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TR: Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Mon Oct 03, 2016 6:44 pm
by robertseeburger
I had long wanted to go to the Wind River Range. I always liked the look of the granite and the lakes. I have backpacked extensively in the Sierras but never anywhere else and the Winds were my first choice. I found that my friend and former work colleague, Mike from Boulder Colorado, also wanted to go and we struck up an agreement for a September backpack. I had previously taken Mike on a Sierra trip to sample fishing for Goldens--I chose Miter Basin--and we had a decent trip with Golden Trout success.

So we set a date immediately after Mike competed in Boulder's half triathlon on September 18th. He drove from Boulder on the 19th. I started to drive the 1000 miles or so from the Bay Area on the 18th, staying in Elko to split it into two days and the rest of the way on the 19th. The trip started off on an auspicious moment when completely by coincidence we drove into the hotel parking lot in Pinedale Wyoming at EXACTLY the same moment on the 19th.

With neither one of us backpacking the Winds before, we really hadn't done much planning. A couple of email exchanges with friends and viewing posts, we
decided to go to Titcomb Basin. I was awed by the pictures I saw and more than anything I wanted to go there. I asked Wandering Daisy for advice on where to go and she was very helpful. We sought out the Dept of Fish and Game in Pinedale and they gave us a couple of free maps and even included a document on
where to find Golden Trout in this area of the winds. I bought Wandering Daisy's book, and we very loosely organized a trip around her "Route 29"--mostly trail but some easy cross country over "Wall-Island Pass".

We ran into a little bit of a hitch when we read the weather report. I swear we both had read the report and it was clear when we started driving, but when we ate dinner the day before, the report indicated bad weather for several days. Wandering Daisy's one piece of advice was...check the weather at this time of year before you go. Oh well. pictures to follow. In any event, I had just driven a 1000 miles, and Mike about half that and the reality was this was our opportunity to we set out the next day, prepared to be weather bound for a couple of days. Some Tequila and Irish Whiskey would have to hold us over.

A great view toward Titcomb Basin on day one.
We had a good day hiking on the first day and we made it as far as one of the Cook Lakes. Beautiful large lake. Plentiful Brookies
While we had planned to do the cross country route over Wall Island Pass, when we read the weather report we decided to visit Wall Lake via a layover day/day hike instead. We had agreed that based upon our limited knowledge of the area, we were most excited about fishing there, as it was reputed to have goldens in it and the document we got from the Fish and Game Dept indeed listed it as having them. Net net, it was a good day hike, beautiful lake, but we neither caught nor saw any trout.
Then the weather came in. It rained off and on, sometimes hard, the next day. We spent time around Cook Lakes. When it broke up briefly, we did a day hike to Spider Lake. We saw some brookies in outlet.
Here is a view of the unnamed lake between Cook and Spider.
And a view across Spider Lake to Angel Pass. Angel Pass looks easy from this side. Also, some big lakes on the other side of the pass, without trails to them, called to us for a future trip.
We then chose to use the trail to cross Lester Pass (11000 feet)(instead of Wall-Island Pass) to get to Titcomb Basin. We crossed the pass, got to Island Lake just before the snow hit. We spent the next two days in the snow at Island Lake. ( Very popular location. Lots of parallel trails, high usage, beautiful view).
The weather finally cleared and it was our opportunity to finally get to Titcomb Basin. It was indeed grand. Plus the snow had essentially cleared out people and we had it all to ourselves.

A view of Fremont Peak over Island lake . We had planned to climb it but the weather changed our minds. Next time.
Another view toward Titcomb Basin
Finally getting to the big lakes in Titcomb Basin.
And we also hiked up to Mistake Lake. Mistake Lake had reputation for large goldens, at least at some time in the past. We met one backpacker who told us that they still had goldens. Alas, like Wall Lake, we neither caught nor saw any trout. But it was a grand hike, a grand lake, and grand view.
We returned to starting point ( Elkhart Park) the next day. Overall fishing wasn't great, probably due to weather and also lack of motivation due to weather.
But there was one decent fish in Cook Lakes. We saw and caught several smaller brook and this one was the only non- brook we caught.. a 16 inch rainbow?
(didn't measure and not sure rainbow)
wind river trout 2 of 2.jpg
Some notes..

We were surprised.. EVERYONE had bear spray. We saw no bears nor saw anyone who had seen them. I don't think there is a risk of grizzlies in this area and no one seems to be more afraid of black bears more than the sierra where no one carries bear spray. Just found this interesting.

