Example line map, travel plan, profile
- Atlantic Canyon
- Baker Lake
- Bear Basin
- Bonneville Basin
- Brown Cliffs
- Bull Lake Creek
- Cirque of the Towers
- Deep Creek and Ice Lakes
- Downs Fork
- Dry Creek
- Little Sandy Creek
- Milky Lakes
- North Fork of the Little Wind River
- Scott Lake
- South Fork Little of the Wind River
- Stough Creek Basin
- Twenty Lakes
- Torrey Creek
- and much more!
Example route map
Color on optional CD; grayscale in book
Lower East Fork River
East Fork Lake 10566 at sunrise
Moraine Lake from Col de St. Michaels
Mt. Lander from Col de St. Michaels
Outlet of Lee Lake
Middle Fork Lake
Spider Lake Sunrise
Cliffs of Windy Ridge
Lake 11023, Europe Canyon
Golden Lakes from Hay Pass Trail
Upper Golden Lake
Ducks on the Alpine Lakes
East side of the Brown Cliffs
Lake 11125 and Angel Pass on horizon
Lakes on south side of Fall Creek Pass
Spider Lake (west side of Angel Pass on skyline)
Small unnamed pond in Bald Mountain Basin
Upper Cook Lake
Lower Cook Lake
Pond with Lily Pads
Sunrise at Marys Lake
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WIND RIVER MOUNTAINS NEW BACKPACKING GUIDEBOOK!
Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming
Off Trail Routes for the Advanced Backpacker
©2010 Nancy Pallister
Designed for the advanced backpacker, the 48 routes emphasize the alpine terrain along the Continental Divide with from 20% to 70% off-trail travel. Detailed route maps, travel plans, route profiles and day-by-day descriptions.
- $25.95 Book only. 383 pages + shipping and handling
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Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming
Off Trail Routes for the Advanced Backpacker
©2010 Nancy Pallister
Printed by: Gray Dog Press, Spokane WA
This guidebook presents 48 selected routes in the Wind River Mountains that are designed for the advanced backpacker with off-trail experience. Routes vary from about 20 to 90 miles in length, and from as little as 20% of the miles off-trail to as much as 70% of the route off-trail travel. Seven routes require mountaineering experience. Each route is described with an overview line map, map list, detailed travel plan, route profile, and day-by day description with photographs. The Map Appendix covers the Wind Rivers with 71 gray-scale maps showing off-trial routes overlain on detailed topographic base maps. An electronic color printable version of the Map Appendix and "Virtual Tours" are available on a CD that you can purchase when you order the book, or at a later date (one per proof of purchase receipt).
Table of Contents:
Introduction (routes, ratings and general information)
Chapter 1: Southern Wind River Mountains
Chapter 2: South Central Wind River Mountains
Chapter 3: Wind River Indian Reservation Roadless Area
Chapter 4: Central Wind River Mountains
Chapter 5: North Central Wind River Mountains
Chapter 6: Northern Wind River Mountains
Chapter 7: Logistical Details (trailhead directions, weather)
Map Appendix: (optionally available in color on CD)
The routes emphasize the alpine terrain along the Continental Divide with from 20% to 70% off-trail travel. What makes this guidebook stand out from other guides?
- Every mile on and off trails are rated for difficulty.
- Foul-weather detours are described for cruxes on most routes.
- Detailed travel plans use the author's experience to insure you the highest chance of a successful backpacking trip.
- Summarized route statistics and hazards help you choose a route within your capabilities, risk tolerance and time limits.
- USGS 7.5-minute maps are used for the base maps
- No other guidebook describes as many miles on the "Roadless Area" of the Wind River Indian Reservation
WIND RIVER MOUNTAINS BACKPACKING PHOTO TOURS!
Virtual Tour of the Month
Click Here for a "Virtual Tour" of a selected Wind River backpacking route that is described in the guidebook.
Big Sandy to Elkhart Park
This was the second leg of a traverse of the Wind River Range in 2012. After a warmer than expected early season, I feared “normal” Wind River weather return son packed the same level of warmth, which turned out again to be too much. A decision that cost me dearly was leaving crampons. I balked at adding another pound and half for a one-time maybe use. I stepped on the scale and the pack weighed 38 pounds.
