The trek was inspired by my youngest brother. He and his son are runners and do a lot of hiking and hunting. We had both been into Shoal Lake once on separate occasions with our dad. He had taken us in on horseback, overnight pack trips when we were in the 8th/9th grades. The idea was to see if we could hike in, fish and hike back out in the same day. Ann and I were both up for the trip and so it was game on.
We met at 6:30 AM on August 11th at the Elkhorn Bar & Trading Post in Bondurant, Wyoming. A short trip up Dell creek and over the rough Riling Draw road into Shoal Creek placed us at the trailhead. We were on the trail at 7:20 AM and the goal was to be back out and down to Cliff Creek by 6:00 PM to enjoy the Dutch oven dinner that dad and mom were preparing. Both Bridger and I remembered the route pretty well, even though it had been 30 years since he had been on it and 40 years for me. That is the cool thing about Google Earth is that you can study out the route and combined with our prior knowledge, we had a pretty good idea of what we were doing. For the first 3.5 miles of the hike, the trail is fairly well travelled and it is an easy hike. Elevation gain is only about 400 feet. After we hit the Wilderness boundary at the 3.5 mile mark, the trail is not as well marked, it is much more difficult, and it is not nearly as heavily travelled. The elevation gain for the next 4.5 miles into the lake is 2,000 feet.
We only had about an hour to fish, but it was fun and exciting. Most of the fish were healthy fighters of about 12 inches, (and all were released to live another day). The video shows some of the fishing action.
The hike out provided great views looking down the big rugged upper canyon and into the valley below. We were getting tired and by the time we hit the wilderness boundary, everyone had convinced me that the total hike was at least two to three miles longer than the 15 mile round trip that Bridger and I had estimated. Turns out we were pretty close – 16 miles.
We were in prime country for seeing big game or bigger predators, (grizzlies), but we were prepared and we made sure to make plenty of noise. We didn’t see much of anything, other than a soaring eagle and a mule deer. That is the one negative of making a lot of noise to avoid bear encounters. However, I’d rather miss out on any close sightings of grizzlies or black bear for that matter.
The day was finished off with an excellent meal, some great reminiscing, and a commitment to do more of these adventures in the Hoback, (our old stomping grounds). Oh, and we made it to dinner at 6:02 PM! Pretty good planning and time management.
The “adventure” wasn’t over for Ann and me. We headed over to Wilson and spent the night with my aunt Caryn. The next day was casual biking in GTNP, a great cookout and topped off with a fun concert at Teton Village. We spent the next day swimming in Lava Hot Springs, (1 mile of laps for me and 1.4 miles for Ann). And of course, we soaked our sore muscles in the Hot Pools that evening. I finished the next day off in Boise, (my birthday), golfing with my friend Mitch, his brother Brad and Brad’s son.
I’ve never contemplated an Iron-man triathlon, and what we did isn’t even close to a true triathlon. However, we did put in our little version of a pretty good 3-day triathlon that involved a 16 mile hike, 10 mile bike ride and a 1+ mile swim.
Contributor: Cody Feuz
Activity Type: Trail Hiking plus biking/swiming
Level of Difficulty: depends on your fitness level
Mountain Range or Region: Gros Ventre Wilderness, Bridger-Teton National Forest State: WY Country: USA
Here is the downloadable GPS data for the Shoal Lake Trek: