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Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

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Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:44 pm

Elkhart to the North Fork Bull Lake Creek
Aug 11-22, 2009

Hey its winter - not much happening. So here is the complete version of a trip I briefly reported on last year. It is long, so I will put it in installments.

The shortest access to the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek is from the Wind River Indian Reservation but requires a 4wd vehicle and enters from areas that have reported recent Grizzly bear sightings. However, most of the watershed is on public land and can be accessed from the west if you are willing to walk a bit further A longer approach from Elkhart Park juxtaposes the most used trail in the Wind Rivers with one of the most remote and wild destinations. The wild mid-summer weather of 2009 simply added to the ambiance! Although my official destination was the lower North Fork of Bull Lake Creek, the trip was really a trans-Divide tour of the mid-northern Wind River Mountains.

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Photographers Point

Day 1 I left Lander Wyoming early in the morning getting caught in road construction over South Pass and arrived at Elkhart trailhead just before noon. As I arrived, a major rescue effort (hiker was lost in the recent snowstorm) was underway with helicopters in the air. I lifted my trusty old external frame pack onto my back. It was loaded to the hilt; this was not going to be a fast and light trip! After chasing off a bear less than five feet from my tent a week ago, I decided to take the bear canister. I threw in my down vest and pack cover since a freak early August snow storm hit the mountains earlier this week. Step after step, and two hours later it was a great relief to get the pack off my back to rest at Photographer’s point. Plenty of folks were at the rest stop on this busiest of Wind River trails. There was no lack of unsolicited advice given to me! At Eklund Lake I turned onto the less used and beautiful Pole Creek Trail and reached Mary’s Lake at 3PM. I had never been on this trail and was amazed at the healthy green forest, wildflowers and many beautiful lakes. From here it was two hours of mostly downhill travel to my first camp on Pole Creek just beyond the knee-deep crossing. Another group was camped a short distance downstream. The nine miles carrying a heavy pack on good trails was still exhausting in spite of being totally acclimated from several back-to-back trips. Because of my late start, there was not enough daylight to do much after dinner exploring.

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Eklund Lake

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Pond on the Pole Creek Trail

Day 2 I awoke at dawn and at 7:45 and continued up Pole Creek. Where the trail re-crosses the creek an inconspicuous rock cairn showed the start of the faint south-side trail. After tip-toeing through some swampy spots the trail intersected the Fremont Trail where a weathered wooden sign pointed to Hat Pass. I followed the trail to the first lake in Bald Mountain Basin and left the trail, heading to the unnamed pass at 11,663 feet elevation on the Divide north of Angel Pass. I definitely left the crowds not to see anyone for nearly a week! Travel was like an obstacle course finding the way around numerous small ponds and across creeks, mainly walking on grass with lots of little ups and downs. I reached Spider Lake at 10AM and rested only a few minutes before the mosquitoes found me.

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Spider Lake from pass to the south

It was another obstacle course to reach Lake 10,950, this time through small cliffs and brush. I started up the steep grassy slopes to the headwall towards the pass. It looked like there was a route on the left side, but I decided to remain in the center and ascending the nearly vertical grass until the slope eased and I entered a moonscape made bleak by the overcast sky. Unfortunately I still had a quarter mile of talus to hop before I reached the pass. Tired of rock-hopping, I stayed on snow as much as I could while descending to the small unnamed lake west of Lake 11,065. After crossing the inlet I took a much needed break. Traversing the north side of these two lakes was a complex exercise. At times I scrambled over huge talus blocks and at times hopped rocks within the lake. The lakes were pretty with patches of green grass and wildflowers but camping was limited to a few lumpy grass spots.

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View East from Lake 11065

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View west from Lake 11065

At the outlet of Lake 11,065, I came to a big surprise! Where I had planned to simply hike down the drainage, a huge cornice blocked my path. All the low angle slopes were plastered with firm snow so I had to scramble down rock ledges to the north, lowering my pack at one point. I reached the little “lake” shown on the map at 10,800 feet to find out it was actually two delightful little lakes. Quickly I bathed before I cooled down and while there was still a sliver of sunshine. It began to rain and took a nap. When the rain stopped I cooked dinner and walked around, of course, finding better campsites than the one I had chosen! A pretty sunset ended my 8-mile day of travel through uniquely pristine and challenging off-trail terrain.