7/24. Caught in Storm. Big Sandy TH to Marms Lake (7.1 miles/+1165 ft./3.5 hrs.)
I awoke at 5AM, watched the weather channel while sipping coffee and left Lander at 6:20 AM. I met the shuttle driver at The Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale and we both drove to Elkhart Park where I parked my car. On the way to Big Sandy I shot off my expired bear spray canister in the sagebrush for practice, reaching Big Sandy shortly before noon. I met several people as I trudged up the trail. Fluffy clouds grew darker to the southwest, and boy did it rain earlier than anticipated! At Dad’s Lake a huge gray mass engulfed the valley at incredible speeds. After a half hour under a tree, a lull in the storm tricked me into thinking it was over: minutes down the trail it poured and continued. Arriving at Marms Lake at 3:30 I again hunkered under a tree.
Thankfully the storm ended and Mother Nature’s dryer (sun and wind) quickly dried my soaked gear. To my dismay, I realized most of my “waterproof” gear was indeed, not waterproof in a major downpour. A scout troupe came walking back and headed to their tents across the trail. They had taken a day hike but the boys did not even seem to notice the rain (oh, the exuberance of youth). In half a day I had already seen more people than I met on my entire 13-day first trip. With ten boy scouts bouncing around the shoreline, a bath was out of the question. The west side of the Wind Rivers is the “civilized” side of mellow, lush park-like scenery with the mountains in the distance. Wildflowers were outrageous. By dusk I was ready for bed.
7/25. Dog Days. To East Fork Lake 10566 (7.1 miles/+1045 ft./5.5 hrs.)
Dew was heavy at 5AM and I foolishly hauled gear out of the tent, only to be immediately soaked as I got a firsthand lesson in dew point! I left at 7AM and stopped an hour later had to spread everything out to dry. I should have slept in! As I descended on the Fremont Trail to the East Fork, a huge herd of domestic sheep blocked the trail. I crossed the creek and while putting shoes on I noticed heavy breathing near my back. Startled I turned around and there he was; huge, pale blue eyes, silky white hair, a broad handsome face, smiling.
“Dog” had paws larger than my hand, firmly planted next to me. He politely sat next to me, smiled and did not attempt to jump up. I am not a dog person; more often dogs growl and bite me. Well, I had better pet this dog before he bites, I thought. Big Mistake!! From then on Dog stuck to me like glue. Up the drainage we walked as I hoped Dog would eventually return to his owner. After a few hours I was getting concerned. I ignored Dog. The East Fork was beautiful, lush, filled with flowers and below the hulking rock walls of Mt. Geikie to Raid Peak. (Photos 1 and 2) I followed a distinct use-trail that became faint as I ascended. Small fish swam in the stream, as well as Dog who swam in the stream to cool off. At about 10,200 feet I waded across the creek and then hid in the bushes. Momentarily I thought Dog went home but he came up smiling. Always polite and well behaved Dog never barked or begged and stayed several paces behind me. I tried a stern “go home”; Dog evidently did not speak English. I continued up the trail that stayed high above the string of lakes before slightly descending to Lake 10566 (Photo3), my destination.
At 1PM there was insufficient time to go over the pass; a great excuse to get the heavy pack off my back! I set up the tent and hung the food that did not fit into the bear canister from a rock. I knew Dog could get the food if he really wanted to but he never tried. I dared not take a bath because I feared Dog would try to get into the tent. I again yelled, got angry, pointed down-valley, and poked him with my trekking poles. Dog hid in the bushes; I went inside the tent to rest. When I got out, there was Dog behind the tent.
