TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo | High Sierra Topix  

TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

A forum that'll feed your need for exploring the limitless adventure possibilities found in "other" places. Post trip reports or ask questions about outdoor adventures beyond the Sierra Nevada here.
User avatar

TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 13, 2016 9:19 am

North Fork of the Little Wind River: Wind River Indian Reservation:7/24-29

The purpose of this trip was to evaluate trail conditions on the southern section of the North Fork of the Little Wind River and explore some new off-trail routes. Trails have been historically maintained by tribal outfitters. In the last ten years, deadfall from bark beetle kill in addition to retirement of the St Lawrence outfitter has left trails in poor condition.

The planned 6-day trip was cut short due to annoying blackflies (Minnesota Buffalo Gnats, introduced to this region about 15 years ago and gradually spreading). I am lucky in that they do not bite me much but swarming gets old. Although on the downswing, blackfly season was still going. I fished little because cleaning fish really gets the blackflies swarming. Light smoke from nearby fires made skies a bit hazy.

The first challenge is driving to the trailhead! This rough road requires driving skills to avoid falling into deep ruts, tearing out the bottom of a car on large rocks, avoiding huge ruts, and luck in not meeting anyone on the narrow one-lane sections on steep cliffs. I managed to reach the trailhead in my Toyota Camry by going exceedingly slow.

Day 1. St. Lawrence TH to Raft Lake via Twin Lakes: 6.5 miles, 8 hours, 2015 feet gain.

I drove up 6AM in order to avoid other vehicles. There were only two other cars at the trailhead. On the trail at 7:45 it only took 15 minutes walking the 4wd road to the Roadless Area boundary and another 15 minutes to the SF of St Lawrence Creek, which was low enough to hop rocks across. Then it was a steady quick uphill grind on a huge stock trail to The Meadows where I left the main trail and followed an old trail to Twin Lakes, not shown on maps, using a lot of “trail detective” skills. Fair detours were found around the abundant deadfall, reaching the Twin Lakes-Raft Lake junction at 10:45. I headed down nearly impassible trail to Twin Lakes. At one point the “detour” route leads down a cliff where I had to swing off a tree branch. Numerous intersecting game trails add to the confusion. It took nearly an hour to go the 0.7 miles to the two bridges between the Twin Lakes; one collapsed and the other in pretty poor shape.

Image
The Meadows

Image
Upper Twin Lake

Contemplating which side to traverse around the upper Twin Lake, I chose the short but more technical south shore which turned out to be very difficult, continually being forced away from the shore and up on cliffs. Finally I reached easier terrain and crossed the creek; another half mile in one hour. Game trails went upstream for about 0.5 miles until I came to a cliff at 1:15. I ate lunch and then detoured uphill to the north on steep slabs and through a narrow notch, dropping to the south shore of Raft Lake. I wasted half an hour trying to set up on a marginal tent site, gave up and climbed back up 150 feet to traverse and drop to the sandy beach on the northeast shore. A family was camped at the established campsite so I found a small site on the other side of the sandy arm. It was now 3:00; it took three hours to go two miles! The family, who had been here about 10 years earlier, took the direct “trail” to Raft Lake and said it was also horrible. They fished and caught some large trout; I was too tired to fish. I cleaned up a knee wound, sewed the rip in my pants, discretely took a bath and hauled water up to my little campsite and cooked dinner. Thankfully the bugs were absent at this lower elevation site.

Day 2. Raft Lake to Moraine Lake outlet: 8.0 miles, 7.3 hours, 2085 feet gain.

I was up and on my way at 7:45. The only feasible way to get around the north shore of Raft Lake was to wade the first half mile, which was actually quite pleasant. I put my shoes back on and continued along the shore, then I headed straight uphill reaching the main trail at a small pond at 9AM. The continuing trail to Movo Lake was in good shape, with only a few deadfalls. Another bridge in poor condition crosses the outlet of Movo Lake, where there is a large packer camp. Past Movo Lake the trail tread is distinct, but covered with ever increasing deadfall with the Twenty Lakes trail junction basically gone. Above Lake 9530 I lost the overgrown trail in a meadow. (I also lost it again when I came back!). Finally I climbed up on a rock buttress to get out of the trees and found my way back to the trail. Nearing Wykee Lake the trail again became distinct and in fair shape but ended abruptly at an established campsite near the creek crossing above the lake. I found a game trail in the willows and was swarmed by mosquites as I waded across the creek. I had been here on the trail to Lake Solitude in the 1990’s. I found the trail but it was much more difficult to follow and disappeared as it neared Lake Solitude. I bashed through brush cross-country to the outlet where a good trail continued south. After some unnecessary wandering I found a marginal campsite near the outlet from Moraine Lake at 3PM. The view was stupendous but blackflies were thick. I set up and took a quick bath wishing for the wind to pick up. I then went down the creek to the spectacular falls to Polaris Lake. I studied this cliff on Google Earth and I was seeing if one could backpack up or down it. From the top it looked dubious at best. It was a “headnet” supper and then I retreated into the tent.

Image
Morning at Raft Lake

Image
Unnamed Pond on main trail

Image
Lake 9530 (between Movo Lake and Wykee Lake)



User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2607
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 13, 2016 9:25 am

Day 3. Circumnavigate Moraine Lake and move to Polaris Lake via Ice Lakes: 8.6 miles, 8.6 hours, 1210 feet gain.

In the early morning, mosquitoes were out, but not blackflies. I started my day-hike at 7AM as smoke hung in the air marring the photos of this very scenic clockwise circumnavigation. The photos do not do it justice. I hopped across the outlet and climbed about 400 feet up a slabby rock buttress and traversed the flat ridge and dropped to mid-east shore. I reached the inlet at 8:30 and spent half an hour taking photos and eating a snack. The upper cirque was in a pink smoky haze and the wildflowers among the talus were dazzling. The return via the west shore was shorter but also required climbing over a cliff. I ended up stuck in thick krumholtz and was forced to climb up 400 feet and then drop through ugly talus to reach my camp at 10AM. Perhaps there is a better route, but I did not find it.

