With the gates closed at Grand Teton, we headed south of Jackson and east, up the Hoback River to the forest road running along Granite Creek. A swift-flowing stream with falls and hot springs up the way, it was a fantastic destination (and one of our few four-night stands!).
A five mile potholed drive from our perch above the creek puts us at terminus: Granite Creek Hot Springs. A haunt for a hundred years, CCC built a cabin above it in the 30’s, and it’s maintained by the park service even now. For a nominal fee, we found the hot water sluices into the concrete pool and laid on our hydraulic, slime-covered couches til we were cured of our aches and pains. Unfortunately, I also developed a sinus infection from getting algae up the nose.
Later that day, we forded the rushing creek beneath camp and foundered through the sagebrush on the other side, evenutally reaching a dirt road along opposite bank. The creek had stopped a fire some time ago, and the forest was a creaky cinderland of blackened poles as we biked the whoop-de-doo filled path 6 miles up-valley to the springs. Bear spray at the ready, as we had already been warned – “This is Grizzle Country”.
The view of the pool as we settled in. It was the caretaker, Jerry’s, 62nd birthday. Jerry was a little half-cocked crazy, I’d deduced from our previous visit. I made him a present and left it on the rail for him. It was just us in the pool, and as we trotted back down the path to our bikes, he let out a loud yee-haw! and turned up the Keith Urban even louder. Keep up the good work, J.
Jerry had warned us of the hunting in the area, and said we probably wouldn’t see elk, as the run from teh sound of guns (smart ungulate).
Well, we turned the corner out of the pool and there before us was the Prudential Elk, all 12 points and shimmery muscles, staring at us like he was about to sell some insurance. I was controlling the bike, so by the time I snapped the shot, he was showing ass and steady grazing.
It took a couple miles to reach the boundary of the Gros Ventre (pronounced grow-vont) Wilderness. As w e began our real upslope climb into the crack between the mountains, the valley narrowed and steepened. The matchstick forest was replaced with a cloistered old growth that hadn’t seen a burn in many years. Remembering the warning, we let out the cry “Hokahai!” (Comanche for “here I am, M**F**), knowing this had certainly worked in the past.
Just as we crested a small lump, and were entertaining sitting down to finish off our sandwiches, I saw what looked like a big, burnt tree stump 30′ ahead, and to the right of the trail. Then I noticed it had hair, grizzled hair. And was moving!
I started, then held out my hand to warn Becca. We crept backwards over the rise silently. We readied for the charge, and put distance between us as we ended our hike upcountry with the first sign of the big brown butt.
He had obviously heard (and smelled) us coming up the valley, but was so intent on grubs or just plain didn’t give a hoot, that he never even looked up. A polite Griz, we thought, is the best type to run into.
Amazing, but too hot to enjoy. Becca and I made a cold water culvert, then wrapped ourselves in a tarp we’d brought along. We folded it into a kind of bathtub, and were able to regulate the water temp nicely. There was a gradient of a 50 degree creek on my butt as my nipples roasted.
The falls roared right in front of us, and it was all we could do not to drift into sleep. A perfect and fitting end to what might have been our kindest camping yet!