I now had a big problem. How in the world was I going to feed Dog? It was a moral dilemma. If I took Dog back to his owners, it would cost me two days and I was not even sure they would be there. My car was 80 miles north. The nearest trailhead was a two-day walk. What little extra food I could give Dog would not fill his belly. Should I abandon my trip for a stray dog? The only answer I could come up with was that I would have to fish to feed Dog. Dog was very sweet but obviously not fed and skin and bones under is fluffy fur (Later I identified Dog as a Great Pyrenees). He cried softly when I cooked dinner. I felt terrible not giving him a morsel but hoped it would encourage him to go home. It was a clear night and when I got up to pee I did not see Dog; I thought my problem was solved.
7/26. Good Deed. To Noel Lake (6.6 miles/+2900 ft./8.5 hrs.)
I was happy to find the tent dry at 5AM; less happy to find Dog right there next to the tent. Dog cried again when I ate breakfast, barked for the first time. When he ran off with my cord for hanging the food I yelled “no” and he dropped it. At 6PM dew point hit and the tent was instantly wet. Things were not going well. I sponged off the tent and at 7AM started up towards the col between Raid Peak and Mt. Bonneville, otherwise known as “Pain-in-the-Ass Pass”, so named due to its miles of difficult talus hopping. I did not look back for half an hour, hoping Dog would leave when we hit the talus. No way. Dog not only jumped boulders like a pro, he actually found a better route than I did! He would look back at me and pity my poor route finding.
I reached the top by 8:45 discouraged to find the other side had its share of boulders. After a rest stop at the lake at 11,200 the route descended steeply. Near the bottom Dog ran ahead and soon someone shouted to me, “Is this your dog”. “No,” I emphatically replied. When I caught up Dog was being petted and fed by another troupe of Boy Scouts. I told my sad story to the troupe and they agreed to take Dog, catch fish for him and take him out with them in a few days. They could drop him off at the Pinedale animal shelter. This would be their “good deed” for the day. I was hoping one of the boys would adopt him as I hated to think Dog would have to go back to owners who did not feed him or be euthanized at the pound. As they held Dog, I profusely thanked them and left quickly, not stopping until I reached the inlet to Bonneville Lake 10521.
Weather was great so I continued up to the next lake in the Bonneville Basin. A short, but very steep system of ledges, form a pass from Bonneville Basin to the Middle Fork Lake drainage. I saw deer tracks; game had gone up so I figured I could too. I would rate it as Class 2+, but the difficult part was short. The slope eased towards the top ending on a big flat snowfield. I dropped my pack and wandered around getting a peek at Lake Donna, which sits down in a bowl surrounded by talus.
I returned to the main drainage and descended to a small tarn, realizing too late that it would have been easier to stay on the ridge. Rocks precluding camping here so I climbed to Noel Lake exhausted when I arrived at 2:30. I put down my pack and scouted for a route down Col de St Michael directly to Moraine Lake. Alas it was too steep to risk with a heavy pack. Camping was marginal and I spent nearly half an hour removing rocks at my chosen site. I missed Dog! He could have helped me dig out rocks. I set up the tent at 4:30 as clouds were building and a cold wind howled. After a nice dinner behind a good wind protected rock the wind eased and I took a partial bath to get grime off arms and legs. I again walked over to Col de St Michaels for sunset photos. (Photos 4-5 views into Moraine Lake drainage from Col de St. Michael) By 8:00 I was in the shadows. The site was very uncomfortable and I did not sleep well.
7/27. On the “Rez”. To Lake Solitude Area (9.3 miles, including 3.2 day hike /+1975 ft./7.5 hrs.)
I awoke at 5:10, stratus clouds thick to the east and west. The wind became a gale as I hunkered behind a rock cooking breakfast. At 6:50 I began the tedious descent to Lee Lake (Photo 6) reaching the outlet at 8:20 where a NOLS group was camped. A traverse high among wild flowers in full bloom above Middle Fork Lake (Photo 7) brought me to the creek cascading from Bewmark Lake. I followed fresh deer tracks 600 feet to Bewmark Lake where I ate lunch on a big flat rock jutting into the lake.
