We had been advised to avoid the Jenny Lake Trailhead due to construction and mass overcrowding. In the days prior, we had seen cars parked down the highway in the area near the Jenny Lake ferry access. It was madness! So, taking the advice of others, we went toward the String Lake Trailhead that lies just North of Jenny Lake. After leaving the parking lot, there is a wide footbridge that crosses a stream flowing from String Lake.
We turned left and proceeded down the trail that runs alongside the stream. The landscape was sparse due to a recent wildfire, but it was eerily beautiful. We had learned earlier in the week that the native lodge pole pines actually require periodic fires in order to thrive. So, I imagine there will be a forest of smaller pines along this trail in a few short years.
Up until this point, the path climbed gradually and was relatively easy. Then, the trail led us into a densely forested area that bordered Jenny Lake. We wound our way through the trees and up and down several ravines for about 2 miles before reaching the trailhead to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Although we couldn’t see the lake at the junction, I believe that we were very near the Jenny Lake ferry dock. As I understand it, from the ferry dock, you could either hike 1 mile to reach Hidden Falls or go to the right and hike up to Inspiration Point.
As we met up with the groups who opted for the ferry ride, we had already hiked almost 2 miles. This is where the fun began. The climb up to Inspiration Point was about 1 mile and challenging, to say the least. For a girl from Louisiana (we might live at 50 feet above sea level), a climb to almost 7,500 feet was tough on the lungs. I had to stop several times to catch my breath. Although the trail wasn’t overly crowded, I usually had a fellow hiker stopping to catch their breath with me. Through our huffs and puffs we would ask, “Where are you from?”. Ironically, most of us gasping for air on the trail that day all lived much closer to sea level.
We finally made it to our destination – Inspiration Point – a treeless promontory with sweeping views over Jenny Lake and the Snake River Valley. After finding a shaded spot under a tree, we enjoyed a light lunch with the company of a few local chipmunks (who had obviously dined on human food before our arrival!). The view was spectacular…inspirational even. We were so inspired that we decided to continue up through Cascade Canyon in search of one of the shallow pools that we heard about from other hikers.
My negotiation skills have kicked in once again as I realized that although we had already hiked 3 miles, the 3-mile return trip would be essentially all downhill. So, I agreed to hike 1 mile into Cascade Canyon in search of the illustrious swimming hole. Fortunately, the land was fairly level and the air was cooled by the adjacent flowing waters of Cascade Creek. We proceeded through a patch of woodland before emerging into the vast lower part of Cascade Canyon. The landscape felt a bit other worldly with its expanse of large white granite boulders, snowcapped peaks and chiseled cliffs above.
We had already reached the 1-mile turnaround point, but had not yet found the small trail to the water’s edge. So, we continued for another half mile before we found the spot. There was a narrow footpath that lead down to a shallow pool along Cascade Creek. Greg was bound and determined to take a plunge. He said that it took his breath away the moment he hit the water. His next thought was – what if there is a bear nearby? Guess that is the reason he jumped out faster than he jumped in?
Now that Greg was refreshed, we proceeded back down the trail trying not to think that our 5-mile hike had become a 7.5-mile hike! Instead, we focused on making noise to warn the bears and enjoy the moment in nature’s splendor. As I led the way, I was taking in all the beauty that surrounded me when suddenly on the trail ahead of me I see it – that creature that scares the snot out of me—it was a terrifying snake! I was told that there were only two types of snakes in the Grand Tetons, and yes, this was one of those. It was a ferocious garter snake. Greg said that I jumped 5 feet in the air and ran faster than he had ever seen. Of course, I ran BEHIND him! His first thought was that I had seen a bear and it was coming to get him now that I was BEHIND him. But, then, he saw the poor little garter snake scurrying off the trail.
After that adrenaline rush, I had plenty of energy to finish our 3-mile descent to the car. Although we ran out of water (definitely will be purchasing Camelbaks for our next hiking adventure) before the end of the hike, I now had my mind set on a cold craft beer at the end of the trail. We drove straight to Dornan’s once we found our car and bellied up to the bar for post-hike pizza and beer. I really couldn’t believe that I did it! Now we are both inspired to get the proper gear and try to hike Paintbrush Canyon next year.