Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wind River Range 2014 - Elkheart Park TH To Big Sandy TH (missing Cirque of the Towers)

2014 The next year we decided to finish the Wind River Range section of the Continental Divide Trail.  Since we had already hiked the section between Green River Lakes and Island Lake we wanted to hike from Island lake south to Big Sandy, with a few side trips along the way.  We wanted to detour up Europe Canyon, do a side loop around Middle Fork Lake, and also hike into the Cirque of the Towers, another major Wind River attraction.

For this trip, we again shuttled an extra car to Big Sandy Trailhead so that we could start at Elkhart Park and have a ride home when we finished.

The road to Big Sandy can be difficult just as the Green River Lakes Trailhead road can be.  We shuttled a car up to Big Sandy after a week of some rain showers and were told at one point we might not make it with my little volvo.  Alas, a few muddy spots and no problems.  It does take quite a while to shuttle a car up there though as it is a good 100 mile round trip from Pinedale.

Yes. Yes I am having pizza and beer for breakfast. (2014)
The morning we left Elkhart Park was a little cool and overcast with hints of possible sunshine later in the day.  Alas, it was fog and rain for most of the day.

A little overcast today

We hiked through the day with intermittent rain showers eventually putting on all of our rain gear for the wet trek.  We had high aspirations of making it all the way to Bald Mountain Basin for the first night.  We did not realize that there would not be a foot bridge to ford Pole Creek.  We did not have a single ford the previous year along the Highline Trail.  We were already wet, cold and a little hungry, plus Robin's knee had started acting up. When we found out we had to wade across Pole Creek we were in slight disbelief. Plus to save weight, we did not have any camp shoes or sandals.  

The crossing looked a little deep, a little swift and very rocky. We looked upstream a ways, but didn't see a place to cross, and another hiker coming back said it was not good even further up. We watched this hiker's buddy cross and determined we would have to wear our hiking shoes through the crossing, because of all the boulders and large rocks in the river bottom.

 Grant took off his rain pants and his hiking pants, his socks and pulled the inserts out of his shoes and crossed.  Robin did the same. On the other side the previous hikers waited to be sure we crossed ok, which was very nice of them. 

We put our clothes back on and put on our wet shoes.  It continued to rain.  This made us depressed because walking in the rain in cold wet shoes is very demoralizing! 
We hiked along in the wet misery for a while and quickly decided it was time to set up camp so we could dry out and eat some warm food and water.  After this, Robin's knee really started hurting.

Pole Creek Crossing after a day of Rain Hiking - Dang!
Looks tame, but was up to our thighs, and swifter than it looks here.

The next morning, after a comedy of errors looking for Robin's sunglasses (at the river crossing, but luckily this side of it!) Robin decided that despite her continued knee pain, we would press on...Cause you know, why not. Good thing we did, because the skies brightened and we got the Wind Rivers we were looking for.

Ahhhhh, that's what I'm talking about! Between Pole Creek and Cook Lakes

Starting to dry out and warm up - almost to junction for Cook Lakes or Bald Mtn Basin

Entering Bald Mountain Basin on the Fremont Trail with Mount Baldy in the background

Bald Mountain Basin. Angel Peak and Angel Pass?

Fremont Trail, Awesome Bald Mountain Basin
More Bald Mountain Basin

View NE from upper Bald Mountain Basin

Bald Mountain Basin View

Bald Mountain Basin Panoramic

Fremont Trail, 10850' saddle between Bald Mountain Basin and Baldy Lakes Basin

Wind River Fun!  Almost out of Bald Mountain Basin heading to Baldy Lakes on the Fremont Trail
Uhhhh..Yeah, we liked Bald Mountain Basin. It would have been incredible to camp there. Gorgeous. Continued knee pain, slow progress, Robin insisting on pressing on...Did we mention Robin didn't bring her knee brace because she hadn't had her IT band pain in so long she assumed it was a thing of the past, and then on top of that forgot the ace bandage in her first aid kit...Sooooo...Yeah.

Descending into Baldy Lakes Basin, taking the low road to link Bell Lakes trail back to Fremont Trail

Climbing out of Bald Mountain Basin, and into Baldy Lakes Basin was gorgeous...And slow.  Damn that knee.  Damn damn damn. At this point Robin was taking so much Ibuprofen that she had to ration it to how many days were left, and ban Grant from getting any. We also reached a junction that could have taken us back around to the Highline trail and then back to where we started...Two more days.  The other option was to keep hiking, cut the trip short, and beeline it to Big Sandy, which was Three days away.  Robin would not turn around, and opted for three more days of pain, instead of two more days of pain.  Yay crazy town.

Fremont Trail, Crossing Fall Creek with Round Top Mountain in background

Fremont Trail Looking NW just N of Hat Pass

Campsite and sunset Hat Pass, Fremont Trail Wind River Range

Tent site on Hat Pass
Above was our second night's campsite, at the top of a ridge on Hat Pass.  Fun to ridge camp instead of lake camp, but a little spooky for some reason.  It felt like we were the only ones left on the planet, with nothing but the tundra and sound of the wind through the peaks to to keep us company.  I don't know, I was tired and had had a lot of vitamin I at that point.  Despite the lack of apparent life, we tried to hang our dishes and other food smelling items from a boulder just in case we attracted some bears going over the mountain. We had a bear canister for actual food....

