Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

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Wandering Daisy
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Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 02, 2018 2:17 pm

Northern Wind Rivers: Green River Lakes to Torrey Creek Trailheads. 8/16-8/22

I have added a few panoramas 11/5/18 see several posts below

From our Whisky Grove campground, we drove the three-hour, 40-mile dirt road over Union Pass to drop my car off at Torrey Creek Trailhead, near Dubois Wyoming. Having driven a lot of long dirt roads, I had not anticipated that my husband would refused to return on that road! Granted, he had to eat my dust and his truck is much more bouncy than my passenger car. To make matters worse, once my car was dropped off, he got a flat tire on the Torrey Creek dirt road. With no cell coverage, our AAA service was useless. We changed the tire ourselves. After getting the tire fixed in Dubois, at 5:00 PM we drove 250 highway miles, all the way around the Wind Rivers, returning to our trailer in the dark at 9:30. We drove the slightly longer south route so if we got tired, we had friends in Lander to stay with. Lesson learned; agreeing to drive a long dirt road is different from actually doing it!

There are no photos of the first three days. When I get home I will put in some photos taken on previous trips, so you can get an idea of the scenery.


Day 1. Green River Lake TH to Clear Lake. (5.7 miles, +1150 feet)

Next morning I finished packing. I had hoped we could drive the 5 miles out to cell coverage so I could get a weather report, but my husband said absolutely NOT! He was not driving anymore dirt roads than needed, so he took me straight to Green River Lakes Trailhead on that 12-mile dirt road that actually was in very good shape compared to its usual washboard condition. Given no weather report, I went in via Clear Creek, a spectacular yet gnarly bushwhack. The Mill Creek route goes high over Osborn Mountain and avoids brush, but is not a route to be done in a storm. Although miserable, Clear Creek is safe in a storm. At the trailhead, I realized I left my watch in my car parked at Torrey Creek, so this trip would be on “sun time”. This last trip seemed to be jinxed from the very start.

I left the trailhead about 10AM and hiked down the Highline Trail to the Clear Creek junction. Clear Creek runs down a slot canyon with rapids and waterfalls. There is a trail up Clear Creek to the “Natural Bridge”, a limestone feature where the creek goes through an arch. Haze in the air made for poor photos.

The 1.7 miles continuing to Clear Lake is a nightmare. In addition to deadfall from an old fire, the last few years of bark beetle kill has added to the impenetrable maze of deadfall. I immediately got dead-ended and had to backtrack. That was the mode of travel the rest of the day. At one point I had to walk logs through a swamp of deadfall and ascend a hideously steep hillside only to be stuck again in deadfall to climb over. When I finally reached Clear Lake I was exhausted; this had been some of the most difficult travel I had ever done.

I gasped when I discovered that my camera was missing. I then remembered vividly exactly where it was; sitting on a rock near a small spring about a mile down from Clear Lake. Two fellows with dogs came by (I was amazed that the dogs got through) and they had not seen my camera and told me it was 4PM. I was in no shape to go back and try to find the camera. I set up camp, fished a bit and tried to rehydrate. After dinner I was plagued with severe muscle cramps. This was not a good way to start a trip!

All night I pondered if I should get up early and go back to look for my camera or simply call it a loss. What was my chance of actually finding it? Given the difficult travel, it would further stress my feet which were finally getting better. The main concern was the delay it would cause; I would have to cut out something to stay on schedule. If I failed to get over the Divide and had to return to Green River Lakes, logistics and costs of getting to my car would be enormous. Conditions were smoky so great photos were not likely. The camera was old and I had downloaded my previous trip’s photos. And I had my I-phone, although I did not want to run the power down too much. I left the decision to the next morning.

Day 2. Clear Lake to Crescent Lake with dayhikes (6.9 miles, +2690 feet)

I awoke early with all intentions of trying to find the camera. After breakfast I came to my senses. Although short in distance, today’s route was difficult. I did not want to sap my energy or risk injury or delay, with a futile hunt for the camera. I had been in these mountains plenty of time mid to late August when snow storms pinned me down. I really must “make hay when the sun shines” and get over the Divide before chance of snow.

Once the decision was made I was actually pretty calm about losing my camera. There is a faint use-trail to Faler Lake that I was able to follow for a while but soon lost it following rogue cairns in an adjacent talus cone. Hard to say if the talus route was better or worse than the old trail that skirted the edge, with the added deadfall of recent years. After a long tedious trek, I finally made it to Faler Lake where a large horse trail to Crescent Lake starts. The trail goes over a small pass and then drops to the outlet of Crescent Lake where I spotted several fish rising. I continued to the inlet, checking out campsites and settled on one at the outlet of the next lake upstream.

