Okay, I'll be honest. This being my first time in Jackson I wasn't terribly impressed. It was nice and all, but it felt claustrophobic. Too many people squeezed into too tight a town. I left Salt Lake looking for somewhere smaller. Logan was smaller, all the small towns we passed through were definitely smaller. Jackson was smaller, but I think it had the population of Salt Lake crammed into the town anyways. And they were all driving campers. I was mildly frazzled and ended up making a wrong turn and ending up at an elk refuge.
What I found interesting there was the signs that talked about hunting licenses and practices. Um, I've got nothing against hunting, but can they really call this a refuge with a straight face when they allow hunting? I'm just saying....
A quick 3 point turn and I was back in Jackson looking for the right road. The signage that said "National Parks ->" was not only tiny, but hanging in a weird place. Jason spotted it, I made the turn and soon we were back to some wide open space.
The drive from Jackson to the park was a lot longer than I expected, but staring up at the Grand Teton, it made sense. We were supposed to end up right below that huge thing. Looking at it up close for the first time in 12 years, I had a mix of thoughts an feelings. I was in awe of the sheer size and grandeur of it. It was a beautiful thing, and I very much felt the desire to stand atop the great peak. But seeing how immense it was I felt a little overwhelmed at the same time. I knew I had the capability of climbing it though, and I wasn't going to hold myself back.
We paid the steep national park entrance fee and got to Jenny Lake. The crux of the trip is finding somewhere to park in this tourist trap. We drove around the lot, saw the bathrooms (breathed a sign of relief, as I'd had the need to go for a few hours now), kept circling and then got lucky as someone was pulling out. However, our luck ended there.
The first thing I noticed as I walked into the ranger station was the board on the wall showing permit availability for backcountry camping. We had hoped to camp at the lower saddle that night. It was full. So was every other site on the Grand. The lower saddle was even full for the next night as well. I didn't have time to come up with another solution before noticing the next board over, the conditions board. The upper Exum route was dry and clear, fine for ascent. Unfortunately the descent route, the Owen-Spalding, was iced over. We didn't bring the proper gear to descend those conditions.
The next half hour or so was marked by pacing and internal debate. I noticed the CMC route on Mount Moran was clear, and knew that was in our ability. I even went as far as to get the backcountry camping permit needed to make the ascent. But getting beta from a ranger didn't feel like enough preparation for the route, and we ended up leaving without the permit. We stopped off at Exum Mountan Guides to consult them, and they told us that their guides had started adding in an extra rappel and were wearing crampons for the descent. That sealed the deal, we weren't going to climb it this time.
We made our way back to Jackson, disappointed and hungry. We stopped off at a Pizza joint in town. I made a call to Travis saying "Man that is WAY hyped up. It was much easier than I thought it would be". It almost sounded like he believed me for a second. I then told him the real story. Such a bummer.
Me and Jason have this strange thing where I come up with an insane idea and tell him about it. Then he takes it seriously, and I go along with it. This is how I end up doing things that I come up with but never intended on doing. This time I said "We should come back up here in the winter and have Exum guide us to the summit just to spite the Grand for giving us bad conditions". No promises we'll actually do it.
The new plan for the rest of the weekend was to go climb Borah Peak, the highpoint of Idaho. We had planned on doing this later in the weekend, after the Grand, but given that we wouldn't be able to do the Grand we simple moved it ahead. So we got back on the road, bound for Mackay Idaho.
About halfway there we passed through Idaho Falls, where my grandparents live. I figured it would be nice to stop by and say hello. When my grandfather opened he seemed pretty surprised, but welcomed us in, and we sat and talked for a bit. It was good talking to them, discussing a few things. I checked my phone to look at the time and saw I had received a text message and not noticed. I read it. "My mom thinks I should set you up with my friend -----" (censored). I furrowed my brow and closed the phone, thinking it rude to respond while talking with my grandparents. Not more than a few minutes later my grandma asked, in more or less words, if I had a girlfriend. I said no, and expressed that I wasn't exactly happy with my status. Then she asked if I needed help finding one. Ah, I see. I am so lame I need my grandma to set me up with someone. I must have some aura about me that screams "Pathetic guy". Anyways, I said "Yes". I doubt I'll hear any more about it. Shrug.
We didn't want to linger too long as we had hours of driving ahead still. We said goodbye, stopped off at Wal-Mart for some extra supplies, and headed out into... the middle of nowhere. A few hours of driving through the desert of the snake river basin and a few small towns, we reached Mackay. Rather than drive 20 more miles to the trailhead for Borah and hope to find somewhere to camp, we decided to get a motel room. It was probably a good idea, because the bed was far more comfortable than my sleeping bag would have been. I got much better rest. And besides, we got to watch some who's line is it anyways.
There was a cute girl traveling alone that ended up in the room next to ours. After a few moments of thinking I decided there was absolutely no way to approach a girl traveling alone at a cheap motel without creeping them out and getting pepper spray in the eyes. I'm sure she's writing a blog about her experience too, and saying "There were these two creepy guys in the room next to me. Thankfully, I was able to avoid them the whole night."
We finished the pizza we got in Jackson, and I fought to get wifi service on my laptop. It was an uphill battle to be sure. I soon gave up. I saw Jason was asleep. I was astounded. So I decided I should follow his good example, rolled over and dreamed of mountaintops.