Armchair Anecdotes: Storytelling takes on a new twist with Wild Wyoming

By on January 17, 2018

Carl Oksanen arrived in Jackson in 1967 to lead pack trips at the Triangle X Ranch and to escape the heat of Phoenix.

“When my cowboy days were over, I loved the mountains so much I started to backpack,” he said. “Once you get a taste of the mountains you keep going back.”

Oksanen has since logged hundreds of miles on area trails. He’s finished dozens of backcountry trips, but three stand out as particularly special.

He’ll share images and stories from those trips at his Armchair Adventure presentation “Wild Wyoming,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center meeting room.

“All of these trips are high and wild,” Oksanen said.

One is the classic Teton Crest Trail, starting at the top of the aerial tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and traveling to Marion Lake, across the Death Canyon Shelf and into Alaska Basin before emerging at Grand Teton National Park’s String Lake.

“The Crest Trail is right there in the backyard and most people haven’t done it,” he said.

Oksanen has done it about eight times. The Crest Trail offers a way to quickly experience the backcountry in Grand Teton National Park. Plus, it’s an easy trip in terms of terrain.

“It’s not an Ironman trip,” he said. “It’s laidback with incredible scenery.”

He’ll also present images of a variation on the traditional route that takes backpackers into Avalanche Canyon and to Snowdrift Lake. It’s a route few people travel and provides stunning views of the South Teton and Mount Wister.

His winter trip across the Pitchstone Plateau in Yellowstone is one of his favorite trips from his more “powerful days.” The backcountry ski trip of more than 40 miles begins near Old Faithful. It took him to Lone Star Geyser basin and then Shoshone Geyser basin.

“It’s a wonderland of steam and hot water coming up everywhere,” Oksanen said. “Yellowstone is just a majestic place in the winter.”

The trip involves an off-trail climb up a mountainside to reach the Pitchstone Plateau. He’s completed the trip four times and only once was the wind calm enough to get decent images.

The third trip Oksanen will speak about is on the Glacier Trail in the Wind River Mountains. He started near Dubois at Trail Creek and ended eight days later near Pinedale at Elkhart Park. The trip took him to Titcomb Basin, “probably the best part of the Winds,” and included a day to climb Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s highest mountain.

When Oksanen worked at the Triangle X, he always took an instamatic camera with him on outings. He’d take a few pictures and some turned out alright.

Oksanen left his job at Triangle X to work as a carpenter, but he continued to take a camera along when he explored the mountains on his time off. He’d sell a few images, but photography was still a side passion, not his job.

In 1991, a tourism board used one of his images of Schwabacher’s Landing in Grand Teton National Park. It led to more sales and requests for his work.

“Pretty soon photography overtook the day job,” he said.

Oksanen worked as a professional photographer, shooting commercial images, as well as scenic and landscapes, for about 15 years.

His Armchair Adventure presentation showcases his two passions, photography and the mountains. PJH

Upcoming Armchair Adventure Presentations:

“Both Sides of Gibraltar: Exploring Southern Spain and Morocco,” Rebecca Woods Bloom, Feb.1

“Walking the Camino de Santiago,” Janet Woodland, Tim O’Donoghue, Karen Skaggs and Ned Thomas, Feb. 22

“From Pachyderms to Penguins: A trip through South Africa, Namibia and the Okavango Delta of Botswana,” Tim Griffith, March 1

“The Galapagos Islands,” Cathy Shill, March 8

“Wild Western Wyoming,” an Armchair Adventure presentation by Carl Oksanen, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center meeting room, $5

Caption: Hurricane Pass on the Teton Crest Trail

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