Aug 9, 2012 at 8:56 pm #1292832
Six nights of backpacking in The Wind River Range of Wyoming. Beautiful. Wonderful. Magical.
I seen another world. Sometimes I think it was just my imagination. — Pvt Witt, THIN RED LINE
My life from 1997 until the present time has always been defined by what long journey I will take next. Socking away money and time until my goals are achieved and I can take off and hike for weeks or months at a time. Working jobs in IT between hikes to save more money. And repeating.
Over time, the job has become a career. I have met someone, my life is shared and our goals do not just reflect my interests alone
The long journeys I took on foot almost seem like a different life.
Walking along The Great Divide. Seeing the Range of Light. Walking on the ancient hills and deep woods of the East. And more.
Memories and experiences that have shaped my life but almost seem as if it was not me who has lived them.
Upgrading a server, activating accounts and troubleshooting networking issues seem far removed from that past life.
I am working on a plan that balances a career with several weeks out at a time…but for now I dream and relish of those past times while enjoying my current life. Weekends spent backcountry skiing, climbing or backpacking. Sometime solo, sometimes with friends and sometimes with Adrianna. Every time is enjoyable and enriches my life.
Where if I am not out for months at a time, I am still blessed to make the outdoor pilgrimages that are an important and frequent part of my life.
And it is a life where every year I take a week long journey into the backcountry solo.
Last year it was the San Juans.
The Wind River Range, aka "The Winds", would be my destination.
Sharp glaciated peaks, large alpine lakes and long approaches deep into the mountains for a true wilderness experience.
The Winds are my favorite mountains in the American Rockies.
And a place I always long to return….
The trip this year started with leaving work on Friday afternoon and making the drive to Pinedale, WY and the Elkhart Park Trailhead. After a few hours of driving, did a truck bivvy and was prepared for an early start in the morning.
Morning came. The pack came on and off into The Winds I went.
Started off on the wooded, partially non-maintained and little used Pine Creek Trail.
The area was not of the dramatic vistas just to the north and east, but rather rolling terrain with deep woods and quiet lakes. A relaxing way to begin my small journey.
My first morning in camp had me greeted by one of the local residents of the area:
The next stage of the trip involved hiking off-trail from the Summit Lake area to Lozier Lakes.
Though perhaps only 10 miles total between the sections, this stretch of hiking had up and downs all day through rugged terrain.
Terrain full of many large alpine lakes with no names, amazing views and having it all to myself.
The day ended back on trail and the equally quiet Lozier Lakes.
The journey continued on quiet, unused trail. The wildflowers were profuse and gave the landscape spots of color mixed in with the bright greens, glaring whites and various shades of gray found in the surrounding mountains and trees.
Headed over to Pocurpine Pass and down to the Green River Lakes.
More people were seen along with the famous view of the lakes and Square Top Mountain.
The climbing was steady from this point. I also gradually passed more backpackers.
Near the top of the climb, I turned off onto the Vista Trail and made camp just below Peak Lake.
The alpenglow was phenomenal.
Early following day, left the non-maintained trail at Peak Lake and headed up stream to Knapsack Col.
I was now hiking along one of the furthest sources of the Green (and ultimately the Colorado) River.
At the top of Knapsack Col, the sun started peaking out.
I arrived there and did not want to leave.
THIS was the mountains in its raw and untamed form. Glaciers around me, lakes below and sharp jagged peaks beckoning to be climbed at some future point.
Sitting at the top and looking down was the place where I wanted to be.
Call it Zen. Or Tao. Or just 'being'.
But nothing was better in the world right now than sipping on some Emergen-C, eating Turkey sticks with cheese and enjoying what was around me.
Eventually I made way down into Titcomb Basin.
My solitude was over. Groups of people were seen at their campsites, getting ready to climb Gannet or scramble Fremont the following day.
At the turn off for Indian Pass, I was tempted to spend another day in the backcountry. A group of about a dozen backpackers heading up in the same direction changed my mind. On a future trip, I'll make base camp, scramble up Fremont with Adrianna and exhilarate in being in one gorgeous spot and knowing it intimately.
But it was not that kind of trip this time.
Instead, I wanted to continue to be in my own thoughts.
My last night was overlooking Island Lake and was not in a spot that seemed to be used much.
The view towards evening was a fitting end to my last night in The Winds.
The following morning, I moved out early.
The alpine terrain gave way to taller and thicker pines. The pines gave way to more aspen. And the aspen started having sage mixed in.
My time in The Winds was almost over.
One last view was taken in and enjoyed.
Arrived back at the car and fished a (relatively) cold Coke from the cooler, sat down and already started to process the trip.
There is a reason why I love The Winds.
And a reason why I always want to return.
This trip was one of the reasons why.