After I set up I fished and immediately caught a nice fat 12-inch Rainbow Trout. I then had several other bites but never could land another fish. I cleaned the fish and walked up to a snow patch to pack it in snow. I gave up on fishing and hiked up the drainage through a slot valley to the upper Roaring Fork. I had never been here so it was interesting to see that it was very scenic and there were many places to camp. Being a higher elevation, there were many small residual snow patches. When I returned I bathed and washed clothes. Then I fished again and caught a small fish. It was getting late as I cooked dinner, finishing just in time before it started raining. It rained lightly off and on all night.


Day 3. Crescent Lake to Clear Creek above Bear Lake Inlet. (6.2 miles,+ 1895 feet)

Although a short distance, the off-trail travel was slow and weather unsettled. The night’s rain had left vegetation wet and rocks slick. Skies were mostly clear in the morning as I climbed up to a small pass. The route then traverses a high bench above Faler Lake, through very complex terrain where one orients by jumping from small lake to lake. Going was slow but it was a delightful walk among grassy stringers, wildflowers and rocky benches. Although the small lakes were barren, they were quite pretty.

All was going well until “Faler Bench Lake #4”. Then I slipped on a slab ending up face down, black eye (more bruises to be found later) with glasses broken and one lens never to be found. Surprisingly it did not hurt much and little blood, only a lingering headache. But it did slow me down to a very cautious pace.

Once above Bear Lake, I decided to traverse the shores of Daphne Lake, with hopes of fishing near the inlet. Getting around the lake proved to be trickier than I had anticipated, removing my hiking pants at one point and wade around a rock buttress nearly waist deep! Storm clouds were brewing so I gave up on the idea of fishing and ascended 300 feet to drop into Bear Basin. By the time I reached a small lake the storm was imminent. I quickly set up the tent in wind and hail and jumped in. After the storm blew past I decided to pack up and move on. When I reached the outlet of Hourglass Lake, I hid behind a huge rock for nearly half an hour to avoid horizontally blown hail and grapple that stung my face. Predictably, rocks were now wet and slippery as I slithered slowly over two more rock ribs to reach the lovely grass-filled valley 500 feet above the inlet to Bear Lake on Clear Creek. Miraculously, the skies cleared while I found a perfect, scenic campsite. I cooked dinner finishing just as another quick little storm passed.
Last edited by Wandering Daisy on Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.








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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 02, 2018 2:24 pm

Day 4. Clear Creak above Bear Lake to Upper Grasshopper Creek (4.9 miles, +1345 feet)

Again I awoke plagued by what to do. I had planned to stay in beautiful Bear Basin a day to fish both Bear Lake and Daphne Lake. On the other hand, skies were clear. The smart thing to do would be to get over the Divide while I could. In the back of my mind was the fear of weather deteriorating, as it did on nearly these exact dates in 2014 when I was chased down the very difficult 2000 feet of talus in Tourist Creek by a major snow storm that lasted five days. At this point I regretted parking my car on the opposite side of the Divide, wishing instead that I had parked it where I could easily retreat if needed. The anxiety of a trans-divide, point-to-point route with only a car at the ending point and unsettled weather was driving me nuts. I felt like I was on a survival trek!
02_Connie Glacier right.jpg
My tumble the previous day, I chose the safe plan of getting over the divide. I could do this in about half a day and have the afternoon to take it easy and wash clothes if the weather held, or be safely in my tent if the weather turned bad. I quickly reached Kevin Lake, and was surprised that the shoreline traverse was covered with a lingering snowfield. The water was shallow enough that I basically waded along the entire shoreline. My feet were numb when I finished. It was then an easy ascent, with a stunning view of the Connie Glacier, to the broad saddle between the Clear Creek and Grasshopper Creek drainages.
01_Connie Glacier left.jpg
I had never dropped to Grasshopper Creek from here before. I hoped the rock rib was snow-free since snowfields on either side would be too steep. Luckily the descent was quite easy. Then it just was a slow, tedious walk over steep talus to reach a lovely grassy bench with clumps of trees below the terminal moraine of the Grasshopper Glacier, an anemic glacier that has lost nearly half mile of ice in the last 30 years. The fresh outwash gleamed white with soft fine sand deposited in the early 2000’s when a lake on the glacier melted through and rushed downstream causing major flooding ( a classic “Jokulhlaup” event).
04_GrasshGl left.jpg
After I set up and bathed and washed clothes, I walked around, running into a NOLS climbing instructor’s course of about 8 people. We chatted a while, leader jokingly asking if I fought a bear in Bear Basin when I told him where I had come from. I did not have a mirror so was not aware that my black eye was so obvious. He was surprised when I told him that in 1969 I had descended the Grasshopper Glacier which, at that time, was snow all the way down the sandy outwash where his group was to camp.
05_Grassh10600_camp_east.jpg
10_AM_GrasshopCr.jpg
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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 02, 2018 2:31 pm