The people we met were from all over the US. Tennessee, Colorado, New Jersey, and a few from Wyoming. All were like us.. had heard about it and drove or flew long distances.

The lakes.. are huge.. There are only a handful of lakes in the Sierra of the size we saw. Wow. Lots of water.

We had two equipment malfunctions. My air mattress got a hole in it and I slept mostly on the ground. Ugh..
And the TP got wet from rain and snow and then froze solid.. will leave next details to your imagination.....

Overall both Mike and I agreed that this is a region to love.. just like my Sierra and his Colorado Rockies. We defined a loose plan to try another region next year, probably on the Indian Reservation Side where the fishing might be "better". Although I want to see the Cirque of the Towers also. Lots to see.
I hope to return. Thanks again to Wandering Daisy for her advice.

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Mon Oct 03, 2016 7:56 pm
by TahoeJeff
Nice GOLDEN!!!

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 7:03 am
by mtboulder
Nice writeup Bob. I had a great time and look forward to doing it again next year. - Mike

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:16 am
by Tom_H
Nice read and beautiful pics! Thanks!

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 10:22 am
by Hobbes
It seems like both the Winds and the Canadian Rockies are beginning to show up on everyone's radar. (When the "secrets" have been out for 100 years - LOL.)

I've done a couple of Western drives, looping from LA up to SLC, then past the Winds up to the Tetons/Yellowstone, but have never had a chance to get out and explore. Now it's definitely on my list of things to do.

I've only day hiked in the Canadian Rockies, but here's a link to the Great Divide trail from an experienced hiker who finished it last month:

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 11:37 am
by maverick
Very nice! Were you aware of the system that dumped that snow on you? Titcomb Basin looks very pretty. :nod:

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:07 pm
by robertseeburger
Replying to Maverick's note... no awareness of the system.. it lasted about 3-4 days of the 7 day trip. Was there something we should have been aware of?

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 1:20 pm
by maverick
Replying to Maverick's note... no awareness of the system.. it lasted about 3-4 days of the 7 day trip. Was there something we should have been aware of?
No, I just saw you mentioned that you checked the weather a few days prior to your trip, weather along the Continental Divide comes in very quick and is much more fierce than here in the Sierra. A friend of mine sent me photos of their trip to Glacier in July a few years back, the before and after were quite eye opening, a couple feet of snow in just a few hours, they too were not aware of the system, but were prepared for any surprises luckily.
Knowing the weather forecasts and also being able to read the tell tale signs given by mother nature of an incoming system moving in, is even more imperative there.

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 1:57 pm
by Wandering Daisy
Glad you got out OK. It is snowing up there right now- up to a foot predicted. Living in Wyoming for 25 years, I always expected anything after Labor Day to be "chance of snow". I got snowed on many times. These early snows are not enough to totally trap you, but always plan to adjust your route as needed. It looks like this is just what you did. That system was predicted well in advance - you have to read the "small print" boring meteorlogic lingo-filled text reports. NWS Riverton web site is the source. But I agree, if you at on a schedule, and have driven 1000 miles, and only have a number of days, weather reports are off enough times that I would still go in. I had the luxury this summer of being able to sit out storms in town because I had a "base" in Lander for two months.

As for fishing, not sure it was just the weather. Those lakes get a lot of fishing pressure. This is the most used section of the entire Wind Rivers. The lower lakes (in the timbered bench west of the Divide) have better fishing and less pressure because they are woodsy but not spectacular. I have never fished much on the west side (Bridger Forest) so am not an expert on this. Almost all the fishing I have done has been on the east side (Shoshone Forest) and Wind River Indian Reservation. Fishing is very good over there.

Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9/19 to 9/26

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 2:03 pm
by Wandering Daisy
As for the bear spray- I always carry it too. There are grizzlies in the northern Wind Rivers. Not many but enough to be prepared. I use a bear can although it is not required. Not only are there grizzlies there are wolves. Moose are also very aggressive. I had a bear wander around my camp this summer when I was down in Fremont Canyon near Pine Creek Bridge. The reason it is not used in the Sierra much, is that national parks (Yosemite & Sequoia) do not allow it. But we do not have grizzlies either.

Interesting to read this morning in the newspaper that a fellow got mauled by a Grizzly in Montana, near Yellowstone, and the bear just charged through his bear spray.