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[pct-l] re:the Wind Rivers trip

Howdy, all,

My brother and I returned last Tuesday (Aug 18) from our trip to the Wind
River Range in NW Wyoming. Sherry, I read all your reports. Well done! I
can relate to your accomplishments! What follows is a short report of the
trip my brother and I did. Sorry about the length of the report.

Alan and I arrived at the Eklhart Park trailhead for Pole Creek on Sunday,
Aug 9, about 3:30 pm, and departed about 4:30. An hour and forty minutes
later, we arrived at Miller Lake, about 3.5 miles away and found a
campsite up in the rocks about five hundred feet from the lake. There was
only one other party at the lake, across from us. I'm not sure of the
altitude here; I think Elkhart Park is at about 9400 feet. Miller Lake may
be another few hundred feet higher.

At any rate, I didn't train at all for this trip. I usually try to get in
three days a week for six to eight weeks before a trip with fast walking
with a loaded pack on to build legs and lungs, but... I paid for my
laziness during this trip.

We made Hobbs Lake the second day (Aug 10) in short order, after spending
an hour at Photographer's Point expending a dozen frames, an hour at
Eklund Lake trying to catch some trout for a late-morning breakfast, etc.
I wish we had spent more time at tiny Barbara Lake as it is a very
beautiful little lake. We were successful at catching some trout at Hobbs,
which we promptly ate. Delicious. From Hobbs, Fremont and Jackson peaks,
as well as Elephant Head and Faler, are quite prominent, and we spent
hours relaxing in our backpacking chairs staring at the scenery. Hobbs
Lake would be the last lake which we shared with another party for the

The third day we progressed past Seneca and Little Seneca Lake, and a
tiny, little unnamed lake before heading up the Highline Trail (and a low
but steep pass with several switchbacks. As Sherry has already related,
trails in the Winds tend to go up and down in short steep sections, and if
you come from low altitude areas like the Midwest (I hail from Missouri),
a lack of training can be telling in the Winds. Once we topped the pass, I
was astounded at the scene. Laboring up toward the pass, all I could see
were rocks, dusty trail and blue sky. Then, wonder! the range opens up --
Henderson, Great Needle, Titcomb Needles, Sacajawea, Fremont, Jackson,
Elephant Head, Faler! We made camp at a small unnamed lake about a mile
from Fremont Crossing. This night and every night after we had an entire
lake to ourselves.

Fourth day we only made six miles and it took us five hours. After
crossing the Fremont, we steadily gained altitude in an up-and-down
fashion until we arrived at a point just below Shannon Pass and above
Elbow Lake. We reached our highest altitude for this trip (11,200). We had
passed Lower and Upper Jean Lakes and another small unnamed lake. At one
point between the two Jean Lakes, we had a choice--walk in the lake or
across a small slushy snowbank. We chose the snowbank. The west side of
the peaks that made up Titcomb Basin approached and then receded along our
right shoulders. The sunlight was fierce; it was about this time that I
noticed that I had a severe sunburn on my neck. I wore a broad-brimmed
hat, but my attention to the rocky trail had exposed my neck to the sun's
ray's over the last few days. Having forgotten my bandana, I used the tent
pole bag to shield my neck for the next few days. Let me tell you, slick
nylon is sweaty! The mosquitos at Elbow Lake were plentiful and voracious.
The basin that holds Elbow Lake is heavily glaciated and somewhat marshy,
so we made camp about two-hundred feet above the lake in a small grassy
patch in a crop of boulders. Forget the fishing! We couldn't stand the
mosquitos. Even up high, we had to sit in the wind in an exposed area or
be eaten alive. The mosquitos would try to settle into an area of least
turbulence behind you (if you faced the wind, as we did) and wait for the
wind to die down then land quickly and feed! DEET seemed to have little
deterrence value. The scenery was superb, though.

Fifth day we proceeded to a lower altitude, making real time even with the
ups and downs of the trail, passing Summit Lake (where the black flies
were atrocious!), leaving the Highline Trail, and heading down the Pine
Creek Canyon Trail. We made an early camp at Heart Lake which is just a
short climb up from the trail that passes by Gottfried Lake. I hung the
food, then fished all afternoon, walking around Heart Lake for the next
few hours. No luck fishing. I rigged the water bag and took a luxurious,
if cold, shower up in the woods. The sunset, as usual, was gorgeous.

