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TR: Wind River Traverse II

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TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:38 pm

Wind River Mountains Traverse2012—Middle Section

7/23: Day 14 Resupply and Rest Day.

I bought a new Platypus water container and took the tent to the NOLS store and they crimped the tent zipper. I hoped this would last (alas, it did not). I bought perishables and counted out meals for 13 days only to find out at the end of the trip that I really packed 14 days food. Visiting and drinking beer while packing definitely distracted me! I was hesitant to go lighter on gear, fearing that the “normal” Wind River weather would kick in any day so carried the same level of warmth- which turned out again to be too much. I bought a new 11-oz bear spray can since I would be in areas more prone to grizzly bears. A decision that cost me dearly was to not take crampons. I balked at adding another pound and half for a one-time maybe use. Worried about my tent, I backed it up with the bivy sack. It would have been better to take crampons and leave the bivy, for the same weight. I stepped on the scale and the pack weighed 38 pounds. After calculating the cost of gas and time required of my friends if they transported me to the trailheads, I decided to try the commercial shuttle service in Pinedale, Wyo. and made an appointment.

7/24 Day 15 Big Sandy TH to Marms Lake. 7.1 miles/+1165 ft./3.5 hrs.

My friend is an early riser, like me, so at 5AM we had our cups of coffee and chatted while watching the weather channel, said byes as I left Lander at 6:20 AM. I met my driver at the Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale at 8:40 and we both drove to Elkhart Park where I parked my car transferred gear to his van. On the way to Big Sandy I shot off my old expired bear spray canister out in the sagebrush for practice. We reached Big Sandy about 11:40 AM and I started down the trail at noon with a pack that was too heavy. I met several people as I trudged up the trail. I observed the fluffy clouds growing darker to the southwest, and boy did it rain earlier than I anticipated. At Dad’s lake a huge gray mass (rain) moved up the valley at an incredible speed. I waited under a tree for half an hour. A lull in the storm tricked me into thinking it was over and only minutes down the trail it poured, and continued to pour all the way as I walked to Marms Lake arriving at 3:30 and hunkered under a tree.

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Marms Lake

By this time I was soaked. The storm ended as I set up my tent and soon put everything out to dry. I discovered that my Marmot Precip jacket was NOT waterproof, my pack was not waterproof and everything except what I had packed inside a heavy-duty garbage bag was wet. A large group of tents were set up across the trail from me. Soon a scout troupe came walking down the trail –they had taken a day hike and got soaked too, but the boys did not even seem to notice. Luckily the sun was out, the wind blew and everything dried before the sun set. In half a day I had already seen more people than I met on my entire 13-day first trip. With ten boy scouts bouncing around the shoreline, a bath was out of the question. The west side of the Wind Rivers is the “civilized” side of mellow park-like scenery and mountains in the distance. It is very beautiful and lush with vegetation. Wildflowers were outrageous. By dusk I was ready for bed.

7/25 Day 16 Marms Lake to East Fork Lake 10566. 7.1 miles/+1045 ft./5.5 hrs.

The heavy dew left my tent soaked when I got up at 5AM. As I brought gear outside the tent, it too immediately was soaked as I got a firsthand lesson about dew point! I packed everything up and left at 7AM and stopped an hour later had to spread everything out to dry. I should have slept in and let the sun dry my tent. I turned the corner dropping to the East Fork on the Fremont Trail and in front of me was a huge herd of domestic sheep and two sheepherders on horses. I was going up the river anyway so I left the trail early and crossed the creek away from the sheep. While putting shoes back on I noticed heavy breathing near my back. Startled I turned around and there he was; huge, pale blue eyes, silky white hair, a broad handsome face, smiling.

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“Dog” on the East Fork

“DOG” was to become my number one problem. Dog’s paws were larger than my hand, firmly planted next to me, no attempt to jump up on me. Dog just sat there and smiled politely. I am not a dog person; more often dogs growl and bite me. Well, I had better pet this dog before he bites, I thought. Big Mistake!! From then on Dog stuck to me like glue. Up the drainage I walked, thinking Dog would eventually return to his owner. After a few hours I was getting concerned. I ignored Dog. The East Fork was beautiful, lush, filled with flowers and below the hulking rock walls of Mt. Geikie to Raid Peak. I followed a distinct use-trail that became faint as I ascended. Small fish swam in the stream, as well as Dog who swam in the stream to cool off. At about 10,200 feet I had to wade across the creek.