False rumors say Kagavah Pass Trail has been wiped out by rockfall. Not so. Except for a few sections the trail is intact albeit very steep and not passable by horses. I reached the top at 10:30 as the sky darkened. To the east side a big pipe stuck out of the ground with a USGS bench mark attached. Crossing the Continental Divide I was back on the “Rez”; I had ended my previous trip with several days on the Wind River Reservation. I followed a well-marked route that is generally true to its location on the 7.5 minute map, with occasional evidence of a trail. Below Kagavah Lake I lost the trail and was happy to find it again. Reaching the creek flowing from Lake 10,209 the trail ended. I jumped rocks across and shortly found the main trail that links Sonnicant Lake and Lake Solitude. A huge bank of black clouds was chasing me; I did not make it, but rather set up the tent at a small pond about quarter mile short just as rain began to pour down for nearly an hour.
The rain stopped and hiked to Lake Solitude (Photo 8). I met a fellow coming down the trail, both of us surprised to see each other. We were essentially going the same route the next few days and would again bump into each other. The wind was howling across Lake Solitude stirring up whitecaps. It was still overcast and gloomy so I returned, taking a bath during a brief interval when the sun peeked out. The little pond was warm but full of algae slime. I hid in the tent as little flies swarmed. Quickly weather improved so I grabbed my rain jacket and camera and headed back to Lake Solitude. This second hike from 4-6 PM was much more successful. I followed a game trail and crossed the outlet, kicking myself for not camping here as the wildflowers were fantastic and perfect campsites were abundant. I climbed to a viewpoint to Lake Polaris and along the ridge until I could get a good view of Moraine Lake (Photo 9). Had I been able to descend from Col de St. Michaels I would have had a shorter route, but getting around Moraine Lake did not look easy. I wished for time to fish, but the sun was low and I needed to return to my less spectacular campsite. Fearing the failing zipper on my tent would break with too much use, I cooked dinner and stayed out in the bugs wearing my rain jacket with the hood up to protect the back of my neck. The day’s travel was good, scenery great, but camping was ugly- it is amazing how mosquitoes can ruin a nice day.
7/28. Lake Hopping. To Spider Lake (6.6 miles/+1430 ft./7.0 hrs.)
I awoke at 5:30 feeling sluggish; bugs were buzzing. At 7:10 I descended to Sonnicant Lake and waded across the outlet, not brave enough to hop the widely spaced rocks. Here the trail became hard to follow due to a maze of use-trails to various campsites so I simply headed cross country, finally bumping into the trail as it climbed a small ridge southeast of Lake Heebeecheche (Photo 10). After easy rock hopping across the outlet I continued on game trails to Lake 10465, passed an unnamed lake full of little fish, and climbed past the waterfall from Lake 10927 (Photo 11). I hung my pack in a tree and climbed 200-foot cliff to Lake 10927 nestled in a spectacular hidden cirque. To my surprise, I saw a big fish but had not thought to bring my fishing gear. After a quick lunch in this magical setting I scrambled down and continued to Lake 10643 coincidentally the same water elevation as Spider Lake. Once on the southwest side of the ridge, easy travel gave way to thick timber, cliffs, krumholtz and thick underbrush. The brush-choked lake was scenic but there were few campsites.
After an epic struggle to get past the outlet, I traversed the steep hillside to the northeast corner of Spider Lake, the bushwhacking sapping my remaining energy. Climbing over all the small cliffs on the east side of Spider Lake was agonizing. After my previous buggy night, I chose a camp on the windy side of the timbered peninsula on the southeast side of Spider Lake. Although only 2PM I was exhausted and took a bath and washed clothes just as the sun went behind clouds. I fished in the howling wind, casting during brief lulls. Hunkered behind a big rock I cooked the fish for dinner. At 6PM the sky cleared and the fish really started jumping; alas, I had already eaten. By 7PM the site was in the shadows of the nearby mountains to the west so I called it a day. While in the tent I listened to music and inventoried my broken gear: tent zipper, holes in shoes, underwear and pack.
7/29 We Meet Again. To SFBLC Lake 10563 (5.6 miles/+1800 ft./6.8 hrs.)
