Trip Report: Wind River Solo

Location: Wind River Range

State: Wyoming

Miles: 40

Days: 5

Type: In and Out

Trip Background: Ever since returning from my NOLS backpacking trip, I couldn’t wait to get back into the mountains. A solo backpacking trip was the only solution as I didn’t have anyone to go with on such short notice. I also decided to return to the Wind River Range in Wyoming because of my familiarity with the area and so that I may visit some friends in Colorado.

Route: Middle Fork Trailhead to Pinto Park Trail to North Fork Trail to Cirque of the Towers and back. Approximately 45 miles over a 5 day trip. Late August 2005.

Pictures: I really didnt take many pictures. Some of the pictures were taken simply for comparison of camp spots from my NOLS trip in June.

August 19th: lots of people with horses on the trail, although I was still close to trailhead. feeling pretty good physically even though I had left WI less than 24 hours earlier and had only 2 hours of sleep at various waysides. already at planned first camp by 1:20 and will continue hiking to three forks park for a total of 11 miles. the weather is great. high 70’s with a cool breeze.

August 20th: got out of the tent at 9:30 and made breakfast. I was on the trail at 11:00 with the plan to hike 5 miles to Pinto Park. only saw 4 people total today, but was off trail and in camp by early afternoon. made some dough for pizza and cinnamon rolls in my spare time. definately notice the need to hike longer so that I’m not in camp all day long by myself.

August 21st: woke up last night to “animal noises’ at about 10 pm. I crawled out of my tent and saw a small herd of elk in the moonlight about 150 yards away. I really wish I could have taken a picture. woke up at about 9:30 and used the rest of the dough for breakfast.

I started hiking at about 11:30 and went approximately 6 miles to the base of Lizard Head Trail with an awesome view of the Cirque. I was planning on taking Lizard Head trail and changing my route to include a larger loop over to Dickinson Creek Park. a storm forced me into my tent later in the afternoon.

August 22nd: woke up at 6:00 to get ready for the longer day on Lizard Head Trail. noticed someone camped above me 300 yards back; they must have gotten in during the rain yesterday. also saw lots of nasty clouds this morning so I sat in camp until about 8 to see if the clouds would clear out, but it must have been a front moving through. decided against the route change because of how exposed the trail is and hiked back to the North Fork of the Popo Agie. didnt want to take too many chances while solo. the hike down reminded me how much I hate doing steep downhill sections.

I had camp setup by 9:30 near Papoose Lake along the North Fork of the Popo Agie River. at about 10:30 a storm blew in and dumped some rain on me. at about 11:15 I crawled out of the tent and went fishing for the next couple hours. at one point I was catching fish every other cast with a spinning rod and spoon. I really wished I had a fly rod though.

later in the afternoon I took a shower using my nalgene and washed all of my clothes out. I was still considering changing my route a bit at this point to make a loop near Shoshone Lake. I spent a long time today just sitting in camp…

August 23rd: something rubbed up against the side of the tent in the middle of the night. I just told myself it was a marmot(it was something smaller) and somehow fell back asleep. woke up at about 7 and made a quick breakfast out of powerbars. I started to get lazy with making nice meals a couple days in.

cleaned up camp and started hiking at 9. the plan was simply to hike as far as I felt like going today and camp wherever I stopped. three spots I had picked considered before setting out were pinto park, three forks park and sheeps bridge. at about 11:30, i had already passed pinto park on my way down to three forks park. i stopped at the pinto park trail and middle fork trail intersection around 1:00 to take a break and fix up my feet a bit. I actually had a couple blisters which were caused from hiking so much the first day and my feet not bing used to the work. at this point I had already gone about 11 or 12 miles and felt great besides the feet, so I kept on hiking.

by the time I made it near Sheep’s Bridge, I had decided I was going to test my physical limits and hike until 5 or 6. this would put me close to or at the trailhead. at about 5:00, I got a glimpse of the water falls above Sink’s Canyon and became determined to hike all the way to the trailhead. at about 5:45 I set my pack against my car and began the adjustment back to civilization. in all, I hiked 21 miles in just under 9 hours.

Summary: I had a lot of fun on my solo backpacking trip. It really didnt take me much adjustment to deal with the loneliness factor as I am already am a rather independent person. The scariest part of the trip was definately not when I was in the woods, but while I was driving. On the way out to Wyoming, I drove through a nasty storm in South Dakota and simply driving through RMNP while visiting friends in Colorado tested my nerves. I definately plan on backpacking again, but it will have to wait until next spring/summer unfortunately.

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