Camp smart in bear country
Bear canisters are mandatory for backpackers using campsites below 10,000 feet, but that won’t prevent a curious bruin from slinking into your camp to investigate dinner aromas. Protect your food stash–and yourself–by pitching camp in this strategic triangle formation.
1) Choose a site with good visibility on all sides and make this your kitchen to centralize dining odors.
2) Walk 100 yards away from your kitchen and designate a food storage area (stash your pots, stove, and toiletries here, too).
3) Now cruise 100 yards upwind of both locations (away from drifting food smells) and look for flat ground with views of your kitchen and cache. Pitch your tent here.
Check well-sheltered, moist forest floors in stands of conifers, like those around mile seven, for the calypso orchid. Also known as the fairy slipper, it gets its name from the sea nymph Calypso, a character in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, who held Odysseus captive for seven years. Although the flower has a huge range–it’s found from Alaska to New York–it’s far from common to see an orchid in bloom. Calypso seeds won’t germinate unless stimulated by a particularly sparse fungus. It’s also said to have healing properties–the Thompson tribe in British Columbia chewed the bulb to treat seizures.
Kurt Johnson, program director and photographer at Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson, has been shooting in the Tetons for 10 years. He suggests setting up your shot during the "magic hour": the 15 minutes before sunrise and the 45 following it. (Aim for the reverse at sunset: 45 minutes before, 15 after.) The low sun casts the most dramatic shadows, and the sky’s colors will be the most vibrant. Johnson uses his own backpack as a tripod and shoots in self-timer mode to eliminate the blur caused by pushing the shutter release button in low light. Another local photographer, Mike Panic, says that cloudy days, rather than bluebird ones, are often better for shooting the Grand. "Check the forecast," he says. "One to three days before a storm, you’re likely to get big, puffy clouds that make an image so much more interesting."