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GET OUT: Murphy Creek (Greys River)
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – What do you like to get out of camping? I use a camping weekend to unplug and recharge, to reconnect with nature. I don’t want to see other people. I don’t want to have a jam-packed schedule of things to do. I want two days and two nights in the woods with no clock, no phone, no TV.
It’s a shame that it takes just about that exact amount of time to fall into the rhythm of the wild. The body gets back onto its ancient circadian cycle and a renewed connection with the ground (take off your shoes once in a while) is healthful. Hippies call it “earthing” and there really is something to it.
A relaxing weekend can be found at Murphy Creek in the Greys. Drive the Greys River Road for exactly 15 miles. You’ll see Murphy Creek campground on your right. This is for city folk. I wouldn’t be caught dead camping in an established campground with RV-driving geriatrics walking their Yorkies to the unisex toilet. Pass this tent city tenement and watch for a little two-track on your left. That heads up South Doe Creek, which is an interesting area with numerous small ponds. The road ends after a half-mile where the Stewart Trail begins. That goes to Stump Lake and up Fawn Creek beyond.
But save that for later. You are going to make a right here and into Murphy Creek. Zero out the odometer. Cross the bridge and after not too long you will see an unmarked road on the left. This takes you to Lost Creek and ends abruptly. It’s possible to walk up Lost Creek to Lost Lake if you’re a masochist. There is no trail, but plenty of downed timber, and it is tight and steep. Save that for later, too. You’re trying to relax. There also are a ton of ATV trails in here that don’t show up on any map.
Keep heading up Murphy Creek Road. At 1.3 miles the road splits. Right is the North Fork. It’s a good road for 1.5 miles then peters out into a series of trails that head toward Stewart Peak and elsewhere. Stay left. Pass Murphy Lakes on your left. (They are not all that impressive).
Just short of five miles in, the road bends and the country opens up a little. There’s a great camping site on your left, but someone will probably already be there, holding the spot for their fall hunt camp. That’s OK. At 5.6 miles in you will come to a better camp. The road gets progressively worse after this. If you are pulling a camper, it’s doable for the whole stretch – about six miles.
GPS 43º1.433’N, 110º53.189’W. That’s your camp. There is no running water but you will have plenty of room, tucked in off the road and not visible to anyone. Not that anyone will come out this far. I saw two vehicles all weekend, and they were ATVs.
Expect “camp robbers” around your fire whenever you are cooking or eating. These crafty birds are Gray Jays (old-timers call them Whiskey Jacks). They are members of the jay and corvid family and will fearlessly help themselves to whatever human food you have in camp.
Schedule a hike up the rest of Murphy Creek at the end of the road. When I went last summer I saw black bear tracks headed toward Prater Mountain (10,078 feet). A well-maintained trail will take you up and over a saddle south of the peak and down Prater Canyon to the Etna-Freedom area. You’ll also see plenty of deer in here.
You can head back to the North Fork Murphy Creek on Sunday and drive up that road 1.5 miles until the trail starts. This drainage is heavily timbered and has managed to avoid beetle kill. The trail grinds its way up (1,200 foot gain) for 2.7 miles, headed straight into a small bowl, before shooting off to the right to connect with others. When it does, veer left. You will be hiking into a bigger bowl with two small unnamed lakes. The first one is at the 3.15 mile mark. Try to make it to the second one (43º4.912’N, 110º55.328’W) 3.5 miles in at 9,200 feet. It is a stunning emerald green.