Tag Archives: Wind Rivers

A slim month for letters … and severed bear heads


July was an odd month, letter-wise.

Only two single-pagers were mailed, owing to my trip to St. Paul to visit Ellen, Tim, Emma and Georgia followed by the annual trek to the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming. When I get a chance to see Ellen and/or Reid, there isn’t always a letter mailed that particular week. (Note to potential hikers: another six night/seven day backpacking and fly fishing excursion to the Wind Rivers is slated for July 13 – 21, 2018 so set that in stone on your calendar. Feel free to send me a note with any questions.).

But today marks a return to the weekly letter routine. The writing process really isn’t a grind; it’s cathartic and is a joy. A lot of ground will be covered in one page: a recap of the Wyoming adventure, a glut of Airbnb guests (no more trysts that I’m aware of), preparations for the Camino de Santiago in scarcely (yikes!) a month, watching over Marvel the Super Dog, et al.

So there’s no letter to reprint this morning. But one will be written and mailed momentarily. Watch for it next week.

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My hiking buddy Tom Bohr and I enjoyed a cold PBR at our traditional stopover en route from Jackson to Pinedale: the venerable cowboy bar The Elkhorn in Bondurant, WY. It’s the same joint where untold hundreds of visitors have written snarky notes on $1 bills that they pin to the pine walls and boxcar ceiling. It’s also where, if you shoot a bear in season, you plop the severed head on the bar – and earn yourself a free hat.

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Moby Trout, a mountain hurricane, and proof of bears …


This recounts the third of seven days in Wyoming’s Bridger Wilderness. Day four will be covered tomorrow.

This was a day – winds beyond belief – unlike anything I’ve ever experienced while backpacking. I don’t want to see another one like it anytime soon. Then again, I don’t want to meet the business end of a grizzly either.

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Photos just don't capture the ferocity of the mega-winds in the saddle that is Hailey Pass. Steady at 70 - 80 with MPH 100 MPH gusts - that's near hurricane force. Rebekah and Reid do their best to stay upright.

Photos don’t capture the ferocity of the mega-winds in the saddle that is Hailey Pass. Steady at 60 – 70 MPH with 100 MPH gusts – that’s near hurricane force. Vince, Rebekah and Reid do their best to stay upright.

Day 3, Sunday, July 26

I am out of the tent early, before dawn. Most of my gear is already stowed and the rain fly struggles to dry while draped over paracord strung between two trees although the warming sun isn’t up just yet. It is a frosty, clear morning. Such cold reminds you that it is you against the weather, and the only protection you have is what you wear at the moment or have in reserve in a ditty bag. It occurs to me just how narrow the weather window is for visitors. You couldn’t get in here much before mid May and you’d want to beat the snows by mid October. It is no exaggeration that it can snow-sleet-hail even in summer months.

My fly rod was left rigged overnight. Since no one is up quite yet, I head to the East Fork but get no action. The rivulet where the big brookie lurks isn’t too far away so I walk that way. But Moby Trout remains out of sight and is disinterested in my fly. A behemoth like that is a long shot at best.

By now everyone is stirring and it’s time to fire up the stoves. Hot coffee is the other defense against cold and Reid and I gulp down our allotted two sleeves each of instant Starbucks. Katy and Rebekah opt for tea and I’m not sure what Vince and Tom do for a hot beverage. Two packets of oatmeal will have to suffice for my breakfast. We have a pretty stern hike ahead of us. No more shakedown cruise. This will be the real deal now. By 10 a.m. we shuffle toward the trail.

We must climb from 10,343 to the 11,200 ft. elevation of Hailey Pass. The trail will have us skirt the southern and eastern bases of Pyramid Peak. We’ll be above timberline in less than one hour.

Sections of the Hailey Pass Trail, which extends north a few miles to nearby Grave Lake, are now nearly solid rock.

Reid steadies a cairn as we trek up, up, up to Hailey Pass. We relied on cairns as guideposts to help discern where the path might be.

