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[cdt-l] Wandering in the Winds...a trip report



The Wind River Range of Wyoming is considered by many
to be one of the most scenic ranges in the 
Lower 48. Sharp, pointed peaks. Remote valleys. Ridge
lines on the Continental Divide. Instense 
beauty that reminds us why we go into the mountains.
The weekend did not start of well. Went by the grocery
store for some last minute, car ride  supplies: A
gallon of OJ, Dayqul and cough drops. The clerk took
one look at me with my watery eyes, red nose and
basket full of supplies and said "Guess I don't have
to ask how you are doing". Yes, I had a good old
fashion head cold. Just in time for hiking in the
mountains! The smart plan would be to rest up, relax
the entire weekend and get rid of the cold. But no one
ever accused me of being smart. Besides, give up a
long weekend to drink herbal tea and watch bad TV? I
think not!

In any case, was picked up Thursday afternoon (with
cough medicine in hand) and three of us made our 
way to points north. Once Fort Collins, CO was left
behind, the character of Colorado changes. 
Physically, it is more arid. Dramatic red-sandstone
outcroppings can be seen from the road. But the 
real change is the "feel" of the state. The sprawl of
the Front Range is left behind. The feel is 
more rural and isolated. It is almost as if the
Wyoming border should be moved further south than it 
is on the map. 

After much driving (including passing the both parts
of the divide along the Great Divide Basin on 
I-80 AND 30 miles of dirt road travel) we made it to
our destination...at 1:30 AM! By this point, 
went through about 2 packs of Pocket Kleenex.  Awoke
in the morningm had a big breakfast and the 
nearby Sandy Lake Lodge (a place that hold packages
for people hiking the nearby CDT) and made it to 
the trailhead.  The trail lead to the "Cirque of the
Towers".  A dramatic area known for climbing, 
but also for some exqusite hiking. At the trailhead I
heard a loud "MAGS!", and not from my Boulder 
friends.  Looked over and saw Wild Child of PCT 2002!
Last time I saw him was in Kennedy Meadows as 
all of us were preparing to tackle the High Sierras.
His ZZ Top-esqe beard was considerably shorter, 
but otherwise looked the same. Wild Child pointed out
a person at the trail head bullentin board. In 
my best sarcastic voice said "Sheesh, can't go
anyplace without seeing hiker trash".  Friendly Bear 
looked over at quizically when a light-bulb went on
over his head. He recongnized me sans my thick, 
black beard (and dirty clothes). We hadn't seen each
since Washington. A mini-PCT re-union 
commenced, much to the bewilderment of my Boulder
friends. They know of the long distance hiking 
scene because of me, but were perplexed as the three
of us started speaking "hiker trash" :-).
As my friend Rom said right then: "It's a different
world". Yes, indeed.

In any case, cruised down the Sandy Beack Lake trail
to the lake. Soaked up the views of the divide 
shimmering on the lake. After the lake, the climb
began in earnest. Scrambled up some deep switch 
backs, made it to Arrowhead lake, scrambled up the
"climbers" route to avoid the aptly named JAckass 
Pass. By this point, clouds had appeared and it was
raining heavily. Needless to say, the rock 
scrambling became interesting...  Made it to the
meadow we were to camp and looked at the towers 
that gave this area its name. The clouds among the
peaks made it look like the scene from Fantasia 
with the mountain residing demon that over looks the
valley. Instead of demons coming from the 
mountain, had the more prosaic problem of dealing with
cold rain. Set up my tarp, threw down my bag, 
and took a nap. To wrap up this day, I slept, cooked
dinner, bear bagged my food, slept. I woke up 
in the middle of the night and did not hear any
rain...instead I noticed it was snowing. Nothing 
like a change of pace!

Woke up to 3" of snow, and more still coming in wet,
large globs. Went back to sleep and thoroughly 
enjoyed a day of doing nothing. No agenda, no
schedule, just sleep and get over my cold. Odd weather

to get better in..but there it is. During the course
of the night, woke up and saw stars. The less 
than ideal weather appeared to have gone away. In the
morning, seemed the whole valley was doing the 
"YAY! THE SUN IS OUT!" dance. Many sleeping bags,
shells and tents were set to dry out on the rocks. 

With the nice weather, and lessened effects of a cold,
was ready to do some hiking. And was I ready! 
The views of where we were camped was nothing short of
awe inspring. With the recent snow the 
mountains sparkled in the sun. 

Took off down to the Lonesome Lake and then climbed up
to an above treeline ridge.  Everywhere we 
looked, another range of incredible mountains to see.
Even saw glaciers. And, unlike most of 
Colorado, several large mountain lakes.  The mountain
tundra is its own world. Where views stretch 
forever and is everything is that much more intense.
Had a splendid day on the ridge, made it back 
to camp at about 7PM, ate dinner and enjoyed the stars
with a bit more leisure. Crawled in my bag 
under the night time sky. 

The following day, hike out in more glorious weather.
Took a last look at the Continental Divide (in 
the winds, anyway) and headed back to Colorado. On the
drive back, saw during the day what was 
missed at night. Out of the mountains, Wyoming is an
arid state. With the brown-green grassland, the 
antelope grazing, wide open spaces and seeing as far
as the eye can see, it looked like a 
quintesential western scene. We again crossed the
divide on I80. I must say, this part of Wyo looks 
to be an interesting hike to say the least!  Made a
point of taking my pic by the divide sign just 
west of Rawlins on I-80. We then made a gas stop in
Rawlins. A (and I use this term VERY LOOSELY 
concerning the CDT), trail town. As I looked out from
the highway, can't help but think how 
different this part of the divide, with grass lands
and antelope,  is from the divide further north.

My first time this far north in Wyoming. Stunning
experience. And being on the divide? Well, can't 
help but get excited for next year.

Pics can be seen at:
http://gallery.backcountry.net/winds03

Mags



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The true harvest of my life is intangible.... a little stardust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched
--Thoreau

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