Let’s go backpacking! Each year I and two good friends pick a mountain range and head off for two weeks of adventure above timberline. This year, it was the Wind River Range of Wyoming, just to the southeast of the Tetons and Jackson Hole. We’ve been to these mountains before, and we try to spend as much time as possible “off-trail” and way back away from the other hikers, up where the snows don’t melt and the Grizzlies don’t roam. It’s a bird’s eye view of God’s Creation without a lot of interference from man, and it’s a good place to be. Come on along!
The first day was a 10-mile hike with full backpacks, and the first two miles enjoyed over a 1000′ elevation gain. Camp the first night was in a meadow overlooking the Wind Rivers, with the jagged, round-topped Bonneville Peak standing guard. Sunset the first night was phenomenal:
Day 2 we clicked off another 8 miles and gained another 1000′ altitude up to Middle Fork Lake. We found a great place to camp, and a nosy mule deer thought so also:
Day 3 we kept our campsite at Middle Fork Lake and did a day hike up over the saddle to Bewmark Lake. Middle Fork and Lee Lakes as seen from the saddle:
An unnamed lake just above Bewmark Lake, just below Photo Pass, at just under 11,000′ in altitude. The streams were pretty, but is has been a very low snow year, and all the snow is gone, as well as a few glaciers that we saw when we were in these mountains three years ago. Some of the streams are barely running, or in some cases, not at all:
Day 4 we packed up and made a short trek up and over a pass to Halls Lake. We have been here once before, and it’s a beautiful place. We made a day hike up to the top of the knobs overlooking the valley of the Shoestring Lakes. This panorama shows Halls Lake from a ridge above the lakes and the Shoestring Lakes as you pan around to the right:
An eagle spreads his wings on the hunt, and another wonderful sunset over Halls Lake:
Day 5 we head out on another short day, only 4.25 miles from Halls Lake to Europe Canyon and Europe Canyon Lakes.
Day 6 was a day hike up to Europe Canyon Pass. Joe and I enjoyed a lunch on the pass, looking over into the Wind River Indian Reservation and Milky Lakes before a storm chased us down:
Day 7 was a tough 3.6 miles from Europe Canyon, past Long Lake and over the 500′ high buttress, then down to Glacier Lake and Glacier Valley:
Day 8 we all did a day hike up to Hay Pass, at 11, 350′. Views were spectacular.
The next morning we took a side trip to a small, unnamed lake up against the cliff face near our camp. What a wonderful surprise to find this gem tucked away and protected just for us:
Day 9 we did another day hike, this one to the Continental Divide on the other end of the valley, also at over 11,000 feet:
Day 10 we packed up to begin the 3-day hike back toward the trialhead. Another calm morning meant more beautiful reflections on the water:
Day 11, our last night in the mountains, ended with a spectacular light show:
Our last day, heading down and back to the trailhead, the air was filled with smoke from fires burning in Wyoming and Idaho. We ended our 12 days safe and sound with no food to spare:
The Wind River Range, and the Bridger and Teton Wilderness, is some of the best-kept secrets in this country. It covers a vast expanse of wilderness and roadless area accessible only to foot and horse, and seems as unspoiled as it was hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. Be ready to be self-sufficient and self-rescue worthy, and above all, respect the weather that these mountains generate, especially lightening. For more information on hiking and backpacking the Winds, write me and I’ll get you in touch with some great information to get you started. And remember, “You don’t stop backpacking because you grow old, you grow old because you stop backpacking.”