Monday, January 12, 2009

Excursion Article Series 11.22.08: Two Ocean Lake: Mud + family = Oops, fell again!

Caption: My wife, son and mother-in-law cross the bridge on the trail around Two Ocean Lake. Due to warm weather and a little snow, the trail was made of nothing but mud or frozen mud in the shade. It was pretty entertaining watching everyone slip-slide around.

Excursion: Two Ocean Lake
Length: 5.3 miles
Distance: 3 hours
Difficulty: Easy when dry, moderate when muddy
Directions: Enter Grand Teton through Moran entrance, turn right on Pacific Creek and take the left onto dirt road. Follow to end and park in parking area.

Understated beauty.

That’s the best way I can think to describe Two Ocean Lake. Not every lake requires the knock-you-over-the-head-with-a-two-by-four beauty of the Tetons to make it an enjoyable place.

When I was in college I drove into Two Ocean Lake in the summer and took sunset and magic-hour pictures at Two Ocean Lake. The resulting photos weren’t something I was excited about as I took them, but they were passable. If I recall I had recently been into some more spectacularly beautiful areas like Lake Taminah and was still reeling from the experience.

When I went back to look at the pictures several months later, I was stunned at the quiet beauty in the well-lit grasses, hills and waters of Two Ocean Lake. I wound up using one of those pictures to grace the cover of a mock outdoors magazine I was making at the time for a design class. The light was gorgeous, the surroundings pristine and the mood and spatial arrangements perfect for a magazine cover. I don’t think I could have picked a much better photo for what I was doing either.

For that reason, I now refer to Two Ocean Lake as a shy stunner. You don’t have to work hard to get there; you can see the lake from the parking area. But if you hit it with the right light and mood it is something memorable, even if you don’t expect it to be. It’s much like starting a conversation with that socially incapable person you’ve “known” for years but never really talked to. You’ll walk away with a slightly altered perception that you wind up thinking and thinking about until you can’t wait to talk to the guy again.

Surprisingly, the Tetons do make occasional appearances as you hike around the north side of the lake. However, right now the exposed north side of the lake is privy to mud as the sun warms the chilled ground. Though hiking in mud is never the most enjoyable thing, it does provide some entertainment value.

My mother-in-law (bless her heart) was fun to watch dance on the trail when the footing got tricky. My 14-month son also managed to slog out at least a half mile of the trail on his own two feet. When things got slippery, we tried to pick him up, but he would rarely let us for long. He wanted to be down with the rest of us. Consequently, we did watch a face-plant or two as his tiny feet found potholes or slippery spots.

At one point he even tottered his way through the mud and right off the trail into a snowfield. With his bundled-up arms outstretched he made it halfway down the hill on the snow before his grandma caught up to him and brought him back to the path while we all laughed.

Two Ocean Lake is notorious bear country. In the spring, the park frequently closes the south side of the lake so the bears can have some nice lakeshore property all to themselves. That way tourists bearing food are less likely to be bear food. During our recent muddy expedition, we proved that bears had a tough time with the footing too. In several places we saw bear tracks, and often it was obvious the bear had slid, digging in its claws to regain traction. So even this late in the season, it’s good to keep an eye out for bears – they may be extra perturbed that they can’t walk on the trails without looking like Bambi on ice.

Despite the mud, the colors of winter look great on Two Ocean Lake. The yellow grass highlights the red willows nicely. And rounding out the mix is the silvery blue reflective slate of the lake. The smell of frozen earth and chilled evergreens livens things up as well.

If you’d like to avoid the mud altogether right now, a there-and-back run on the south shore will more than likely stay frozen in the shade of the forest. At this time of year the bears don’t seem to mind sharing their exclusive lakeshore property.

Caption: The rusts of winter look good on Two Ocean Lake. This was some of the most vibrant colors I've ever seen in the winter.

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