After a terrible night’s sleep I awoke at 5AM and fearing dew I quickly packed the dry tent. Clear skies and calm wind provided a good morning for photography (Photo 12). I was reluctant to leave; one could easily spend a week exploring and fishing all the lakes at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Little Wind River. As I left at 6:45 a few clouds were already forming on the horizon. I had been over Odyssey Pass several times in the past and this time I found about the perfect route! I crossed the Divide and briefly left the Wind River Indian Reservation. On the descent I zigzagged southwest through tricky cliffs and avoided most talus. Lake 10935 was deep blue and like glass. On a previous trip I captured one of my most stunning reflection photos I have ever taken. There was not a breath of wind. The trail up to Photo Pass was faint but easy and I stopped on top for a snack at 9:15.
At Photo Pass I again crossed the Continental Divide and entered the Reservation at the headwaters of the South Fork of Bull Lake Creek. In a high snow year one simply plunge-steps downward; without snow, the trail deteriorates to miserable loose rock and hideously steep sand and scree. About half way down the trail disappears. It took a bit over an hour to descend 1,000 feet to the lush valley below. The smell of elk was strong, constant “whistles” filled the air and droppings were abundant. Classic Reservation rock cairns were sparse; but following my nose and fresh elk tracks kept me on the trail. This, the headwaters of the South Fork of Bull Lake Creek, is a magical place- full of game, mature open forests dotted with expansive meadows filled with wildflowers and dark green lush grass along the creek, between Milky Ridge to the west, Halls Mountain to the southwest and the impressive cliffs of Windy Ridge (Photo 13) to the east. Although a trail is shown on the map, it has not been maintained in years. I would have loved to camp here and fish the stream, but my through-route “agenda” was about making miles.
I prematurely crossed the creek and missed the trail, instead followed disconnected game trails and spooked several elk. I finally intersected the trail at the small ponds at the top of the saddle that lead to my destination. Other than anxiety of being lost (I was not), the actual travel was not much different than being on a typical unmaintained Reservation trail. I reached Lake 10,563 at 1:30 just as a few sprinkles started. Tired after my sleepless previous night, I quickly completed camp chores and took a nap. By 2:30 it was lightly raining.
Rain quit and the sun came back out and I emerged from my tent, walked to an inlet stream to gather drinking water and on my way back to my campsite, the fellow I met two days ago, came rolling in. He set up across the lake and came over so we had a communal dinner and talked. We both laughed that we were camped almost within shouting distance of each other at Spider Lake and compared our fishing experiences. I suspected Lake 10,563 was barren so did not even try to fish; he gave it a good try and concluded the same. It was fun to have some company after so many days alone. Soon to resupply, he only had plain mashed potatoes so I gave him some of my extra spices. We agreed to hike together over the next pass the next day.
7/30. One Crux Completed. To Hay Pass Lake 10755 (9.0 miles/+2000 ft./8.5 hrs.)
Verifying the rumored route to Europe Pass from the South Fork of Bull Lake Creek would be a key component in a through-route I was trying to figure out. From the outlet of Lake 10562 we headed up the small hill to the northwest. Following fresh elk tracks up a ledge on the rock buttress in front of us, I startled an Elk near the top, where a cairn marked the continuing route. It appeared that the marked route started from the lower unnamed lake north of Lake 10563. We passed two lakes and soon were on an “elk highway” over the sandy upper edge of the plateau east of Europe Pass, where my temporary companion and I parted ways. He was headed to Milky Lakes; my agenda was to get photos and more details on the route past Long Lake. I dropped down Europe Canyon reluctantly passing the beautiful fish-filled upper lakes of Europe Canyon (Photo 14) and left the trail below Lake 10741 to follow a faint use-trail to a saddle south of Long Lake. A huge cliff appeared to block the shoreline. It was easier to simply climb over the buttress than drop to the shore to see if the cliff blocked a shoreline route. The lay of the land eventually forced me down to the shoreline mid-lake where another steep buttress blocked my path. I could see clearly that I could traverse under it about 50 feet above the shore. Although it worked, the route was miserable with swarming small flies and numerous ups and downs over talus. At Long Lake’s inlet the huge flower meadow was unfortunately past its prime.
