TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

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arkheel
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TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

Post by arkheel » Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:52 am

In late November 2018, I posed a question on High Sierra Topix seeking trip advice for a September 2019 trip to the High Sierra. http://highsierratopix.com/community/vi ... hp?t=19048
I received lots of good feedback, and my spouse and I settled on a 12-day trip itinerary, entering at Onion Valley and exiting at Cottonwood Lakes. We planned to spend several days in the Upper Kern.

In early 2019 we reserved the necessary permit, made airline reservations, reserved a rental car and arranged a shuttle with East Side Sierra Shuttle. We trained for the trip by jogging, day hiking with packs and taking weekend backpacking trips in our nearby Appalachian Mountains.

Then, in early August 2019, I received a cancer diagnosis. Our September 2019 trip to the High Sierra was canceled. The cancer diagnosis was followed by surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. About the time that I finished radiation therapy, the COVID-19 pandemic was upon us.

We started dreaming about doing a backpacking trip out west. We didn’t want to fly because of COVID-19. We had lots of vacation time. We starting thinking that we should drive somewhere and do a long trip. Then we started thinking, let’s do two trips. California was a drive too far from our home state of North Carolina. We had been reading Wandering Daisy’s trip reports about the Wind River Range for several years, and we had a copy of her book, Beyond Trails. We got approval from work to be gone for the whole month of August.

We started training again. We hiked and rode bikes. We jogged. My hair started to grow back, and I started feeling kind of like my old self. We poured over Beyond Trails and settled on two routes for our trips.

This is the trip report for our first trip, which we called Wind River Trip 1. It’s a combination of most of Route 16 in Beyond Trails with a loop up to Temple Lake added towards the end. The trip dates for Trip 1 were August 6, 2020 – August 15, 2020.

Day 1, August 6, 2020 – Big Sandy Trailhead to Marms Lake

We left Pinedale, Wyoming and arrived at the Big Sandy trailhead at 8:30 a.m. I had never seen so many cars at a trailhead. We parked at an overflow parking spot, hoisted our 30 lb. packs and hiked down the gravel road to the trailhead. The trail was surrounded by trees at first, but it wasn’t long before we were in Fish Creek Valley. The trail crossed an open, meadow area, and we had our first views of distant peaks. We hiked past Mirror Lake. The grade of the trail along this whole section was gentle. We passed Dads Lake, and the trail climbed a bit. We arrived at Marms Lake at around 2 p.m. and set up our tent. We don’t fish, so we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon admiring the view of distant Pyramid Peak and Mt. Hooker. We chatted with a couple of women from Denver who were on their first trip in the Winds. Dinner was Coconut Curry Chicken. We were in bed early and heard an elk bugling in the night.

Day 1A View of Pyramid Peak and Mt Hooker from Marms Lake.jpg
Marms Lake

Day 2, August 7, 2020 – Marms Lake to East Fork Lake #7

We started the day with a breakfast of Vanilla Rice Pudding with raisins, almonds and chocolate chips. We hiked on the Freemont trail and rock hopped across Washakie Creek. Then we waded the East Fork and found the use trail to the Upper East Fork. We hiked along a beautiful, small gorge and then beside a flat, swampy meadow. A bald eagle flew overhead. We walked up hill along a dry gully to some ponds at around 10,100 feet. I was feeling pretty knackered by this point. We climbed a rise to East Fork Lake #5. The trail became fainter, and we were feeling tired. We climbed the outlet ramp to East Fork #7 and started encountering people. There was a group of nine people dispersed camping in the lake #7 valley. They were taking a leadership outdoor course with a couple of trip leaders. They said that the organization was based in Laramie. The group was well dispersed, so we only saw one of their tents.

We hustled to set up our tent as a thunderstorm rumbled. There was lots of wind along with small hail. We were hoping that our new tent (a Tarptent StratoSpire Li with solid interior) was up to it, and it was. After waiting out the storm in our tent, we ate a late dinner of Chicken Marbella. During the night, the sound of rockfall echoed across the lake. We were tired, but it didn’t really matter because our minds were blown by the beautiful East Fork valley!

