Well everyone… we came back. I whined, moaned, pouted, and bargained to extend our Jackson Hole: Winter Paradise Take II. But Larry said we had to come home. Actually, what he said was, “Stella, someone has to be the adult around here.” Hmmm… Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to just leave everything behind and live our dream of a full-time outdoor lifestyle: snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, biking, and hiking. Sounds great… until the money runs out!
It was very hard for me to leave Jackson Hole, again. I desperately wanted to stay for another three to four weeks. The over abundance of snow and places to explore on our skis and snowshoes, combined with phenomenal restaurants is irresistible to me. I was like a kid at a candy store, wide-eyed, eager to do everything and go everywhere. We were able to do almost everything we had planned on this trip, with the exception of the all day snowmobile tour. It was already booked solid, so we will plan to do that next winter, and make reservations very early for it. Also, we ditched going to a Nordic center and opted stay in the backcountry area instead.
We had another wonderful stay at The Lexington, and plan to stay there again next winter. And next winter, I am planning a week-long trip. We will stay at The Lexington for four nights, and then stay at Turpin Meadow Ranch for three nights. We stayed at the ranch last year, and it was an amazing experience!
Jackson Hole: Winter Paradise Take II ~ DAY 1: We arrived in Grand Teton National Park around 1:00 pm, and we were welcomed with a beautiful snowstorm. Our plan that day had been to snowshoe or ski up to the top of Signal Mountain. However, as we drove past it, we could barely even see it through the snow. So, we opted to brave the snowstorm on lower ground instead. We went back to Coulter Bay, an area where we had snowshoed twice on our first trip. But this time, we decided to go around the lake from the opposite direction. This direction takes you behind the ranger station, and directly in front of the boating docks.
Even before we had started, we already knew that we would be breaking trail since the vast majority of people trek around the lake in the other direction. But we wanted to do something new and different since we had already snowshoed out on the Hermitage Point Trail on the trip a few weeks back. Once we passed the boat docks, we turned left onto an unnamed trail/road, which leads to a point on the lake where you can go no further. This trail/road loosely follows the shoreline along Colter Bay and is completely flat. The snow that we broke in this area was ankle to calf-deep.
Once we had reached the point at the end of that road/trail, we then turned around and went left onto the Lakeshore Trail, which runs along Jackson Lake. (We did not see a sign for the Lakeshore Trail – it might have been buried in the snow; Larry found it on a map). This trail winds through the trees and provides glimpse of Jackson Lake on the left. Here, we broke trail through calf to knee-deep snow the entire time. We continued to follow the lakeshore before coming to an unnamed road where we continued north just past the end of that road. The great thing about snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park is that you can make your own trail anywhere, and go as far as you want to go!
I was looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our labor on the trek back only to realize that most of our deep tracks were already all blown over and completely filled in with snow. It was like our presence had been wiped clean. On the last half-mile of the trek back, my legs felt like lead, and I had to will them to keep trudging on. The snowflakes felt like tiny daggers pinging against our faces.
This was a fun and gorgeous trek, with glimpses of the lake and mountains wrapped within the clutches of a snowstorm. In the pictures, you will see that the snow had completely washed out the mountains around the lake. By the time we were finished, we were both tired and longing for a hot shower and a good meal. What a great first day of our trip!
Jackson Hole: Winter Paradise Take II ~ DAY 2: We arrived at the Signal Mountain trailhead parking lot around 11:00 am. Our plan was to ski on Teton Park Road. This is a moderately flat road that leads past Jenny Lake and Taggert Lake, cutting through the heart of Grand Teton National Park. The road traverses through areas of dense forest as well as vast open meadows where you can see for miles. The park periodically grooms Teton Park Road for skiers and snowshoers, but if you chose to venture off of the road, then you will encounter varying depths of snow.
We were not certain just how far we would go that day, but we knew that we wanted to ski for at least ten miles. At about the four-mile point, we happened upon a young girl who was on her way back to the trailhead parking lot. She said that she had turned around about a mile further up because she saw paw prints… Well, here is where our story gets interesting.
Our regular followers/readers already know the wild imagination that I have, so my reaction to the information about the paw prints will be of no surprise to you. When she left, I stood very still and had contemplated for a few minutes about whether I wanted to continue up the road, or turn around. It was quite the dilemma. And for some reason, I decided to continue, although I am still shocked that I was able to move my legs at all.
Initially, I was doing okay – sort of. But once we had reached the five-mile point, sure enough, there were paw prints heading straight up the road ahead of us, along with a urine mark. I was no longer doing okay. We deliberated and deliberated about how fresh the prints and urine were, and whether they were that of a coyote or lone wolf. And, at that five-mile point, we were no longer in an open meadow. We were in a densely forested area where we would not be able to see anything until it had landed upon us.
My eyes constantly scanned the trees from each side of the road, and my imagination ran rampant! It was not the coyote that I was fearful of… I had Larry attach the can of bear spray to the front chest strap of his pack, and I double-checked that he read the article, Bear Aware: Are You Prepared, about how to use it properly (even though I already knew he had). Every little sound made me jump, and I kept anticipating hearing a wolf howl. Now, let me say this: if those had been mountain lion prints (and I know all too well what those look like from a prior experience), I would’ve been outta there so fast that my long johns would’ve been trailing along behind me, unable to catch up.
