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Backpacker Magazine – June 2011

National Parks: Grand Teton

Wade through wildflowers, listen to wolves, and escape the crowded trade routes in this secluded corner of the park.

by: Molly Loomis

Put Your Head In The Clouds. (Mark Fischer)
Put Your Head In The Clouds. (Mark Fischer)
View From Berry Creck Trail. (George Wuerthner)
View From Berry Creck Trail. (George Wuerthner)

Q: Who built the enigmatic palisade on the Enclosure's summit?

A: Atop the Tetons’ second-highest point, the 13,280-foot Enclosure, sits a circle of daggerlike rocks about three feet tall. These dozen or so stones have been there since at least 1872, when a trapper attempting the Grand made note of them. Where they came from is a mystery. “Some scholars believe it was a site for vision quests or boyhood rites of passage for one of the tribes in the area,” says Grand Teton Ranger Justin Walters. “Others say it was a rendezvous spot for traders, which seems impractical, or just a natural formation.” Still others speculate it was an altar or a blind for catching raptors. One legend has it that a chief promised a maiden a herd of horses if she scaled the peak, so she left the circle as proof of her success. While the circle remains a riddle, the summit itself—a spur off the Grand—is sacred to the Eastern Shoshone. They believe the Sun Dance originated on it when two boys on lookout there had a vision of mice dancing in a buffalo skull. Their jig became the Sun Dance, symbolizing the link between all life.

Climb it From Lupine Meadows trailhead, hike seven miles to the Lower Saddle (11,692 feet), ascend to the Upper Saddle (13,160 feet), tackling one class 4 chimney section, then scramble up scree 120 feet to the top.

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