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
Burned trees in Bomber Canyon
Bomber Lake Meadows
Spider Peak from outwash below Turquoise Lake
Mile Long Lake inlet
Hanging Glacier en route to Ram Pass
Stream above Upper Ross Lake
Upper Ross Lake
Sunrise at Mile Long Lake
View from Goat Flat
Sunrise at Downs Lake
Grasshopper Creek braids
Grasshopper Creek by camp
Wildflowers on Grasshopper Creek
Grasshopper Glacier Moraine
West end of Klondike Lake
Outlet from Klondike Lake
Rocks on Klondike Creek
Smoky view up Dinwoody
Fog on Golden Lake
Fog on Golden Lake #2
Drainage above Golden Lake
Please order the book from Gray Dog Press.
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
- $29.95 Book plus CD (printable color version of the 71 Route Maps plus more photographs!) + shipping and handling
- $4.00 CD purchased later (limited to 1 per proof of purchase receipt)
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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.
Northeastern Wind Rivers: Headwaters of Torrey, Downs and Dinwoody Creeks
There are few maintained trails in the northeastern part of the Wind Rivers. Glacier Trail, starting at Torrey Creek Trailhead is the “highway” that takes climbers to the Gannet Peak base camp. A short side trail goes up Downs Creek to the confluence of Grasshopper Creek. From the trailhead another maintained trail goes to Ross Lake. To explore the region, you travel cross country but seldom “bushwhack” as there are abundant game trails and some fair use-trails. The rock is not the clean gneiss of the southern Wind Rivers, but darker, lumpier, more ominous looking. There have been numerous forest fires and deadfall due to bark beetle damage which make travel very difficult if you miss the “trails” the cleaver elk and moose have made. The Dinwoody, the Downs Fork, East and West Torrey Creek all can be very difficult to cross early season; the following route is a late season route. 2012 was an exceptionally dry year with low snow pack. Grizzly bears roam the area so bear canisters and bear spray are recommended. Having extensively traveled this are previously, I hiked this route solo, but it is really not an appropriate solo route or first Wind River Route. You need to be an excellent navigator and trail sleuth/game tracker to find the easiest paths. Some class 3 exposed scrambling is required. Some of the route is weather dependent, however, if you get up early and squeeze between storms and “make hay” when the sun shines you should be able to complete the route even with a few weather days. The route completed was not as planned; it was adjusted to trail closures and weather.
8/07 Day 1. Torrey Creek TH to Bomber Canyon. 5.2 miles/+1990 ft./3.0 hrs.
The air was filled with smoke from forest fires as I drove to Dubois. A stop at the Forest Service office revealed that the Whisky Mountain trail was closed due to grizzly activity. Some unfortunate cows had wandered up the trail and the grizzlies were feasting on them. Not even on the trail, I adjusted to “Plan B” entering Bomber Creek. After a horrible lunch in town I drove to the Torrey Creek trailhead on a thankfully much improved road since my last trip. By the time I started up the trail at 1:15 it was hot as hell and the smoke thick. 2012 was an unusually dry year leaving dusty trails, droopy dry flowers and parched grasses in the meadows. My first rest break was at the south end of the large meadow at 8,500 feet elevation. Continuing on the use-trail up Bomber Creek, walking was mostly easy with a few sections of deadfall. I spotted several nice established campsites along the way but decided to keep walking as long as I could. The trail goes through thick timber that has unfortunately been marred by bark beetle kill. The steep uphill section and heat sapped my energy by the time I reached the top of Bomber Falls; enthusiasm was at a low point. At 5PM I set up my tent on a rock bench just above the creek, and unbeknownst to me, just before the burned wreckage of the 2006 fire. It was peaceful by the creek, the water gently flowing. By 7PM the sun dropped below the canyon wall and I was too tired to force myself to stay up until dark. Puffy clouds produced a few sprinkles. On my last trip I was amazed at how long my little I-Pod Shuffle lasted on one recharge, so now I allowed myself an hour of music every night! Surprisingly, I met nobody even though I was on a major trail for half the time. Between the grizzly alert and the smoky skies, many people just stayed home.
8/08 Day 2. Bomber Canyon to Bomber Lake. 7.0 miles, including 4.4 day-hikes/+1360 ft./7.0 hrs.
