Coal Creek to Mesquite Divide – Jedediah Smith Wilderness

FINALLY! Our first hike in the Tetons started with a drive into Victor, ID and a stop at the Emporium for second breakfast; a Huckleberry Milkshake. This idea of “second breakfast”, which is a Hobbit line from the Lord of the Rings, is starting to have favor with me. 😉 The Emporium is an interesting little tourist shop with a soda fountain and the usual trinkets. They also have a nice hat selection one of which ended up leaving on my head. The huckleberry milkshake is a local specialty and was quite good. Suitably fueled up, we headed towards the Teton Pass on the way to Jackson, WY looking for the trail head. I missed it the first time and we ended up making a trip over the pass to Wilson, WY. I had to ask someone on the other side for directions. Heading back up the pass with its 10% grades and switchbacks, I was grateful I was not one of the drivers I faced coming up the pass with a trailer! At the bottom of the pass, we eventually found the trail head and prepared to head into the Wilderness. We had driven right by thinking it was only a chain up station for semis.

Coal Creek heads up into the Teton range and is classified as moderately difficult. Primarily, I suspect, due to the elevation gain as the trail is quite nice and well maintained. It starts out in a small, forested canyon with a bit of a primeval feel to it but soon breaks out into a more open riparian zone with tons of wildflowers. I have never seen such a display of wildflowers as in this area. The vegetation is quite robust and the flowers have grown from chest to over shoulder high for at least 1.5 miles of the trail. RHonda was euphoric, stopping often to admire them, exclaim about their size and mumbled to herself constantly about them. The trail diverged from the creek bed and ascended up and across the side of the valley through a mixed forest dominated mostly by aspen trees. The amazing display of flowers continued as we climbed steadily towards the saddle from which Coal Creek flows south and Mesquite Creek flows northward.

The trail provides several false hopes of “almost there” and we found ourselves tiring more quickly than we expected. The initial goal was the Coal Creek Meadows which was listed as 2.4 miles from the trail head. We eventually reached it and were rewarded with a beautiful open meadow complete with the headwaters of Coal Creek. Abby got a chance to go off-leash for a while since we could see there were no bears around. That left only the final two tenths of a mile “up the hill” to the top of the divide where we were expecting to see a splendid view of the Teton range. At this point we were both pretty spent and the final climb was quite steep, but mercifully short, with the resultant view definitely in the “wow” category. We rested a bit and chatted with a through-hiker that was headed to Paintbrush Canyon for a weekend back country adventure.

By the time we got back to the truck it was late afternoon and I had another mandatory stop in Victor that needed to be accomplished. We scooted back to town, stopping in at the Grand Teton Brewing Co. A Raytheon work acquaintance had encouraged me to contact his friends who are also the proprietors. We were introduced to Steve and Ellen and had a nice chat about how they ended up owning a brewery and also got to sample a half dozen of the ales. We enjoyed most of them and came away with a favorite or two. They recommended a local burger joint for supper and we soon found ourselves chowing down on a tasty “Yellowstone” burger with Idaho fries. If you find yourself in Victor, ID, the Brakeman American Grill gets a definite thumbs up. It was great cap to an awesome day!

RHonda adds, this hike was phenomenal! I don’t think we are doing it justice. I have a hard time putting this one ahead of the Tetons hike we just took. The Tetons are fantastic and the lake we found, stunning. This hike, though fairly grueling, is tremendously rewarding, amazing, breathtaking in so many areas and comforting in an indescribable way. The real downer was the HEAT but it was a mere annoyance with the beauty!! We were not only tired and sore but sweat-soaked by the time we got back. In one of the pics, I am standing in the creek on the way back trying to cooling off.

One thought on “Coal Creek to Mesquite Divide – Jedediah Smith Wilderness

  1. the use of “second breakfast” quite possibly made my year. thank you dear sir for using it 🙂

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