Trip Report: Wind River Range

Friday, July 15
After work, I left for the airport and my flight to Denver, Colorado. When I got to Denver I was to meet up with the Captn and his son Tom. My 6:00 PM flight left the gate right on time, but we sat on the runway until about 7:00 waiting for clearance to take off. I phoned the Captn to let him know. The flight went smoothly and I was only 10 minutes late. I got to baggage claim and within 5 minutes or so the Captn was ringing my cell. I told him where I was and soon heard him calling my name. He said that he figured I was the “guy walking around the airport with fishing rod in hand…” We located the hotel shuttle and within about ½ hour, we were at our hotel. We settled in and the Captn ordered pizza for supper. I called coloradodcs, our ride from Denver to Lander, and then called powerhiker to let him know we were here. After chatting for a couple of hours with the Captn and Tom, we drifted off to dreamland.

Saturday, July 16
Coloradodcs arrived at the hotel. After stowing our gear in his truck we hit the highway. We met up with powerhiker along the way and I switched over to his van. From there the caravan was off to Lander, connected by two-way radios. It was a pleasant drive. We stopped in Rawlins for lunch and were back on the road in less than an hour. The landscape changed about every 15 minutes or so. We saw dry fields leading up to rolling hills, groves of trees, and red rock formations with the rock strata canted at weird angles. There were rounded piles of rocks, which powerhiker said were a lot like what you would see in the Vaudevoos (sp?) He talked about his recent trail maintenance trip and we both remarked that we couldn’t believe our trip had actually started. Along the way we saw pronghorn roaming the plains, some even close to the road. Before long, we saw signs for Lander and knew we were close. When we checked in at the hotel we found that just about everyone was already there: eduk8er and Trail Angel; Foggy, Mr. Foggy, and TroutBoy; LiRM35 and showmehiker; Jaywalker and HighHills; Zipee and hikes-with-dumbbell; JeffB and Trail Turtle. With the Captn, Tom, coloradodcs, powerhiker and me there was only one missing. Not long after we arrived, bunion pulled in and the group was complete. We visited with everyone, reuniting with friends we knew and getting acquainted with the newcomers. It was great – and I got to get there before 2 AM this year – with all of my gear intact! Supper was at 6:30 so we unloaded and cleaned up. We got our fishing licenses and some other “stuff” then went back to the hotel where we gathered to leave for supper at Cowfish, the local watering hole. Before we left for the restaurant, Foggy and Mr. Foggy gave out our official team t-shirts for this year’s trip. I handed out embroidered patches and Leave no Trace cards to everyone. Supper was a really fun time as we continued to get to know each other. The excitement of the group was electric as each of us talked about our expectations for the trip. After supper, we hung out in the park behind the hotel until about 10 PM, and then off to our rooms for our last sleep in a bed for awhile.

At the Trailhead: In front – PowerHiker and Bunion
L to R: Trail Angel, Eduk8er, JeffB, JayWalker, HighHills, TrailTurtle, Hikes-with-dumbbell, Zipee,
Coloradodcs, Tom, the Captn, TroutBoy, ShowmeHiker, LiRM35, Foggy, Squilax, Mr. Foggy
(photo by JayWalker)