The night was very warm. I was up at 6AM under smoky overcast skies and started hiking at 7:30, immediately entering the devastated 2006 burned area where the trail has been obliterated. At first it was not bad, but became more difficult. I knew there was a use-trail on the other side, but could not find a suitable river crossing; I was just too lazy to wade! I had been up this canyon in the 1990’s when it was filled with a lush green forest. Now only ghost trees were remaining.
I totally misjudged the distance I would have to go over tedious talus by staying on the south side. The route through the boulders kept pushing me farther up into even more hideous talus. Finally I was able to return to the creek, only to find that travel along the creek also had its very difficult parts. At one point I had to lift my pack up a rock cliff to continue. The creek became a waterfall and crossing with my heavy pack was not something I relished. Just at the end, travel became easier and I arrived at the south shoreline established campsites at 11AM.
It was too late in the day to go over Goat Flat to Downs Lake. A family walked by – they too had been “tricked” by the burn and ended up missing the crossing and trail. After washing clothes, I went back down the creek, crossed and found the trail which was a fine easy-to-follow and well used! From the meadow where I failed to find the crossing, I returned to Bomber Lake crossing the outlet on logs. After a brief rest and bath I decided to hike up to Turquoise Lake since sitting at Bomber Lake was getting boring. I found a less than easy to follow use-trail nearly all the way. Unfortunately lighting was terrible for photos. Turquoise Lake must be photographed early morning. I cooked dinner, took another bath and scouted for the best route up to the gully that leads to Goat Flat.
8/09 Day 3. Bomber Lake to Mile Long Lake. 8.4 miles, including 5.3 day-hikes/+1880 ft./8.5 hrs.
I awoke to fairly clear skies. Assuming the dark bank of haze to the west was smoke, I headed up towards Goat Flat. After about 100 feet of ascent I realized the dark sky was not smoke but black clouds roaring in from the west, precluding a safe journey over Goat Flat. Should I retreat back to the campsite and wait a day? I just could not tolerate a do-nothing day so changed plans, reluctantly descending and heading to Mile Long Lake to explore the less weather dependent “northern” part of my original route. Looks like I was now on “Plan C”.
It spit rain off and on all day. Every time it cleared, I wished I had gone over Goat Flat and every time it got nasty I was glad I did not! Overcast conditions added to the gloom. I passed under Spider Peak, again disappointed with the poor lighting. I looked for a good route into the hidden valley behind Spider Peak but hit a cliff deciding the gray-day photos would not be worth the effort. I had explored this hidden valley in the 1980’s failing to get a good photo that time. I traversed past another lake and reached the outlet of Mile Long Lake, when the sun finally peaked out. If I were brave I may have been able to jump rocks; I am not brave so I waded across and it was surprisingly deep and swift but thankfully short.
After hiking to the inlet I set up my tent but did not unpack. At noon I headed up to check out a pass to Ram Flat that I had not been over for nearly 40 years. The hike up the valley was very beautiful with a spectacular view of a glacier hanging to the south wall. With careful route finding I stayed mostly on steep grassy slopes by following game trails. The last 400 feet gain to the pass was all talus and I could see enough that I did not go to the top. On the return I tried to ascend an adjacent steep gully leading to Ram Flat, but the top section was too steep to be considered a backpack route forcing a retreat.
I reached my tent just in time to jump in the lake for a quick bath as rain began to fall. After waiting in the tent the rain stopped at 4PM and I returned to the outlet where there was better camping. Rain began again as I remembered that the garbage bag was still under a rock at the lake inlet; I walked back and retrieved it, getting soaked by the rain. Returning I was exhausted and mighty happy to sit down and cook dinner in a dry spot under trees. At 8PM the rain ended and the pesky mosquitoes of dusk buzzed so I called it a day.
Night began overcast, warm and without breath of wind. From 10PM to 11:30 an intense storm rolled through with lightning and close claps of thunder. I was glad to have moved to a well-protected campsite. Sadly, as I later learned, this storm started the Alpine Lake fire to the south, a fire on the Reservation that spewed smoke into the air for remainder of the trip. (As of Sept 22 the fire had burned over 50,000 acres.) I slept poorly all night as the waves loudly slapped the shore of the lake. I should have used ear plugs.
