Pushed to the Limit: Table Mountain

This summer I had the opportunity to join some colleagues outside of work for a hiking adventure.  I have lived in Idaho now for 11 years, but I had successfully ignored the rite of passage of hiking Table Mountain (often called “Table Rock.”)  So, now that I have done it, can I claim to be a true Idahoan?  Even if Table Mountain is really in Wyoming? Let me tell you the plusses of this hike:

  • It is so stunningly beautiful!
  • The weather was perfect (we lucked out).
  • It was secluded, yet well traveled.
  • The terrain and scenery is completely varied–there are streams, water features, forests, meadows, rock fields, ridges, wildflowers, etc.
  • The company was really great. I loved getting to know fellow professors outside of work.  Did we talk shop?  Yeah, but we got to talk about a lot of other stuff, too.
  • There is a PAYOFF at the end.  This payoff comes in the form of the MOST AMAZING VIEW I HAVE EVER SEEN.  One of those views that takes your breath away it is so stunning!  Once you get to the top of Table Mountain, you are privy to a view of the Grand Teton Range UP CLOSE from the west side.
  • We got to see wildlife–Four moose (two cows with young), mountain goats, birds, rock chucks, and tons of little scampering critters.

The minuses of this hike:

  • For SEVEN MILES you go up 4,151 feet.  At the top you are at 11,106 feet.  Yeah, you heard right.  4,151 feet.  Every once in a while you get a respite and it flattens out, but for the most part, you are going uphill, tackling difficult switchbacks, and at the end, it is nearly like rock climbing.
  • There is a huge boulder/broken rock field near the end of the uphill agony.  You have to carefully maneuver through unstable rocks, right when you are sooooo tired.
  • You have to “do your business” in the great outdoors.  Gosh, I hate that.
  • You have to pack a lot of stuff with you.  TP, lots of food, tons of water, a jacket, etc.
  • Once you get to the “mountain,” you have to then go down.  Right how you came up.  The gravel and boulders are tough going down.  But, it is not too bad the rest of the way.  You go back down for another SEVEN MILES, making this a 14 mile hike.
  • Even though I walk an average of 12-15 miles a week, often uphill, I was sore.  Not a little sore.  LIke, so sore I had to make unearthly, unattractive noises just to move across the room.  Kind of like a dying animal.  For about a week.

But, despite the challenges of this hike, I would consider doing it again.  That view is a bit of heaven.  And there is something incredibly empowering about doing something super difficult and living to tell about it.  Yeah, I’m a mom of four, I am in my 40’s, and I hiked Table Mountain.  Impressed?  Well, I am obviously impressed with myself.

I didn’t want to haul a nice camera, so I only had my Iphone.  But I ended up with some decent pictures anyway!  I wasn’t able to snap a picture of all the moose we saw on the way down, because by then my phone was dead.  Here are some pictures of the view.  I am here to tell you that the pictures, in no way, do justice to the beauty of this place.  It just gives a little glimmer–an appetizer if you will–to motivate you to try this hike yourself.

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The first part of the hike looks a lot like the picture above.  Meadows, forest, and meandering streams.

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After an intense set of switchbacks that scales a side of a mountain, you end up on a ridge that heads into the boulder field.

Once you traverse the Candy Cane forest  Boulder Field, you then get to tackle the steepest part that consists of gravel, and at the very end, rocks, where you have to ascend slowly, hand over hand.  As you ascend you get a teaser of what you will see.  The Tetons start to peek over the top.

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I am very familiar with the view of the Tetons from the Jackson, WY side, but the view of this side was new to me.  It is shockingly majestic.  Absolutely stunning.

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Even though it was after Labor Day, there was still snow down in the Alpine Bowl.  At the bottom of one of the ridges there was a herd of snow-white mountain goats.  The way down from the mountain was initially very challenging, since the gravel was unstable.  Once out of the gravel, going downhill was pretty easy, in comparison (although my legs were pretty shaky by the time we got to the bottom).

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Since we had taken our time, the day was starting to wane when we still had about two miles to go.  In the twilight, we saw moose daringly close to the trail.  Since both had young, we very quietly tried to sneak by without drawing attention to ourselves.  I carried my bear spray in my hand, just in case.  I had no desire to meet a bear in the brush.  The weather turned cooler and clouds rolled in.  It started to look like it was going to storm.  We finally arrived at the trailhead and got in the car, just moments–literally moments–before a torrential downpour.

We were a tired crew heading back.  Even too tired to get something to eat.  But it was a great day.  One that I will always remember.  This neck of the woods has some of the most amazing places on the planet.  Maybe one day I will be used to this formidable country and feel like I can claim it as my home.  Ask me if I feel this way mid-February when it is below zero for weeks at a time. I might still claim my California roots once confronted with the reality of winter.

I am WOMAN, hear me groan in pain ROAR!

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