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Lower East Fork River

Momentarily I thought Dog went home. I was hiding behind a bush; Dog came up smiling. Always polite and well behaved Dog never barked or begged and stayed several paces behind me. I tried a stern “go home”. Dog evidently did not speak English. I continued up the trail that stayed high above the string of lakes before slightly descending to Lake 10566, my destination.

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Mt. Geikie

It was only 1PM – an early stop but not enough time to go over the pass and I was thankful to get the heavy pack off my back. I set up the tent and hung the food that did not fit into the bear canister from a rock. I knew Dog could get the food if he really wanted to but he never even tried. I dared not take a bath because I feared Dog would try to get into the tent. I again yelled, got angry, pointed down-valley, and poked him with my trekking poles. Dog hid in the bushes; I went inside the tent to rest. When I got out, there was Dog behind the tent. I now had a big problem. How in the world was I going to feed Dog? It was a moral dilemma. If I took Dog back to his owners, it would cost me two days and I was not even sure they would be there. My car was 80 miles north. The nearest trailhead was a two-day walk. What little extra food I could give Dog would not fill his belly. I had spent more on the car shuttle than I had ever on any backpack trip after planning this trip for months; should I abandon ship for a stray dog? The only answer I could come up with was that I would have to fish to feed Dog. One problem, the lake I was at had no fish. Dog was very sweet but obviously not fed. The poor thing was skin and bones. He cried softly when I cooked dinner. I did not give him a morsel hoping he would just go home. I felt like a jerk. At least Dog responded to “no” and was well behaved. I went to bed. It was a clear night and when I got up to pee I did not see Dog; I thought my problem was solved.

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Raid Peak and wildflowers near camp



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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:12 pm

7/26 Day 17 East Fork Lake 10566 to Noel Lake. 6.6 miles/+2900 ft./8.5 hrs.

I was up at 5AM and happy to find the tent dry; less happy to find Dog right there next to the tent. The food I had hung was still there. Dog cried again when I ate breakfast. Dog barked for the first time and started to run off with my cord for hanging the food. I yelled “no” and he dropped it. At 6PM dew point hit and the tent was instantly wet. Things were not going well. I sponged off the tent and packed it up and at 7AM started up towards the col between Raid Peak and Mt. Bonneville, otherwise known as “Pain-in-the-Ass Pass”, so named due to its miles of difficult talus hopping. I did not look back for half an hour, hoping Dog would leave. I thought Dog would definitely go back when we hit the rock. No way. Dog amazingly not only jumped boulders like a pro, he actually found a better route than I did! He would look back at me and pity my poor route finding.

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East Fork Lake 10566 at sunrise

I reached the top by 8:45 discouraged to find the other side also had its share of boulders to hop. After a rest stop at the lake at 11,200 I descended steeply. Near the bottom Dog ran ahead and soon someone shouted to me, “Is this your dog”. “No,” I emphatically replied. When I caught up Dog was being petted and fed by another troupe of Boy Scouts. I told my sad story to the troupe and they agreed to take Dog, catch fish for him and take him out with them in a few days. They could drop him off at the Pinedale animal shelter. This would be their “good deed” for the day. The leader said he had seen this before. Sheep owners do not pay the shepherds enough up front for them to buy dog food. I was really hoping one of the boys would adopt him as I hated to think Dog would have to go back to owners who did not feed him or be euthanized at the pound. As they held Dog, I profusely thanked them and left quickly, not stopping until I reached the inlet to Bonneville Lake 10521. Weather was great and it was early so I decided to continue. At 10:40 I had reached the inlet to Lake 10828, the next higher lake in the Bonneville Basin. A short but very steep system of ledges lead due north to a pass between Bonneville Basin and the Middle Fork Lake drainage. I saw deer tracks; game had gone up so I figured I could too. I would rate it as Class 2+, but the difficult part was short. The slope eased towards the top and soon I was on a big flat snowfield. I went up the ridge to get a peek at Lake Donna, which sits down in a bowl surrounded by talus.