Day 5. Upper Grasshopper Creek to Downs Lake (5.9 miles, +1820 feet)

First I dropped to Grasshopper Creek to photograph the outwash created by the 2002 flood.
08_GrasshCr-outwash.jpg
12_Grassho10600_right.jpg

The day started great, as I found a good route down the creek. Again, to my surprise, a steep snow patch blocked my path, so I had to traverse high in talus before reaching the creek after climbing over a buttress. I did OK until I got totally stopped in thick willows just as I neared the spot where I would turn north and follow a game trail to Molar Lake on the next drainage north. I bailed out to the adjacent talus cone, but then was forced up too early and it now became shades of my miserable bushwhacking first day on Clear Creek. I slowly and agonizingly literally pushed through until I reached the top of the ridge separating the Downs Fork and Grasshopper Creek drainages. As I descended, I realize I was in the wrong gully so scooted over to the next. I never did find a small pond that I was aiming for. Luckily I recognized the outlet of Molar Lake. By this time it was raining. I had hoped to explore an upper lake, but now that plan was dashed.
30_Blueberry Lake.jpg

Getting around Twin Lakes and Blueberry Lake also turned out full if deadfall. I had planned to camp at Blueberry Lake and fish; unfortunately, the camping area at the outlet has been trashed by horse campers. I was grossed out, and decided I had time for the 1000-foot ascent to Downs Lake, even though it had no fish. I found a good trail all the way up. Having camped last time at the outlet, this time I headed to the inlet where I found wonderful campsites sheltered by trees. Good thing, since just as I set the tent up, the storm started. The trees provided some cover so I could cook dinner in relatively dry conditions. I was now logistically in the best place to go over Goat Flat the next day and drop to Bomber Lake, weather permitting. Although much of the day was miserable travel, camping at Downs Lake was like coming home to an old friend.
17_Downs Camp.jpg
19_Downs_sunset_B&w.jpg
18_Downs_sunst.jpg
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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 02, 2018 2:38 pm

Day 6. Downs Lake to Double Lake. (9.0 miles, +1740 feet)

The weather gods were not smiling on me. I awoke to very strange conditions. It was cold with frost in the meadows. Goat Flat was covered in fog, as were lower elevations. Downs Lake sat in a pocket of clear weather. I have been easily turned around on Goat Flat in good weather, so navigating up there in fog was not something I wanted to do. I threw up my arms and abandoned my route.

I would at least day-hike to the upper valley to get a view into the cirque that contained the Downs Glacier. The lush grass was wet so my feet got soaked. As I scrambled up a boulder field for my final views I looked down and saw a square aluminum airplane part; a frame for some opening, perhaps window. In the late 1990’s I climbed up the Downs Glacier moraine where I also found parts of a crashed airplane. What odd chance that I would run into parts again, almost a mile away from the original crash site and on the opposite slope. I also ran into tons of fresh mountain sheep tracks, although never saw a sheep. A herd is known to live up here.
22_Downs Glacier AM.jpg
24_Downs GlacierB&W.jpg

Back at camp I packed up and descended into the fog, back to Blueberry Lake. I waded across the outlet and hunted for the main pack trail. I finally found it and dropped to the braided outwash/floodplain at the confluence of Grasshopper Creek and the Downs Fork. Here the “trail” now is located on the edge of the creek, over fine white silty sand, at times undercut by the stream so one has to detour into the boulders. Soon the trail enters a thick forest along the now raging creek.