Sunday, July 17
We gathered at 7:42 AM in front of eduk8er’s room. With gear in vehicles and coffee in hand, we eagerly anticipated heading for the trailhead at the Worthen Meadows reservoir. The convoy left, traveling through town then up through Sinks Canyon to the dirt track that led us into the mountains. Following switchback after switchback, we finally arrived on top past Frye Lake to the reservoir and parking lot. There were a few vehicles already there, including horse and llama (yes, LLAMA) trailers. We gathered our gear, making sure we didn’t leave anything necessary behind (right eduk8er??). We made final pit stops, and then headed up the trail. Did I say UP? It sure was – almost all the way! It was soon apparent that there were two sub-groups in this cadre of backcountry explorers. One group of fairly quick-paced folk including Trail Turtle, whom we all were sure, spoke with a forked tongue about her hiking style! The rest of us: eduk8er, Trail Angel, the Captn, Tom and I, kept a steady, but more relaxed pace, taking photos and talking along the way. We took more breaks than the lead group, but we enjoyed the pace as we trudged up to the pass at 10,600 feet. We found a nice spot to stop next to a waterfall. It was a welcome relief to drop the pack, have lunch and string up my hammock for a siesta. I thought I had tested both of the trees I was using, but against Tom’s better judgment, I tied off the foot end of the hammock to a very large, but very dead, tree. Just about the time I began to doze off (about 15 minutes or so) I heard cracking and snapping and opened my eyes to see the huge trunk falling my way. It was like viewing in slow motion as the tree’s roots let loose from the dry ground and fell toward me veering off to my right and landing with a resounding THUD on the ground. I can’t recall ever seeing eduk8er on his feet so quickly! He jumped up shouting, thinking I was under the tree, and everyone scurried over to find me sitting leisurely in my hammock, on the ground, with a very surprised look on my face! We all laughed, nervously, thinking about what the outcome might have been. Powerhiker had come down to meet us and we got back on the trail. We laughed about this escapade more than once during the rest of the week. Heh heh… We made it to the top of the pass around suppertime, and what a view from the dinner table! Across from us were the Wind River Mountains, including Wind River Peak, snow covered in all its glory. What a sight to behold! Powerhiker and showmehiker were waiting on top for us and had water to refill our supply. They didn’t want our two groups to be out of touch with each other. As they went down to meet up with the rest of the Wanderers, powerhiker said he’d be back a little later to camp with us up on the pass. We ate supper and soon after, a couple of the members in our group felt dizzy and nauseated, so we decided to head down for lower elevations to help alleviate their symptoms. As we started downhill, I tried to raise powerhiker on the radio but he was already coming over the ridge below us. We told him what was going on, and he joined us in our descent. He had already climbed that pass three times today, so I was sure he was tired and hungry. We found a nice spot to set up camp for the night and as it was close to 9 PM, we decided to stop while we still had light to see. There was a stream nearby and our campsite was nestled in a dense copse of evergreens a couple hundred feet off and below the trail. Powerhiker and I slung our hammocks – I looked for two sturdy, very LIVE trees this time – while everyone else put up their tents. Once situated, I lit my candle lantern, set it on a large flat rock and laid back looking up at the stars beginning to show between the branches above. I thought to myself, “what a beautiful day this turned out to be”. Powerhiker joined me with his Indian flute. He sat nearby, and the mournful tones emanating from this carved piece of wood blended into the surroundings. How appropriate! The moon, the stars, and Native music! It was plaintive, but soothing and relaxing as I laid back and looked up into the sky. We talked for awhile in between songs and it felt good to be one with nature.

Monday, July 18
We awoke and busied ourselves with breakfast, cleanup and repacking our gear. I asked eduk8er if he’d like to lighten his pack a bit – I thought he had brought my supper meals. He looked at me surprised and asked, “What do you mean?” I realized he had not brought my food with him. He assumed I had brought everything I needed, so he left my meal packs in the back of his truck – 7 miles away… We had a good laugh over that one. As it turned out, nobody went hungry. The food I brought, in addition to the fish we caught during the week was more than enough to see us through. Some of the point group passed by on their way to the creek to restock their water supply, so we chatted with them about the day before. We headed down to their camp, discovering that it was only another few hundred yards away and met up with the rest. Foggy, Mr. Foggy and TroutBoy decided to hang out with us on the trail today, so when everyone was ready we set off. Keeping our leisurely pace, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the fellowship, getting to know the Foggys again. It seemed all we did was laugh and carry on, as if it really hadn’t been a year since we last saw each other. We made it to Bill’s Park that afternoon and set up camp across the river. During suppertime, Foggy built a great campfire and we enjoyed our meal together, gathered around the fire telling jokes, swapping stories and engaging in animated conversation for most of the evening. We watched the stars come out and saw the almost full moon rise through the trees. The Captn and Tom were beginning to recover from their distress of being at altitude and everyone was having a great time.

Tuesday, July 19
Sometime during the night, the cords on my hammock stretched on one side and I found myself lying towards one edge of the hammock instead of comfortably snuggled in the center. Fortunately, my hammock has sewn-in bug netting, so I didn’t fall out. Unfortunately though, the side that had loosened during the night was opposite the side from where the opening was. When I awoke to the sounds of everyone having breakfast, I tried to get out of the hammock, but kept rolling backwards away from the opening. After struggling, but before taking out my knife to cut myself loose, I was finally able to roll up and out. Eduk8er yelled, “Look – it’s giving birth!” and I found myself sitting on the ground. We all laughed at this and I was soon OK as I had my first cup of coffee. After breakfast, I decided to do some fishing and exploring. The Foggys had taken off downstream to pursue some elusive brook trout, and several of us soon followed suit. The radio crackled to life and we heard “powerhiker to Winds Wanderers” come across the airwaves. Eduk8er answered the call. Powerhiker, showmehiker, Zipee and bunion had all reached the top of Wind River Peak and they were checking in with us. We found out that JeffB was not feeling up to par and that he and powerhiker would be joining us later in the day. After lunch, we lounged by the river taking in the beauty that surrounded us. This was a good time to catch up on everything that had transpired since we saw each other last. During the day, everyone contributed to the stringer of fish that was to become our supper that night. Foggy, Trail Angel, the Captn and I had the job of preparing the fish and then it was time for the Bill’s Park Trout Cook off. We ended up with four different fish dishes for supper – Trout Chowder, Lemonade Poached Trout, Italian Spiced Trout and Cajun Blackened Trout. What made it taste even better was that we were eating it outdoors, sharing it with friends. Powerhiker and JeffB joined us in time to finish off the last of the fish. Tonight turned out to be an early to bed night for everyone as the fresh air and activity had worn us all out.