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Lake Donna

Then I returned to the main drainage and descended. Half way down I realized that it would have been easier to stay on the ridge that descended to the outlet area of Lake Donna. I had thought about stopping at the little tarn below but camping was not possible. I dropped nearly to the tarn, traversed, and then steadily climbed to Noel Lake. I thought I heard voices; was I going crazy!

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Noel Lake

I was exhausted when I arrived at 2:30. My pack was still heavy with eleven days food. I put down my pack, still heavy with eleven days food. I wondered if I would be able to drop down Col de St Michael directly to Moraine Lake. I scrambled down the col for about 200 feet and determined it was too steep and risky to attempt with my heavy pack. Then I went campsite hunting. Camping was very marginal; all sites were very rough and rocky. I ended up spending nearly half an hour removing rocks at my chosen site. I even missed Dog! He could have helped me dig out rocks. The wind was howling as I set up the tent at 4:30 and clouds were building. It was cold and the wind was howling. I was dirty and sweaty; this was my third day out and I had not yet bathed. First night it was the scouts. Second night I was worried about Dog. After a nice dinner behind a good wind protected rock the wind died down and I took a partial bath to get grime off arms and legs. I walked over by Col de St Michaels and got some good photos. By 8:00 I was in the shadows. The site was very uncomfortable and I did not sleep well.

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Views from Col de St. Michaels
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:18 pm

7/27 Day 18 Noel Lake to Solitude Lake. 9.3 miles, including 3.2 day hike /+1975 ft./7.5 hrs.

The night was not as cold as I thought it would be. I awoke at 5:10 and the wind soon picked up to a gale. There was a bank of stratus clouds to the east and west. I hunkered behind my cooking rock for breakfast, packed up and left at 6:50 for a very tedious descent to Lee Lake reaching the outlet at 8:20 where a NOLS group was camped.

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Lee Lake from above

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Outlet of Lee Lake

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Middle Fork Lake

I talked to a few fellows who were the climbers I had heard on Nylon Peak the previous day. Middle Fork Lake is swampy near the shoreline so I traversed high crossing fields of wildflowers in full bloom. Nearing the creek that cascaded down from Bewmark Lake, I followed fresh deer tracks the entire 600 feet up to the lake. I ate lunch on a big flat rock right out in the lake below Kagavah Pass. Rumor said Kagavah Pass trail has been wiped out by rockfall. This is not true. Except for a few sections the trail is intact albeit very steep and not passable by horses. I reached the top at 10:30 as the sky became more and more cloudy. Near the top on the east side a big pipe stuck out of the ground with a USGS bench mark attached. I had crossed the Continental Divide and was back on the Reservation. There was no visible trail, but after an obvious drop I started to see cairns and followed these all the way to Kagavah Lake. This is basically a well-marked route with an occasional sign of a trail and generally is true to its location on the 7.5-minute topographical map. Once I took a wrong turn but backtracked and found the trail.

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Kagavah Lake

Below Kagavah Lake one would not want to miss the trail because it is really rough country. At the creek from Lake 10,209 the trail disappeared. I found a crossing I could jump rocks and after a bit of hunting found the trail on the other side. Soon I was on the very distinct steeply ascending trail from Sonnicant Lake towards Lake Solitude. Being chased by a bank of black clouds, I did not make it to Solitude Lake, but rather set up the tent at a small pond about quarter mile short of the lake, just as rain began to pour down for nearly an hour. When it cleared I walked down to the pond and filled the water bottle, washed some clothes. Then I hiked to Solitude Lake for some photos. I met a fellow coming down the trail. We both were surprised to see each other. We were essentially going the same route the next few days and would again bump into each other. The wind was howling across Lake Solitude stirring up whitecaps. It was still overcast and gloomy so I returned.

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Lake Solitude

The sun came out so I quickly hopped into the little pond for a bath. The shallow lake was warm but full of algae slime. Back in the tent little flies swarm and I hide inside. The weather seemed to be improving so I grabbed my rain jacket and camera and went back to Solitude Lake and get some better photos. My second hike from 4-6 PM was much more successful. I followed a game trail and crossed the outlet. I kicked myself for not camping here as the wildflowers were fantastic and perfect and scenic campsites were abundant.

