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Jackson to Flagg Ranch – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Jackson to Flagg Ranch Hike Overview

jackson to falgg ranch, teton crest trail hike on the continental divide trail 2018

After walking 2 miles into Jackson, resupplying and walking across the valley to Wilson in one day, we entered the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and Grand Teton National Park. We hiked our own version of the Teton Crest Trail winds in and out of both of these land administrations.  The Tetons are pretty damn grand to say the least! North of Lake Solitude, we took a steep cross country route out of the basin and over to the west side of the divide. Lots of wildflowers, delicious berries to eat, and bushwhacking!

Thursday August 16th – CDT Day 118

Started hiking at 7. It was less than 2 miles to the trailhead. From there, we walked into Jackson.

When we reached the downtown area, the search for a breakfast restaurant was on. We landed at The Bunnery. Good food, but pricey.

Everything in Jackson is expensive and the people are yuppity. Lots of tourists and tons of traffic. Jackson was not my favorite town stop. Fortunately, we were just getting what we need and walking out later.

We hit up an outfitter, the ranger station and a couple stores. Then we headed over to the rec center to take a shower. They had a pool, hot tub and sauna, so we spent about an hour here taking advantage of the amenities.

Lunch at DQ, then headed to the other side of town. Here, we hit the library for a few hours. Hopeful and I spent some time researching the big sky alternate. Feeling the crunch for time, in terms of reaching Canada by Oct 1st, it was a good idea to have this as a backup.

I called Patagonia to arrange for a new capiline lightweight baselayer shirt to be sent father up trail. Mine has a forearm sized hole in the back.

We then went to the grocery store for food and picked up dinner. Katie found a ride to Wilson, so hopeful and I will do the road walk and meet her there. This will set us up well for entry into the Tetons tomorrow.

I didn’t find Jackson to be very scenic. However, the views were much nicer heading west out of town. The road had a bike path next to it that we followed much of the way. We didn’t leave Jackson till after 8, so it was going to be a bit of a night hike.

There was road construction on hwy 22, next to the bike path. Lots of traffic backed up and honking horns. Kinda hard to deal with after spending so much time in the wilderness.

Katie texted us and said we could camp in the backyard of the guy who gave her a lift. She gave us an address and we headed that way.

We took what liked like a short cut, and it dead ended at a gate with a keypad. No private property signs though. We could walk around the gate. As we were contemplating what to, in the darkness, a truck came flying the corner from the opposite side of the gate. Illuminated by the headlights, all I could do was wave and see who they where and their intentions.

As it turns out, the 5 guys in the truck were trying to take a short cut themselves and avoid some of that traffic. They had just spent last week in the wind river range themselves. When we said we had been walking since April, they have us each a cold beer.

Moments later, another truck pulled up behind the first truck. This was the landowner, and she asked what we were doing. Truck guys said looking for a short cut to pass through, the woman said OK and opened the gate. We said the same thing and she wouldn’t let us walk through. We were only about .3 miles from fish creek road, half mile total from our destination. I mentioned it would be an hour or more detour for us, but she didn’t care. That really sucks!

It was 10:30pm now and we started the long walk around. Back to the road construction, then another pitch dark bike track and country roads with no street lights. I had a terrible headache, and was finding the walk difficult near the end.

We finally reached the house Katie was camping at sometime after 11:30pm. The house backed up to a river, and were told to camp there near it. Fine. I know there’ll be condensation in the morning, but I’m so tired I don’t care. Cowboy camped under the stars. Fell asleep around 12:30am.

Miles – 18
Total Miles – 1939
Rain – no
Sleep – backyard, tent
Animals – deer

Friday August 17th – CDT Day 119

Sure enough, everything was wet this morning. Got up at 7 since hopeful and Katie were already awake. Packed up and went to a bagel shop down the road for 2nd breakfast. Already ate leftover chicken strips and croissants earlier.

Stated hiking hwy 22 up to Phillips trailhead sometime around 9:30. It was already hot out. The road walk kinda sucked with all the traffic and vehicles that don’t get over a little when they pass by. Some came awfully close.

