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  • Wind River Range Hiking Adventure

    Friday, August 28, 2015   /   by Jeff Ross

    Wind River Range Hiking Adventure

    by Jeff Ross

    Wind River Hike, August 2015

    Wind River Range

    On a clear Saturday morning Jack my hiking partner and I leave Flagstaff, driving 725 miles north to the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Some 12 ½ hours later we are pulling into Farson, Wyoming, just 50 miles from the trailhead. Our stop for the evening is the Sitzman’s Motel a great little 5 room 1970’s era well-kept hotel.  What is in Farson, the ‘world famous’ Farson Mercantile Sandwich Shop with the largest ice cream cones ever.

    The next morning we hit the road for the last 50 miles, all gravel through sprawling rangeland. Three hours later we are at the trailhead, with packs ready go to we hit the trails for our short 5 miles hike to Big Sandy Lake.Wind River Range

    Right off the bat, we, really I, inadvertently take a right on a wrong trail. We were on the Continental Divide Trail heading south and the compass was telling us we had headed a mile in the WRONG direction:), my bad….

    Wind River RangeOnce at Big Sandy, as the routine will go, set up camp and Jacks headed out to fish.
    Dinner tonight was homemade lasagna, also brought some tea this time which hit the spot.

    This was lake one of six we would see on our trip, Jack was the fisherman for two of us and headed out to catch a great snack for dinner, nice 6-8 inch trout, fresh and tasty.

    Our next day was the first full day of hiking, up early and out of camp to our next destination, Lonesome Lake and the Cirque of Towers.  The trail started uphill almost immediately, we did see some better camp sites as we hiked up the trail along the creek that would also have been great spots, but no fishing.Once at Big Sandy, as the routine will go, set up camp and Jacks headed out to fish.
    Dinner tonight was homemade lasagna, also brought some tea this time which hit the spot.
    This was lake one of six we would see on our trip, Jack was the fisherman for two of us and headed out to catch a great snack for dinner, nice 6-8 inch trout, fresh and tasty.Wind River Range

    After a lot of up and downhill while passing 3 or 4 more lakes, we crested above Lonesome Lake. With the wind blowing us off our feet, we headed down into the valley not being able to take in the views of the lake with the towering Cirque of Towers guarding its north side. We had hoped to go to the head of the lake and the waterfall we saw, but alas did not happen this trip, will save that until next time. Time for lunch though, a simply lunch with tortilla wraps, peanut butter and jelly while taking in the views of the Cirque of Towers with scatter snow fields in and around the craggy peaks.

    Wind River Range  Wind River Range  Wind River Range

    Wind River Range Wind River Range Wind River Range

    By midafternoon we were at Bear Lake and our camp for the night.  Wind River RangeSet up camp with Bear Lake in full view and surrounded by peaks.  To our east, Lizard Head Pass at over 11,000 feet, towered above us, tomorrows hike.  Once camp set and with the wind dying down, Jack heads out to do some fishing. Fish are there, but no luck at this lake. While Jack was fishing, I headed over to the adjoining lake, along the way stopping to pick more berries, very small so barely a couple hands full, but tasted so good.We still had 3 hours to go as we head to our camp at Bear Lake. As we hiked through the old growth forest, we discovered huge patches of Mountain Huckleberry’s. Berries were small, but so many, so on and off we stopped to grab a quick snack and the on up the hill.

    Wind River RangeBy midafternoon we were at Bear Lake and our camp for the night.  Set up camp with Bear Lake in full view and surrounded by peaks.  To our east, Lizard Head Pass at over 11,000 feet, towered above us, tomorrows hike.  Once camp set and with the wind dying down, Jack heads out to do some fishing. Fish are there, but no luck at this lake. While Jack was fishing, I headed over to the adjoining lake, along the way stopping to pick more berries, very small so barely a couple hands full, but tasted so good.

    The evening will be cool; this is where my new Sawatch  Katabatic Gear Quilt bag came in very handy. A quilt bag is a little different, you are sleeping on an insulated mattress, mine being a Therm-a-Rest ‘NeoAir Xlite’ , with the quilt bag over you. This allows for more insulating down on top of you, giving you a warmer sleep with a lighter bag.

    Wind River RangeDinner tonight was Annie’s Mac and Cheese variation, with beef, mushrooms and cream of mushroom powder soup.  Ahead of time I dehydrated ¼ lb. of ground beef, the mushrooms and made cream of mushroom soup from assorted powders. This was a great meal to cap off a hard day of hiking.

    We hit the sack early, tomorrow will come early.

    Tuesday

    Up to a cold morning, water bottles were not frozen, but had to be close. Slept warm, new quilt is working out great.

    We are ready to go early, this morning was scrambled eggs hash browns and some chili I dehydrated before the trip. Hit the spot with hopes it will get me to the top of Lizard Head Pass. We camped at 10,559 ft., so only 1,300 ft. climb today, but air is getting a little thin.

     Wind River Range  Wind River Range  Wind River Range

    No wind this morning as we start off, we are greeted with large mountain meadows, patches of small alpine flowers and little trickle streams mostly frozen over until the sun hits them.

    As we crossed the top of Lizard Head Pass we reached our high peak of the trip, 11,860 feet.  With that we are greeted with an overwhelming view as we look over the meadows, alpine flowers, rock outcrops,  and peaks that rise over 2000 feet  from the rocky valley.   Still cool out as we stopped for lunch, cut it short though since it started to spit some snow, time to get off the pass.

