Don’t forget to check out part 1 and part 2 of our westward road trip!
Adrenaline kept me upright for the first few hours the morning after listening to the bear (or whatever it was) battering away at a fellow camper’s food locker. I’ll still never know if it actually was a grizzly bear, but I couldn’t help but think about Paul’s warning that they had a grizzly that visited the campground.
As we inhaled our half-cooked hash browns and overcooked scrambled eggs at breakfast—they were warm and the air was a brisk 35 or 40 degrees—-we pondered our plan for the day. It was only a matter of time before my high-strung bear anxiety dissipated and I entered extreme sleep deprivation auto-pilot. If there’s one thing that I need, for my own sanity and the sanity of those around me, it’s at least six hours of sleep every night. I would be operating far under threshold today, and we were expecting a grueling day of hiking, exploring, and further altitude adjustment.
The thought lingering in the back of my mind was that I would need to do it all over again for at least two more nights. We were debating staying at our campsite two more nights for the eclipse, making it a total of 5 nights in Grand Teton instead of our planned three nights. There was a solid chance this could shape up to be one of the most miserable trips of my life if I had to stick out five nights sleeping in a tent with a grizzly visiting the campsite every night.
We packed up and headed towards the park. Our plan was to hike String Lake around to Jenny Lake and up towards Cascade Canyon. When we parked the car, applied our sunscreen, loaded our packs with food and water bottles, and were just about to hit the trail at 8:45 am, we noticed a vital element missing. The bear spray. Sam remembered seeing it in the tent since we kept it there last night as a precaution, and it must’ve still been there. After the events last night and all the warnings we’d heard, there was no way we were hiking without a can of bear spray.
Continue reading “Grand Teton National Park: Hiking Near Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon”
Psst: looking for part one of this trip?
We left Jackson with all our camping maps, making our way up to Moran Junction, far northeast of the popular Jenny Lake area of Grand Teton National Park. Per the US National Forest rangers, we drove east away from the park. A curvy road free from cars and filled greeted us with stunning views of the Blackrock Creek valley. Just when we were certain we took a wrong turn, we saw a sign indicating the Turpin Meadow campground was a mile ahead of us.
Instant relief overtook us when we saw a few open spots at this 18-site campground. We claimed a spot with plenty of shade, a fire pit (a huge relief: any fires outside pits were banned due to severe drought in the region), a sturdy picnic table, and a large bear locker for food. All smiles and joy, we unpacked everything and set up our beloved 2-person tent. The campsite was quiet enough to feel secluded from the masses in the National Park but there were enough people near us that we didn’t feel alone in the wilderness. This was a particularly important balance to me, as the presence of grizzlies made me feel queasy every time I thought about those big furry bears stalking around the woods. I tried to shake off my lingering bear anxiety and focus on how happy I was to have a campsite with other campers nearby.
Paul, the full-time campsite host at Turpin Meadow along with his wife Judy, greeted us and gave us the lowdown. He was frank about the presence of a grizzly in the area but said the bear never bothered anyone. Sam and I nodded, and I pretended to be ok with this information. We thanked Paul for the info and took off for our first hike in Grand Teton National Park.
Continue reading “Grand Teton National Park: Signal Mountain and Camping Adventures”
The 3:45 am alarm wasn’t as shocking as I anticipated, since I actually awoke at 3:15 am. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I lay in bed thinking about the adventure ahead of us.
When we landed in Denver at 7:40 am MDT, the sleep deprivation caught up with me. Hard. I left my library book on the plane and couldn’t process a coherent thought during the train ride into Denver from the airport. Sam was being patient, as always, as we lugged our bags through downtown to get our rental car. I finally begged Sam to hop on the free bus towards the rental car agency, even though we were only five blocks away.
An hour later, we had our car, a table at the Denver Central Market, and caffeine. I only drink coffee a few times a year because caffeine takes a serious toll on my body. Luckily, this was one of those instances when I needed it to take its toll and bring me to life. I chugged my almond milk cappuccino in about three minutes and lost myself in a DELISH breakfast burrito from Izzio bakery. Our friend Hannah recommended the Central Market—and joined us for our meal—and we slowly began to feel more settled and revived.
Denver was filled with errands: pick up a cooler and some chairs from our friend Andrew’s house; go grocery shopping for at least a week’s worth of food in case everything near the eclipse path of totality was out of stock; organize our cooler with said groceries and sort out the other foods; drive to the flagship REI for some last-minute supplies (we had to drag ourselves away before losing ourselves in its outdoorsy glory).