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Lake Polaris

I climbed up to a viewpoint to Lake Polaris and along the ridge until I could get a good view of Moraine Lake. Had I been able to descend from Col de St. Michaels I would have had a shorter route, but getting around Moraine Lake did not look easy. I now wished I had time to actually get down to the outlet but the sun was low and I needed to return to my less spectacular campsite where I cooked dinner among swarming little flies and I became concerned because the tent zipper would not close from the outside. So fearing breaking the zipper altogether I stayed out in the bugs wearing my rain jacket with the hood up to protect the back of my neck. I itched all over. At dusk when I was sure I would not need to get out of the tent again, I went inside. The day’s travel was good, scenery great, but camping was ugly. It is amazing how mosquitoes can ruin a nice day. I was disappointed that I did not have time to fish at Lake Solitude or get all the way to Moraine Lake. My consolation prize was that I confirmed that the “trail” over Kagavah Pass was still in fair shape; I had not been over the pass for 40 years.

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Moraine Lake
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby vandman » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:49 am

Wow, what a beautiful place. Great photos WD!
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 16, 2012 3:45 pm

7/28 Day 19 Solitude Lake to Spider Lake (122.0) 6.6 miles/+1430 ft./7.0 hrs.

I awoke at 5:30, bugs still buzzing in sunrise lighting but unfortunately my views from the campsite were obstructed. I left at 7:10 and slowly descended to Sonnicant Lake, feeling very sluggish.

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Sonnicant Lake

As I traversed around Sonnicant Lake the trail became less visible. Where there was supposed to be a trail junction to Wykee Lake, there was only an established campsite. I continued to the outlet of Sonnicant Lake where I waded across, not having enough nerve to jump the rocks. Cairns marked short trails to several well used established campsites making finding the main “trail” difficult. Soon I was walking cross country. I finally bumped into the trail as it climbed a small ridge southeast of Lake Heebeecheche, another very large lake. On the descent to the outlet I again lost the trail.

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Lake Heebeecheche outlet

After hopping rocks across the outlet I found a great game trail that headed upward to Lake 10465 where I had camped in 2009. I continued past an unnamed lake to the west and uphill past the outlet waterfall from Lake 10927. All these lakes have fish but one cannot stop at every lake to fish! I hung my pack in a tree and climbed 200-foot cliff to Lake 10927 that lies in a beautiful hidden cirque. To my surprise, I saw a big fish but had not thought to bring my fishing gear. I ate lunch in this magical setting. In June of 1969, a very snowy year, I had climbed from Lake 10927 to the top of Windy Ridge. After 45 years of gradually warming climate and with the drought of 2012, little snow remained and the “pass” was nothing but horridly unstable talus. I scrambled back down to my pack and continued to Lake 10643 coincidentally the same water elevation as Spider Lake. So far travel had been easy following distinct game trails. Once on the southwest side of the ridge everything changed to thick timber, cliffs, krumholtz and thick underbrush. The brush-choked lake was scenic but there were few campsites.

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Lake 10927

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Lake 10643

After an epic struggle to get past the outlet, I traversed the steep hillside to the northeast corner of Spider Lake. Bushwhacking sapped my remaining energy. It would have been easier to drop all the way to the inlet to Lake Hebeecheche and then ascend to Spider Lake. The east side of Spider Lake is cliffy and each one I had to climb up over was agonizing. I decided to camp on the windy side of the timbered peninsula on the southeast side of Spider Lake. I found a site by 2PM and set up on a grassy hummock next to the water. Again, it was not the best environmentally, but I had come as far as my tired body would go. I took a bath just as the sun went behind clouds. I washed clothes and in spite of the shade they dried quickly in the wind. I fished in the howling wind, casting during brief lulls and caught a fish for dinner.