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Loooking up at the surprise cornice from camp

Day 3 I managed to get packed up by 8AM a bit sad to leave my beautiful little home. I traversed northeast, dropping a bit to get around the base of a steep cliff, and in half an hour reached the trail from Golden Lakes. The trail was a delightful path among wildflowers and grass heading to the saddle between the Golden Lakes and Lake 10,787. A well constructed trail descended through a jumble of talus before crossing the outlet stream where I was surprised by a steep snowfield that had not been here in my previous travels! Thankfully it was soft enough to kick steps as I did not bring an ice axe. I continued towards my intended goal of the Brown Cliffs following this old trail, constructed in the 1930’s but not maintained in eons as several collapsed bridges testified. As I dropped to Camp Lake the crystal clear morning gave way to clouds and crossed rocks at the outlet above the first collapsed bridge.

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Traverse above the Golden Lakes

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Lake 10787

The Brown Cliffs area is popular with the goat packing crowd so the old trail is still quite easy to follow. At Lake 10,239 campers in the distance looked like dots on the green grass. The trail drops another few hundred feet and another creek with an old abutment of another missing bridge. Shortly, I came to the only intact bridge over Snowbridge Creek, with half the logs remaining. Someday what’s left of this bridge will be gone. The creek was roaring, so I was glad the bridge was still there! Ascending the final switchbacks, I got glimpses through the trees of the towering peaks around Alpine Lakes. After hopping rocks across the lowest large lake in the large flat area east of the Brown Cliffs, the trail essentially ends. The entire timbered bench east of the Brown Cliffs is full of game trails, excellent camping, small creeks and ponds and spectacular views. I had planned to camp near Lake 10,590 and took a few photos.

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Unnamed lake south of Lake 10239

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The Fortress

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THe Brown CLiffs

The weather held so I decided to push on to the upper bench containing Lake 11,265, a better position for the next day’s trek over the top. Since I am a hopelessly addicted explorer, instead of following use-trails across the lower bench, I headed up a hideously steep game trail the minute I saw that it directly headed toward Lake 11,265. Half way up the lush green grass that traversed east caught my attention. I dropped into a large meadow with “top of world” ambiance with intense storm lighting. There were easier paths to my campsite but my exploratory choice was “breath taking” in more ways than one! After setting up my tent I quickly hiked up the drainage as a storm was brewing. I returned just in time to cook dinner before rain began just after 5PM – another forced retreat into my tiny tent earlier than I preferred. If only I had a book!

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Camp on Bench above Brown CLiffs

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Storm approaching the Brown CLiffs

TO BE CONTINUED!



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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:26 am

Elkhart to the North Fork Bull Lake Creek- Part 2

Day 4 There are three basic routes from the Brown Cliffs to the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek; Bloody Hell Pass (a difficult but direct route I had done twice in the past), a use-trail north on the plateau (the main route used by goat packers) a rarely used direct route due east to Big Milky Lake. I had been over Bloody Hell Pass several times and need to check out the other two routes to see if I wanted to put these routes in the guidebook I was writing. (Much of my odd-ball diversions on this trip were for the purpose of gathering information for the guidebook.). My plan was to loop clockwise up the goat packer’s route and return directly from Big Milky Lake. Given the unsettled weather I aimed to be off the plateau by noon. I awoke at the crack of dawn and left at 7AM. Although there is a distinct trail from my campsite down to the bench below where the marked trail over the plateau starts, I did not like the idea of dropping 200 feet. Instead I found a steep game trail that short-cut to the west edge of the plateau above me. Soon I could look back at the timbered bench east of the Brown Cliffs with Camp Lake in the distance. A frigid wind buffeted me as I walked the top of the plateau for several hours staying near the edge to photograph. To the south I had a fine view of the Brown Cliffs and Alpine Lakes.

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Timbered Bench East of Brown Cliffs

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Alpine Lakes and Brown Cliffs from the Plateau

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View North from Plateau

Near the top I intersected the use-trail. The descent drops steeply following cairns that are set end-up resembling headstones. A basin of brilliant blue lakes unofficially named “Shangri-la” spread out north of me. By 10:30 I had reached a small rock outcrop and rested. Here I discovered my toilet paper roll was missing, forgotten on a rock at my last campsite! From here I lost the “trail” and descended hideously steep game trails to the outlet meadow of Lake 10,185. The next mile to the braided inlet area of Little Milky Lake was tough. I crossed the creek descending steep dirt slopes only to run into a cliff up against the creek and had to cross again.

