How do I capture the Cirque of the Towers into a 500 word blog post… easy. Go look at the pictures page and then put it on your bucket list.
When we finished up with our “to-do list” of checking out Oregon State and Boise State we started doing things just for fun. After spending a few days hanging out with some of the coolest people we met on the road, Luke and Lindsay, they recommended that we go do a hike called “The Cirque of the Towers”. It seemed like a great time for Lindsay and I to do our first multi-day backpacking trip together. After buying a map and few supplies, we headed into central Wyoming from Jackson Hole. With some bootleg map reading skills, the Jetta made it through 25 miles of dirt road at 1am with the last 10 miles being the worst washboards we had ever driven. We parked the trail head at 9,000ft ASL.
After camping by the car that night, we headed up the trail at admittedly a snail’s pace. We spent the first night, after hiking only 6 miles, at the picturesque Sandy Lake to soak in the view and give our lungs a chance to catch up. Day two took us over the 11,000ft boulder fields of Jackass Pass and into one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring views I had ever seen. The cirque was actually a 180 degree arc of world class rock climbing with peaks around 14,000ft and a pristine high altitude lake at the center. No matter how eloquent the writer, I’m not sure even Thoreau or London could put into words how insignificant a human can feel when dwarfed by Mother Nature’s amphitheater. The icing on the cake: It was relatively virgin. To experience the cirque you had to really want to get there. The National Parks service had not built a paved road leading to the parking lot and the 9 miles to get to the top of Jackass Pass was no joke. Because of that, the people you met on the trail had an appreciation for the rawness of The Cirque and a mutual respect for what it took to get there.
Rather than going on our planned and ambitious 4 day, 35 mile hike we took our time and soaked in the sights. Playing cards in our tent next to a crystal clear mountain lake and taking a day hike up a 12,000ft ASL ridge line were experiences that could not be rushed. Sure, we could have put our head down and moved our feet forward to cover the mileage but we had food, water, time and one of the prettiest places we had ever seen, Alaska included. We spent our 4 days and covered about 25 miles on an out-and-back hike, barely beating the Labor Day Weekend crowds who were on their way in.
As a side note: Our 4-legged, red headed son is 1/2 Chow Chow and 1/2 mountain goat. He never slipped or even struggled going through miles of boulder fields. He jumped from ledge to boulder over 3 foot gaps while we climbed hand over hand letting him lead the way since he was clearly the proficient one. Hunter loved the rocks and the steeper, more rugged the terrain the better for him… he just wished we could keep up with him! Hunter also met his first pack llama this trip (almost getting kicked in the head) and even jumped into the water up to his belly for the first time ever!!