A decided goal for the summer between my other half and I was that we would do more regional exploration. Living in Jackson we forget that we are surrounded by some of the most beautiful small towns in the country. With Yellowstone National Park spanning the north-eastern corner of our square state and nameless National Forests throughout, we wanted to see more than just the Tetons.
So, a few weeks ago we set off to Cody, Wyoming starting at the southern entrance to Yellowstone and making our way to the northern entrance with the idea to
- Climb the highest peak in the Absaroka Range [Franc's Peak at 13,158 ft]
- Mountain bike Cody
- Visit Singletrack Spirits
Check, Check, and Check.
Here is the story of Franc.
After driving through Yellowstone we decided that the northern entrance is way more visually pleasing and that we were ready for beer.
Arriving in Cody our first stop was Sunlight Sports. One of the cooler small town outdoor shops I've been in with all of their own photos slathering the walls, a great open display and lots of unique camping gadgets. Not to mention their extensive map collection... with the exception of not having the map we needed, it was a really impressive store.
Cue wild goose chase for map. Saying f'you to the map after 45 minutes of no luck we landed at the Millstone Brewery for ample "small town" people watching, several 22oz Fresh Squeezed IPA's for a whopping $5.50 and some wings dripping in the classic buffalo sauce. [buzzzzz]
Once hydrated it was off to "base camp" for the next two nights. We decided since we had limited time and a very high clearance 4WD truck we would take the road that brought you to the closest trailhead via the Phelps Mountain Road. [Directions are here although not the best].
The the truck parked at 1,100ft in a beautiful meadow basin surrounded by Franc's and his foothills we set in for a blustery evening. Winds of what must have been 50mph+ persisted consistently throughout the night shaking our F350 and forcing us to cook in the camper shell.
When we woke in the morning the wind had yet to change and we began to think it was a wasted effort to even find the trailhead. After taking our time cooking absurd amounts of bacon and simply potatoes we decided to just go for it and if the wind was too strong we'd turn around.
With our hoods cinched down we let the wind bitch slap us in the face for the first 45 minutes. Thankfully it progressively got better as we weaved up ridges and around rock outcroppings
2.5 hours later and we had two short but steep climbs remaining. Being in the middle of the Shoshone National Forrest, we knew we were in for a bear treat or two.
Once we turned the corner of a rock outcrop here we saw our first big daddy grizz in Jack Creek to the north. Far enough away that he was harmless we kept an eye but didn't think twice. Minutes later we noticed another daddy grizz startled and running in the opposite direction, hmm.
200 vertical feet from the summit we peered back into Jack Creek to spot daddy grizz #1. Moments later Brady was telling me to turn around slowly and I found us staring directly into momma grizz's eyes with 3 littles ones and a yearling on her heals.
I coached myself through breathing, Brady soothed momma bear away. Fortunately for us she was too busy trying to rid herself from her yearling to care about some humans stumbling upon her. After watching some serious Nat Geo bear talk go down for 20 minutes we decided it was safer to descend on our ascension route than to walk the remaining 200 vertical feet to the summit.
Sometimes you just have to turn around.