A mellow day in world class surroundings

Jerry Painter / jpainter@postregister.com Julie Painter rides along the north entrance into Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park on Saturday.

Three antelope stood next to the bike path about 50 yards up ahead Saturday as my wife Julie and I rode our bikes on a perfect weather day in Grand Teton National Park.

“Maybe you could speed up and run into them,” I joked with Julie.

“I don’t think so,” she said, and instead slowed down to enjoy the sight.

We both knew that antelope are the fastest land animal in North America and perhaps the second fastest in the world.

The critters paused to look us over, then trotted across the bike path and Teton Park Road and disappeared into the distance.

A few minutes later we saw another antelope 75 yards off the bike path, unmoved by the sight of humans passing by on wheels. Antelope turned out to be the only large wild critters we saw that day.

We chose to ride from near the entrance to the north entrance of Jenny Lake. The north entrance drops you off near String Lake. Here, we paused for a picnic and a stroll around String Lake to look at the people kayaking and paddleboarding.

From the String Lake Picnic Area, we rode our bikes down the one-way scenic road that takes you along the east side of Jenny Lake. The nice thing about this route is that features a dedicated bike path. The riding is easy and mostly downhill. We stopped at a pullout along the lake and joined dozens of other selfie-takers and tourists.

The road spits you back out on the Teton Park Road for perhaps a half-mile of sharing the road with cars, until you arrive at the South Entrance to Jenny Lake. Here, you can pick back up the terminus of the bike path. On our first pass through here, there were only three bikes — counting our own. A couple of hours later, there were dozens of bikes parked at the bike racks.

Our next stop was the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking lot. Here, we locked up our bikes and hiked to Taggart Lake — a 3-mile roundtrip. The lake is a beaut and worth the hike. Most of the trail is what I call a “touron” trail — wide enough to hike three or four abreast.

Don’t expect solitude on this hike. If that’s what you’ve come for, continue on another mile past Bradley Lake and take the trail up Avalanche Canyon another couple of miles up.

From Taggart Lake, we rode our bikes back to a pullout just before the park entrance to arrive at our vehicle.

I figure it was roughly a 20-mile day — 17 on bikes and 3 on foot. Pretty mellow, but the scenery is world class.

Jenny Lake offers a “walk-in campground” that takes no reservations. This is ideal for tour bikers or folks looking for a bike-camping adventure. You can park your vehicle in Jackson, Wyo., and ride your bike loaded with camping gear to the walk-in sites at Jenny Lake. The nice feature is that you’re on bike paths all the way from town. The distance is about 20 miles from town to Jenny Lake. You can add more miles if you start on the bike path at Wilson, Wyo.

• • •

The peak bagging season has arrived and reports are coming in of scramblers topping out on Idaho’s 12,000-foot peaks. Be advised that there are still large patches of snow/ice that often can’t be avoided. The couloir after Chicken Out Ridge on Borah Peak, for example, is still filled with hard-packed snow and depending on your skill level/comfort level, you may want to bring along an ice ax/crampons for the passage.

In the Teton Range, the Jenny Lake rangers are reporting snow on the major trail passes along the Teton Crest Trail and Paint Brush Divide. This snow can sometimes make route finding difficult. An ice ax and crampons are advised for some sections.

On the big peaks, such as the Grand Teton or Mount Owen, there are still large patches of snow and ice to negotiate. The popular Owen-Spaulding Route on the Grand has snow and ice clogging its chimney sections. Get the latest condition reports from the climbing rangers before you go.

Peak baggers will want to abide by the rule of thumb to start early. This “Alpine start” gives you at least two advantages: Beating some of the heat of the day and avoiding afternoon thunderstorms. Starting early also gives you more day to work with when you get off course and have to spend extra time finding your way.

With Idaho’s big peaks, it’s often helpful to drive to the start/trailhead the night before, camp out and start climbing at dawn. This allows you to find the tricky start of the climb when you’re not rushed and lost in the dark. Some of the starts can be tricky to find with a maze of jeep roads leading you astray. A good place to start gathering information is at idahosummits.com and with the guidebook “Trails of Eastern Idaho” by Margaret Fuller and Jerry Painter.