Wind Rivers Finale

My 6th. trip to the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming will probably be my last one into these mountains. During the past 25 years I and a few very close friends have made an annual pilgrimage to the Rocky Mountains, from New Mexico to Montana, and all points in between, for extended (8-12 days) backpack excursions into the high country. The Wind Rivers are probably my favorite mountain range, primarily due to the high, craggy peaks, the many gorgeous, sweeping basins carved by the glacial movements of the last ice age, the many high, alpine lakes, and the vast expanses of off-trail trekking available above timberline. After 6 backpack trips into the Winds I think after this trip we’ll set our sights on other trails where we have not been before. This August our trip returned to a section of the southern Winds that we all love, and an area that we had not visited since 2010. This, a short photo-safari through Wyoming’s backbone, the Continental Divide, and the grizzly bear country of the Wind River Mountains:

Myself, Jason, Sara and Joe at the Scab Creek Trailhead ready to go:11We have a climb of 1700′ in the first two miles up the trail to the Wilderness boundary:14Some of the lower elevation lakes sport beautiful yellow lillies along the shoreline:22The delicate columbine flowers begin to appear as we reach higher elevations:32Campsite the first evening after a 9.5 mile hike, with the majestic peaks of Bonneville Basin, still some 8 miles away, looming in the background:44First night out we marvel at clear skies as a meteor from the Perseoid Meteor Shower crosses the Milky Way, and the ISS glides by low on the horizon:57Next morning we hit the trail, only to find a couple of log cabins, circa 1900, that were probably used by shepherds using the summer pastures along these drainages for grazing sheep:70After a couple of miles of “off-trail” hiking across high meadows with spectacular views and multiple crystal blue lakes, we intersect the Freemont Trail, a section of the Continental Divide Trail that runs the backbone of the Rockies from Canada to near Mexico:71Today’s hike of about 7 miles brings us to Bonneville Lake, at an elevation of about 9300′, which sits in the shadow of Bonneville Peak. The last time we were here we had just crossed Raid Pass in a rain/snow storm and descended a steep waterfall some 500′ to set up camp on this very spot in driving snow (in August), about 7 years ago:87Bonneville Lake:79Wildflowers and waterfall that connects Upper Bonneville Lake with Lower Bonneville Lake:107The view from atop the waterfall, looking back down to Lower Bonneville Lake:120Multi-colored lilac and white columbine near the upper waterfall:128A calm lake reflects the new snow that fell overnight, leaving an inch or more on our tents at camp, and much more at higher elevations:134Next morning, we break camp and head 8 miles up and across a pass and drop into another basin, Middle Fork Basin, and set up camp between Lee Lake and Middle Fork Lake:190Lee Lake is gorgeous, and is still holding lots of snow in its basin from heavier than normal winter snows:193The wildflowers around Lee Lake are spectacular, and the view across the lake reveals the waterfall that drops over 500′ from Bewmark Lake. We’ll be climbing this near-vertical route with our packs later in the day:220After our climb, the view from atop the waterfall, back across Middle Fork Lake, to Lee Lake and the vast Middle Fork Basin is just spectacular:236The view from our “camp kitchen” as Jason and I enjoy the lengthening shadows before cooking dinner:231We take a day hike across the snow fields to a smaller, upper unnamed lake still icy cold and clear from the remaining blanket of snow that won’t melt off this year:258Next morning we pack up, head over another high pass and drop down the Middle Fork Boulder Creek drainage, displaying beautiful cascades along the way, carrying snowmelt waters from two wonderful basins:287Our final night we return to the meadow on the approach to the high basins where we spent our first night a week ago, and watch the mountains turn from gray to red as the sun gives way to twilight:308As the skies darken, the Milky Way explodes across the southern sky and the occasional meteor gives us pause to applaud the splendor of the heavens:313RAnd so, eight days flew by as if only hours, and we were left to again be grateful for our time here. This is truly one of the best kept secrets in the Rockies, and are still full of places where solitude is king. One caveat…this is grizzly bear country, so you must be experienced in back country habits where these deadly critters are present. Bear spray (deterrent) is a must, as is a clean camp and spartan tents free of human food odors. But the rewards are worth it. 

We were also in Wyoming during the total solar eclipse. This was no accident, as we have been planning this for over a year:Eclipse ProgressionIMG_4746R

A pretty spectacular way to finish another marvelous trip to the high country!