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Spider Lake Camp

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View towards Odyysey Col fron Spider Lake outlet

I moved behind a big rock and cooked an early dinner because the weather was threatening. It was totally overcast and spit a few raindrops. At 6PM the sky suddenly cleared and the fish really started jumping. Alas, I had already eaten. By 7PM the site was in the shadows of the nearby mountains to the west so I called it a day. While in the tent I listened to music and inventoried my broken gear: tent zipper, holes in shoes, underwear and pack. At the time I thought I was alone but the fellow I met previously was camped on the other side of the peninsula and neither of us realized we were so close.

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Storm over Saddle Mountain, view from Spider Lake
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 16, 2012 3:50 pm

7/29 Day 20 Spider Lake to Lake 10563, SF Bull Lake Creek (127.6) 5.6 miles/+1800 ft./6.8 hrs.

After a terrible night’s sleep I awoke at 5AM with a bit of condensation at the head of the tent. Fearing more dew I quickly packed the tent. Clear skies and calm wind provided a good morning for photography. I was reluctant to leave; one could easily spend a week exploring and fishing all the lakes at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Little Wind River. As I left at 6:45 a few clouds were already forming on the horizon.

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Sunrise at Spider Lake

I had been over Odyssey Pass several times in the past and this time I found about the perfect route. Practice makes perfect! Again I crossed the Continental Divide and briefly left the Wind River Indian Reservation. On the descent I avoided being tricked by the easy grassy ramp headed northwest ending in ugly talus. Instead I zigzagged southwest through tricky cliffs and avoided most talus. Lake 10935 was deep blue and like glass. On a previous trip I captured one of my most stunning reflection photos I have ever taken. Again there was not a breath of wind. The trail up to Photo Pass was faint but easy and I stopped on top for a snack at 9:15. Shooting into the sun I only got mediocre photos. At Photo Pass I was again on the Continental Divide and dropped north back onto the Reservation, at the headwaters of the South Fork of Bull Lake Creek.

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View to South Fork of Bull Lake Creek from Photo Pass

In the 1990’s I had descended from Photo Pass over snow and other than avoiding falling, we simply plunge-stepped down. This time as I descended, the trail soon deteriorated to tediously steep loose rock or hideously steep sand and scree. About half way down the trail was gone. It took a bit over an hour of miserable travel to descend 1,000 feet to the lush valley below. The smell of elk was strong, constant elk whistles filled the air and elk and mountain sheep droppings were abundant. Back on the Reservation, the classic large rock cairns marked the way, but following my nose and fresh elk tracks kept me on the trail. This, the headwaters of the South Fork of Bull Lake Creek, is a magical place- full of game, mature open forests dotted with expansive meadows filled with wildflowers and dark green lush grass along the creek, between Milky Ridge to the west, Halls Mountain to the southwest and the impressive cliffs of Windy Ridge to the east. Although a trail is shown on the map, it has not been maintained in over 50 years. I would have loved to camp here and fish the stream, but I was on a tight schedule and my “agenda” had priorities.

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Cliffs of Windy Ridge

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View towards Halls Mountain

Lower the trail was difficult to follow so I crossed the creek at a known point where a small creek entered from the southwest. Thinking I could contour and intersect the trail, instead I ended up off just enough to not hit the trail until the small ponds at the top of the saddle that lead to my destination. I spooked several elk as I jumped from one game trail to the next one up. Other than anxiety of whether I lost (I was not), the actual travel was not much different than being on the typical unmaintained Reservation trails. I reached Lake 10,563 at 1:30 just as a few sprinkles started. I was really tired after my sleepless previous night. I set up, took a bath, washed clothes and took a nap. By 2:30 it was raining lightly. Rain quit and the sun came back out and I emerged from my tent, walked to an inlet stream to gather drinking water and on my way back to my campsite the fellow I met two days ago came rolling in. He set up across the lake and I washed my hair and started dinner. He came over so we had a communal dinner and talked. We both laughed that we were camped almost within shouting distance of each other at Spider Lake and compared our fishing experiences. I suspected Lake 10,563 was barren so did not even try to fish; he gave it a good try and concluded the same.