Sunset from Hat Pass Campsite

I'm Crazy! Here I've got a bum knee. 35 more miles.  Let's keep going!  I'm Crazy!

Right on Schedule! Descending Hat Pass Southbound, Fremont Trail

More awesome Wind River, Fremont Trail

Creek crossing, NE end of North Fork Lake Fremont Trail

Creek crossing at North Fork Lake
Soon after would have been our first side trip into Europe Canyon, but we cut that out. I have no idea what it would have been like.  Probably awful and really ugly, you know, 'cause it's the Winds, and the Winds suck...Am I right?  Sigh...

Fremont Trail at Pipestone Lakes

The future awaits - Looking SE toward Raid Peak, Fremont Trail

Dead Mamminal, Halls Creek, Fremont Trail

Crossing Halls Creek

Fun with camera settings!

Bob at Bobs Lake
About here, we met some day hikers, (or overnight hikers? Not sure) and they offered Robin their ace bandage. She wouldn't take it because her Catholic guilt conscience was afraid they would be injured and then be shit out of luck themselves. Well, that's not just Catholic guilt...You really should look out for number one, because you're your own best hope in the back country....Others passing by are just added bonus if you get f'd.  And this knee pain was not an emergency, just awful. But not awful enough to hate the views!

Dreamy Campsite at Dream Lake
Camping at Dream Lake was great.  Had it all to ourselves. It's funny. At this point, Robin was complaining about the views, how the previous year's hike was much better...Oh how spoiled can one person be? We are the worst.

Dream Lake Sunset
There are sheep in the Sheep Creek area!
There are still sheep ranchers in the area who make their living off the land. This was sheep shit country!

Good morning weather near Sheep Creek, Fremont Trail

Beautiful Divide

Still good weather looking at the divide

Different Mountains, different weather - crossing the pass, Southbound below Mount Geikie on the Fremont Trail

Climbing the saddle below Mount Geikie

We can finally see the Cirque!
Coming up over this No-name pass was stunning, and really amped Robin up. At the same time, we stupidly hadn't taken enough breaks, and hadn't eaten. Plus it was really cold, and the weather ahead was stormy. We were at the top of a pass and felt like we had to keep going so we didn't get struck by lightening, etc... Grant was pissed... Another melt-down rock. All fun and games, but boy was it gorgeous.
Looking SW toward the Cirque of the Towers
I wish I could tell you the name of the pass, because it was awesome.  If you look at a map, it's the plateau (after a climb) after you cross Silver Creek on the Fremont Trail (part of CDT).

Different drainage, suspect weather
Crossing Washakie Creek in the East Fork Creek Meadow.Not a bad crossing, but cold
Looking North across Washakie Creek
Walking along Washakie Creek Toward the Cirque of the Towers
Looking W along the Shadow Lake Trail
Looking toward the Cirque of the Tower along the Shadow Lake Trail
It was beautiful even without saturated color camera setting...But its fun to to put weird pictures up...And it's sort of how it felt anyway.

We made it to the Shadow Lake trail and Robin decided she wanted to try for the Cirque of the Towers after all.  Still a lot of pain, but the Cirque was the whole point of the trip, the icing on the cake, the reason to get out of bed in the morning...So instead of bailing towards Big Sandy, we hiked on down the trail to set ourselves up for Texas Pass, an unofficial trail, but supposedly so well used, that it is super easy to follow, and not scary?  This according to some strangers we met on the trail :)

We had to hoof it, because evening storms were rolling in and they looked bad this time.

I should mention that our original trip plan, before Robin's knee gave out on day one,  had been to veer north and go over either Washakie Pass, or Hailey Pass to then loop around on the Lizard Head trail and into the Cirque.  Going over Texas Pass was going to be a much shorter route into the Cirque of the Towers, so that's how we came to that decision.

Shadow Lake Trail Campsite, just before the weather.  Campsite number 4.
After-supper whiskey, wondering about the weather
Whiskey and weather
Of course, as per usual this trip, things didn't pan out as planned.  We woke up to snow.  Not a lot on our tent, but looking up into the mountains....

Woke up to snow!
Looks like Texas Pass might have a little snow?
With Robin's knee, her slow pace, snow, so ummm yeah....

Cold out there - better have coffee in the tent!

Yay! We give up!
We finally threw in the towel...And headed back out towards Big Sandy...

Looks like Washakie Pass has some snow too!
Mount Washakie over Washakie creek
Still snowing on the way down to Big Sandy
And it snowed on us all the way home...

We made it! Big Sandy Trailhead
(P.s. very little cold beer because Robin stupidly wouldn't let Grant refill the propane...'cause she was in a hurry. So no ice-cold van refrigerator beer, but luckily we had put fresh ice in the some coldish beer. Amateurs.)

In the end, we did five days, four nights, instead of ten days, nine nights....And we only covered about 60 miles instead of 100.  This was supposed to be Robin's big training hike for next years PCT attempt, so pretty demoralizing to have experienced so much pain right off the bat and have to bail, but then again, it's amazing what we can accomplish, and what our bodies will do. We had still come a long way from that 2003 hike!

Big Wonderful Wyoming

The End.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it clean. Don't be mean.