Back to the long hikes – we started up Cascade Canyon with some uncertainty as to how far we would get. There were a few logical stopping points – Hidden Falls, which we had been to before, the end of Cascade Canyon, Lake Solitude or the full loop back down through Paintbrush Canyon. We weren’t exactly sure which one we were setting out for when we left, though we parked at a trailhead that was conducive to the full loop should that be the end plan.
On the way up we found some other people looking for and picking huckleberries. After seeing what they looked like, we found and tried a few ourselves. I think either we were just a bit off season, or the bears had gotten to them all. We were also tailed by a half dozen spruce grouses for a little bit.
We stopped briefly at Hidden Falls and then continued up to Inspiration Point. This is as far as we had gotten years back, but it was also all snow covered at that point. After continuing up into the canyon and stopping for some snacks, we decided to take the north fork of the trail go the remainder of the way to Lake Solitude. The hike up was beautiful – running through the valleys at a gradual climb and with relatively few hikers past the end of Cascade Canyon. We made it to Lake Solitude without too much trouble, but we didn’t have much time to hang around. There were only half a dozen other people in the area.
Once we were at Lake Solitude, it was a shorter hike back to return through Paintbrush Canyon, but I made a significant miscalculation of the elevation that remained. The trail descriptions differed by only 400 vertical feet, so I convinced Janet that we should continue the loop as it was shorter but with a little climb, and I’m a fan of hiking loops rather than backtracking. But, alas, lake Solitude is at 9035 and Paintbrush Divide, our chosen route out, is at 10700. 10700 – 9035 = 1665 feet, which is 4x what we thought we were signing up for and after having hiked 10-11 miles already. It was afternoon, so not super sunny, but that was still a grueling 1665 ft. climb. I have yet to figure out how the trail descriptions were derived to read only 400ft. difference.
The first portion of that descent was just steep enough to be a challenge skidding down the scree rock and crossing a few areas of snow-pack as well. The middle of the Paintbrush Canyon was a more open valley and was a really beautiful hike. We noted a number of the back country campsites that we had seen on the map. The lower portion was the concern – it was a few miles through woods and brush with limited visibility and high appeal to bears due to the huckleberries growing there. We saw four bears on the way down (early evening, prime bear time!) one small black bear that ran off before we could really see it and a larger brown black bear with two cubs in tow. Both bear sprays were promptly drawn for that occasion, but no use was necessary. I thought it was appropriate to try for pictures. Janet did not agree. Alas, I was too slow getting the camera out anyway.
Back at the trailhead, we thought we might go to the Jenny Lake Lodge to find some food. Upon inquiry, the hostess politely informed us that we were far too dirty to dine with them that night. Apparently, it is not a drop-in-for-pizza kind of place, but rather a 5-course dinner by reservation only and with a dress code kind of place. She was nice enough to point us to Dornan’s a bar / pizza place at the south end of the park, so that’s where we went to find a pizza and refillable pitcher of diet Pepsi.