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Lake 10563

It was fun to have some company after so many days alone. He had bought my guidebook when it first came out and was doing many of the routes, starting as a pure UL hiker then adjusting with experience, discovering that a poncho as shelter in the Wind Rivers is no fun. He now had a weather-worthy tarp. I must say I am envious of those who sleep warm and can get by with a 1-pound down blanket. Soon to resupply, he only had plain mashed potatoes so I gave him some of my extra spices. We agreed to hike together over the next pass the next day. The sun was in the wrong place for good photos so I would have to wait until morning. I hopped into my tent and listened to half hour of music. It was another unusually warm night.
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:16 pm

7/30 Day 21 Lake 10563 to Hay Pass Lake 10755 (136.6) 9.0 miles/+2000 ft./8.5 hrs.

Years ago I tried to find the rumored route to Europe Pass from the upper lakes of the South Fork of Bull Lake Creek but rain, lightning and a persistent cliff foiled the attempt. The pass would be a key component in a high route I was trying to figure out. From the outlet of Lake 10562 we headed up the small hill northwest and dropped into a saddle. We had to get up the rock buttress in front of us. I found fresh elk tracks and we followed the very clever “trail” up through cliffs and slabs and even startled the bull elk we were tracking. Soon we were on a marked route with cairns. It appeared that the cairned route started from the lower unnamed lake north of Lake 10563. We continued upward passing two lakes to our right. From the uppermost lake it was elk highway over the sandy upper edge of the plateau east of Europe Pass.

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Uppermost Lake

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Lake 11023, Europe Canyon

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Lake 10741, Europe Canyon

We parted ways and I continued to Europe Pass. I was again on top of the Continental Divide. From here I could have dropped into Milky Lakes and travel off-trail more directly to Golden Lakes. I had been over this route two years earlier. But I needed to check out the route around Long Lake- an item on my “agenda” - a route I had done many years ago but had no photos nor could I hardly remember the route. I dropped down to the beautiful fish-filled upper lakes of Europe Canyon. I left the trail just below the outlet of Lake 10741 then followed a faint use-trail to the north end of the saddle above Long Lake. A huge cliff seemed to block the shoreline so instead of dropping to the lake I climbed about 150 feet over the buttress at the southeast end of the lake. I saw a group of eight people in line walking below me but they did not see me. The lay of the land forced me down towards the shoreline mid-lake where another steep buttress blocked my path. I gave the shoreline try and traversed right under a cliff about 50 feet above the shore. Although it worked, the route was miserably loaded with swarming small flies and required a lot of small ups and downs. The inlet area is a huge meadow full of flowers that were unfortunately, past their peak. Long Lake inlet marked the half-way mark of my journey! At the time I was not aware that this was my half-way point so no celebrations were in order.

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Long Lake

My initial plan was to continue due north over the top but after a mile I got bogged down in talus and nasty brush, so at 1:30 I dropped back to Lake 10555 where I traversed to Hay Pass. It was tempting to camp at this lake that has fish, but I could not find a campsite that suited me. On I went. Soon I was on a cairned off-trail route. Having not planned to go over Hay Pass I soon walked off the map I had but had been to Hay Pass before and route-finding was straight forward. I became exhausted the last half mile, mostly due to the heat, and crawled up the last hundred feet to the outlet of Lake 10756 just south of Hay Pass.

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Lakes northeast of Mt Victor

I wanted a windy spot so walked over to a prominent peninsula and camped right on top of it. Unfortunately the air was calm and soon I was in the thick of flies and viscous mosquitoes. Arriving at 3:00 it took me nearly an hour to smooth out and remove rocks from my sandy campsite and carry huge rocks to anchor the tent. Although calm at the moment, I knew the wind would increase in this high exposed location. The view was not great but it did have the “top-of-the-world” feeling. I walked over to a point to the south to get a better view only to find that my muscles were done with working for the day. The minute I started cooking the wind began to howl. The tent got a wind test. All of a sudden at 6PM the wind quit just in time to allow mosquitoes swarm me while eating.