Aug 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm #1901571
- The Route – I made a loop starting and ending at the Elkhart Park Trailhead just outside of Pinedale. Unlike many TH's in The Winds, this trailhead is off a paved road and easy to reach. Next to the Big Sandy TH for the Cirque of the Towers, it is probably the most popular TH. Seems like most of the the traffic is to the Titcomb Lakes/ Island Lake area however.
- Mileage – I don't know…don't care much either. ;) Just wanted to walk, wander and explore. Only had a vague loop in mind and I made it up on the fly. It felt like 70-ish. This trip was done in lollygag mode on purpose and with two days off-trail hiking thrown in for fun.
- Maps – The Earthwalk Press Maps for the Wind River Range were very good for general navigation and planning. For more detailed off-route hiking, 7.5 quads are always good. This link lets you print out free USGS maps for a specific area (e.g. Knapsack Col) Finally, I did not use this book but others have suggested it for more ideas that are off trail: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming: Off-Trail Routes for the Advanced Backpacker Comes with a CD for printing out maps, too. I just may have to pick up a copy….
- Noshin' in Town – The Wind River Brewing Company in Pinedale features a delicious amber than can be enjoyed quite nicely on the new outside deck. The sweet potato fries with blue cheese crumbles, bacon and the house dipping sauce were tasty and reminded me of a distant cousin of poutine.
@simauliusLocale: Bohemian Alps
Thanks for sharing the pure magic of The Winds.
Steven M.Aug 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm #1901572
Once again i am totally stunned by your photography!
Awesome trip and Thanks for sharing.
Alone time in wild country does the trick.Aug 10, 2012 at 9:56 am #1901649
Fantastic. I've never been to the Winds and am going next month. This will make the wait seem even longer. :)
Question: I'm only a point a shoot picture taker (I won't even say photographer). What is it about a particular scene that makes you think "This should be in black and white?"Aug 10, 2012 at 11:05 am #1901669
Thanks for the kind words. The Winds are my favorite range in American Rockies…possibly even in the US. (Now those Canadian Rockies I went to once…. :D)
Don't know if I am really a photographer either. :D I know so little about the technical side of things. Kinda shoot photos the way I cook: By feeling, experience and having a hunch on what may work.
Having said that….
When the day is overcast and/or the scenery is predominantly in shades of gray/brown/white to begin with, I find that B&W (or sepia) work really well for highlight the rock,ice and snow.
Most of my winter photos are in B&W for this reason.
With photo editing software, it is really easy to make color and B&W copies of scenes to compare and contrast.
Ultimately, it is just an aesthetic issue. I find that what can be a pretty, but nothing special, scene looks more
dramatic when in this format. The B&W photos bring out the richness and subtlety in some scenes.
Here's some photos from the Pawnee Buttes :
The first image is in color. I think it looks nice:
But I think my second photo is more dramatic even though they are both the same photo:
All personal preference. Adrianna does not like the B&W photos as much and prefers it when I hang my color photos instead. I sneak in some B&W photos anyway. :DAug 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm #1901792
Beautiful photos and great trip report! Did you go out solo? I like that you didn't really care about jotting down mileage but just wanted to get out and "walk". It's inspiring me to plan another backpacking trip, hopefully to see some fall colors.Aug 12, 2012 at 5:26 pm #1902107
Glad you enjoyed the trip.
It was indeed solo. Not many people would put up with me for a week…. ;-)Aug 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm #1902121
@davidadairLocale: West Dakota
A great looking trip with lots of first rate photos to enjoy. Thanks much for the TR!Aug 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm #1902176
@glacierramblerLocale: NW Montana
Great reminder of what backpacking is all about–the beauty and the wilds. Not the mileage and the gear. Funny how much a difference experience makes.Aug 12, 2012 at 9:10 pm #1902181
Though I tend to go minimalist in my gear (varies and depends on trip), it really is never the focus for me.
I look at gear as a tool and the means to an end, not the end itself.
To use another cooking analogy, my Grandmother was an amazing cook. Loved the meals, but never once thought to ask her what brand of knife and pot she used to make said meal (gear) but was interested in how she made the meal (maps to use and TH info).Aug 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm #1902182
Nice one Paul.Aug 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm #1902183
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Wonderful report! The Winds are my favorite mountain range, too! I had to cancel my trip once again this year (plantar fasciitis this time) but I hope that my dog and I can finally make it back next year. In the meantime, I feast on reports like yours. Thank you!Aug 13, 2012 at 9:54 am #1902298
Thanks for the info on the B&W pics and the example. The example really cleared it up for me.
BTW, did you carry bear spray? I've read that grizzlies are being sighted more often in the southern Winds. I'm planning on doing loop #8 out of the Pallister book. It starts at Sweetwater TH and goes as far north as the Cirque of the Towers.
How about you Mary? Do you carry bear spray in the southern Winds?Aug 13, 2012 at 11:05 am #1902319
I did not take bear spray. Nor did I take it with me when Idid the CDT solo.
I did not cook and sleep in the same place and did not use any popular camp sites. YMMV.
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