We had continued about another quarter mile up, following the prints on the road before we decided to turn back around. But turning around had done nothing to ease my anxiety, as I then was fearful of something following us from behind. I did not relax until we were back in the open meadows. However, with the dissipation of my fear, my (our) battle with the wind had just begun. The wind blew through the open meadow like a ghost rattling within my ribcage. We were both cold, and were skiing as quickly as we could to get back to the trailhead parking lot. We completed 10.3 miles round trip.
This was the most beautiful and enjoyable Nordic ski trek that I have ever done (minus seeing the paw prints). We were able to stride and glide almost effortlessly for miles, surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Next time, we will plan to ski to the visitor’s center at Jenny Lake, which is roughly 20 miles round trip.
SIDE NOTE: I would like to take a moment to discuss poles. There are different types of poles that we use for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. When we hike and snowshoe, we always use a collapsible pole referred to as a “trekking pole.” When we ski at Nordic centers, we always use poles designed specifically for classic skiing. However, when we ski backcountry, we op to use our trekking poles (with wide snow baskets) because they provide more versatility since the length can be adjusted.
Three things about trekking poles to take note of:
- Snow baskets: If you plan to use them in the winter, remember to put wide snow baskets on them. If you do not, it will make for a miserable trek. Been there, done that, won’t do it again. And depending upon the type of trekking poles that you purchase, snow baskets can either be snapped on or screwed on. Be sure to check that the type of pole you have matches with the functionality of the snow baskets. I made this mistake as well. I found an awesome pair of baskets only to realize that they were not the right kind for my poles. Bummer.
- The material of the hand grips: Cork is an ideal option because it wicks moisture really well and has anti-slip qualities to keep your hands exactly where you want them. Cork is also very soft and can help to prevent blisters from forming on your palms (to some degree) if you chose to not wear gloves, as I often do not.
- The adjustment screws on the poles: There are two sections where you extend the poles; the top and bottom. It is important that screws by the adjustment pieces are not too tight and not too loose. If the screws are too tight, then you will struggle to lengthen and shorten the poles. Conversely, if they screws are too loose, then the poles will collapse when any pressure applied to them, which could lead to injury, and render them completely useless on your journey.
Jackson Hole: Winter Paradise Take II ~ DAY 3: We arrived back at the Signal Mountain trailhead parking lot around 10:00 am. It was very cold, as the temperature was in the lower single digits, and I think we sat in the Tahoe for well over twenty minutes just thinking about the journey that we were about to embark upon, silently wishing the temperature would warm up quickly. Well, the temperature did not warm up, so we decided to get moving before we changed our minds. Our plan was to ski up to the top of Signal Mountain. But as we grabbed for our ski boots, we realized that the liners were still wet from the previous day. So, we donned our snow boots and snowshoes instead.
There are two ways to reach the top of Signal Mountain in the winter. The first way is to loosely follow the Signal Mountain Trail through the trees, in which you would blaze your own path for the entirety of your journey. The second way is to trek directly on Signal Mountain Road, which branches off from Teton Park Road where we were the day prior. Doing it this way, you can either trek about a mile up Teton Park Road and go left at the sign “Signal Mountain Summit,” or take a small shortcut about a third of a mile up the road through the trees to join up with Signal Mountain Road.
Unlike Teton Park Road, Signal Mountain Road is not groomed whatsoever, and it does not appear to be traversed very often. We were prepared to break trail through knee-deep snow to get to the top. However, we (me in particular) were pleasantly surprised to learn that we would only have to break trail through ankle to calf-deep snow instead. As such, the trek up to the top was not as exhausting as we had anticipated; however, each step took forever, especially in the areas of steep incline. It is in that situation where each step is calculated, and I move in very slow motion. The trail starts out at a very slight incline and gradually steepens the further up you go.
Once we had reached the very top, the views of the Jackson Hole valley were stunning. The snow was extremely deep, and a few times we sunk into snow mounds that took some time to get out of. We decided against continuing along the road out of concern of the snow sliding; it was heavily wind drifted on a steep edge the snow was sitting on weak layer. Plus, it was later in the afternoon and the temperature had started to drop, although it had never reached more than fifteen degrees that day. We were ready for a hot shower and a good meal.
We trekked back down as quickly as we could, and it was very simple since we had the luxury of walking in the deep tracks that we had already set. Signal Mountain Road is entirely tree covered, so although you do have solid wind protection, you have very little sun exposure. This is important to remember and take into consideration when determining your clothing layers.
This was another amazing snowshoe trek! And it is a shame that more people do not make the trek up to the top of Signal Mountain. It is a great workout, combined with a rewarding view once you get to the top. If our tracks do not get covered up, we hope that someone will take advantage of them and complete the full trek.
Jackson Hole: Winter Paradise Take II ~ Trip Summary: We had another magnificent trip! We love playing in Jackson Hole during the winter months, but we also love spending time there in summer! We have biked, hiked and kayaked there in the past, and yet we still have an insatiable desire to do more. We look forward to many more summer and winter adventures in Jackson Hole, although we need to continue traveling to new places as well.
So, what adventures do we have planned for summer 2021? We are planning a trip to Kalispell, Montana (Glacier National Park) where neither of us have ever been, and another trip to Bear Lake, Utah. Stay tuned for the reviews about these upcoming summer adventures! Find Your Base Camp… Find Your Adventure…
SOME OF THE GEAR USED: