7/30/13 Day 3 covered just under 10 miles and included 3,200' of gain up the North Fork of Cascade Canyon, past Lake Solitude, over Paintbrush Divide at 10,700', and then down to Holly Lake. It was my favorite day on the TCT.
1 Breakfast at Café Sohl just feet away from the roaring Cascade Creek.
2 A misty morning on the creek.
3 The peaks above the mist. I break down camp and get ready to head out. My tent was covered in mud from the storm the night before, so I had to wash it in the creek and dry it in the sun before packing up. Fortunately the morning was warm and clear.
4 Hitting the trail on Day 3, more fantastic forest and cascading water views.
5 I would love to run these trails (minus the grizzly bears)! The trail has been downhill for some time now, which has made for a good pace. But it also means that I've dropped down to almost 7,500' yet I have to get all the way up to 10,700' on Paintbrush Divide today!
6 I want to live right here.
7 Looking upstream.
8 Another huge cascade. Probably a couple hundred feet of vertical drop.
9 Made it to the junction with the Cascade Canyon Trail. The 3-day version of the TCT would head down Cascade Canyon and back to Jenny Lake. The 4-day version continues up the North fork of the canyon, over Paintbrush Divide, and then down Paintbrush Canyon to Jenny Lake.
10 Epic trail in this area. Unfortunately for backpackers, this area of the park is accessible by day hikers, so I start to see a few more people on the trail.
11 North fork Cascade Canyon. Yet another amazing valley.
12 The pictures would probably be more representative if they had sound. Like the last valley, this one is also filled with the sound of cascading water. You can see one of the cascades coming down from the canyon rim.
13 Very Yosemite-esque.
14 Another look at the cascades. If you look closely, you can see it collecting from multiple small cascades all the way down the canyon wall.
15 A look back down the trail towards the Grand Teton.
16 A look up the valley and the trail bridge I'm about to cross.
17 A look downstream from the bridge back towards the Grand Teton.
18 The trail traverses some rock slide areas, which can be tricky with a heavy pack on.
19 More amazingly green meadows.
20 Almost to the very end of the canyon, the creek falls right off the edge of the Lake Solitude plateau above.
21 The creek flowing down the canyon.
22 A look back down the North Fork of Cascade Canyon, which I just hiked all the way up.
23 Lake Solitude. Another major waypoint along the TCT.
24 View of the Grand Teton from Lake Solitude.
25 The other end of Lake Solitude. The lake is unfortunatlely a popular day hike destination, so there is not quite as much solitude as its name implies. The only good part about having day hikers around is that I get asked questions like "You're out here for 4 days?", "By yourself!?", "Do you have someone you check in with every night?". That's always good for morale :)
26 Panorama view of the lake.
28 One last shot of the lake before heading out. The next section of trail is by far the hardest of the TCT. A 1,700' climb to Paintbrush Divide.
29 One of the iconic views on the TCT.
30 A look back down at Lake Solitude.
31 Another view down the North fork of Cascade Canyon towards the Grand Teton. It looks like an afternoon thunderstorm is starting to roll in again, and I'm getting worried about making it up and over the divide before the lightning hits. I meet a park ranger on his way down, and he confirms that the divide is totally exposed and is NOT the place to be when the storm hits. I either need to get over before it hits or wait it out on this side. I try to pick up my pace and press on.
32 Here you can see the cascade flowing down the canyon shown in previous pictures. It's pretty cool how it drains right out of the lake and over the edge into the valley. The lake must be getting filled as fast as it's emptying or it would seemingly run dry pretty quick!
33 One last look at the lake. You can also now see Mica Lake to the left, and the Peterson glacier above it, which is the source of another of the cascades draining into the valley below.
34 Increasingly steep and technical trail, but I'm slowly getting closer to Paintbrush Divide.
35 Huge, expansive alpine views from here. You can see all the way back towards Death Canyon Shelf where I was two days ago.
36 A view down the end of Leigh Canyon from just below the divide. Yet another gorgeous canyon worthy of being a destination by itself.
37 Almost to the divide!
38 Made it! Paintbrush Divide at 10,700'. Though I have done plenty of harder and steeper trails, this definitely ranks as one my most satisfying accomplishtments. And most importantly, I made it before the storm hit.
39 A view down from Paintbrush Divide.
40 While I was on the divide, a couple day hikers went by, so I had the rare chance to get a picture of me on the trail. I have to brace myself here in the cold, howling wind.
41 A panoramic look out the other side of Paintbrush Divide with a slight view of Jackson Hole valley in the distance.
43 The trail heading down a huge talus slope on the other side.
44 Hiking down into Paintbrush Canyon.
45 Steep downhill on loose rock with a heavy pack. A proprioceptive torture test.
46 A look down Paintbrush Canyon.
47 Paintbrush Canyon is inaccessible without snow gear until late in the summer. It's the last week of July in a dry year, so the snow fields are fortunately pretty short. The rangers said an ice axe was required just a few weeks earlier.
48 A day hiker on a decent sized snow traverse. No problem with trekking poles, but my heavy pack doesn't make it any easier. It would be a long slide down if you slipped.
49 Almost 1,000' dropped already and now finally starting to flatten out.
50 A look back up at Painbrush Divide.
51 First big views of the Jackson Hole valley and Jackson Lake in the distance out the end of Paintbrush Canyon.
52 First view of Holly Lake, my destination for the night. Fortunately no rain yet, so I may actually have a dry camp setup tonight!
53 Holly Lake, unquestionably one of my most memorable spots on the entire TCT. Apologies in advance, but I took A LOT of pictures here.
54 The trail leading off to the campsites along the lake. There are only 3 sites in the entire lake basin. I can see now why they're so hard to reserve!
55 I think I'm going to build a little cabin right here and make my stay permanent.
56 Holly Lake drains into a smaller lake, which in turn drains into the canyon below.
57 Camp setup for Night 3. The pads used to be right down on the lake shore, but they moved them a short distance away to restore the lake area. This site actually has a bear box, so I don't have to worry about living out of the Bear Vault canister tonight. Definitely makes life easier.
58 After setting-up camp, I head back down to the lake. Of the three campsites, one is empty. So it's just me and one family of three in the entire basin. It's completely quite, peaceful, and serene. This is the one that should really be named Lake Solitude!
59 The good weather today meant I reached my site early and had plenty of time to relax and cruise around the lake.
60 Holly Lake draining into the lower lake.
61 A wider shot of the lake.
62 And one more because I love this spot so much.
63 Since I'm not using a separate GPS unit this trip, this is the only view of my tough 3,200' elevation gain for the day. Don't worry, the temperature is not 78 degrees, it's probably actually in the low 50s.
64 The third stop of Café Sohl, right on the edge of Holly Lake. It doesn't get much better than this.
65 A pika, a new animal experience for me. An odd cross between a rabbit and and a mouse. They scurry around the rocks and sound like birds when they talk to each other.
66 Early evening sun dipping below the ridgeline. The wind is howling, but no rain tonight for the first time on my trip. I spent a long time just hanging out at the lake.
67 Panorama view from the East shore of Holly Lake.
68 Walking around the lake to the West shore. There's a little pennisula that let's you stand well out into the lake.
69 Long shadows across Holly Lake.
70 Early evening reflections on the lake.
71 Almost sunset with beautiful colors everywhere.
73 One last picture before the sun goes down and I head off to bed to end Day 3, my favorite day of the trip.