Road Trip Revival #5 “Cascade Canyon and Flanneling Up”

We awoke to another frigid dawn. (33F with frost on our car windows and reports of snow in the mountain passes) Less surprised than the day before…we armed ourselves with fresh purchases of warm hoodies and winter hats.

Jenny Lake - Grand Teton NP

Jenny Lake – Grand Teton NP

We hit the road west, and ate a quick breakfast on the go… noticing the skyline clearing as the elevation rose steadily on our drive up to Grand Teton National Park.

Everyone knew what was coming next… we had discussed our group plans for a serious hike for almost a week. Reviewing the safety precautions (bear spray, making noise as we hiked to avoid startling a grizzly etc…) and talking about the epic views, what it would be like to go into the unknown.

Trusting the weather to stay clear… we set off to hike the famous “Cascade Canyon Trail… a good 12-13 mile round trip hike with over 1000 vertical feet. Rated “Strenuous” it would be hard for sure…especially for us flatlanders! (folks who don’t live in the mountains)

Everyone was a bit nervous to get started. We loaded up our backpacks at the Jenny Lake visitors center, water bottles and an exotic assortment of cliff bars as we talked about all the ‘what if’s’ of hiking in real wilderness.

I noticed Tanner was unusually quiet as we all got our gear together. She seemed to be shrinking into her flannel shirt as the moment grew near. I could tell she was afraid, the frustration from our day at Yellowstone still cloudy in her eyes. She pushed her lips tight and grunted a shy reply… she didn’t want to go. Intimidated she couldn’t make it up the steep trail and as our designated fashionista she wasn’t really ‘into’ wilderness stuff. I gently encouraged her that we were ‘all’ going together and promised we wouldn’t leave her behind if she got winded on the climb.

Tanner

Tanner

Reluctantly… she got up and started moving slowly to Jenny Lake. The others excitedly babbling about seeing a bear or a moose, and Tanner just tucked her head a little deeper into her collar, head down… wishing she could be anywhere but here, with us. 

But things were about to change…

We headed across the crystal clear mountain lake, using the shuttle boat (I highly recommend) to reach the trail head to the very popular Inspiration Point (tourist hordes) and the Cascade Canyon Trail, (much higher, longer and less traveled) which was our destination. We had a good 5-6 hours of hiking ahead and according to the rangers at the trail-head, bear and moose were active on the trail. I felt Tanner withdrawing even deeper… so far from her comfort zone. I sympathized… remembering how I felt in New York City.

An hour later we were reaching the crest of the first major climb, a brutal 55 minute ascent. Tanner was head down (between her knees) with puffy eyes and tears. Wheezing, and ranting her anger at being forced to go on this hike from hell. I tried to encourage her, explaining the worst of the hike was over… and how proud I was of her sticking it out. She huffed at me. So I moved on, silently asking God to ‘show up’ for Tanner. 

30 minutes later she flew by me almost skipping… laughter and Broadway strains of Les Miserables flowing off her lips. No tears, no sadness… just exuberant joy! What the heck… ?

I stared in amazement as Tanner was leading everyone else up this canyon trail. Full of happiness and energy, pushing us all to keep up! She and Addy climbing rocks, investigating the sights and sounds of a pristine alpine ecosystem with the unrestrained enthusiasm of a ten-year old! Whoa…. 

Some prayers get answered right away… I guess ? Wow.

By the end of the day, Tanner was a convert. Already planning her next adventure…. and excited that she had tried something so ‘un-like’ her! What a surprise… she was more than she seemed, not just an urban diva… she was a woodland mountain climbing machine ! WoooHoo 🙂

Cascade Canyon Trail

Cascade Canyon Trail

I couldn’t have been happier for her if it was my own daughter. I cried a little as she ran and ran… and ran! Like some kind of dam had burst inside of her, freeing something vital and life-giving. Something precious and pure.

The mountains do that…. the beauty of creation invades our minds and breaks through our broken hearts. Restoring and renewing even our darkest places and spaces.

God was in these mountains… whispering. Calling, answering… touching. 

Alexis saw her elusive moose… drinking quietly from the cascade creek, sandwiched between the Grand Teton peaks as if we were in some kind of surreal postcard come to life. God’s gentle reminder… He wants to satisfy our deepest desires and most intimate longings. The moose a long-term bucket list item for Alexis… and here in this remote corner of creation, God was speaking. Affirming His presence.

The trail to Cascade Canyon is one of my most favorite places in the world…. it was and always is a life-changing experience for all who make the journey.

Kind of like life…

Peace out, Pastor B.

PS – and “Flannel Up” is now a code word for those of us who made the iShine Road Trip of a lifetime together... coined by our very own Tanner 🙂 It’s a symbol of how we can choose to trust God – when we get put in awkward or uncomfortable positions and choose to stay in them, believing He will in time make something awful – become incredibly beautiful! Thanks Tanner for being such a courageous and amazing young woman!

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Day 4… Road Trip Revival. #iShineontheroad “Attitude at Altitude!”

Rolled into Dubois WY… snagging the last 2 rooms at the local Super 8. Dusty, dry and breezy. Temps in July were pushing 100F as we drove the 2 lane ribbon across the hazy, flat, high plains of eastern Wyoming. The sun lingered slow and low in the horizon… seven, eight… almost nine pm before we saw it start to slip over the distant ridge.

The Mountains!

The Mountains!

Sweaty, tired and butt numb we felt the miles. Wall SD to Dubois WY is only about 600 miles with a short detour to Mt.Rushmore NP, but it’s a good long 12 hours of travel. We crashed early and didn’t really notice the clear cool night emerging outside our windows.

We awoke to winter.

42F at 6:30am. My breath fogging the inside of our SUV. My naked legs one giant goose-bump of frigid skin.I had to dig out one of my light fleece pull-over’s to give my body some chance at finding warmth. The shock was complete. We had gone from the blazing heat of high summer sun to COLD.

A sixty degree temperature swing in 8 hours.

We were in the mountains and I couldn’t be happier. The cool / cold morning was such a relief. Felt like a peppermint patty embrace to my summer sweat soaked brain. No humidity, No sweating, No bugs. AWESOME !

As I look around to find someone else to share my jubilant happiness with… I only saw heaps of blankets and fetal postured freezing teens huddled in the back. Chattering teeth and groans quickly deflated me.

I confidently proclaimed the cold wouldn’t last! In fact, for sure by noon it would be bright and warm again, at least 80F with gorgeous mountain summer light. We were heading up the Wind River Valley to clip the edge of Grand Teton NP and push into Yellowstone! The grandest of them all. I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the coldest days possible for July. Snow flurries and sleet would be settled in by noon and would never allow temps to rise higher than 55F.

Tough Day

Tough Day

This led to some complaint and grumbling… but no one could deny the beauty of the mountain scenes before us and we toured the iconic spaces and places (Old Faithful, Yellowstone Falls, Buffalo on the plains etc…)of our oldest and grandest NP (in lower 48) with layers of shirts and jackets wrapping our unprepared limbs. As our altitude rose over 10,000 feet, our attitudes grew a bit short and over the long day of driving and stopping, shooting selfies, and dodging the hordes of tourists… some of us got very crabby 🙂

When we drove up and over the highest pass back to our cozy Super 8 rooms…. it began to snow big time. 3-4 Inches would pile up overnight. I shivered in my hiking shorts as we drove on. Smiling at the irony of it all.

I was the only one smiling. 

Tomorrow our days adventures would change the girls forever. But before the hope of dawn… we had to get through a very dark night.

By God’s grace…. we made it. But it was a tough road to ride.

Day 5 tomorrow; a BRAND NEW DAY.