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Teton Crest Trail Day 3

Death Canyon Shelf to Sunset Lake (4 miles)

The sun hit our tent. We quickly woke and crawled out, eager to see the light pour into the canyon below us.

Chris stretching on Death Canyon Shelf

It’s not every day you wake up on the edge of a canyon. We drank in the view, then went back in the tent and enjoyed our honeymoon suite.

Campsite on Death Canyon Shelf

Campsite on Death Canyon Shelf

It was a hard campsite to leave, but we did have a few miles to cover. We ate breakfast, packed up, and started walking.

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Teton Crest Trail Day 2

Marion Lake to Death Canyon Shelf (5 miles)

On the second day of our Teton Crest Trail honeymoon hike, we slept in and had a leisurely morning. Breakfast by Marion Lake was tasty. Food always seems to be extra delicious in the backcountry. The scenery was hard to beat!

Marion Lake

Marion Lake

We weren’t the only ones enjoying a lakeside breakfast. As we ate, Chris spotted movement on the far shore. It was a mother and baby moose. As Mom ripped and munched on leafy shrubs, her youngster plopped down in the mud nearby. We’re guessing this was the same pair we had spotted from across the valley yesterday.

Moose by lake

Moose by Marion Lake

After breakfast, we packed up camp and started hiking north. A short but steep uphill got our blood flowing.

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Teton Crest Trail Day 1

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you know a beach honeymoon isn’t our style. Instead we decided to hike the Teton Crest Trail and visit the Canadian Rockies. We made sure to keep things somewhat relaxed, though. One of our gifts to ourselves was to delay blogging until we got home. In the next few weeks we’ll be doing some blog catch up from the honeymoon, which took place from late August through mid-September.

On a cold rainy Monday morning in August, we waited for the Colter Bay Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park to open. At 8 AM sharp we eagerly handed our desired Teton Crest Trail itinerary to the backcountry ranger. We were in luck and snagged one of the few first-come first-serve permits! Our five-day Teton Crest Trail hike would begin the following day.

Day 1: Rendezvous Mountain to Marion Lake (6 miles)

Early Tuesday morning we drove to the String Lake trailhead, where we planned to finish the hike. A local taxi company shuttled us to our starting point, the tram in Teton Village. Everything went smoothly, except the weather wasn’t cooperating. Thick dense clouds clung to the mountains, making us realize that we might not get much visibility for the day.

We ate breakfast, got tickets, and rode the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, elevation 10,449 feet. This was another honeymoon treat — without the tram, we’d have been doing the 4,139 foot climb on foot, with five days of food on our backs.

Tram from Teton Village

Tram from Teton Village

Wonderfully, by the time we reached the top, the clouds had burned off. After exiting the tram we found a small sign that said “Top of the World”. It looked like it. After a few pictures, we were off, and feeling great!

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Married at Maroon Bells!

We both woke earlier than normal on the morning of our wedding day. We were nervous about being the center of attention, and apprehensive but hopeful that everyone would have a good time at our non-traditional wedding. The good news is that we weren’t worried at all about marrying each other!

Crawling out of our tent early in the morning with our pet bird Cheep Cheep

After some breakfast, it was time to get ready for the ceremony. Chris had it easy. He dunked his head in Maroon Creek, rustled his hands through his hair and called it done. Lili and Cindy took more time and care doing Anna’s hair up. They even added in a few white flowers.

Lili and Cindy putting up Anna's hair

Lili and Cindy putting up Anna’s hair

Chris’s suit had been hanging in the van to keep it wrinkle-free. When Chris saw it, he decided to change into his wedding outfit right there in the van since it had more headroom than our ultralight tent!

Chris getting ready in the cargo van (photo by Kent Meireis)

Chris getting ready in the cargo van

Anna slipped her dress on near the creek in the privacy of the trees. As we mentioned in our previous post, there had been a lot of rain the last few days. Today was as clear as could be and we were thrilled. The whole group happily applied sunscreen.

Applying sunscreen (photo by Kent Meireis)

Applying sunscreen

We then all left the Silver Queen Campground and headed up to the Maroon Bells amphitheater for the ceremony. Chris’s sister Becky played Wild Mountain Thyme on the concertina as we walked down the path into the amphitheater with our parents.

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Pre-Wedding Camping and Aspen Mountain

We love the outdoors and we love each other, so it seemed logical to have a camping wedding. Over the past year we have been planning a three-day wedding celebration near Maroon Bells and Aspen, Colorado. Two days before our guests were due to arrive, we loaded up a big rental cargo van with all sorts of camping equipment and wedding items we had carefully collected from thrift stores, consignment stores, and Craigslist. Our drive to Aspen took us through some stunning mountains. We were tired when we arrived so we set up camp, ate a quick dinner, and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, still groggy, we heard a deep voice outside our tent say “Anna and Chris.” Anna started to unzip the tent, dreading that a ranger would bring us some sort of bad news about the group of campsites we’d reserved months ago. “Anna and Chris” came the call again just as she tossed the rain fly to the side. It was Mags and Stu! They had also come up a few days early to do some backpacking in the area and had decided to see if we had arrived yet. So wonderful to wake to old friends smiling down on you.

Mags and Stu greeting us in our tent

Mags and Stu greeting us in our tent

Soon we were up and running errands: securing additional campsites, buying groceries, ordering flowers, etc. At the grocery store, we (Cheep Cheep too!) were thrilled to meet Smokey Bear. We think he was excited to learn about our camping wedding too, though he is a pretty chill sort of bear, so it’s hard to tell.

