Adventure Report: Big Water Little Boats

Taking advantage of early season flows in the Teton backcountry

True to form, any adventure with Taylor Phillips involves traversing some way off the grid wilderness via some type of arduous means of travel with the guarantee of some discomfort and a ton of laughter and wonderment. Pretty much the definition of Type II Fun. I couldn’t ask for anything more. With a historic snowpack from an incredible winter the rivers are swollen. Perfect time to get out and run some normally non-floatable waters. Packrafts have opened up an entirely new way to experience wilderness. We had been talking for sometime about a trip like this and June 2017 turned out to be prime. The mission was to hike in from Turpin Meadows up the N Buffalo Fork to Two Oceans Pass, the Continental Divide, and the Parting of the Waters, then float Pacific Creek back to the border of Grand Teton NP. 15ish miles of hiking and 20 or so river miles through some of the most remote and incredible wilderness of the lower 48. To say we are fortunate to have access to places like this is an understatement. Only a few miles as the crow flies from us the summer hoard of tourists is swelling through the Jackson Hole valley. For 3 days we traversed this wild country and only crossed paths with 2 rangers out clearing trails. There is a lifetime of adventure to be had here and by getting off the beaten path you can have it all to yourself.¬†

Light and Tight. No room for anything extra on packrafting trips. If it isn’t crucial leave it behind…

June is wildflower season here in the Tetons. The Balsam Root was in full display along the trail.

Nothing like a little caveman tv to relax and recharge.

Crossing over to Two Oceans Pass with a little reminder of how big winter was.

By far one the coolest parts of this trip and one of the all time interesting geographic locations I have visited, Parting of the Waters. A mile or so above Two Oceans Meadow the source of Atlantic and Pacific Creeks splits to form its respective flows. This is a pretty unique spot on the globe. Very cool to contemplate the journey this water makes as it flows through the US.

Time to blow up and start the float. With water levels so high we were able to put on Pacific Creek in Two Oceans Meadow. There is very little info out there on floating this creek system. It’s entirely possible we were the first people to float from this high up. Would love to know if anyone else has been up there and was able to start in this zone.

Channels in the flooded meadows allowed for passage. These boats are so nimble.

Subtle reminder that we are visitors in this land. I have a pretty big foot. That is a large bear…

Beers don’t fall under crucial gear category but certainly are worth the effort to haul in.

Once in the canyon the water picks up speed and the hazard begins. We navigated many strainers across the river and by that I mean we got out and walked around.

At one point we thought we might be walking a significant portion of this due to so many strainers and blind corners, then we arrived at the confluence of Pacific and Mink Creeks. Without boats it would have been uncrossable. With all that water we decided to give it a go. It went…

The lower canyon section was mostly clear and allowed for a great cruise out to the trailhead. Floating past beautiful wildflowers towards the Tetons in the lower meadows is something special, an appropriate ending to a very special experience. ¬†Here’s to many more great adventures this summer!

 

Photos by Taylor Glenn
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