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Upper Lake of Shangri-la

Forty years ago I had spent several days next to this braided milky stream and remembered it as a beautiful green paradise. It was still beautiful and green but this time infested with swarms of mosquitoes. I did not even stop. The swampy meadow forced travel on game trails up the steep adjacent hillside; I cannot say that it was pleasant.

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Inlet Meadows of Little Milky Lake

After dropping through a notch, I reached Big Milky and hopped rocks along the shore reaching the western inlet at 1:30 after traveling 8.5 off-trail miles. Afternoon clouds were building. I was tempted to continue, but knew I was too tired to climb the 2,000-foot steep off-trail route to the first feasible campsites on the upper bench. So I settled into a marginal campsite. Light rain began at 4PM, cleared briefly for dinner, then resumed at 7PM. I got up to pee at midnight and it was crystal clear. Suddenly at 1AM a major storm hit – lightning, thunder, torrential rain that gradually got colder as the night wore on. The little tent began to drip and I spent the remainder of the night spotting drips with my headlamp and sponging up the water. That poor little sponge, doubling for toilet paper, became a multi-use piece of equipment! Although I slept little, I was glad I did not venture up to the higher exposed camp above timber. I also hoped that if any grizzly were down here they too would be tucked in snugly under a big tree and not interested and visiting my campsite!

Day 5, it rained off and on until 8AM when I got up to cook breakfast. To my surprise, the Dry Ridge north of Big Milky Lake was covered with snow above 10,500 feet. Soon it began sleeting on me. The remainder of the day was one boring day spent in the tent sponging up water. During a break around noon, I decided that I really needed to move the tent under some trees. Bad choice! Although this move kept some of the rain off the rain fly, the floor now leaked as the ground I set up on was soaked. All day sleet alternated with snow; I was stuck. There is no way out of Big Milky Lake in bad weather since it is surrounded by 12,000-foot ridges and Bull Lake Creek drops to a canyon that is one of the toughest off-trail routes in the Wind Rivers. I had seven days food left so there was no hurry in moving, except that I knew there were grizzly bears in this area and was not keen on spending another night. I really wished I had brought a book. Today’s miles traveled = zero! Misery index = 100%.

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Big Milky Lake

Day 6 dawned frosty and overcast. I packed up the wet tent, put on my “crocks” and waded around the little “delta” formed by the creek I would follow. I broke the film of ice as I walked in the water. There was no apparent route up the steep cliffy left bank of the creek. I assured myself that I would surely find a path if I followed all the elk poop; evidently they made it up this hill just fine! After almost 2,000 feet of very steep climbing I topped out at a remote series of lakes. Travel eased now that I only needed to avoid getting hung up in low brush. One day I will come back and camp at these lovely lakes and see if they have fish.

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Big Milky Lake from upper bench

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Unnamed Lake on upper bench

For now, I must climb another 1,000 feet to the pass on the plateau. As I neared the top new snow, drifts a few feet deep, had not melted at all. At the saddle I spotted the tombstone cairns marking the descent route to the Brown Cliffs. I decided it was worth it to try to retrieve my toilet paper and instead traversed to my ascent route of the previous days. Amazingly, when I found the toilet paper, it was still dry inside the plastic bag! What good luck. This time I followed a use-trail down to the lower bench east of the Brown Cliffs. Travel here is so easy that I did not bother with trying to stay on the many intertwining trails, instead took a straight line to Lake 10,590. I stopped and photographed debating to stay here or continue. It was only 1PM. After two days stuck in my little tent I was hot to trot! I hopped rocks around the lowest lake on the Brown Cliffs bench and stopped at the outlet contemplating camping at this beautiful spot. Much new snow had fallen up at Alpine Lakes since I was here a few days ago. It was still too early and I did not relish the idea of more tent time. So I continued, easily finding the trail back to Lake 10,239 where I camped between it and the small unnamed lake to the south. I set up at a perfect site where I camped two years earlier. An hour of sunshine actually allowed me to dry out my tent and sleeping bag. As I cooked an early dinner, I again was forced to dive into the tent as snow flurries started again. The light flurries did not cause any leakage, but it was getting quite boring cooped up in the very small tent (cannot even sit up) so early. I had traveled 8.5 miles and with 3,000 feet gain and never took off my fleece hat or jacket! It barely got above freezing all day.