Sharing a moment with Smokey the Bear

Sharing a moment with Smokey the Bear

On Thursday afternoon our friends and family started arriving and setting up camp at the Silver Queen Campground in White River National Forest. It’s a spectacular car camping site with Maroon Creek rushing past a few steps from the campsites, towering red-hued cliffs, aspens quaking in the breeze, and the Maroon Bell peaks visible in the distance if you stand in the right spot.

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Visiting PCT Friends on the CDT

Shutterbug, North Star, Monkey, Mama Bear, and Wheels

Last weekend we headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park hoping to cross paths with our Pacific Crest Trail friends Mama Bear and Monkey. Their trail names might ring a bell because when she was 9, Monkey became the youngest person to thru hike the PCT. This summer Mama Bear and Monkey are tackling a large section of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) from the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado to Yellowstone National Park in northern Wyoming. They are updating an engaging, well-written blog as they hike.

We’ve been texting back and forth during their trek trying to figure out a good time and place to meet up. Last Thursday they informed us that they expected to be in Grand Lake, CO on Saturday afternoon. We changed some plans and headed up, up, up to the Continental Divide. Water that falls on one side of the Divide ends up in the Pacific Ocean. Precipitation on the other side flows into the Atlantic.

 

Poudre Lake, the beginning of the Poudre River

Next to the Continental Divide at Milner Pass is Poudre Lake, the beginning of the Poudre River which flows through Fort Collins

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PCT Book Sale! (We’re homeowners!)

View from kitchen looking out onto living room and patio

View of the living room and patio from the kitchen

Exciting news! We bought a condo! It’s close to the river bike path, near several Natural Areas, and less than a mile walk from the center of downtown Fort Collins. It’s modern, bright, and very energy efficient with foam insulation, a tankless hot water heater, double pane windows, a 92% efficiency furnace, and a downstairs neighbor who will heat our floor. We love it.

To celebrate, we are offering FREE shipping on Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs book orders until June 25th. (That’s a good discount because shipping large heavy books isn’t cheap!)

Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey In Photographs Book Cover

We think you’ll love the book — but don’t take our word for it. Liz Bergeron, Executive Director and CEO of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, says:

This is the best collection of PCT photographs I’ve seen! Day hikers, section hikers, thru hikers, and anyone who enjoys the outdoors will love this book. The photos do a great job of capturing the essence of the PCT.

You can view sample pages and learn more on our book page.

Time for us to get packing, both our apartment and PCT book shipment boxes! Woohoo!

 

Unmanned Wildlife Cameras

Bobcat on the prowl at night

Bobcat on the prowl at night

During Anna’s naturalist training, she learned of an awesome Fort Collins project: unmanned wildlife cameras. These cameras are mounted to trees. Whenever they sense motion and heat, they snap a photo. Unmanned cameras let us peek into what’s happening in the middle of the night, during a snowstorm, or after we round the bend out of view.

Below are a few of our favorite images from these cameras. Big exciting wildlife like bears, bobcats, fox, coyote, and mountain lions are out there, they just prefer to hide when loud humans come walking down the trail. Note the time stamp on each photo. It’s cool to see when these animals are out and doing their thing – whether it’s hunting or playing.

Young deer bounding down the trail

Young deer bounding down the trail

Coyote in tall grass

Coyote in tall grass

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Fish Creek Falls, Routt National Forest

Fish Creek Falls Overlook

Fish Creek Falls Overlook

We recently spent a week in Steamboat Springs, CO with our family. As with most families, everyone had different preferences when it came to activities. The short hike to Fish Creek Falls was a hit for everyone though, including little one-and-a-half year old Kion. It was such an enjoyable yet easy hike, we came back a second time later in the week.

A paved path led us very gradually uphill to a gorgeous overlook of the falls. The warm day melted large amounts of high elevation snowpack, so the falls were gushing.

Melting snow brought out another kind of beauty too: glacier lilies. One of the first flowers to bloom after the snow recedes, they were in full bloom along the trail. Their delicate bowed heads always remind us of origami.

Glacier lilies

Glacier lilies

We then backtracked a bit and turned onto the Picnic Trail, which led us down towards the base of the falls. The sound of pounding water intensified as we drew closer. We soon reached a bridge over Fish Creek which provided a great view of the Fish Creek waterfall — all 283 feet of it!

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It’s Time to Teach!

Anna recently completed her Master Naturalist training! The classroom training was extensive and covered subjects from the ecology of the prairie to the geology of the Rocky Mountains.

Bobcat Ridge Natural Area

Bobcat Ridge Natural Area

Rabbit in a prairie dog hole at Coyote Ridge Natural Area

Rabbit in a prairie dog hole at Coyote Ridge Natural Area

One of  her favorite topics during the training ended up being prairie dogs. They are fascinating creatures, and a true keystone species, with about 160 other species benefiting from their presence. Prairie dogs turn the soil as they dig their complex tunnel systems, inadvertently aerating and fertilizing the soil. They are a great food source for larger animals like eagles, hawks, and ferrets. Plus, their abandoned burrows serve as homes for other animals, like burrowing owls and rabbits.

Master Naturalist training requires not just absorbing information, but also teaching it. In mid-April, each trainee had to create and present a lesson plan on a topic of their choice. Anna decided to give a talk about the water cycle and water conservation, geared towards 3rd graders. Her water cycle drawing connected with people, but the real hit was her Lego dioramas depicting the river and various ways humans use its water. She filled the river container with water, then poured the water into other containers representing a variety of city and agricultural uses. This demonstration visually showed that our water supply is limited, and that we need to conserve and share the water with wildlife.

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