Day 2A East Fork and Mt Hooker.jpg
East Fork and Mt. Hooker

Day 2B East Fork Valley.jpg
East Fork Valley
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arkheel
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Re: TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

Post by arkheel » Sat Feb 20, 2021 12:00 pm

Day 3, August 8, 2020 – Day Hike to East Fork Lakes #8 and #9

We slept in and woke to a warm, sunny morning. There were a few mosquitos prowling around outside of our tent. Breakfast was Oatmeal with milk, dried strawberries, dried pineapple and pecans. Our plan was to day hike to East Fork Lakes #8 and #9. We walked up a ramp along the inlet of Lake #7 and arrived at Lake #8. Then it was straight forward cross country to Lake #9. There were lots of beautiful wildflowers and interesting rocks along the way. We both have geology degrees, so we stopped often to speculate on rock types and glacial features. We saw a marmot. We stopped at Lake #9 for a snack break. While we were snacking, storm clouds gathered. On our way back to camp, we picked up a section of trail that comes from the direction of Pain In the Ass Pass. We were back in camp by early afternoon, just as the storms began. Storms with wind and hail tested our new tent for the rest of the afternoon. I forgot to write down what we had for dinner. In the tent that night, we noticed that we were getting kind of smelly. We heard more rockfall during the night.

Day 3A Where is our tent.jpg
East Fork Lake #7

Day 3B South View East Fork.jpg
East Fork

Day 3C East Fork Lake 7.jpg
East Fork Lake #7


Day 4, August 9, 2020 - East Fork Lake #7 to Baptiste Lake

We woke early and had Chucky Monkey Granola with milk for breakfast. We packed up and began to hike southeast, climbing away from East Fork Lake #7. We heard a loud crack from across the lake and watched a large patch of snow and ice break off and slide down a cliff face. Then we headed cross country towards Pyramid Lake. What a beautiful hike! We skirted along the north end of Lake Mae and then headed straight up hill through some woods to pick up the trail to Hailey Pass. The trail up to Hailey Pass wasn’t super steep and the views were scenic. We stopped to filter water and had to be careful not to scoop up the tiny, reddish shrimpy things that were swimming about. Three people from Wisconsin warned us to be careful descending the other side of Hailey Pass. They warned that it was steep. It was very steep and made of ball bearing-like scree. We used our hiking poles to slow each step and help with balance. It didn’t help that the wind was at our backs, pushing us downhill. As we continued to descend, we passed a climber’s camp for Mt. Hooker climbers.

We waded across Baptiste Creek and then turned west on the trail to Baptiste Lake where we arrived at around 2 p.m. We had a tough time getting our tent set up on a rocky site, and it was very windy. Quite a few people were day hiking in the area. We had Polenta with mushrooms, tomatoes and parmesan cheese while we watched climbers on Mt. Hooker. It made for interesting dinner time entertainment!

Day 4A View from Hailey Pass.jpg
View from Hailey Pass

Day 4B Hailey Pass North Side.jpg
North Side of Hailey Pass

Day 4C Baptiste Lake.jpg
Baptiste Lake
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arkheel
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Re: TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

Post by arkheel » Sat Feb 20, 2021 12:11 pm

Day 5, August 10, 2020 – Baptiste Lake to Rabbit Ears Lake

We awoke to sunny skies and a breakfast of Banana Nut Bread Pudding with nuts and chocolate chips. Then we took a southern route from our campsite, crossed about three quarters of a mile of talus and had excellent views of the climbers on Mt. Hooker. We walked along Baptiste Creek until we picked up the Bears Ears trail. After overshooting Grave Lake inlet, we backtracked on a lakeside fishing trail back towards the inlet. We passed an official-looking sign warning us to stay away from a Carcass Pole located 100 yards away. This caused us to make more noise and pick up the pace!

We crossed the inlet stream to Grave Lake and headed up a very steep hill, complete with large talus and downed trees. Elk tracks showed us the way. Thank god for elk! We made it to Rabbit Ears Lake and started a lengthy search for a tent site. The guidebook said that sites were lumpy here, and we realized then that lumpy equals rocky. After much wandering about and some cursing, we found a site that allowed us to barely fit our tent in between boulders. There was rain and hail from 4 – 5 p.m. Dinner was Chicken Curry. The view of the small glacier above Toler Lake was very scenic. We hadn’t seen anyone since we left the Mt. Hooker area and had Rabbit Ears Lake to ourselves.

Day 5A Mt Hooker Morning.jpg
Mt. Hooker

Day 5B Mt Hooker Talus Route.jpg
Cross Country Talus Route

Day 5C Tolar Lake Glacier.jpg
Glacier Above Tolar Lake


Day 6, August 11, 2020 – Rabbit Ears Lake to South Fork Lake

After a breakfast of Coconut Chia Oatmeal, we headed up Macon Pass. We followed nice grassy ramps and elk tracks. At the top of Macon Pass, we passed two men having a conversation. We stopped for a snack at the top of the pass and then headed down the very doable, grassy slope towards Macon Lake. We floundered through some soggy, willowed areas along the west end of Macon Lake and eventually found a trail that took us along the south side of Macon Lake and joined Washakie Trail.

