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TR WInd Rivers-Deep Creek Lakes

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TR WInd Rivers-Deep Creek Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 13, 2014 11:37 am

Wind Rivers II: Deep Creek Lakes, July 12-14 2014.

Deep Creek Lakes and Ice Lakes are just east of the Continental Divide, at the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie. The area is compact with many lakes, great fishing, climbing and many nooks and crannies to explore. It can be reached by trail in one long day, either from the Middle Fork trailhead or Worthen Lake trailhead; the latter starts higher but drops to the Middle Fork, requiring an uphill return to your car. The purpose of my trip was to see if an off-trail route down Deep Creek would be worth the effort (I decided it was not).

Day 1: July 12. Worthen Lake TH to Cliff Lake. After a night in town, gear dried, I was up at dawn and returned to the Worthen TH. Dirt roads were still slick from the previous day’s rains that had soaked me on Atlantic Creek. I left before 7AM gradually heading downhill to Sheep Bridge on the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie. As the sun hit the soaked meadows, pesky mosquitoes soon found me and I quickly put on the head net. Across the bridge, now on the Middle Fork Trail, a small group of assertive cows were grazing, reluctant to let me pass. At Three Forks Park I met two women returning as I headed up the Pinto Park Trail on my way to Lower Deep Creek Lake; a grinding 1500+ elevation gain. Clouds were again building by the time I reached the junction with the Deep Creek Lakes Trail, after three miles of walking. By the time I reached Lower Deep Creek Lake, the clouds became menacingly black. I crossed the outlet, hopping rocks, and just as I reached the north shore, right in front of a large group of NOLS students, I looked up, tripped on a wet slick rock, and fell flat on my face not five feet from a concerned young man. My face fortunately hit grass, but my shin hit rock. All I could say was “Hi, this is not quite what I intended – I am OK”. Quite embarrassed, I got up and hobbled to the nearest rock, took off my pack and started taking photos. The impending storm was not going to wait for me, so I quickly continued west on the Ice Lakes Trail, over a small pass and on to Cliff Lake where the rain fell in buckets just as I pitched the tent and dove inside. It was 2PM and I had come 13 miles with 2900 feet elevation gain in 7 hours. I welcomed the rest! After an hour’s rain, hail and all, it let up. After another hour’s nap, I poked around trying to take a good photo with no luck as the sun stayed hidden behind the overcast skies. The grass was so wet that I hesitated to go too far, not wanting to get my feet soaked. Luckily I cooked an early dinner because it began to rain again. Later the moon shone through a few clear spots between clouds.

Day 2: July 13. Cliff Lake to Timberline Lake. I awoke at 5:45 to a condensation soaked tent. After a quick breakfast, while the wet tent dried I left for a 2-hour day-hike to Ridge Lakes, with great views of Upper Deep Creek Lake and Wind River Peak. The morning sun shone brightly and I was able to take some great photographs. I then packed up and moved to Boot Lake, and decided to continue to Timberline Lake. All in all, it was only about a 2-mile move. First I tried to go off-trail up the drainage from Boot Lake to Chief Lake. Impenetrable brush and cliffs foiled that effort so I returned to the trail and took the longer route, finding some nice campsites at Timberline Lake, on the north side of the outlet on a bench above the lower lakes. By 11:30 I was set up and the clouds were again building. I took off for a day hike to the upper lakes (three lakes; Fox, Little Walled and Walled Lakes). The wildflowers were in full bloom, mosquitoes not bad, and the upper lakes were impressive. Not being the best photographer, a good photo eluded me with the shooting into the sun, stark shadows and bright snow. As I ate lunch at the highest lake, Walled Lake, I swear I saw a large creature surface from the lake, submerge, and remain under water for at least fifteen more minutes. Could there be fish? I had seen diving ducks at the lower lakes. How long can a duck stay under? Clouds became dark and I quickly returned to camp, never solving this mystery. From 2:30 to 3:00 in rained buckets and hail pounded down, leaving the ground white. When the rain subsided I hiked down the lower unnamed lakes, again not reaching Warbonnet Lake due to impenetrable krumholtz, cliffs and another impending storm. By 5PM it was again pouring down rain. Mosquitoes were horrible now, and I ate dinner inside the tent; luckily, I was not in bear territory. By 7PM it cleared, but I was tired and called it a day.

Day 3: July 14. Timberline Lake to Sheep Bridge. The original plan was to find an off-trail route directly down Deep Creek to Three Forks Park; all evidence pointed to a miserable bushwhack if I took this route. Instead I simply returned on the trail, with a bit of off-trail walking around Boot Lake and Pinto Park Lake. Again I awoke to a soaking wet tent which did not dry by 7:30, so I packed it up and dropped to Boot Lake. A fair fisherman’s trail goes around the east side but ends at the outlet to the adjacent unnamed small lake. Here I had to wade on submerged flat rocks where later in the season, I suspect one could keep their feet dry. Several large fish were cruising along the outlet. Another fisherman’s trail continued on the west side, back to the inlet. I spied fresh bear poo and became a bit worried. Back on the Ice Lakes Trail, I continued back to Lower Deep Creek Lake. This time the sun was out and photographing was successful. I carefully hopped the rocks, not falling on my face this time! On the short off-trail jaunt to the outlet from Pinto Lake I again slipped on wet grass and fell, this time over-extending my knee. I had been using my old hiking shoes and I think the sole had lost its grip. I guess it was time to toss these old shoes. Back on the Pinto Park Trail I placed my feet carefully to be gentle on my knee. A few rain drops began to fall but I was walking away from the storm. I had planned on camping at Three Forks Park, but those aggressive cows had now taken over this beautiful meadow. I continued to Sheep Bridge, arriving at 3:30 and set up in a large established horse camp on the south side. It rained cats and dogs from 4:30 to 5:00. Soon my tent was sitting in a river of rainwater. As it rained, I moved the soaked tent uphill to a better location. Finally the rain stopped. I cooked dinner on large wooden benches surrounding a fire pit, only to discover that the wood was soaked- soon I also had a wet butt! At 8:00 I gave up and went to bed, wet but warm. I was getting a bit sick of the rain.

Day 4: July 15. Sheep Bridge to Worthen TH. It was only about 2 miles back to the trailhead. I reached my car at 8AM and the clouds were already building. Back in town (Lander) it rained lightly and black clouds hung over the mountains all day. It was a good day to stay in town and dry out!

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Middle Fork of the Popo Agie at Sheep Bridge

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Cliff Lake

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Wind River Peak and Upper Deep Creek Lake, taken from pond above Ridge Lakes

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Ridge Lake

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Chief Lake

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Little Walled Lake

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Walled Lake

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Camp on bench above Timberline Lake

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Boot Lake



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Wandering Daisy
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Re: TR WInd Rivers-Deep Creek Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 13, 2014 11:44 am

Image
Lower Deep Creek Lake

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Pinto Lake

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Upper Deep Creek Lake panorma
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Re: TR WInd Rivers-Deep Creek Lakes

Postby trekkerman » Mon Nov 17, 2014 8:40 pm

Wandering Daisy: Three of us went into Deep Creeks Lake area last July from Sweetwater Gap TH.
We passed deep lakes then went on to Ice Lakes. From there we spent the day climbing Wind River Peak. It was a very long day, but we did it. Enjoyed your photos.
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