8/10 Day 4. Day hike to Ross Lakes. 6.2 miles/+1820 ft./8.5 hrs.
With smoky haze, overcast conditions, and thick clouds in the east photography was compromised. I debated whether to haul the pack down to Ross Lake to camp or take a day hike. I chose the latter and was mighty glad by the end of the day! This was my third and last trip of 2012 and for the first time in 32 days I camped at the same site two nights in a row! It took an hour to reach the inlet and two more hours to reach the outlet. The inlet area of Upper Ross Lake is “moose city”. I saw lots of tracks and droppings but thankfully did not run into a moose. I had been here previously when it was very soggy and swampy and spent the night on the only dry spot being harassed by a moose; this year it was nearly dry.
There is no easy way around Upper Ross Lake. Starting on the off-and-on difficult-to-find use-trail by mid-shore I lost it and bashed through a lot of brush, vowing to be more diligent about staying on the trail on the return. Reaching the outlet it still was overcast and hazy, resulting in more gloomy photos. There were logs across the outlet creek but it looked very difficult so I did not go further.
On the return I stayed high and traversed to Crystal Lake, pretty much following a game trail all the way up. The hidden cirque was quite scenic and the clouds began to lift and a bit of hazy sunshine peeked through. Unfortunately my photos do not do it justice. I dropped down and picked up the use-trail as it hugged the edge of a tall cliff. The trail is quite improbable- including a short cliff to ascend that requires some rock climbing. The narrow path traverses on top of cliffs with sheer drops to the water. At one point I went up too high and had to come down. The little used trail basically stays quite close to the shoreline and deadfall makes it hard to follow. Weather improved as the day went on and I was pleased with cheerier afternoon photos.
Back at my camp by 2PM, I washed clothes, took a bath and finally ate lunch at 3PM. In spite of my early return I was very tired. I think that the previous day had worn me out! I wanted to photograph the lower Ross Lake butt as tired as I was when I returned to camp, I realized not try to go the extra two miles was a wise decision. I went to bed embarrassingly early. It rained and drizzled all night.
8/11 Day 5. Mile Long Lake to Downs Lake. 8.4 miles/+2910 ft./7.6 hrs.
I awoke at 6AM, unzipped the tent fly, and there was a moose staring at me. I instinctively yelled at it and it ran off and then kicked myself for not taking a photo first. I measured the distance from the moose footprint to my tent and it was 20 feet! I took down the tent as the clouds built, became anxious about the weather but resigned myself to the possibility that I may still have to sit out weather at Bomber Lake. This time I dropped down to the meadow below Mile Long Lake and crossed, inadvertently choosing a spot where numerous braids of the stream were hidden in the willows. Luckily there were nice game trails and long grassy slots that led all the way back to Bomber Lake. This return route was much easier than the route I took traversing high to Mile Long Lake.
I arrived at 9:45AM and the clouds were lifting so decided to “go for it”. I headed up the 1,600 foot gully to Goat Flat, luckily finding a good game trail all the way up reaching the edge of the plateau by 11:30. I was happy to find a small stream in the gully from which I gorged on water. It became very windy and huge threating clouds were now on my back as it started to snow. Anxious about the weather and with the fierce cold wind blowing, instead of stopping to get bearings I bolted off over the plateau. I now have crossed Goat Flat three times and each one I got turned around! The plan was traverse the rim above Florence Lake. Soon I was so disoriented that I simply turned around and followed the high points knowing I would eventually get to the edge that dropped off into Downs Lake. One false high point lead to another and it seemed I walked forever before I reached the edge. I walked the extra half mile to the edge just be sure I was in the proper gully before descending from Goat Flat. I was relieved to find the “oasis”, a lush little bench at 11,700 feet fed by snowmelt where I had camped in the 1980’s to avoid mosquitoes at Downs Lake. Mountain sheep droppings were abundant and the sheep have made a nice trail down the headwall into a lower lush unnamed valley east of Downs Lake.
I reached the outlet of Downs Lake at 3PM, had just set my pack down when three young handsome fellows came by carrying a huge spotting scope. They were hunting guides trying to find the mountain sheep since hunting season started in four days. They and their horses were camped at the lower end of the unnamed valley. These three jeans clad cowboys spurs and all were as surprised to see me, an old lady, as I was to see them! I swear two were twins with the bluest eyes I have ever seen. The weather had improved but a cold wind still blew and puffy clouds remained. The storm had blown out the smoke and for the first time of the trip I was able to take better photographs.