Reid steadies a cairn at the base of Pyramid Peak as we trek up, up, up to Hailey Pass. We relied on cairns as guideposts to help discern where the path might be.

Cairns prove useful as markers although as we cross the navigable stream that empties from Twin Lakes, the trail proves to be elusive. It’s open country above the trees, however, and there’s literally no way to get lost. We are in the valley between Pyramid and Dike Mountain that effectively funnels us up to Hailey. If we had to, we could bushwhack our way but we do find the path and off we go. Last year this was a snow field and the lakes were still ice-locked. The now small stream roared then with snow melt as it tunneled through the snow field. Tom and I walked and slid gingerly over hundreds of yards of corn snow, marked by a few incidents where we fell through to our waists.

Today, though, we encounter a very steep 40 yard downward section where hiking poles are of no use.

In proof that life grabs hold where it can, a wildflower clings to a rocky ledge alongside a downward chute that was very, very steep.

In proof that life grabs hold where it can, a wildflower clings to a rocky ledge alongside a downward chute that was very, very steep.

We use our hands to make contact with the stone walls on both sides and lower ourselves instead of walking down. The uppermost Twin Lake is immediately to our left.

Straight ahead and now only a few moderate switchbacks away is Hailey Pass. We’ll be there within a half hour or so. It’s a very pronounced saddle and the main route for hikers walking the longer of the clockwise circuits to the Cirque. It’s one of those places you want to get past while the day is relatively young since the threat of afternoon storms is always in the back of your mind.

But that’s not what greets us as we near the pass.

It is wind, and not of the gentle variety. It seemingly has come out of nowhere. We have no inkling of this until the last 50 feet of upward climb to the pass. The gale overtakes us in a seeming instant.

Reid leans into the harsh wind. The gale was unlike anything I've ever experienced anywhere.

Reid leans into the harsh wind. The gale was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced anywhere.

These are harsh, steady winds of at least 60-70 miles an hour, with incredibly high push-you-over gusts. Our estimate of the gusts is 80 miles per hour – and upward. None of us have experienced anything like it. I haven’t in all my years in the Rockies. (The forest service would later verify even higher gusts.)

I’ve never been in a hurricane but that is what it must feel like. One of the stronger gusts pushes under my pack. It has leverage and catches the Osprey like a sail. It forces me off balance and my weakened left knee slides awkwardly and buckles – the one movement and consequence I hoped to avoid – as I try mightily to steady myself. Several of us drop to the ground to avoid being blown over. If we can stand, we are pitched at a good angle into the wind as it props us up. So strong is the cloudless howling gale that yelling instructions from one person to the next more than a couple of feet away goes unheard. I’ve been on the shoulder of many Interstate highways as I stood next to my Harley, and have felt the blasts from semis passing at 70 MPH only a few feet away, but those could not match the ferocity, nor knock me over, like these winds.

Our impulse is to get over the pass and head downward as quickly as we can. Rebekah and Reid lead the way down what appear to be 500 yards of switchbacks on very steep descent. But the lee side of the pass offers no relief from the blast. It bears down on us, and shoves Tom and me into crouched positions more than once. Some while later, once down to a resting point, we equate the curvature of the pass and the strong wind’s force to how the leading edge of an airplane’s wing provides lift. Aerodynamically the wind rushed over the pass and pushed down with enormous strength.

This complicates our descent on the trail of loose debris and dust that already makes secure footing a challenge. Tom is forced to take a knee just a few feet ahead of me when a particularly vicious gust forces itself upon us. Rebekah and Reid scurry far ahead.

This is what greeted Tom and I on Hailey Pass in 2014: nearly wall to wall snow field.

This is what greeted Tom and I on Hailey Pass in 2014: a nearly wall to wall snow field that was far steeper than it looks here.

This trail wasn’t visible to Tom and me the year before when we reconnoitered the eastern edge of a valley-wide snow field. Even with the gale, this year’s downward hike of several hundred yards is somewhat more preferable.