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Brown Cliffs with new snow

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Alpine Lakes with new snow

Day 7. After a clear night temperatures warmed, but then dropped again and I awoke to heavy frost. I left at 8AM retracing my steps on the trail to the Golden Lakes, this time dropping into these beautiful lakes. At Upper Golden Lake I met three fellows on the trail who were as surprised to see me as I was to see them; seemed like the last storm drove everyone out of this popular fishing area. Going opposite directions, we exchanged information on conditions. My original plan was to return over Angel Pass but the snow was still too deep and it was too late to head over any pass. So instead of heading up towards the pass, I dropped to Golden Lake.

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Golden Lakes (photo take on Day 8)

I had been warned of severe black bear problems at this lake. It was early, giving me an opportunity to check out a reported route between the Milky Lakes and Golden Lakes. (Early explorers liked the name “milky”; the Milky Lakes” are on the Middle Fork and Big Milky and Little Milky Lakes are on the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek.) Crossing the braided inlet streams from Hay Pass proved to be challenging in the thick willows. Once across, a good use-trail continued eastward, down the drainage past two more beautiful lakes. At a large meadow the trail ended but numerous game trails continued. I traversed through the forest spooking a huge 4-point elk bedded down in a nearby tangle of brush. At the saddle at 10,400 feet, just west of the canyon that drains the Milky Lakes to Marked Tree Lake, I set up my tent on a nice flat spot next to a small pond. I threw trail food in my pocket and took off. It was wonderful to hike quickly unburdened by the heavy pack as I followed disconnected game trails to the lowest Milky Lake. It was still overcast so I was disappointed at the dismal gray photos. I had just been through the Milky Lakes a few weeks earlier in sunshine and scored colorful photos of the deep blue lakes. Back at camp, it was mosquitoes, not rain or snow, forcing me early into my tent prison. It was annoying that they had not died in the snowstorm. I had traveled 8.5 miles including the side trip. It was overcast and gray the entire day.

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Meadow near the notch (not the pond I camped at)
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:39 am

Elkhart to the North Fork Bull Lake Creek- Part 3

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Dennis Lake north of Hay Pass

Day 8. I awoke to overcast skies and it remained cold most of the day. My goal was to cross the Divide. This time I found a better game trail a bit lower and reaching Golden Lake I pondered my choices. Angel Pass crosses directly to Bald Mountain Basin but 3rd class descent on icy rock would be foolish. Fall Creek Pass heads directly to Timico Lake but the Divide still was covered with too much snow. Hay Pass was the safe choice, but unfortunately I had not brought maps that covered the area. Nevertheless, I remembered there was an old trail that connected the Hay Pass Trail to Timico Lake via an unnamed pass; I just did not remember the location of the trail junction. I started up towards Hay Pass on the well maintained trail walking high above stark Dennis Lake. Descending the south side I dropped past two large lakes.

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Lakes south of Hay Pass

As the trail crossed the creek, I stayed on the north side and traversed, thinking that I would eventually run into the old trail to Timico Lake. Well, I traversed too high and ended up on steep side hills, traveling more miles and going up and down more than needed. I finally ran into the trail, which was actually a large stock trail.

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Trail to Timico Lake

At 2PM I reached the outlet area of Timico Lake and found a nice campsite. Thankfully it cleared enough to take a bath and wash my hair. I felt much better. To get rid of my anxiety, I walked the mile to the Fremont Trail to assure myself that I was not lost. Thank goodness there was a huge trail sign there! Later in the evening a group with llamas showed up. Gathering water at the outlet creek from Timico Lake, a poor fellow, bright orange SPOT locator attached to his pack strap, bone tired and flailing back across. He evidently had gotten separated from his group. The llama packer was standing downstream yelling at the poor guy. I tried to advise him on a good place to cross; he fell in the creek anyway. I had traveled nearly 10 miles this day and ascended two passes in pure solitude and now was mildly irritated, but not surprised since I was now only a mile from the very popular Fremont Trail.