I found a hidden spot in the outlet steam to take a bath, hiding from the spotting scope, just in case. My campsite was tight – well protected in the scrub timber but little room to move around. Shadows hit the site by 6PM so I cooked an early dinner. It was a great day and I was so relieved to be over Goat Flat. For the next few days my route could handle poor weather, although I hoped for good. Downs Lake is one of my favorite places in the Wind Rivers and I was soaking in all its glory. I rewarded myself with an hour and half of music! I slept poorly for no reason.
8/12 Day 6. Downs Lake to Grasshopper Creek. 3.8 miles/+1185 ft./5.75 hrs.
I made a point to get up for early morning photography; when on the east side of the Wind Rivers, sunrise provides the best lighting. I left at 7:45 and decided to try to go directly down to Twin Lakes instead of backtracking to the use trail. This certainly did not save any time! I was able to follow game trails but encountered serious bushwhacking in a few places and waded across several branches of the inlet stream and then waded across another stream. Going was rough and although I followed a game trail to the small ridge dividing Twin Lakes and Molar Lake, it was not an easy route. The topographic map did not seem correct with a few minor streams erroneously located. On the south side of the ridge I waded across the inlet stream to Molar Lake only to have to re-wade closer to the inlet. Luckily I could hop across rocks downstream of an ugly log jam at the outlet. I saw fish in Twin Lakes but no sign of fish in Molar Lake.
I angled up the steep south slopes of Molar Lake, dropped to the inlet to get water, and stumbled upon an absolutely amazing elk trail. The terrain is so rough that I am not sure how I would have made it without this trail. I followed fresh tracks, ran into three elk at a tiny pond barely shown on the map. From the pond I climbed a gully adjacent to a cliff to a notch, stopped by a huge jumble of downed timber. I scouted and decided that I had to go under the logs. My legs are not as long as the elk’s; they evidently go over it. I took off my pack and dragged it under the logs and squeezed under myself. The drop to Grasshopper Creek was steep but the cleaver elk always found a good route. At the bottom I bashed through low willows to the stream taking a long break and eating lunch. The stream was roaring and milky from the melting Grasshopper Glacier upstream. I tried not to think of the fact that I had to cross this stream to continue my route.
Turning upstream I continued following the elk’s path through willows that were thick and over my head. The trail continued over cliffs and rock slabs, descending steeply to an upper meadow where it ended. I kept going trying to find a higher campsite, but returned to the meadow where the trail ended to camp at wonderful site under trees. It was a hot sunny day so I washed my hair, a mistake I realized once the icy water hit my head! The creek was so milky that I hunted for better drinking water finding a small drip of clear water that came off a cliff near my campsite. It took a few hours but the mosquitoes finally found me. Late afternoon I wandered around taking photos. I hit the sack at 7:30 and put in my ear plugs since the creek was so loud. Stars were out at 10PM.
8/13 Day 7. Grasshopper Creek to Lake 10475. 6.5 miles, including 4.4 day hike/+2200 ft./6.7 hrs.
I awoke at 5:30 to light rain and was so discouraged, going back to sleep another half hour. I decided to get up and cook breakfast no matter what and soon clouds thinned and rain quit. Smoke filled the sky to the northeast. I left for a day-hike at 7:30 hoping to at least get to a point that had a good view of Grasshopper Glacier. An eerie orange glow filled the air and the sun was a bright orange blob on the horizon. It remained hazy all day.
In about half a mile, the creek was pushed up against a cliff and I about gave up. Finally I climbed over the cliff which although very steep with some talus, was not too difficult. From the top I could traverse back to towards the creek. Surprisingly, there were more excellent camp sites and clumps of trees far upstream, near the rocky terminal moraine of the Grasshopper Glacier. I have visited here three times; the late 1960’s, the early 1990’s and now. The glacier has melted back significantly and what was once a pleasant snowy route up the Glacier was now blocked by tedious moraine.
