon night in the National Forest I felt refreshed and 
ready to hit it hard again.  My buddy Rob Froelich was moving a little slower, but
ready, nonetheless, to take full advantage of the absolutely perfect weather to take
on another Teton adventure.  We did sleep in a bit, but got around and finally headed
out from the String Lake trailhead by ten o'clock in full warm sunshine.

The trail begins gradually on its climb out of the valley.  Rob and I moved along easily
at a 3 to 4 mph tempo, except for the occasional pauses to engage many other hikers
in passing.  I was delighted to find a few huckleberries along the trail.  Tasty morsels,
their sweet flavor brought back many memories from times in northern Idaho.  They
were rather small and sparse, so the bears would not be feasting on abundance this

This was my second journey around this loop; it is a trail I would enjoy sharing with
any good friend.  If all works out, I will be back next Monday to finish a backpacking
trip across the Crest Trail with my friends Alex and Charlie.

The trail is most of nine miles to the Paintbrush Divide.  Unlike the hike here with
Alex last year (see account) there was very little snow remaining in the mountains.
Only once did we have to cross a snowfield.  With our late start the snow was already
quite rotten and easy to negotiate safely.  Because there wasn't much snow I did not
recognize much of the terrain.  This year there were switchbacks that were previously
hidden under snow and the going was much less challenging.

We helped a woman cross the snowfield with the aid of one of Rob's poles and soon
thereafter helped a couple who had gotten off the main trail and were perched in a
rather precarious position with somewhat challenging options for getting back onto the
trail, so made a few new friends in the process.  After enjoying the views from the
divide I bid adieu to the rest and proceeded to run the balance of the journey back to
the car - about 12 miles.  With all the climbing I have been doing I really needed to
restore some balance to my running muscles as I have a very aggresive running month
planned for August.  It felt good to dance with the rocks on the gradual trail back to
the car.  Without pushing, I made it back in three hours, despite stopping for beaucoup
scenic photographs and stopping to chat with a variety of people hiking.

The descent was filled with other amusements as well.  A couple young women invited
me to join them for a swim in Lake Solitude as they were getting out.  It looked 
refreshing, but I passed on that intriguing opportunity and kept rolling after minimal 
consideration.  Further down I did stop where the trail adjoined Cascade Creek to dip
my entire head and face in the stream, much to the amusement of a group of onlooking
hikers.  It felt so good to chill my brain for an instant, given the heat of the afternoon
sun and probably a higher core temperature from running.

Further on I passed a nice young bull moose feeding on the opposite side of the creek.
Then three people joined me in running for about a mile - a young French guy and his
son of perhaps 12 and daughter of maybe 8.  Nothing was spoken between us.  They
just spontaneously joined me as I zoomed by.  I wasn't lollygagging either, so was
quite impressed with how the kids negotiated the curves, rocks, and roots on a fairly
steep part of the trail.  I have to think this was not their first time running trails, but
who knows!!!

I did not carry bear spray since it bounces around uncomfortably and is rather annoying
to be dragging on a run.  Rob had some on the hike up, but I figured there were enough
hikers up and down the Cascade Trail that I would never be alone for very long.  Some
people did see a black bear cub somewhere along that part of the route, but not me.
I could run right past a bear and not see it for watching the rocks and roots on the 
trail.  Afterall, I just did that the previous Saturday in Utah when I blew right past
a cow moose and her calf stadning right along the trail.  I did get to thinking about how
bold I perhaps was to be running without abandon right in the heart of grizzly country.
I guess I just trust the universe to look after me, and trust my own resourcefulness
to respond in an appropriate manner should I encounter aggressive behavior on the
part of a bear or moose encounter on the trail back in the boonies.

I finished in good condition.  No falls.  No blood.  Just a tired body from dancing with
the rock all day.  Rob rolled in an hour later after a pleasant walk down with the woman,
Beth, who we helped inspire confidence to cross the snowfield.  It was absolutely great
to share a couple significant adventures with my good friend Rob.  These are memories
that add to our history together, worthy of recall over beers in the future.  He headed
home to his family in Bozeman, while I returned to the National Forest to sleep under
a full moon.  Rest day tomorrow with more exciting Teton adventures to follow.