My plan was to check an off-trail route due east of Hay Pass but I soon bogged down in talus and nasty brush. At 1:30 I dropped back to Lake 10555 below Mt. Victor and headed to the Hay Pass Trail. The last mile was exhausting, mostly due to the heat. Looking for a windy spot I camped at Lake 10756 on the prominent peninsula to the south, but unfortunately the air was calm and the flies and mosquitoes were viscous. Arriving at 3:00 it took me nearly an hour to smooth out and remove rocks from my sandy campsite and carry huge rocks to anchor the tent. Although calm at the moment, I knew the wind would increase in this high exposed location. The view was not great but it did have the “top-of-the-world” feeling. As I walked over to a point to the south to get a better view, my muscles told me they were done for the day. The minute I started cooking the wind began to howl but inconveniently, at 6PM the wind quit just in time to allow mosquitoes swarm while eating.
7/31. Familiar Territory; New Impression To Alpine Lake 10895 (7.8 miles/+2170 ft./7.0 hrs.)
I awoke at dawn to a cold morning after a poor night’s sleep and watched five ducks swim as I ate breakfast. I crossed the Continental Divide again at Hay Pass and dropped to Dennis Lake (Photo 15) where morning lighting was perfect. I had remembered Hay Pass as a gloomy place because the last time I was here, the scenic views were to my back and it was bitterly cold and overcast. As I now faced the spectacular views under bright blue skies, wildflowers in full bloom, I was amazed! Once to Golden Lake (Photo 17) I waded across the inlet “swamp” and continued on the fisherman’s trail along the shoreline and creek to Lake Louise. I was surprised that there were no people in this very popular area. The flowers were just amazing at Upper Golden Lake (Photo 18). I ate lunch and hated to leave!
Many side streams flow into the lake and heading to “Camp Pass” I jumped rocks over two but had to wade across the last. Close attention was required on the lower part of the overgrown trail bub upper reaches gave way to abundant wildflowers and great views from Lake 10787 where a small but steep snowfield was a remnant of the 2011 high snow year. The heat was on for the descent to Camp Lake. After a rest in shade, I continued along the shore where there are many inter-winding game trails.
I had previously day-hiked to Alpine Lakes; this time I wanted to camp at Lake 10895 (Photo 19). I arrived at 2PM, very tired, dropped my pack and spent an inordinate amount of time searching for a campsite, deciding all were lumpy and windy so chose the best view. I was able to bathe and wash clothes before the weather deteriorated. Even though the sun was mostly hidden by clouds the strong wind quickly dried everything. I fell asleep to awake at 6PM, surprised that it was late and immediately got out to cook dinner. The wind howled all night.
Anxiety set in as I worried about my plan to go over Alpine Col and Indian Pass (Knifepoint Glacier) to Titcomb Basin. Without crampons I could get stuck. I look at my schedule, calculate food and days, and realize that if I got stuck in the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek, I had little extra food to backtrack. Reluctantly I accepted it was too risky and must change plans. I spent a moment feeling sorry for myself, then listened to soothing music. A major challenge of solo off-trail travel is mental fatigue. I tried to balance safety, desire to stay on my “agenda” and nagging fear that tempts one to bail to the nearest trailhead. “Plan B” was to day hike towards Alpine Col, move to the lakes on the east side of the Brown Cliffs for more day-hiking, and then return to Golden Lakes to exit via Angel Pass and the Pole Creek Trail.
8/01. Exploring. To Talus Lake (8.0 miles, including 5.8 day hike/+1980 ft./8.0 hrs.)
Up at 5AM I left at 6:45 to check out Alpine Col. I was so glad I did not try to go over Alpine Col with a full pack! The upper lakes (Photo 20) are worthy of a day-hike or an overnight stay to explore, but backpacking over Alpine Col is simply masochistic. Excessive talus was mitigated with good route finding and not hauling a heavy pack. I found scenic campsites but exposed to wind and on relatively lumpy grass. I stopped at the outlet of Lake 11335 where the route to Alpine Col involved difficult talus. Either side would go, with difficulty. The northeast side is the “standard” route but requires a hard section that looked like class 3. High above the southwest side is another option but looked like miles of miserable talus. In a dry year like 2012 there was minimal snow on the south side of the pass, but the north side would likely have seasonal snow melted exposing the blue ice of the glacier.