Above the moraine, on the north side hill, grassy ramps continued almost all the way to the unnamed lake at 11,700 feet north of the Grasshopper Glacier. This would be the route one would take to gain the broad saddle on the Continental Divide east of the Connie Glacier. The snowfield directly below Baker Lake was icy and steep, confirming that this would not be a short-cut up to Baker Lake. When grassy slopes ended I had to ascend a short section of steep rocky scree before reaching the bleak lake at 11,600 feet elevation with marginal camp sites. I took a few quick photos, ate a snack and returned to camp at 11:15. I could not get a good photo of the Grasshopper Glacier due to shooting into the sun and the smoke in the air. It was sad to have personally witnessed the demise of the Grasshopper Glacier.
Although the smoke ruined my photos, it provided a cooler day. The creek was running nearly a foot lower than it had the previous day so I packed up, carefully putting everything inside so if I fell in the water I would not lose gear, and headed back to the point where the elk trail came down to the stream. It took me three tries to find the elk trail through the willows. Grasshopper Creek used to be highly braided and easy to cross. In 2007 a lake on the top of the Grasshopper Glacier melted to the base of the glacier sent a surge of water down the drainage, altering the course of the creek. It was now highly channelized into one narrower but swift deep course with only a few places that remain braided. This was the only spot where the creek braided into four sections. The worst part about crossing was that I could not see the bottom through the milky water. I had been worrying and dreading this crossing for days! I kept on hiking shoes and gaiters; wading shoes simply were not sturdy enough. The first braid was ankle deep and no problem. The second was swift and the most difficult. I nearly lost it half way across the over-the-knee water with cobble bed. The last two braids were mid-calf and swift but easy.
Once across troubles were not over. A cliff first had to be ascended, followed by a traverse of a steep hillside on small grassy ledges to reach the notch and intersect a use-trail that descended to the lower sections of Grasshopper Creek. This was no easy cliff; I had to lower my pack in two places. The traverse was a “fall, you die” exercise. I inched my way along as carefully as I could, breathing a sigh of relief when I reached the notch where a use-trail descended. After a short distance, I left the trail and traversed on numerous game trails to my destination, following fresh elk tracks. I spooked three on the way and spotted the herd (about 25) on the opposite shore of the unnamed lake below my destination, Lake 10,475. They saw me and moved into the trees. I passed a nice campsite but a noisy elk made it clear that I was not welcome and he was not going to move. On I went and found the perfect campsite full of elk droppings, evidence that a few people had camped here.
The lake was deep and the water clear and cold, not like many of the overly warm lakes full of algae that I had seen this summer. I set out my shoes to dry, bathed and lazed in the sunshine; I had not changed into dry clothes since I crossed Grasshopper Creek. Again, I had chosen a campsite that was in the shadows by 6AM. I cooked dinner and reflected on a good day that was long and mentally trying. Having been able to cross Grasshopper Creek, I now only had one more crux to worry about, and I did worry! If I were unable to get around Klondike Lake I would have to backtrack and re-cross Grasshopper Creek. For me, river crossings are the most anxiety generating difficulties of backpacking.
8/14 Day 8. Lake 10475 to Klondike/Dinwoody Confluence. 7.6 miles/+1345 ft./7.5 hrs.
It was so warm at night that I did not sleep well and smoke filled the air when I awoke at 6AM. I left at 7:30 heading for Klondike Lake. I had been up this gully to the lake in the 1990’s on a day-hike. This time I had a full pack. Travel was easy to the first small melt lake at 11,300 feet but a steep lingering snowfield blocking my way up the headwall was a total surprise. To the right I spotted a steep but short slot with a large chock stone, trivial without a pack, but impossible with a pack. I tied my 30-foot bear-hanging line to the pack and hauled it up after me. After a short but dicey traverse over wet slabs I could step onto the flat upper snowfield. Although many routes would work I stayed right, passing a small snowmelt pond, to the top of the ridge. Klondike Lake, one of the largest lakes in the Wind Rivers, is located on a ridge that separates the Downs Fork from the upper Dinwoody Creek that drains the glaciers below Gannett Peak. Again, smoky skies precluded good photos.
After a steep grassy 400-foot descent to the north shoreline of Klondike Lake I almost immediately came to a cliff with a narrow grassy ramp that led up about 80 feet above the sheer cliff to the deep blue lake below. I checked it out and determined it would go and returned for my pack. I carefully ascended - another “fall-you-die” crux. Fortunately there were good hand holds. It looked like one could also traverse much higher over several ledges and cliffs and trade the exposure for a physically harder route. Now it was a simple matter of easy rock hopping to the outlet and great relief knowing I could complete the route.