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Timico Lake from camp near the outlet

Day 9. I knew that if I traveled north on the Fremont Trail I would eventually return to Bald Mountain Basin and back onto my map. What I did not remember was how many miles this would be or the roller-coaster nature of the trail! The weather had improved and the scenery was sublime. I stopped at the top of the pass near a beautiful little pond and took photos before dropping to Bald Mountain Basin below, where I had left the trail seven days earlier. On one tight switch back I came around the corner smack into a porcupine. I think we both jumped! I reached Pole Creek at 11AM, with the tempting knowledge that I was only 6 hours from my car at Elkhart Park. I had two days food left and weather was now perfect. Never one to waste good weather in the Winds, I turned east to follow the classic off-trail route from Cook Lakes to Island Lake via Wall Lake.

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Pond at top of pass

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Spider Lake, Bald Mountain Basin

The Cook Lakes were spectacular. The trail ended at the upper Cook Lake where a few llamas were grazing. After a tricky crossing of the inlet, a use-trail continued through lush grass before ending below rock slabs. I scrambled up the low angle slabs to a broad saddle with a great view of deep blue Wall Lake. Half way along the south shore I came to the crux- a steep rocky buttress with cliffs into the lake. I carefully climbed up a hundred feet above the lake on smooth slabs. A tumble would dunk you in the lake! The remaining route to the inlet was delightful travel through grass. I stayed high and hopped rocks across the outlet from the lake up the drainage and scooted around to a small pond. I had camped here a few years earlier

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Cook Lakes

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Wall Lake from the hillside above the inlet

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Unnamed Lake upstream from Wall Lake

There was still plenty of daylight to continue hiking. I failed to bring the map that covered the next few miles. Oh well. I had been here a few years ago and thought I remembered the route. I stayed on route. But forgot that there was 800 feet of climbing and the sandy path I had previously hiked up was now, in a high snow year, a huge snow cornice! Thankfully I could veer to the left and scramble up some rocks and the short stretch of snow I crossed was softened by the afternoon sun. Exhausted as I dropped into the bench above Island Lake I spotted a tent set up exactly where I wanted to camp! My heart sank, but this ended up a blessing in disguise. Hitting “the wall”, I slowly crept upward to a small hidden lake. It was a grueling end to a long day, full of anxiety because I did not have maps for much of the miles I covered. By the time I found a campsite I had gone 13.5 miles and over 3,000 feet elevation gain. But what a site! I managed to regain enough energy after dinner to walk around the little lake seeking the best sunset photos.

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Hidden lake on bench south of Island Lake

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Elephant Peak from camp
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:47 am

Elkhart to the North Fork Bull Lake Creek- Part 4

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Morning reflection on way to Indian Basin

Day 10 I left camp in deep shadows at 8:15 and turned east entering the Indian Basin. Here I slowly wandered around off-trail visiting many lakes before intersection the trail to Island Lake. This spectacular area, barely off the Indian Pass Trail and only miles from the more famous Titcomb Basin, was a photographer’s paradise that I had all to myself. I got great shots even though the evening light would be much better. I hiked up to one of the upper lakes to a scene of snow and rock, retreating back to the lower lakes surrounded by grass and wildflowers.

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Lake in Indian Basin

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Fremont Peak reflected in Lake, Indian Basin

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Another beautiful Indian Basin Lake

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Upper Indian Basin

Once I intersected the trail, I spotted a few tents in the distance camped along the shores of Indian Basin Lake. As I dropped to Island Lake I met more people. I was tempted to camp at Island Lake, but had done this before so wanted to try a new campsite. I swear I met almost 40 people- most going in to climb Gannett Peak. There were 20 people in one group. I found a nice campsite mid-point on Seneca Lake on a tiny bench halfway down to the lake level. I had plenty of daylight left but wanted a campsite where I still could see Fremont Peak and I had dutifully done my 10 miles for the day. I watched fish swim around in the deep lake below my campsite and pigged out cooking all my left over food. I drank tea and relished my last night in the wilderness.