We finally exit the switchbacks and the slope becomes a manageable trail once more. It’s been almost two hours since we’ve really had a rest and the lead walkers find us a grassy spot perhaps 200 yards east of the base of Mount Hooker (12,504 ft.).

Rebekah and Reid found us a spot for welcome rest after the descent from Hailey Pass (background). Safe to say the winds were a shock to us.

Rebekah and Reid found us a spot for welcome rest after the descent from Hailey Pass (background). Safe to say the winds were a shock to us.

We are somewhat, but not entirely, out of the wind. We look back at the steepness of Hailey’s north side and are relieved to have it in our rearview mirror. Hooker has an imposing eastern face with a very pronounced boulder field; we conjecture about the apartment building-sized granite blocks that must’ve made one helluva racket when they tumbled down, whenever that was.

In another half mile we look for a place to cross Baptiste Creek, more of a small river really, as it tumbles down from Hooker Glacier and on to the west end of Grave Lake, our next overnight spot. The creek is down from ’14 but remains broad and deep. We pause to look for a narrow, non-ford opportunity. The trail shoes of Tom and Katy can be submerged and will drain quickly. Reid and I move upstream about 150 yards where we can hop from rock to rock. The rest have already crossed and wait while the two of us manage the task without removing our boots. We stay dry. As we look to the north we see the spectacular Musembeah Peak at 12,355 ft. but it’s on Wind River Indian Reservation land, the boundary of which is only a few hundred yards from where we stand.

We are now on the eastbound stretch of trail with perhaps a shade more than 1.5 miles as the crow flies to campsites said to be toward the east end of Grave, a very large lake by mountain standards.

Directly ahead of us, however, looms a potential trouble spot for broken bones or worse. Large rocks have calved off Grave Lake Dome over the millennia to create a complete blockage of giant boulders that extends from the dome to the lake. We don’t see a potential walk-around beneath the shear face of the dome and there are no sign posts or cairns to indicate otherwise. We have no option other than to boulder hop for at least several hundred yards. There will be no walking around these granite monoliths which range in size from large trucks to small houses. We will need to tackle each boulder one at a time with full packs on our backs. That’s not inherently bad; that no one is carrying 50 – 60 lbs. in taller old style packs is good in that the modest weight and lower center of gravity of small packs adds to stability. Our walking sticks will be utterly useless on solid rock. We need to adopt other ways to stay safe.

Rebekah, Reid and Tom continue to lead the way and are soon out of sight even though the going is tedious and very slow. There is no need for speed and the resultant poor decisions too much haste can create.

Far from it. A single slip or misstep could be disastrous. I think back to a three week Outward Bound course in 1974 that included a mountaineering section in the Gore Range just east of Vail, Colorado. Our leader was Dick Pownall, who in 1963 led the advance camp team for an unsuccessful U.S. expedition to Mt. Everest. As we encountered rock fields – nothing remotely on the scale of the jumble below Grave Lake Dome – Pownall’s advice was to adopt “three points of contact.” That is, place some combination of hands and feet on adjacent, manageable portions of rocks. It could be both hands and one foot, or both feet and one hand. Pownall felt that the most serviceable part of your foot to use on open rock was the arch since it offered the best balance point and could pivot front and back. He had us avoid flat, and potentially slick, rock faces and instead place the arch on edges or visible fissures on each stone. I always thought it as sound advice since it worked.

Katy and I bring up the rear. We put the three points of contact strategy into use from the first stone. Vince and Tom call or point out the best routes among the rocks and their trail breaking advice is invaluable. Katy starts out hesitant but finds her legs as she moves along. Some of the steps between rocks involve a considerable leap of faith; if a step is missed, nothing good will happen in even a short fall. This sort of dangerous off trail, rock-to-rock process forces each of us to think 3 – 4 – 5 steps, and stones, ahead. There’s no real way to practice this. It’s learn as you go. I wonder if the park service is well acquainted with this particular rock pile. My guess is they are – no doubt rangers have rescued hikers injured in mishaps on the very stones we struggle to reconnoiter.