On the north side of Washakie Lake, a dog (with no people) stopped beside us and seemed stressed. We weren’t sure what to do. Then the dog took off in the direction we had just come from, and we were left to wonder where the dog’s people were. At the crossing of the South Fork of the Little Wind River, a couple of horse packers asked if we had seen a dog. Evidentially, their dog sometimes heads back to their horse camp without them. We were very relieved. We hopped off the main trail just before reaching Valentine Lake and located a use trail. We arrived at South Fork Lake tired and a bit foot sore. We found a grassy camp site with a great view of South Fork Lake. There were quite a few people fishing at the lake.

We had Wiedamoo Stew (rice, bulghur, vegetables and lots of cashews) for dinner and then discussed whether we should stay an extra day and night at South Fork Lake to day hike around the lake. We used our InReach Mini to get a weather forecast for the next few days. The forecast said that the next day would be nice, but that the following day would have 55 mph winds. Since the next leg of our trip would take us across Lizard Head Plateau, we knew that we needed to hike out of South Fork Lake the next morning. We also discovered that we had failed to print out the route description for how to climb out of South Fork Lake to reach Lizard Head Plateau. We looked at the route from camp and decided that it looked doable, although we were a bit concerned about finding a good route up. An animal tramped around in the night, and we hoped it was an elk.

Day 6A Macon Pass North Side.jpg
Macon Pass North Side

Day 6B Rabbit Ears Lake.jpg
Rabbit Ears Lake

Day 6C Washakie Peak from Macon Pass.jpg
Washakie Peak

Day 6D South Fork Lake.jpg
South Fork Lake
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Last edited by arkheel on Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:47 am, edited 2 times in total.

arkheel
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Re: TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

Post by arkheel » Sat Feb 20, 2021 12:17 pm

Day 7, August 12, 2020 – South Fork Lake to Lizard Head Meadow

We woke early and ate Bobo’s Toaster Pastries for breakfast. Then we headed out to find our way up to Lizard Head Plateau trail via the cross-country route. We followed a grassy ramp up to a lovely bench with an amazing view of the surrounding peaks. We followed elk paths and lots of fresh elk poop. One section of the route was so steep that we literally crawled up on all fours, but at least it was grassy. There were lots of grassy steep areas to climb, and then the steepness decreased. We made it to the Lizard Head trail. What a crazy windy landscape it is up there! We hiked a long section of high, wind-scoured trail. Crazy cloud formations made us think that storms might be brewing. We had amazing views of Lizard Head Peak. Finally, we began a steep, 1,900-foot descent along a deeply eroded trail. We hiked to Lizard Head Meadow and found a wooded campsite on a rise next to a small pond beneath the Lizard Head. Around dinner time it stormed, and wind and hail blew at us from all directions. We had Beans, Rice, Fritos and Cheddar Cheese for dinner. The night was very quiet.

Day 7A XC Route to Lizard Head.jpg
Cross Country Route to Lizard Head Trail

Day 7B Holster Lake and Payson Peak.jpg
Holster Lake

Day 7C Lizard Head Peak.jpg
Lizard Head Peak


Day 8, August 13, 2020 – Lizard Head Meadow to Clear Lake

We awoke at 5:30 a.m. because we knew that big winds were coming, and we needed to get over Jackass Pass before the wind arrived. Breakfast was Cheesy Potatoes with green chilis and homemade “fakin” bacon. We passed through Cirque of the Towers and stopped to look at the peaks and Lonesome Lake. It’s easy to see why this area is popular. We hiked towards Jackass Pass and discovered that Jackass Pass is a two-summit pass. After stopping briefly for a few photos at the top, we hustled down the other side with the wind already starting to pick up. We passed many, many people (many were climbers) who were heading towards Cirque of the Towers. They looked burdened by heavy climbing gear.

We hiked along Jackass trail until we took a left towards Clear Lake. For a while we played leapfrog with a horse packer heading to Clear Lake to pick up a cache of gear. At Clear Lake, we crossed a rock dam and at 12:30 p.m. found a sheltered campsite among some trees on the southeast side of the lake. We had a nice sunny rock slab beside our camp, and we sat and watched the lake as the winds grew stronger. The wind was forming small water “tornados” on the surface of the lake. The wind blowing over the surrounding peaks and passes sounded like jet engines. We found ourselves worrying about the people who might be struggling to cross Lizard Head Plateau on such a windy day. Gray jays flew around, their wings making a whooshing noise. Red squirrels were cutting heavy, resinous pinecones from trees and carting them away. We had Pesto Pasta for dinner and slept through a windy night.