Image
Morning at Moraine Lake

Image
Upper Cirque above Moraine Lake at the inlet

Image
In black and white

Image
Flowers at the inlet

I packed up and climbed back up to the south shore of Lake Solitude. I was not sure that I could find a route through the large talus blocks, but staying very close to the water, I managed to quickly get to the inlet from the Ice Lakes. The smoke was now worse and the lighting poor; no good photos of the Ice Lakes. After a quick side-trip to the uppermost Ice Lake I dropped to Lake 10209, choosing the wrong (east) side, a horrible bushwhack in muggy still air thick with blackflies. By the time I reached the Sonnicant-Wykee trail junction at 2:00 I was totally frazzled.

The trail to Wykee Lake was in poor shape too. It brought me back to where I had crossed the creek thes the previous day. I now needed to go up to Lake Polaris and see if I could find a route to the base of the waterfall. I followed a come-and-go use trail until I lost it in the swampy braided creek where the outlet from Solitude Lake tumbles down a 400-foot cliff. I finally reached the outlet from Lake Polaris at 3:30 where there were several plush established campsites. I had time to bathe and wash clothes in this most scenic spot. I spotted many fish, but with the blackflies along the lake, I again declined fishing. My campsite was not so buggy and I was relieved to have a lazy late afternoon after the difficult day’s travel.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2607
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

Postby balzaccom » Tue Sep 13, 2016 9:29 am

Lovely photos and report, Daisy.

So if we make plans for this area....late August to avoid the bugs?
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1290
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 13, 2016 9:31 am

Day 3 cont.

Image
Sunset at Polaris Lake

Day 4. Circumnavigate Polaris Lake and move to Movo Lake. 6.7 miles, 6.3 hours, 775 feet gain.

The morning was clear, but by afternoon it was again slightly smoky. I decide to go around Lake Polaris, starting on the west side. I followed a good game trail until it abruptly ended high above the lake about mid-shore. I then had to traverse exposed ledges and drop down endless large talus to reach the base of the waterfall. This definitely is NOT the way to go with a backpack! The inlet area was a lush willow meadow full of wildflowers in full bloom. The cliff that the waterfall tumbles down extends nearly half a mile along the shore with no obvious break or gully that would be suitable for backpacking. Water levels were low; I can just imagine how spectacular this falls would be at full early summer flows! Returning on the east shore was quite easy, with just a few sections where I had to climb above cliffs and a few places where the game trails tunneled through thick krumholtz - definitely the easier route.

Image
The waterfall from Moraine Lake and view of west side of Polaris Lake

Image
Long cliff makes backpacking directly to Moraine Lake dubious

Image
View from east shore

I packed up and left camp at 11AM. Oddly, just as I was about to leave a helicopter flew by with a round instrument circled with many antennas slung beneath. Not sure what that was about; likely some geophysical survey. I now simply had to return on the route I used on Day 2. Again, I lost the trail a few times on my way back to Movo Lake, where I camped at an established campsite near a small inlet pond. After a bath and washing clothes, I set off to fish. At this lower elevation, there were no blackflies or mosquitoes! I eventually decided to fish the small inlet pond. Casting was hard and I caught more trees than fish but managed to land a 10-inch trout and lost a bigger one. It was wonderful to sit out, cook, and eat without any bugs!

Day 5. Movo Lake to St Lawrence TH. 8.1 miles, 6.4 hours, 1715 feet gain.

This time I took the main trail up to the Wilson Creek junction. Although easy to follow it too was in poor shape. After crossing Wilson Creek the trail became gradually worse with more deafall. I reached the short trail to Raft Lake at 9:15 AM and decided to walk out. The continuing trail to the Twin Lakes junction was even worse and hard to find in places, just as the family had told me on my first day. I reached the junction at 10:30 and sat on a rock eating lunch. To my surprise, fifteen college kids (from Catholic College in Lander) came loudly walking up from Twin Lakes. They had come in to Twin Lakes on a better trail from Washakie Park, and were doing a day-hike. To my amazement, they essentially had no gear, several girls in shorts and tank tops! They used the “crowd sourcing” method of finding the trail – spread out and once someone found the trail the others would follow until they lost it again, and then repeat the process. Their day-hike was long and included the rough off-trail travel down the outlet from Raft Lake back to Twin Lakes. Even if totally unprepared, they were enthusiastic! Oh, the bliss of being young! Luckily they had good weather. After about 10 minutes I caught up with them again. They were identifying flowers, with not a care in the world. I missed a bit of the trail as I topped out near The Meadows, annoyed with myself for not paying more attention. At noon I hit the main trail to St Lawrence and quickly descended on that large trail back to my car.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2607
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 13, 2016 9:34 am

One more photo - view of Lake Polaris from Moraine Lake

Image
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2607
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

Postby windknot » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:31 am

Beautiful lakes, thanks for the report!
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

Postby sli » Thu Sep 15, 2016 9:45 am

Information on hiking on the reservation is so limited and outdated. Your research will help many hikers. I look forward to read your updated book. The
User avatar
sli
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Oct 06, 2010 10:44 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: NFLittle Wind River, Wyo

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 15, 2016 10:29 am

The good news is that a energetic young tribal member has now taken over a outfitter at St. Lawrence. On my second trip, returning, he had already cleared most of the trail to Wilson Creek Lakes. Hopefully he will be able to stay in business and restore some of the trails.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2607
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A


Return to Beyond The Sierra Nevada



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests