|Rhys and me at the Wind Cave|
My son Rhys spent a week up at Treasure Mountain Boy Scout Camp. Last year, when he was there, we hiked Table Rock together. This year, the hike was to be the Wind Cave in Darby Canyon. Darby Canyon is a glacial valley in the greater Teton area. I don't know if it is actually in the Teton Range, but it's a next door neighbor if it isn't. The Wind Cave is a water carved cave through dolomite. Somewhere in the miles of cavern is another entrance which allows a brisk wind to blow through.
In 1951, a group of girls from Iona, Lincoln and Idaho Falls were camping at the Darby Canyon Girls Camp and chose to hike to the Wind Cave. It was an overcast day and after playing in the cave for awhile, they came back to where they had stashed their lunches and began to eat. As they were eating, lightning struck nearby and some of the camp leaders shouted for the girls to go to the open field and lie down while others told them it would be safer for them to hide in the trees. Before anyone could really move, another lightning bolt crashed into a tree that some of the girls were huddled under. Accounts say that girls were flung through the air up to a hundred feet. Two of my aunties were there and one was knocked unconcious and the other was badly burned. Four girls and one leader lost their lives that day. A memorial was placed near the site where the unfortunate incident happened.
|Memorial to the ones lost|
When my boys go to camp, I like to take a day and spend with them if I'm available. Lately I've tried to go with them on their hikes. I was excited to go to Darby Canyon with them. I had only been there once before and had only gone as far as the memorial.
We met at the trailhead at about 7 AM which meant I had to leave home no later than 5:30. I drove through the Teton Valley and arrived a little early. When the boys arrived, we spent a few moments getting ready and then we embarked. I've discovered that each hike I go on takes on a different characteristic. This one ended up being all about wildflowers. I was absolutely amazed at the abundance of wildflowers in the canyon and the many different varieties. There were many varieties I don't believe I have ever seen before.
|Leaving the house at first light|
|The Teton Valley at first light|
|Images at the trailhead|
|Images at the trailhead|
|Images at the trailhead|
|Images at the trailhead|
|Our troop at the trailhead|
The trailhead lies at 7069 feet above sea level and over the course of 2.6 miles gains about 1800 feet in elevation. The elevation gain is masked by the fact that the trail switches back and forth frequently so even though there is significant gain, it is really a moderate hike. It is a very pleasant hike, even for someone like me who is out of shape and has bad knees.
At 8940 feet above sea level, the hike isn't quite alpine, but close. The trail is forested for most of the way but further up the trail, it breaks out into sub-alpine meadows strewn with wildflowers. There is evidence of glaciation everywhere, from the U-shaped valley to glacial outwash and deposits to striations on the rocks.
The valley is fairly narrow where the trailhead begins and there is a giant boulder that has either fallen from above or dragged into place by the advancing glaciers. Rhys called it the "tent rock" because of it's shape. The vegetation and thick undergrowth everywhere reminded me at once of the Jenny Lake Trail we went on last summer in Grand Teton National Park.
|The "Tent Rock"|
|The "Tent Rock" from above|
|Cool rock in the canyon wall|
Rhys is usually a very fast hiker and last year he summitted Table Rock a full two hours ahead of me. This year, he hung back and hiked with me. Also in our group was my dear friend, Christan Airth and Rhys' friend Kyle.
Along the way, there are a few huge boulders still clinging to the side of the valley, left over from the periods of glaciation. There is great water erosion marks on the tops of the boulders. Those flat boulders offer great views of the valley and the first views of the Wind Cave. On one of the boulders, one of the boys spotted what he thought was a wild turkey, but as I looked at it, I thought is was a sage grouse. I photographed it and identified it online when I returned home and found we were both wrong. It was a "dusky grouse" male, which is a species I had never heard of before. When I got close, the bird fanned it's tail, inflated it's body to make it look bigger and thumped it's air bladders and made a 'threatening' sound. It was very cool.
|Rhys and Christian on the trail|
|Boulder on the side of the canyon|
|Erosion patterns in the top of the boulder|
|First view of the Wind Cave|
|The "wild turkey" on the boulder|
|Closeup of the dusky grouse|
We crossed a beautiful sub-alpine meadow filled with wildflowers before we reached to last part of the forested trail to the Wind Cave. The last hundred yards or so are the toughest of the hike, the elevation gain is quite steep. There are stairs there, however but I'm not sure if they were placed or naturally occuring in the rock. At the base of the summit, the trail splits off to the bottom of a waterfall and the other side goes to the brink of the falls and finally the Wind Cave. We played around at the base of the waterfall then we hiked into the cave. It is quite a cavern. The ceiling has collapsed over time and coverd over the creek that flows under the rubble. Rhys thought that was extremely cool to be walking over the scree and hear the water flow underneath.
We spelunked back into the cave to the point where it narrows and I stayed there and let Rhys and his friends explore beyond. It felt too small for me to get through with my camera. Next time, however I will go deeper into the cavern. Right at the narrows, the wind is the strongest and very cold. Next time I go, I will definitely take a jacket for this part of the hike.
|The sub-alpine meadow just before the summit|
|Christian, Rhys and Kyle just before the summit trail|
|Glacial striations in dolomite on the trail|
|View of waterfall and Wind Cave just before the summit|
|This picture makes me feel peaceful|
|The valley from the base of the falls|
|Rhys and Kyle|
|Rhys and Kyle under the falls for a sense of scale|
|Waterfall through scree going up to the cave|
|Lots of moss|
|I just liked this picture|
|Rhys and chums at the narrows|
|Rhys in the cave|
|The troop at the waterfall|
When we were done with the hike, we went back to the scout camp. This is the same scout camp I attended when I was a boy. There is a giant boulder in the center of the camp that is now called Chief Rock. When I was at scout camp it was called Eagle Rock. When I was there, only people who had attained the rank of Eagle Scout were allowed to stand on it. I hadn't been an Eagle when I was at scout camp so I never did. Some of my troop mates did stand on it without getting their rank however. Today, the requirements for standing on Chief Rock are different than when I was a scout. They aren't tougher, by the way but more reasonable for someone attending. I went to the camp counsellors and asked them if I could stand on Chief Rock under the old standards and they agreed. This has been something on my bucket list for 36 years. I scratched it off.
|Me standing on Chief Rock, scratch an item off the bucket list|
This post has become too long and I still have more material, namely all the wildflowers to show, so I am going to add a part II to this blog post that will be dedicated to the wildflowers I saw on this hike. There were so many and they were so pretty that they deserve their own blog post. I will add it at a future date.
This was a great day, from spending the day with Rhys and our friends to hiking up to the Wind Cave, to standing on Chief Rock. I very much enjoyed my time in Darby Canyon. Christian said that we needed to find a time when we could take our wives up to this cave. I agree. I will hike here again. Now I'll leave with a parting shot of the Tetons in the afternoon from the same position I photographed them that morning. Enjoy
|The Teton Range in the afternoon from the same vantage point|