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Lake 10756

The dry air and continual use of trekking poles had caused my painful cracks on my hands. A line of large itchy bumps on my hairline added to misery. At this moment I wished I had instead taken the route via Milky Lakes. Anxiety and worry set in as I worry about my route plan to go over Alpine Col and Indian Pass (Knifepoint Glacier) to Titcomb Basin without crampons. I look at my schedule, calculate food and days, and realize that if I got stuck in the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek, I did not have enough food to backtrack. Reluctantly I decided it was too risky and must change plans. I spent a moment feeling sorry for myself, then listened to soothing music. One of my challenges of solo off-trail travel is stay upbeat and not become overwhelmed by uncertainty and worry The line between staying safe and simply giving up and bailing out to the nearest trail gets clouded.
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:18 pm

Image
Forgot this photo -- flowers at Long Lake inlet
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:27 pm

7/31 Day 22 Lake 10755 to Alpine Lake 10895 (144.4) 7.8 miles/+2170 ft./7.0 hrs.

I awoke at dawn after a poor night’s sleep. Although it was the coldest night so far, it still did not freeze. As I ate breakfast I watched five ducks swim in the lake. Walking on a trail was a relief and soon I was at Hay Pass, crossing the Continental Divide again. I had forgotten the amazing view from Hay Pass. Morning lighting was perfect on Dennis Lake so I stopped for photos.

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Dennis Lake

My preconception of Hay Pass was of a gloomy place because the last time I went over Hay Pass with the scenic views to my back and under bitterly cold overcast skies. As I faced the spectacular views under bright blue skies, wildflowers in full bloom, I realized it was a great route. Once down to Golden Lake I had to wade across the inlet and “swamp”. I took a fisherman’s trail along the shoreline and creek to Lake Louise, instead of the main trail. I was surprised that there were no people in this very popular area. My new plan was to continue to Alpine Lakes and Brown Cliffs and then come back to Golden Lakes and go out over Angel Pass. The flowers were just amazing at Upper Golden Lake and I stopped often to photograph. Many side streams flow into the lake and I jumped rocks over two but had to wade across the last.

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Golden Lakes from Hay Pass Trail

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Upper Golden Lake

Lake 10787 and an unnamed lower lake sit on the saddle that separates Golden Lakes from Camp Lake. The steep small snowfield between the lakes was still there- the hot spring and summer of 2012 had not fully melted this snowfield, a remnant of the high snow year of 2011. The heat was on for the descent to Camp Lake and I took a rest when I found shade. The trail around Camp Lake was easier to follow this time. I certainly have had enough practice finding this old trail and this time I hit it almost perfectly.

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Lake 10787

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Douglas Peak above Camp Lake

I had twice previously day-hiked to Alpine Lakes and this time, with a full pack, tried a different route following the most used game trails. I arrived at the outlet at 2PM, very tired, dropped my pack and spent an inordinate amount of time searching for a campsite, deciding all were lumpy and windy so chose the best view. I was able to bathe and wash clothes before the weather deteriorated. Even though the sun was mostly hidden by clouds the strong wind quickly dried everything. I fell asleep to awake at 6PM, surprised that it was late and immediately got out and cooked dinner. The wind howled all night. I slept poorly on my excessively lumpy campsite.

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Alpine Lakes from outlet of the lower Lake

8/01 Day 23 Alpine Lakes day-hike/ move to Talus Lake (152.4) 8.0 miles, including 5.8 day hike/+1980 ft./8.0 hrs.

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Sunrise

Up at 5AM I left at 6:45 to hike a loop through the upper Alpine Lakes. It was a wonderful hike and I was so glad I did not try to go over Alpine Col with a full pack. The upper lakes are worthy of a day-hike or an overnight stay to explore, but backpacking over Alpine Col is simply masochistic. Alpine Col is a fine climbing pass to access the west side of Brown Cliffs from Indian Basin or the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek, but there are easier ways to backpack from the east side of the Brown Cliffs to the North Fork. Excessive boulder hopping was mitigated with good route finding and much of the walking was actually on grass until the uppermost lake, where the route to the Col is all difficult talus. People have gone on either side of the upper lake, but neither is easy. The northeast side is the “standard” route but requires a hard section that looked like class 3. High above the southwest side is another option but looked like miles of miserable talus. In a dry year like 2012, you can avoid all snow on the south side of the pass. In places a use-trail is evident; other places no trail is apparent. There are scenic campsites but exposed to wind and on relatively lumpy grass. I only hiked to the outlet of the uppermost lake.