Lots of cars at the trailhead. The people faded out when the trail split off for ski lake. The views also began to open up.

Lots of wildflowers high towards the pass. Good view at the top. Now we enter the jedidiah Smith wilderness and begin the teton crest trail.

The farther we hiked, the better the views became. The trail winds into a new valley. On the other side, rock formations that look like they’re part of a castle. Beautiful.

On the next pass, we entered grand teton National park. The trail winds back and fourth between the national park and wilderness throughout the teton crest trail.

The trail passes by Marion Lake, a really nice spot. The kind of place you only dream of camping on the CDT. But as always, there’s more miles to cover before I can feel good about the day’s progress. 

Great views continue. Good trail, helps to keep a good pace. There was a lot of climbing today and with heavy packs, it was tiring. I listened to some music today for the first time in a while. This helped keep me going.

A few more scenic miles and we were approaching the final pass leading up to death shelf. I’ve seen some great pictures from this area and so I was looking forward to it.

Death shelf did not disappoint. However, it was overcast and it killed the sunlight, so it was not as photogenic at I hoped for. There’s always tomorrow.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1960
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot

Saturday August 18th – CDT Day 120

Nice hike this morning coming out of death shelf.

The Tetons have been looming on the horizon for many miles now, growing bigger with every step. Amazing views in an otherworldly landscape!

Alaska basin was nice. Mainly, the northern section. Tons of wildflowers.

Grand Tetons and Schoolroom Glacier

At the top of hurricane pass was our first unobstructed view of the three tetons; grand, middle and south. Incredible! Oh and fun fact, tetons is French for “tits”. French fur trappers who discovered the area named it as such because the pointy peaks reminded them of boobs. Grand Tetons literally means “big tits”.

Below hurricane pass lies schoolroom glacier. It has a large moraine that was now acting as a berm to hold back a small lake. Icebergs in the lake, beautiful water.

The upper cascade creek area was just incredible. On par with the wind river range. Our pace reflected this too.

Rain clouds building on and off. Hiked down to the junction with solitude lake, and took this trail uphill. Saw a Moose on the way up.

Lake Solitude and The Grand Tetons

Awesome views from Lake Solitude. Tons of people here too. Pretty ironic name if you ask me.

Now it’s time to climb out of the basin. Around the lake and up hill. Some steep rock climbing with limited holds involved.

Now up on the highest shelf, we could see no easy way to the top anywhere. The skies were also pitch dark and looked like rain at any moment. We made the call to head back down to the lake.

May try another way out of the basin tomorrow or head up paintbrush ridge in order to drop down to mink lake to try another way over the crest.

Miles – 20
Total Miles – 1980
Rain – yes, light
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot, moose

Sunday August 19th – CDT Day 121

Started hiking at 6:30am. I spotted another potential exit from the lake solitude basin. It was a grassy chute that looked increasingly more appealing the closer we got. It was steep, but not as bad as last night’s failed route.

Made it to the top of the chute. It was hazy today due to forest fire smoke, coming from who knows where. Nothing close by to my knowledge. Grand Teton was a prominent feature looking through the haze. Really incredible views from here.

After the chute, we walked over some talus fields and pools of melt water on relatively flat ground. Not what you think of when you imagine mountain ridgelines. More impressive views on the other side of lake solitude.

Next we followed a ridge over to Littles peak. It was a bit of a knife edge for a hundred yards or so. Pretty cool! 

We traversed around Littles peak instead of going up and over. This was mostly a great choice, avoiding elevation gain and boulders. First half was grassy and somewhat flat. Then it became steeper and took some work to find a way down.

Lunch break by a steam, then moved on. Nice walking for a while. Passed some scenic little lakes which reminded me of a scene in the Sierras for a bit. 

The trail then goes up and down for a while. Nice little basins and ridges.

We took a break at a stream above bitch creek. Yep, bitch creek, that’s the name. Descended to the creek then ascended dead horse pass. Something like 1800′ in 1.1 miles. No wonder why they call it dead horse pass… The horse is dead by the time it reaches the top. Just like I felt. Great view and break spot at the top though.