In a little over two miles, I reached the Glacier Trail (the main trail to Gannett Peak) and took a rest at the Downs Fork Bridge. Immediately, a pack string went by not 100 feet away, never even seeing me sitting on the bridge. In another mile after skirting Downs Fork Meadow the trail ascends about 1400 feet to the Dinwoody Lakes. Half way up the hill I caught up with the pack string. Another pack string was coming down the trail. Since there were few people around, I assumed that the outfitters were bringing in supplies for hunting camps, since the season was soon to start. One old horse was having a bad day and refused to move. Clouds were quickly building. The frustrated packer said I should pass, but there was little room on the trail so I had to climb rocks to get around them. By the time I reached Star Lake it was raining. I had hoped to take a day-hike up to Florence Lake. That plan was now also dashed.

I put on rain gear and dropped to Double Lake where, thankfully, I immediately found an established campsite that had been protected from the rain by the tree canopy. I was able to set up on dry ground and even cook dinner and stay relatively dry. I saw a few rises in the lake, but it began to rain harder so I retreated into the tent. In some way, I was actually glad the weather had turned ugly. I would have been disappointed if I gave up on continuing my route via Goat Flat if the weather had turned clear. At least, I could console myself that I made a good decision to bail out to the Glacier Trail.


Day 7. Double Lake to Torrey Creek TH. (11.1 miles, +1330 feet)

I awoke again to agonizing decisions. The weather was good. Should I stay and fish and explore? Or should I get over Glacier Trail Pass while I could? Although not as dangerous to be on in bad weather as Goat Flat, it still needed moderately good weather to be safe. At least, in a fog, all I had to do was follow the numerous horse tracks. I was quite happy that skies were clear when I started out; at least I would get a few photos.
35_Double Lake left.jpg
47_Double Lk.jpg
46_Phillips Lk_small.jpg
The uncertain weather was wearing me down. I packed up and headed to the pass, thinking I would camp on Bomber Creek where there is good fishing. Part way up the pass, I stopped for half an hour and dried the tent and my wet rain jacket. My water-logged shoes were beyond redemption.

As I dropped down the ridiculously designed switchbacks to Bomber Creek, the rain began again, this time with claps of thunder. I simply gave up and continued to the trailhead, with two days of food remaining in my bear can. This was not particularly a glorious end for my summer’s plans; actually it was a big let-down. At least my car started and I had no flat tires. Although I knew I would be coming back up this direction, I drove south the 70 miles to Lander to get a nice shower and visit a day with my friends.

When I drove back to Dubois the weather was better but heavy smoke had settled in. Between the weather and smoke, it was time to call it quits. A few days later I was in Spokane with my mother, in the very different world of the very elderly in assisted living, where time seems to stand still. A few days later, snow fell in the northern Rockies above 9000 feet. Thankfully, for those planning September trips, weather cleared and they should have a nice Indian Summer.
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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Tom_H » Sun Sep 02, 2018 6:27 pm

Awe inspiring! Thank you.

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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:21 am

Thanks for your kind comments, Tom. At least someone is reading these trip reports.

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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Tom_H » Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:53 pm

My hope is that everyone else is out on the trail right now, getting in one last trip of their own before summer ends. Then they'll come back and enjoy other peoples' TRs when the weather changes. It's Labor Day Weekend and some of the fires are finally contained.

Will all of these recent trips lead to an updated edition of your Wind Rivers guide book?

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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 03, 2018 7:56 pm

No planned update. I may put a bit of information regarding some changed conditions on my website.

These trips were just for my own enjoyment. I did not even take notes or keep track of my time. And with all the smoke in the Sierra, I was happy to be away! A few days of smoke in the Winds, but not bad at all. And I have so many old friends in Lander, that visiting them is another reason I go back so much.

I still hope to do a few more Sierra trips this Fall, if I can avoid smoke.

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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:49 pm

Here are some photos from previous trips that cover the areas I did not take photos (due to poor weather or smoke) this year.
ClearCr_Deadfall_2002.jpg
Clear Lake_2002.jpg
FalerLake-Merged.jpg
Crescent Lk_2007.jpg
BearLk_2007.jpg
DaphneLk_routes.jpg
RockinghorseL.jpg
B&W_4055_DownsL.jpg
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Re: Northern Wind Rivers 8/16-22

Post by Tom_H » Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:40 am

I am enjoying these reports and photos so much. Am happy you have kept yourself in condition and can still do this. I get a vicarious thrill from every one of your posts. Unfortunately, I did not keep my body in shape to continue into my 60s. Young people (in general) do not realize how easily the gift of health and youthful vigor are lost with the years.

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