The eclipse was amazing, but it wasn’t the only thing I got to do at Grand Teton National Park. We also planned a 3 day backpacking trip. We went 28.1 miles over three days and gained over 5,000 feet in elevation. We started at the bottom of Death Canyon, climbed up the cannon walls, hiked over alpine terrain to a set of beautiful basin lakes, and then pushed on to summit Static Peak for the eclipse (more about that in my last post), and hiked back down to our rental van.
The first day was our canyon day. We were staying about two hours outside of the park in Afton, WY (a small little town famous for having the world’s largest elk antler arch), and we wanted to make sure we got a good parking spot at the trailhead, so we ventured out early. I woke up at 4:30, deciding to forgo a shower, picked up my bag, went into the car, and promptly fell asleep. We ended up getting to the park very early, but I wasn’t complaining. When I woke up again, the terrain had changed drastically, giving me loads of little details to look at. Instead of the grassy, desert hills of Afton, we were faced with mountains. We had postcard views of the Grand Teton right in front of us. They probably chose the sight of the ranger station for that very reason: the rangers probably love to look out their window 24/7 and just study the beauty of nature. Well, I wasn’t complaining.
The ranger gave us bear cans to use in order to prevent animals (namely bears, obviously, but also marmots) from stealing our food while we were sleeping. Luckily, the Caltech Y has sleeping bag, pad, backpack, tent, and stove rentals (among other things) for a very cheap rate, so we were prepared with the rest of our gear.
We then drove to the trailhead, got one of the coveted “good” parking spots, and hit the trail. The first part took us by a nice stream and waterfall, however I was a bit winded so I didn’t really see too much. I get pretty bad altitude sickness, and was able to get some meds from the Caltech health center to help me, but they hadn’t really kicked in yet. Needless to say, at nearly 7,000 feet, I was feeling the altitude. After about a mile, we came to a beautiful lookout of Phelps Lake. It was so beautiful and clear.
Here I am with my full pack by Phelps Lake! It was a beautiful, sunny day!
We ventured on through Death Canyon, walking through a good amount of forest. Finally, we reached the middle of the Canyon, which was almost treeless, but filled with a sea of beautiful wildflowers. There were blues and reds and pinks and yellows all nesting in every shade of green imaginable.
The path through the valley. Look at all of the wildflowers!
A cool looking mushroom I saw along the way. From later research, I believe it's an Amanita muscaria, better known as a fly agaric.
You can see the snow covered peaks in the background! We headed up there on our second day.
We spent about 6 more miles in the beautiful valley until we came to our campsite. We set up camp, ate a quick dinner of freeze dried, and the went to bed early to prepare for the next day. I think I was all zipped up in my sleeping bag by 7:30 PM!
SURF, short for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is a quintessential experience for any Caltech student. It is a widely accessible research fellowship for Caltech students that funds your proposed research for one summer term. While many of my classmates did their first SURF the summer after their freshman year, I sent in my first application to the program as a sophomore. As a CS major, I was trying to chase meaningful work that intersected computation with the field of neuroscience. I ended up doing a SURF at the Stanford School of Medicine that first year, studying hand gestures in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then, I’ve been working in the research space of applying computational analyses to ASD.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.