The sixth day was a long one, seven and a half miles, but we again made
good time. From Heart Lake we proceeded to Glimpse Lake, making five miles
in two hours. Since by that time, it was only mid-morning and we still
seemed fairly fresh, we decided to drop down from Crows Nest Lookout (9400
feet) to Long Lake (7875 feet). I had done this trail back in 1979 and
remembered it as a steep but fairly good trail. Not so this time around. 
One drops 1800 feet (to about 7600 feet at Pine Creek) in just a little
over a mile, then in the last mile climb back up to 7875 feet at Long
Lake. It took us two hours to do the two miles, most of which was spent in
the first mile drop. The trail obviously had not been maintained for quite
a while. Trees were down over the trail at places. The trail wound out to
nothing at times and backtracking back uphill was necessary to find the
main tread again. Sometimes the path was so thin and the slope so steep
that I would plunge my walking stick over the side of the trail onto the
slope below. The trail was overgrown, sometimes by aspen saplings that may
have been five or more years old. In some steep places, the rubble
underneath would act like marbles, causing a slide or a tumble. It was a
trail from hell. By the time we reached Long Lake it was all I could do to
pump and quaff a liter of water, roll my inflatable pad out in the shade
and collapse. My brother drank some water, set up his chair and just sat
there for a while.

At any rate, we pitched camp and again had the lake to ourselves that
evening. I spoke to a young man who had hiked in from another trailhead
with his dad and grandpa for some afternoon fishing, but that was it for
company. When they departed, we were alone.

Seventh day, we got up early to beat the heat and climbed the last two
miles up to Elkhart Park (another steep trail, but this time, better
maintained). Only met one party of three heading in. It was good to get
back to the car. Even though it was early in the morning, there was one
beer floating in cold water in the ice chest, and my brother and I split
it between us. So-o-o-o good! We went down to the public restrooms in
Pinedale, cleaned up a little, put on fresh clothes, and departed for Rock
Springs where we got a motel. Then it was time for laundry, really serious
showering and scrubbing, more clean clothes and a decent,
restaurant-served meal (Try the 16 oz. steak-lover's sirloin at the Golden
Corral with salad bar for serious gut-stuffing; they almost had to trundle
me out to the car in a wheelbarrow!).

Got up early the next morning and were on the road by eight o'clock. 
Pulled into the Libby Creek trailhead area in the Medicine Bows about one
pm.  We had tried to traverse a dirt road down to Bear Lake, but after a
mile-and-seven-tenths of crawl speed in my little Olds 4-cylinder, we had
to turn back when we encountered a puddle of gargantuan size (to me). Not
wanting a real workout, we packed light packs up to Lower Gap Lake a mile
away and made camp. Met one kid from Alpine, Wyo, just down the road and
he warned me about lightning danger. There's very little cover and it
seems that two people were hit the week before. My brother and I split up
and explored a little. Lakes all over, like beads in a necklace. Pretty,
bare alpine terrain. Good trails. We had the lake to ourselves again.

Well, that's it. I was physically challenged, and the solitude was
refreshing to my spirit. The trip back across Nebraska was uneventful and
quick (speed limit 75; cruise set on 82), and the drive down through the
west side of Missouri was the same, but with trees. This was my third time
to the Wind River range. Each time there I am amazed at the beauty of the
place, and am surprised at the lack of people. I always hear and read that
the the Wind Rivers are crowded, but my experience does not seem to bear
that out. I do see people along the trails, but they must have different
destinations than I do, because I don't see them at the places I camp. At
any rate, even though I love the place, I'm going to put them away for a
while, and try something new out west next time I go.

The definition of happiness is a personal thing, but... Happy Trails,

Craig W. Smith      FAX: (417) 873-7432
Associate Librarian      Phone:    (417) 873-7339
F. W. Olin Library       E-mail:   csmith@lib.drury.edu
Drury College
Springfield, MO 65802

"O Solitude! If I must with thee dwell, let it not be among the jumbled
heaps of murky buildings--Climb with me the steep, Nature's

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