Back at camp at 11:45, I packed up and left at 12:15 heading to “Talus Lake” on the east side of the Brown Cliffs, trying a short-cut. This bright idea only made me do more work when my descent along a creek was blocked by an impossible cliff. I had nearly walked a circle by the time I was able to get back on the old trail. Just after crossing Snowbridge Creek rain began to pour down as I hunkered under a tree and ate a snack. When I reached the outlet of Talus Lake the wind howled and hail pummeled me. I was lucky to find a dry spot to set up my tent squeezed under a tree where it continued to rain until 4:30. Then the sun came out and I dried out wet clothing and gear, took a bath and washed my stinky hiking shirt. After an early dinner I wandered around until 7PM taking photos. It had been nearly a perfect day. The tent zipper totally broke so I pinned it closed with eight safety pins. Thankfully there were not many mosquitoes, but I had to throw six large ants out the door. I spotted bear poo on my wanderings so was a bit concerned. Fuel was running low. I reflected that it was a good call not to go over Alpine Col. I would have been caught on the top in a terrible storm. This was the first storm on my journey that had significant lightning.
8/02 Blustery Day. To Upper Golden Lake (9.7 miles, including 4.8 day hike/+2540 ft./8.0 hrs.)
A bluster y wind awoke me. After cooking breakfast in the tent vestibule I headed up to the Brown Cliffs for a day-hike. I hopped over the talus field for which I gave Talus Lake its unofficial name and found that there was much better camping is on the northeast side. Lake 10590 was a wind tunnel with sheets of water thrown through the air! Hopping rocks to cross the outlet required planting my trekking poles and leaning to stay upright. I crossed the beautiful meadow at a small lake south of Lake 10590 (Photo 21) and reached Lake 10980 (Photo 22) at 9AM. All the lakes had whitecaps but none were as fierce as at Lake 10590 where distorted scrub timber attested to its windy location. Next I hiked up over the ridge to the south and found a marked route down rock slabs to a fine viewpoint 200 feet above Snowbridge Lake. As much as I wanted to drop to the lake I feared I did not have time so I reluctantly returned to my camp, packed up and left at 11:15. I ran into some NOLS instructors while headed back to Camp Lake. I had thought of dropping to Lake 9675 where good fishing was reported and then up past the slot lake on Quintet Mountain before descending a steep gully to Upper Golden Lake. This harder route would take an extra day so I shelved that idea. In retrospect, I could have done it and skipped Cook Lakes. At the moment I really needed a “no-brainer” day! The wind was fierce as I hiked back over the saddle between Camp Lake and Golden Lakes. I could barely make progress at some points. Thankfully Golden Lakes were more protected. I arrived and found a campsite at 3:30, exhausted and disappointed to see several other groups as a packer had just unloaded and piled many backpacks. It was too windy to fly fish. Two young fellows were persistently fishing and did catch a few. I went to bed early; it was a long day.
8/03. Over the Divide Again. To Bald Mountain Basin (10.1 miles/+2110f t./7.0 hrs.)
I awoke early and was packed up by 6:40. Cairns marked a use-trail up the first inlet creek entering Upper Golden Lake and ending at Lake 10885. It was easy travel to Lake 11125 (Photo 23) where I turned towards Angel Pass only to have a strong gust knocked me over. These were not the conditions I wanted for the exposed ledges on the descent from Angel Pass. Reluctantly I turned around and headed to Fall Creek Pass (Photo 24). The detour would add extra miles but it was a safer route in high winds. As I sat on a rock eating a snack two fellows passed right under me and descended down Fall Creek. I decided to instead follow a use-trail that descended the next drainage to the east. It was an interesting experiment! The two young fellows were obviously going faster than I was. My route passed Timico Lake on the east; theirs passed on the west. At Timico Lake I never saw them until eating lunch at the outlet. We exchanged greetings and then parted ways. At my age when I can beat two strong young fellows I feel pretty good! Goes to show route finding is as important as speed. I will have to concede, they were carrying heavier packs.