Wednesday, July 20
Woke up to a beautiful morning and today was pretty much like Tuesday. Fishing, lounging, napping, talking, but with one new activity – swimming! JEEZ! That water was FREAKIN’ COLD! Tom and I worked up the nerve to get in, and we swam across the river. It definitely was, uh, refreshing – yeah, that’s it! Others joined in – TroutBoy, eduk8er, and Trail Angel. The nice thing after the swim was that the sun was warm and the mountain breeze helped us to dry off quickly. When we gathered later at the fire, three of us showed up in an unofficial “uniform of the day”. Mr. Foggy, eduk8er and I were all wearing green cargo pants and long sleeved white shirts! We all laughed, and someone, I can’t remember if it was Foggy or Trail Angel, asked us if we planned this ahead of time. It was pretty comical. Zipee and hikes-with-dumbbell joined us later as the other group of Wanderers stopped by. They were all headed for the Stough Creek Lakes and were checking in with us. Another supper of trout and various accompaniments awaited us tonight. JeffB was a lot perkier today as he acclimated to the lower elevation.

Thursday, July 21
Today we decided to pack up and head out. The afternoon before, powerhiker, eduk8er and Zipee pored over the map to set the route back to the reservoir. We set out for Sheep Bridge to camp there for the night. This would give us a short hike on our last day. We stopped occasionally for photos and broke for lunch a little past Gill’s Park. It was here that the Popo Agie River opened up into a beautiful lake and looking back, we viewed the reflection of the mountains on its calm surface. Today’s lunch break was no different than all the other meal times… our sides ached and some of us had tears running down our faces from laughing so hard. It was terrific to be in the company of such a wonderful group of friends! We made it to Sheep Bridge and set up camp. This was a beautiful site. We had a huge flat rock for our kitchen and dining area and the river was not too far away. There were shallow pools at the edge of the water where we soothed our feet and legs and we washed off the accumulated dust from the trail. After supper, powerhiker entertained us with more flute music and we awaited the sight of the full moon over the mountain. We relived the week’s experiences with each other, thinking about plans for next year and talking about some possible locations for next summer’s gathering.

Friday, July 22
As promised, the hike out was a short one. Although the beginning was all uphill, we found a nice rest spot up on top and took a break. The Foggys, TroutBoy, powerhiker, Zipee, and hikes-with-dumbbell preceded the rest of us and we took our time together, not wanting this awesome week to draw to a close. As it turned out, we were less than ½ hour from the parking lot when we took our break. When we crested the next rise we saw the reservoir below. It wasn’t long before we reunited with the rest of our group. Powerhiker was waiting with bottles of Gatorade for all of us. When we were all there and loaded up, we headed down the mountain. We stopped briefly to check out Sink’s Canyon. This is an oddity of nature where the Popo Agie River disappears underground into a cave and reappears further downstream in a deep pool filled with huge trout. At the hotel, we cleaned up and awaited the arrival of the other group of Wanderers. We met up at Cowfish again. This time when we got to the restaurant there was no power. Such are the tribulations of being on a trip with eduk8er! We spent the time visiting and comparing notes from the week while waiting for power to be restored. Dinner was great. Afterward, we went back to eduk8er’s room to watch a slide show that Trail Angel had put together including photos from everyone who had a digital camera. We hung out for awhile in the parking lot. Jaywalker handed out some mementos and a special treat from Kentucky. I don’t think anyone wanted to see this trip come to an end!
Location: Wind River Range

State: Wyoming

Miles: 32

Days: 6

Type: In and Out

Saturday, July 23
Joined the Wanderers for breakfast at the Oxbow. Jaywalker and HighHills, LiRM35 and showmehiker, bunion, and Trail Turtle left either before breakfast or the night before. When we were finished, we packed up for the ride home. We said our goodbyes and the Captn, Tom and I piled into coloradodcs’ truck, headed for Denver. Powerhiker, Zipee, and hikes-with-dumbbell left for Pinedale and another week in the Winds. The Foggys and TroutBoy headed off to Washington. Eduk8er and Trail Angel did their final packing and would be on the road soon. We headed south to Rawlins and stopped in at the Subway where we had lunch on the way up. Eduk8er called me and said he wasn’t far behind us. When I saw him pull in, I traveled the rest of the way to Denver with him and Trail Angel. The Captn got a phone call from his niece in Boulder. She was picking him and Tom up at the hotel so we wouldn’t be getting the chance to say goodbye. I also missed saying goodbye to coloradodcs (for the second year running). The three of us – eduk8er, Trail Angel, and me – stopped at the Cracker Barrel for supper then went to the hotel. We hung out in the hot tub for awhile and then called it a night. I was really grateful for this “bonus” time with eduk8er and his wife.

Sunday, July 24
We drove over to the airport after breakfast and said our goodbyes there. I wish this trip could have continued, but all good things eventually come to an end. Well – There’s always next year! Bandelier in March and who knows where next July??

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