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Island Lake (photo taken on a previous trip)

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Seneca Lake

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Camp at Seneca Lake

Day 11 I walked the remaining 8 miles to Elkhart Park, arriving just past noon. There were more people than I could count on this huge trail. By now the weather and become downright hot and I was sweating. I reached my car and it started! I headed to Pinedale to the air-conditioned library to read my e-mails, download photos and write up my field notes. It is annoying that there are no campgrounds in Pinedale. I drove 12 miles south to Boulder to an RV park where $12 buys unlimited showers, $1 per load washing in addition to a tent site where I organized and packed up for the next trip while drinking beer and eating a quart of fresh strawberries. Not realizing that the dinner at the bar closed early, I missed my steak dinner. Oh well, I had more beer and strawberries! Who needs more?

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Hobbs Lake

Total trip was 92 miles with almost 20,000 feet of elevation gain. I was “grounded” a day and half by severe stormy weather. The trip did not go quite as planned but nevertheless was successful. It was, however, the end of the line for my well used Micro-Zoid tent. The fly leaked, the floor leaked, the zippers were broken. Into the garbage it went. And off I went, back into the mountains, this time carrying my back-up 2-man tent, to squeeze one more week of backpacking for the summer. Two months away from home was probably enough to expect my poor family to put up with. Although winter in the Wind Rivers really did not end until July and two fairly significant snow storms hit the mountains in August, September turned out to be fine weather. Murpheys Law- the weather improves as soon as you leave! It was an odd-ball year for weather to say the least.
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby maverick » Wed Feb 09, 2011 1:13 pm

A beautiful place Daisy, thanks for sharing you TR and pictures.
A friend of mine who loves the WR area all ways talked about how beautiful Indian Basin
was, now I see why.
Milky Lake, Cook Lake, and the view from the Plateau would also be fun to visit.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby mokelumnekid » Thu Feb 10, 2011 3:31 pm

Fabulous post- thanks WD!
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby Cross Country » Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:37 pm

What a great trip and even better pics. I took a trip in WY once and was really impressed. I never got back because it's so far (and I think it rains a lot there), but I envy you.
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby BSquared » Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:36 am

Thanks for a superb trip report, Daisy! Remind me not to plan any of my trips using your schedule -- you're a hiking machine! :p

We've been planning a Titcomb Basin trip for years, but I confess I'm daunted by your description of the crowds. Hmmm...
—B²
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby East Side Hiker » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:52 pm

Great report. Fantstic pictures. Wish I had been there. Been a long time since I'd seen the Wind River Range. It is hard to get away anywhere east of the Sierra.
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby hikerduane » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:10 pm

Thank you Nancy, some really nice photos, great report. That weather sure can change. Not sure when I'll go back, a long drive for one day.
Piece of cake.
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Re: Elkhart to NF Bull Lake Creek Wind Rivers WY

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:35 am

Regarding the crowds and rain. There is no permit system so it is hit and miss on the major trails. I think the reason I encountered so many people when I walked out is that the weather finally lifted after several weeks of pretty nasty stuff. So everyone who postponed their trips were flocking inward! I have also been on this major trail and encountered few people. And just like the Sierra, if you simply move half a mile off the trail, the crowds disappear.

As for the rain, this is typical of the Rockies and Canadian Rockies (and MOST mountain ranges). The difference is that you cannot plan every day, every hour as "hikable" like I do in the Sierra. You really have have a "make hay when the sun shines" strategy. Statistically, July - Sept one day out of every three has precipitation, mostly in the form of heavy but brief afternoon storms. These storms also have severe lightning and wind - not something you want to be out in. These periods of stormy days are usually clumped in a few days of afternoon storms followed by a few days of clear weather. I never have had a trip totally scrubbed because of weather. I usually build in one contingency day and then stay very flexible - getting on the trail eary (aim for 7AM) and get to my destination by early to mid afternoon. If weather holds, I keep walking, if not I hunker down. And light snows can be expected any time of year. I actually prefer the snow to rain.

7AM to 1PM gives me 6 hours if hiking - enough to be assured some 6-10 miles of travel. It is really important to plan on doing all passes in the morning. In the lower elevations and in timber on trails, this is not so critical. All in all, the weather is not that difficult to work around. And the clouds and storm-lighting really make for great photography. Fish also seem to really bite just before and after storms.
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