With some reluctance, I step from dock to boat, settle into a seat and try to rationalize my use of mechanized transportation. Time saved will give my hike more depth, it will give me more time in the canyon.
Glancing at other occupants, I study their build, gear and manner, all suggest competence. They have experience in these mountains, they have purpose, I know they will move quickly. If I pause near the shore they will be gone, I will have quiet time on the trail.
Snow still holds the high country; it feeds the cascades bordering my trail. Their spring voice is a powerful expression, a reminder of life flowing into this park, an indication of the uphill pull I face. Following the water along the forested trail, I stop often and admire its might. Passing a field of rocky debris, discards from a nearby mountain, I make a slight detour, pause and absorb the mist and view of Hidden Falls. A bridge allows me to cross the cascades. Switchbacks carry me away from the creek and up a slightly exposed rocky face where I finish the 400-foot climb to Inspiration Point. The name is appropriate, its backdrop is a wall of mountains known as the Grand Tetons, the view reaches across Jenny Lake and encompasses the broad home of the Snake River. The scene is often reward enough, and the climb effort enough, to give the casual hiker their day on the trail. My needs lie beyond this point. The depth I seek can only be found in the canyon.
Turning towards the backdrop I regain the trail and soon feel comfort, it comes from greenery once again enveloping the trail, from the muffled sound of an unseen river gently urging me forward. More than one mile of effort lies in my wake but, in my mind, my hike has not begun, it will not begin until the canyon opens, until the trees part revealing the rugged hallway. Moving steadily I soon see rocky walls. They are bound by blue above, topped with snow and laced with white water. Bordering a now—tranquil creek, they tower thousands of feet above me. Cascade Creek, heavily populated with willows, feeds and nourishes this canyon. An irregular pattern of rock slides, trees and scattered vegetation border its shores. Painfully shy pika and shamelessly posing marmots favor the rocks while moose saunter and feed in the willows. Four miles distant a perpendicular ridge adds its snowy peaks and falls to the splendor. It marks my destination, the end of this canyon. With little elevation left to gain, I will cross that distance with an easy gait. Sipping scenery and enjoying wildlife, I accept all this canyon has to offer.
I think of Cascade Canyon as an old friend, I have seen her often, she has time, she is always here. I can visit with little effort yet she is generous, she shares all she has to offer.