We made quick work of the descent. Covered good ground through the valley and took another break before the ascent to camp lake.

The first part of the climb to camp lake was the steepest. Pretty steep for about a mile. The terrain flattens out some before the lake but I was already whooped at this point. Hopeful and Katie were ahead waiting for me at the lake. It was 7:30pm now, and we decided to stop here for the night.

I went to bed around 8:15 tonight since I was so tired. Katie and Hopeful stayed up and had a campfire. Today involved a ton of climbing, at least 5-6k feet.

Miles – 19
Total Miles – 1999
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Monday August 20th – CDT Day 122

Left camp lake at 8am. We’re hoping to make it to flagg ranch today, or at least very close.

We followed good trail up to a junction for nord pass. From here we needed to take a trail that was on the map but didn’t seem to exist on the ground. More bushwhacking, Yay!

We eventually picked up a faint trail that looked like it hadn’t been used or maintained in many years. Made it to the pass that will drop us down into Webb canyon and enjoyed a hazy view. I hit my 2000 mile mark here which was a nice milestone.

The route down was off trail but an easy grassy slope. We hit trail and followed it down to Moose creek. However, this is where the trail ended.

We crossed moose creek over some downed trees, the last time we’d keep our feet dry. From here on out, it was a nasty bushwhack. Steep slopes, thorn bushes, downed trees and tall vegetation hiding holes, rocks and sharp downfall. This forced is into the river a few times, just walking downstream. The water was cold though, and progress was limited to how long you could stand the pain. This was one of the most difficult sections of bushwhacking I’d face along the entire CDT.

After a couple miles of the above, we hit a poorly maintained trail that faded in and out for a mile or two. More bushwhacking, but not as nasty. After passing through a meadow, the trail seemed to be maintained like normal. Great, because we still have a lot of ground to cover now.

Took a break and was surprised to see 4 hikers coming up the trail. They were seasonal NPS workers heading up to a cabin for a week. Here, they’ll be on the lookout for big horn sheep and mountain goats, studying their numbers and location, etc. We told them, “good luck” with the trail above the meadow. We figure, once they see how shitty it is, maybe they’ll put in a work request for trail maintenance there. But if it goes by how much traffic the area gets, forget it, it’s never getting done.

The next section had some nice waterfalls, lined with vibrant wildflowers. Also, lots of blueberries and raspberries growing along the trail. We stopped to pick some along the way. Delicious!

As we entered a burn area mid afternoon, it started raining. It rained for an hour or so, but we hiked through it. We could now see Jackson lake in the distance.

As we neared the lake, the weather cleared. We reached the berry creek ranger station around 4:30pm and took a break. From here it was 8 miles to grassy lake Rd, then a couple miles of road walking to flagg ranch.

After our break, we decided to go for flagg ranch. It was now sunny and we were in good spirits. The trail was not the most scenic which helped us cover good ground without many stops for pictures.

We reached grassy lake Rd a little before sundown. We walked into the darkness and made it to the ranch around 9:45pm. We checked in and got a tent site. The general store was still open so I bought a couple of hot pockets to stave off the hunger. On a side note, every time I would blow a snot rocket on trail, I get the Hot Pockets jingle stuck in my head, but using the words “Snot Rockets” instead. That’s not gonna leave ya now is it?

After setting up camp in the dark I took a nice hot shower. Almost as good as a hot tub. Looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 2027
Rain – yes
Sleep – campground, tent
Animals – deer,

Tuesday August 21st – CDT Day 123 (zero day)

Slept in til 9am. Headed over to the lodge and had the breakfast buffet. It was a bit subpar but nevertheless, I filled up. I then picked up my boxes from the front desk… Food from dad and a new pair of shoes from REI.

Today was spent organizing food and planning out the next town stops and route for Montana. Did laundry as well.

Ate dinner at the lodge. One of the best burgers I’ve had on trail. We then had a fire in camp and drank some whiskey.

Tomorrow we head into Yellowstone.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 2027
Rain – no
Sleep – campground, tent
Animals – none

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