After crossing the outlet I climbed up the shoulder nearly to another small lake and then descended on a faint game trail to the outlet of Lake 10,860, the highest of a series of small lakes that sit on a bench north of Dinwoody Creek, that I call “Klondike Bench Lakes”. I traversed the bench to the outlet of Lake 10,425 where I had originally planned to camp. Spotting game trail at the outlet and with plenty of daylight remaining, I decided to see if this trail continued all the way down to Dinwoody Creek. The trail followed a little creek not shown on the map. The farther I went the more distinct the trail until cairns soon marked the way. I realized this was the rumored “trail up Klondike Creek”, except it did not go up Klondike Creek! Rather, it traversed to the small creek to the northeast that was a tributary to Klondike Creek. I reached a large established campsite by 1:30.
Stupid me; I thought I could find a better and more scenic campsite two miles upstream at Wilson Meadows. As I stepped off the trail to view a waterfall a pack outfit and two climbers passed on the trail, but they did not see me. When I reached Wilson Meadow the camping was inferior and view uninspiring so I turned around and went back to the campsite on Klondike Creek. By now it was 3:00 and I was beat; should have camped here in the first place and simply day-hiked to Wilson Meadow. I set up the tent for a splendid view out the door, bathed, washed clothes, ate lots of chocolate, drank tea and soaked in the view. I was surprised to see so few people on this very popular trail. The smoke cleared a bit in the evening so I wandered around taking photos.
Elk “whistled” nearby. Other than the smoke, the weather has been good and I wondered when it would “break” and typical Wind River weather would return. An inventory of remaining food revealed three days remaining; trail food was tight and one dinner would have to suffice for breakfast. With plenty of fuel and extra hot drinks, I cranked up the stove and had more hot chocolate. Although purposely set on a windy spot to cool my tent at night, by 8PM the wind died down resulting in another overly warm night. An enjoyable albeit stressful day ended. I now only had to return to my car via a well maintained trail with sufficient supplies allowing a bit of exploring the Dinwoody Lakes and Louise Lake on the West Fork of Torrey Creek.
8/15 Day 9. Klondike Creek to Golden Lake-Dinwoody Lakes. 10.6 miles/+1275 ft./7.5 hrs.
With uncertainties removed, I finally slept well. I awoke at 5:45 to another smoky day and left at 7:30 for a long walk on the Glacier Trail. With the hot dry weather the trail was beat to a fine dust. It did not take me more than an hour to wish I were off-trail again! I spotted elk grazing near the Ink Wells Trail Junction and stopped below Big Meadow to take some photos of the creek as it flows through a narrow slot. Soon I was going through scorched earth from another old burn where the black ghosts of trees stood juxtaposed to bright pink fireweed and lush green grass. I reached the Downs Fork Bridge by 10AM.
As the trail continued down the drainage, four horses came by, bells on their necks ringing, no owners in sight. I moved onto some talus because the curious horses wanted to follow me. Memories of the cows following me Washakie Park and a stray dog following me earlier this summer had me worried; was I now the Pied Piper of the Wind Rivers? As I started to ascend to Dinwoody Lakes, the owners of the horses showed up and asked if I had seen their horses.
It was hellishly hot and I really struggled up the hill. Two groups of four informed me that the smoke was from the Alpine Lakes fire and I was distressed that one of my favorite places in the Wind Rivers was burning up. Finding the short side-trail to Honeymoon Lake, I checked it out and took a photo. Returned to the trail and soon reached Star Lake. West of the string of lakes on the Glacier Trail, is another string of lakes from Florence Lake to Golden Lakes in the upper cirques of the Dinwoody Lakes. I had backpacked through this route before with a companion. The route is rough enough that I did not desire to tackle it solo. Instead I would continue on the trail to Phillips Lake and then off-trail to Golden Lake.