    Wind River RangeGot to Valentine Lake  at 10,428 ft., early afternoon, found a great site and while setting up camp it started to snow again  With camp set, and snow stopping, Jack headed out to fish, I scouted out the lake, took some time to read on my Kindle.

    As we came back to camp after our excursions, Jack got a fire going, it was time for Dinner and of course some trout Jack caught today.
    Right before dark it started to snow again, this time harder, so decided it was time to call it quits for the day. Snow did not last, just enough to turn all white.  Cleared up some and we knew we were in for a cold night.

    It is Wednesday morning, up early though not feeling like we wanted to attack the cold morning. Guessing it was in the low 20's, a little ice in the drinking bottles that were left out, tents frozen solid.
    But up it was, packed as much as we could before getting out of our tents. Then decided that some oatmeal the blueberries would hit the spot giving time for tents to thaw out some, but still packed some very wet tents.

    Today we are headed to Graves Lake, a gentle 5 mile hike.
    The first part was slight downhill to the Haley Pass/ Washikie Pass Junction; we are heading to Haley Pass via Graves Lake.
    We were in a small valley with nice sized stream running through it. If you had no intention of fishing, this would be your camp area.

    Wind River Range Wind River Range Wind River Range

    We hiked through this valley most of the day, making this the gentlest of the hikes so far.

    We make it to Graves Lake shortly after noon, again found a good campsite, weather is good, camp set, and Jack is headed out to fish.  We are still well over 10,000 ft, so while Jack was fishing, I explored the trail for tomorrow, the maps are a little vague at this point.

    I took a trail that looked promising though pretty straight up, but with not pack, not too bad. On the way up the trail, found a roaring waterfall that feeds the lake, and another patch of berries, great afternoon snack. The positive thing, discovered this was the trail for tomorrow, no exploring needed in the morning.

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    Wind River Range Wind River Range Wind River Range

    Jack came back with 2 nice Lake Cutbow Trout, a cross breed between a Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout, each at least 15”. This is 3 out of 4 nights Jack has been successful, proving himself handy to have around.  He is also the fire starting expert. Am guessing he is wondering what I bring to the table, kind of wonder that myself.
    Tomorrow will be grueling; we are headed over Haley Pass at 11,200. Once we reach the pass though, it is 2 1/2 days downhill.

    Thursday,

    Up early to clear skies after a red sun across Graves Lake, we are packed and ready to go.
    Right out of camp we head uphill.   As mentioned we camped at the lake to fish, but think most hikers going our way, climb another vertical 250 feet  up into a very scenic valley right before Haley Pass.

    Today’s climb was tough and steep, but fortunately the pass was completely snow free.  Hiking this area 4 years ago found couple hundred yards of snow over Washakie Pass. Today, just a lot of rock that seemed more like marbles, two steps up, slide one step back.

    Wind River Range Wind River Range Wind River Range

    We took to some time at the summit of Haley Pass to take in what we had just climbed and the valley below, what a sight.

    As we travel down from the summit we talked about our plans for that evening. Jack wanted to fish at Maze Lake, and I wanted to hike up to Pyramid Lake which we had heard had few very elusive fish; so at this point we deviated a little from our plans.

    The climb down the pass was much gentler then the way up. We can see why most take this hiking loop in a clockwise fashion instead of our counterclockwise.

    Once we got to the trail junction, we made plans, I would hike up 45 minutes to Pyramid Lake on my own and Jack would stay here at Maze Lake. We would meet tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. at the trail junction heading toward Dads Lake, the last nights camp.

    As I hiked up to Pyramid Lake, the scenery got better and better, once there I was greeted by one of the most spectacular settings you could have, large meadows pocketed with rocks and trees on the south side of the lake and 3 peaks rising west, north and east. As I picked my camp site, I settled in between Mt. Geike at 11,768 ft. to the southwest, Tower Peak at 12,008 ft to the west and Mt Hooker at 1,2418 ft to the Northwest, what a great view.

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    The owners at the Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale recommending camping at Pyramid Lake because of its beauty and setting, they call Pyramid Lake one of the most scenic  lakes in the South Winds, and they were spot on.

    After setting up camp, took a hike around the lake, explored some, found a sandy beach and took a very brief bath, water was so cold.  Then scouted for a spot to hang my food bag since earlier in the trip someone said there were bear sightings in the valley the week before, doubtful but thought I better take the extra precaution.
    No fish tonight, but still a great evening, not a soul in the valley, I’m on my own tonight.

    Friday up early to meet Jack at the trail head at 8, adventures afoot or I would have stayed in the valley.

    DSC00498Wind River Range

    Hike was pretty uneventful today, mostly downhill. We got to our last night’s camp, Dads Lake a little before noon.
    At this point in our trip, this was our 6th lake and as with all the others, after setting up camp Jack headed out to catch some fish for dinner. Jacks success rate for this trip was fish 5 out of our 6 lakes

    Again the Outdoor Shop suggested the south side of Dads Lake and again they were right on, Great Lake, Great evening.

    It is Saturday and our last short downhill 5 mile hike. As we packed up, we noted the lightness of our packs, mine which started at 38 pounds with all in and 3 liters of water is now down to under 20-25 pounds, not much left except 1 lunch and a couple snack bars.

    We make it back to the takeout and our car mid-morning; we parked next to a nice meadow with a stream and took advantage of the cold water to wash some of the dust off.

    We had 7 great days, and really not sure we are ready to head back, but alas, here we go.
    What a great trip, the Wind River Range or as most call them the The Winds, are a special place, with lots of fish filled likes, peaks you can only imagine and an unspoiled wilderness experience most dream of.

    We will be back,