Day 8A Pingora Peak.jpg
Pingora Peak
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arkheel
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Re: TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

Post by arkheel » Sat Feb 20, 2021 12:22 pm

Day 9, August 14, 2020 – Day Hike to Temple Lake

We slept in the next morning and had Polenta with eggs, veggie sausage and cheese. We left camp at around 10 a.m., heading towards Temple Lake. The walking was easy over granite slabs. We passed blue, beautiful Deep Lake and the remains of a tent that had been shredded. We followed a trail up a slope and came to Temple Lake. After a snack, we decided to return to our campsite via a trail that goes by Rapid Lake. We veered north from the trail and descended granite slabs back to our campsite. Our dinner was to be Shepherd’s Pie, but for some reason, we couldn’t get it to rehydrate very well. We decided to pack it out and just ate a bunch of snacks for dinner. There were several large groups of people camped along the lake and lots of cute dogs. That evening wasn’t windy or stormy.

Day 9A Peaks Near Deep Lake.jpg
Deep Lake Panorama

Day 9B Temple Pass.jpg
Temple Pass


Day 10, August 14, 2020 – Clear Lake to Big Sandy Trailhead

After breakfast of Banana Nut Bread Pudding with nuts and chocolate chips, we packed up and headed for the Big Sandy trailhead. There was frost on the grass at Big Sandy Lake. We passed many, many people on the trail as they were hiking towards Big Sandy Lake. We stopped and chatted with a man from Green River, Wyoming who told us that there were 3 to 4 times as many cars at the trailhead as he normally sees. We arrived at our car and headed back to Pinedale for a shower followed by beer and dinner at Wind River Brewing Company. What an amazing trip! And, we weren’t done yet.

Day 10A Clear Lake.jpg
Clear Lake

Day 10B War Bonnet Peak.jpg
War Bonnet Peak

A trip report for the second half of our trip can be found at the link below.

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=21285
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Last edited by arkheel on Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:12 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:17 pm

I am so glad you had a good trip! I was roaming around on the other side of the Divide, just north of where you were, at that time, fishing the headwaters of the North Fork of the Little Wind River. I also was at Baptiste Lake, Washakie Lake and South Fork Lakes last week of July and had some significant storms on that trip.

I am always happy when someone successfully does one of the routes in my guidebook. I think every guidebook writer gets a bit anxious and wonders if anyone will really like the route they described. Having done so much in the Winds, I have to make sure I look at the route with respect to how someone who has not been to the Wind Rivers would do given my descriptions. I am so glad everything worked out. Your photos were great!

I missed you one day at Big Sandy trailhead, arrived noon on Aug 16. It was a real zoo, but I decided to drive the parking loop and by sheer luck got a spot right at the trailhead as someone backed out of their space. The smoke drifted in on Aug. 20 and I worried about a nearby fire. Once I was out I found out it was smoke from California fires.

arkheel
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Re: TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

Post by arkheel » Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:37 am

While we were hiking, we would ask ourselves every few days, "Where do you think Wandering Daisy might be?" We figured that you were in the Winds somewhere.

We found that the difficulty ratings in Beyond Trails were quite accurate. If it was a "PG" rating, then we were able to find the route and hike the route. Some of the steeper, larger talus concerned us a bit at first, but we got more comfortable as time went on.

This year we are hoping to do a couple of trips on the east side of the divide. We are looking at a trip out of the St. Lawrence trailhead and another out of the Torrey Creek trailhead. I think that we are hooked.

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Re: TR: Wind River 1 - Big Sandy Loop, Aug. 6-15, 2020

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 22, 2021 10:08 am

The talus is generally more stable in the Wind Rivers than the Sierra. Glacial moraines are the exception- very unstable. Both for Sierra off-trail and in the Winds, becoming competent and efficient on talus is a skill that really opens up a lot of more difficult off-trail routes.

The mid and lower elevation bushwhacking and all the deadfall is actually harder. The Winds unfortunately have been seriously damaged by decades of bark beetle kill, subsequent wildfires and more recently significantly damaging wind storms that down the dead trees. Last September there was a big wind storm and all the trails are not yet cleared. The Reservation does not officially clear trails- it is done by just one outfitter and only to his two regular drop-camps- the Wilson Creek Lakes trail and the Heebeecheeche Trail to Sonnicant Lake. A few other trails have been worked on by volunteer groups, generally boy scouts.

Get on Google Earth and you can actually see all the deadfall. The only problem is that Google Earth images do not show the damage in the last year.

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