The smoke cleared a bit as I passed Double Lake, happy to get photographs; the last time I was here it was pouring down rain. As I neared the outlet of Philips Lake I heard whoops and hollers – evidently some guys were skinny dipping! Before I ran into them I left the trail and walked through another old burned area, nearly stepping on a poor rabbit on the way to Upper Phillips Lake. There appeared to be two routes to Golden Lake; I chose to ascend adjacent to the outlet. It took some hunting but I found a camp site at 2:45, and a fine site it was! Someone else had camped here before. It had a huge rock for wind shelter, a nice rock bench to sit on and a splendid view. The only problem was in a heavy rain it would get flooded; I decided rain was not likely. Gathering water at the lake tons of fish, all about 2-3 inches long, swam around. Later I found out that the lake had recently been planted with fingerling fish. I walked to the next unnamed higher lake and my legs about refused to move. Lighting and smoke again foiled any photos. Back at camp I resigned myself to just sitting around and eating.
After dinner I heard bleating. A pika popped out of his rock home and perked up his ears too. Then it stopped. I walked down to the lake and sat on a rock and soon saw eight mountain sheep, four closer and four high on a cliff. The four closest were mothers and youngsters. I guessed that the bleating was a little one who got separated from mom or stuck. I watched for a long time and it looked like the mothers were teaching the young ones to rock climb! I slowly moved back to camp and closer to the sheep. They saw me but were not concerned and I was able to get some photos. By now it was 8PM and time to go inside the tent for my hour of music.
8/16 Day 10. Golden Lake to Louise Lake. 12.4 miles/+1770 ft. (4000 ft loss!)/8.5 hrs.
When I awoke and looked out the tent door I was surprised to see fog! Everything was damp. I ate a leisurely breakfast and sat on rocks at the lake taking photos as the fog lifted. I left the tent up to dry and headed to the upper lakes which were very pretty in the morning sunshine. I did not go all the way to Florence Lake, but to the highest- Lake 10943.
Back at camp I packed up and instead of returning to the trail I traversed directly to Glacier Trail Pass. This route was a bit more work with some tricky route-finding but avoided the dusty trail. As I neared the pass I could see a large group on horses coming down, but by the time I reached the pass it was empty. I ate lunch on the pass and then started the several miles of unending switchbacks down the trail meeting two fellows who were going up. The original trail is now used by packers. The “new” trail was constructed when the Forest Service had the idiotic idea that trails needed to have 2% grades. Back and forth I went, never seeming to get anywhere! By the time I reached Bomber Canyon I was hot, tired and ready to stop. Views were minimal and daylight remained; I trudged onward, crossed the Torrey Creek Bridge and at the trail junction to Louise Lake, and could actually see my car in the parking lot! I was so tempted to just go to the car and drive out to a motel!
I was proud of myself for turning uphill and climbing the 600 feet to Louise Lake. Passing a large family of day-hikers a small boy asked me, “how far to the car?” I had to answer “not far” after I had come 260 miles on my summer’s journey! I struggled the last half mile. Too tired to search for a better site, I simply set up camp at a marginal very lumpy spot pretty much in the day-use area. I took a bath but the lake was slimy and someone had dumped fish guts nearby. I walked back to the outlet where the water was running to get drinking water. As I cooked dinner a very bold chipmunk stole my stove burner and I had to chase him to get it back. All during dinner the chipmunk would sneak near and I would try to whack it with my trekking pole. I never was quick enough to hit the pesky rodent. Persistent for nearly an hour, he finally gave up. I happily ducked into the tent, and slept surprisingly well. I guess lumps are like a “pillow top” mattress.
8/17 Day 11. Lake Louise to Torrey Creek Trailhead. 3.0 miles including 0.8 day hike/+280 ft./2.0 hrs.
I slept in, had a leisurely breakfast and packed up. At the outlet I dropped my pack and crossed the logs to hike to the peninsula on the south side of the lake where there were several large established campsites. I took several photos and poked around. The use-trail to this side involves a short class 3 rock climb. I would not like to do it with a pack on but the peninsula was obviously THE place to camp. I wished I had enough energy the previous day to find this superior campsite. As I walked to the trailhead I met two fishermen, who were going to do exactly that- go the best campsite to fish. At the parking lot two groups were getting ready to go up the Glacier Trail to climb Gannett Peak. I was relieved that others were at the trailhead in case my car had problems. Last time I was here my car had a flat tire, but this time thankfully the dusty car started just fine and all tires were full of air. The last leg of my 2012 summer’s journey through the Wind River Mountains ended.
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