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Ducks on eastern part of the lower Alpine Lake

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View across the middle Apline Lk

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Alpine Col above the uppermost Lake

I returned to my camp at 11:45, packed up and left at 12:15 heading to Talus Lake, this time trying a new route. I learned the hard way that my bright idea only made me do more work! I thought I could descend one creek and was blocked by an impossible cliff. I had nearly walked a circle by the time I was able to get back on the use-trail. Just after crossing Snowbridge Creek rain began to pour down as I hunkered under a tree and ate a snack. When I reached the outlet of Talus Lake rain was pouring, wind howling and hail pummeled me. I was lucky to find a dry spot to set up my tent squeezed under a tree at 3PM. It rained hard until 4:30. Then the sun came out and I dried out wet clothing and gear, took a bath and washed my stinky hiking shirt. After an early dinner I wandered around until 7PM taking photos.

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Small Pond near Talus Lake

I was in the sleeping bag by 8PM, very tired due to my previous night’s poor sleep. It had been nearly a perfect day. The tent zipper was totally broken and I pinned it closed with eight safety pins. Thankfully there were not many mosquitoes, but I had to throw six large ants out the door. I spotted bear poo on my wanderings so was a bit concerned. Fuel was running low. I reflected that it was a good call not to go over Alpine Col. I would have been caught on the top in a terrible storm. This was the first storm on my journey that had significant lightning.
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 22, 2012 2:43 pm

8/02 Day 24 Brown Cliffs Day-hike/ move to Upper Golden Lake (162.1) 9.7 miles, including 4.8 day hike/+2540 ft./8.0 hrs.

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View back towards Alpine Lakes from Talus Lake

A bluster y wind awoke me. After cooking breakfast in the tent vestibule I headed up to the Brown Cliffs for a 3.5 hour day-hike. I hopped over the talus field for which I gave Talus Lake its unofficial name and found that the best camping is on the northeast side. Lake 10590 was like a wind tunnel. Sheets of water were being picked up by the wind and thrown through the air! Hopping rocks to cross the outlet required heavy leaning into the wind. During gusts I would have to plant my trekking poles to stay upright. I reached Lake 10980 at 9AM and took a few photos. All the lakes had whitecaps but none were as fierce as at Lake 10590 where distorted scrub timber attested to its windy location.

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East side of the Brown Cliffs

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Lake 10980

Next I hiked up over the ridge to the south and found a marked route down rock slabs to a fine viewpoint 200 feet above Snowbridge Lake. As much as I wanted to drop to the lake I feared I did not have time so I reluctantly returned to my camp, packed up and left at 11:15. I had thought about dropping to Lake 9675 where good fishing was reported and then up past the slot lake on Quintet Mountain before dropping down a steep gully to Upper Alpine Lake. This harder route would take an extra day so I shelved that idea. In retrospect, I could have done it and skipped the time at Cook Lakes. At the moment my motivation for continuing hard off-trail travel was low.

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Snowbridge Lake

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The “snowbridge”

I really needed a “no-brainer” day! The remainder of the day I simply backtracked via trail to Upper Golden Lake. A NOLS group was just behind me and they invited me to tea if I were to camp at Camp Lake. I was tempted, but really needed to make miles so continued. The wind was fierce as I hiked back over the saddle between Camp Lake and Golden Lakes. I could barely make progress at some points. Thankfully Golden Lakes was more protected. I arrived and found a campsite at 3:30, very exhausted. I was disappointed to see several other groups camped there too. A packer had just unloaded and piled many backpacks. My initial campsite turned out to be on a slope under a creaky dead tree. The wind continued to howl and at 6PM I moved to a flatter and safer spot about a hundred feet away. It was too windy to fly fish and I was too tired even if the wind were to subside. Two young fellows were persistently fishing and did catch a few. I went to bed early; it was a long day.

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Golden Lakes
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 22, 2012 2:44 pm

One more picture. Flowers at Upper Golden Lake
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Re: TR: Wind River Traverse II

Postby John Dittli » Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:15 am

Wow! Never been to the Winds, have always wanted to go; inspiring trip!
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