Continue reading “Westward Road Trip: Our Journey Begins”
I for one slept much better our second night at the campground. Sam said he heard the bear—or some other big, snorting, ominous thing—stomping around the tent that night, but I was essentially unconscious from the moment my head hit my stuff-sack pillow. We diligently packed everything up, sorted out our clothes and food for the overnight trip to Stockton Island, parked our car, and headed down the hill to our ferry.
We’d selected Stockton Island primarily for financial and logistical reasons. Of the 21 islands in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Stockton had:
- access to potable water
- a ranger onsite
- a ferry schedule that fit our timeframe
- food lockers to keep bears away
- the cheapest transportation option for getting to and from Bayfield
When we initially planned this trip, we were hoping to do island hopping and see a little bit of everything on a lot of different islands. The more we planned, we realized this wouldn’t be feasible unless we wanted to pay a buttload of money to private ferry companies. That wasn’t going to happen. We don’t have a private boat, so that wasn’t an option. Kayaking trips are a good solution for many visitors. However, we would rather hike for 4-6 hours instead of kayaking for that long in open water, so we ruled kayaking out pretty quickly.
Continue reading “Stockton Island Camping: Our First Day Actually Backpacking”
Check out part 1 and part 2 for more about our Apostle Islands trip!
After our confidence-boosting hiking, we made it back to Bayfield and returned out wet suits after our tour was cancelled. We asked the woman at the kayak place if she had any thoughts about where to go for dinner. Without hesitation, she advised us to go to Madeline Island and visit one of the restaurants there. Sam and I thanked her for the information about how to get to Madeline (there are ferry rides every 30 minutes) and made our way back to the car. Since our ferry to Stockton Island cost us so much money, we ruled out budgeting for another island while we were here. But going to Madeline was only $10 or $15 each, and we’d just received a hefty refund from the cancelled kayak trip, so we decided to treat ourselves.
But first, I needed a bath in Superior. Because why not? That’s what I did all summer in Lake Michigan, so why not here? Let’s put it this way: our lake baths were very short. Like, maybe 30 seconds? In case you’re wondering, swimming in Lake Superior when it’s drizzling and barely 60 degrees outside is not something I’d recommend. Unless you’d like a taste of onset hypothermia.
Continue reading “Madeline Island (Apostle Islands Day 2, continued)”
Looking for more stories from our trip in the Apostle Islands? Check out part 1 of our adventures!
Even though we were never in immediate danger the night before, having a bear lurking outside our tent still put a significant dent in our mental toughness. We awoke the next morning drowsy, neither of us sleeping very well, and we still felt void of enthusiasm and energy for this trip. I could tell Sam wanted to sit down and have a heart-to-heart chat about our vacation as badly as I did. We decided to hold off until we had some food in our bellies, since we’re both pretty intolerable until we eat.
Scooping up oatmeal from our camping bowls, we talked about our options. Even before we arrived here yesterday, this trip was far from what we expected. We had a major detour getting here, we didn’t stay at the campsite we originally reserved, and we had one (possibly two) bear encounters in the course of just four hours. We felt frazzled, underprepared, and entirely vulnerable to whatever nature wanted to throw at us. To make matters worse, the world felt muggy and damp after a night full of rain instead of the fresh, clean feeling that normally follows a rainstorm. Everything was gray, dull, and lackluster compared to what we envisioned.
We decided we would cut the trip short by at least a day. Knowing we had a 10+ hour ride back to Chicago instead of the seven or eight hours we originally anticipated made the whole trip seem like a chore instead of a vacation. Camping for four nights and then sitting in a car for 10 hours before going back to work the next day sounded awful. Maybe even more awful than sleeping with bears.
Continue reading “Camping at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Into the Woods”
“What to do when bears are outside tent.”
This is what Sam Googled as we lay side by side in our tent on Wednesday night, listening to the sounds of heavy, raspy breathing and thick-padded footprints moving along the outside of our thinly walled tent. It was raining, but even over the pitter-patter droplets hitting the tent and muddy ground, sounds of deep breathing and sluggish feet were unmistakable. This animal was not a raccoon.
I wasn’t yet asleep when I first heard our visitor. The rain started shortly after dinner, as we were walking back to our site from the restrooms. Brushing out teeth under the open trunk roof of our car, we quickly rinsed, spit, and ran into the tent. Snuggling into our new sleeping bags and talking in the dim light of our nifty solar-powered lantern/water bottle (an impulse REI purchase, as many purchase are from REI), we reflected on the day’s activities.
Continue reading “Camping at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Adventures with Bears”