Having previously walked the Fremont Trail, I decided to drop to Baldy Lakes – a slightly longer route but new territory for me. Baldy Lakes were nice but not spectacular. I ran into two NOLS instructors who said they too would be camping near Spider Lake and hoped it would not disturb me. Having spent many years as a NOLS instructor running into NOLS groups bring back fond memories. Ascending from Baldy Lakes the wildflowers were fantastic. At the top of the pass to Bald Mountain Basin is one of the Wind River Mountain’s finest views. I soaked it in. Unfortunately smoke in the air from wildfires spoiled the photos. Once on the Fremont Trail I met several groups. I left the trail and headed to the outlet of the “other” Spider Lake (several Spider Lakes in the Wind Rivers) arriving at 1:40 PM. I dilly dallied around for half an hour trying to find the perfect campsite with a panoramic view, settling on a site about half way between Spider Lake and Lake 10442. Bald Mountain Basin was delightful! After a chilly bath between wind gusts and washing clothes I hiked to Spider Lake (Photo 25). From 5-6PM I fished the small pond next to my campsite catching six fish barley larger than sardines. Nevertheless it was fun and any amount of fish added to dinner is great. Trying to stay out of the tent until dusk, I walked around taking sunset photos.
8/04. Back to Busy Trails. To Marys Lake (8.4 miles/+1455 t./7.5 hrs.)
It finally froze hard at night; the tent was frosted inside and out as I awoke at 6:45 requiring me to wear everything I had! In the shadow of Angel Peak my campsite never got sunshine until 7:30. Since I was in no hurry, I waited until the tent dried, not leaving until 9AM. Bald Mountain Basin contains over 50 lakes and ponds (Photo 26), most with fish. It is an area of micro-ecosystems under the backdrop of towering peaks; you can camp at your own private lake! Travel is easy and delightful. I hopped from pond to pond on my way to Upper Cook Lake (Photo 27).
Resting at Upper Cook Lake three women and a teen stopped and talked. They were from Canada and we pretty much hiked together, past Lower Cook Lake (Photo 28), until we parted ways where they continued north on the Fremont Trail to Island Lake and I turned south to the Pole Creek Trail. Cook Lakes were beautiful and I wished I had time to stay over. Although I had been down the trail to Pole Creek Crossing a few times before, nothing seemed familiar. For a while I was anxious until I passed a small pond with lily pads (Photo 29) that I remembered.
From Pole Creek Crossing to Marys Lake the trail was tedious, dusty, and unpleasant while the air smelled of smoke. All the small lakes and ponds were low on water, full of algae and very dry and tired looking. I had been here in a wetter year and it was very beautiful. Now I was just exhausted and disappointed. Several horse packers passed kicking up even more dust and depositing fresh horse poo which the flies immediately swarmed. At Marys Lake my intended campsite was taken by a large group. I circled the entire lake to no avail and settled in an established site that I checked out before the trek around the lake. I managed a stealth bath in the algae filled lake in spite of the crowds. Many of the fine trees that surrounded Marys Lake now were brown and dying due to the bark beetle infestation. All this sadden me. I had a pig-out dinner to polish off my rations.
8/05. Quick Exit. To Elkhart Park (6.0 miles/+100 ft./3.0 hrs.)
After some sunrise photos at Marys Lake (Photo 30) I continued past Eklund Lake, a popular spot but saw nobody in spite of being a weekend. The closer to the trailhead, the more people I met - one group of llama hikers, many climbers headed to do Gannett Peak, kids with parents, old folks, horse packers, everyone! Always thankful that my car started, I quickly drove to Pinedale to pick up a sandwich than drove to Lander for a hot shower, beer and a great dinner full of fresh garden produce that my friends cooked. For a moment I thought I would see if I could find out what happened to “Dog” but could not bear the thought of bad news, preferring to dream that one of the scouts took him home.
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