Her hopscotching done, Rebekah returns, pack-less, to her mother’s side to offer encouragement. I work in front of Katy and Rebekah takes the rear. Rebekah is like a mountain goat, sure footed as if she’s done this before; she stands astride each rock, calling out to Katy the more favorable hand holds and foot falls. Some rocks are climbed; on others we lift ourselves down, find a foothold on the next boulder then haul ourselves back up. We perform this act over and over and over for nearly 400 yards. We exchange mid rock-hop greetings with a young couple who employ the same three point technique but who are going the other way.

After more than an hour to wend our way through the scrum of stone, we finally emerge unscathed from the boulder field about 4:30 p.m. But we come out into the still heavy wind. It has not abated or lessened, even this late in the afternoon. It had been a long, trying day. We are ready to get our packs off. Bears Ears Trail, however, is not done with us just yet. We have the better part of a mile to go. Across the lake and upward is Chess Ridge, the tormentor to Tom and I for two full days last year. Sightseeing and story telling about our ill-timed and snow ridden trek almost exactly 365 days ago to the day can come later. We just want this stretch to be over.

That’s when the first bear print is seen. For all her track gazing, Katy, who is just a few yards in front of me, has somehow missed the salad dish sized paw with crescent shaped claws ringing the top as we weave our way alongside dense willows.

After years of no real signs of bears, we come across the first evidence that we are in active bear country. It catches your attention in a hurry.

After years of no real signs of bears, we come across the first evidence that we are in active bear country. It catches your attention in a hurry.

The paw is perfectly captured in drying mud. It was perhaps 2 – 3 days old. I stop to memorialize it in a photo but did not alert, nor alarm, Katy with this solid evidence that bears were indeed in the vicinity. Other than the occasional pile of scat, it was the first verified sign of the business end of a bear in several years.

As we approach within a few hundred yards of the lake’s eastern shore a large expanse of perfectly good, flat and tree protected camp sites appears to our left. Reid drops his pack, as do the rest of us, and ventures onward to see if better locations for our tents exist on the true eastern shore of Grave. We watch him the whole way until he enters a wooded area. After a few minutes he steps out of the woods into the fading sunlight and gives us a ‘stay put’ sign. It is merciful we will not need to carry our packs even a short distance more. We fan out and claim our spots and as with the first few nights, go about the business of creating a community of six small tents.

There is one minor glitch. A graphite stay snaps in the ultra-light tent Tom loaned to Rebekah. Repairs aren’t possible since the sleeve that contained the stay is very tight. But necessity becomes the mother of invention. Reid volunteers to give up his three person Mountain Hardware tent (in reality, a comfy space for two) to Katy and Rebekah to share; in turn, he will bunk in Katy’s tent while Rebekah’s damaged tent is relegated to mothballs for the remainder of the trek.

That we take shelter among trees helps to somewhat negate the still strong winds. There will be no fires or fishing in earnest tonight even though we cast a few flies in vain onto the wind-whipped whitecaps. No trout falls for such a hapless presentation.

Our dinners are the same as last last night and the night before, or at least mine is; instant rice and some insipid dried spice in a watered down slurry of nothingness. At least the others have the sensibility to cook a variety of foods. The highlight of my meal is the decaf coffee. I miss broiled trout cooked with heads and tails intact as the main course. I really do.

Tom and I gaze directly across the lake to the locale where we were foiled the year before

Tom looks straight across Grave Lake to the southern shore that in 2014 was a solid snow field. If we could have cleared 200 yards of snow bank, we could have continued our hike. But we were forced to turn back, and the detour cost us nearly 25 extra miles.

Tom looks straight across Grave Lake to the southern shore that in 2014 was a solid snow field. If we could have cleared 200 yards of snow bank, we could have continued our hike. But we were forced to turn back, and the detour cost us nearly 25 extra miles.

by a  steep snow bank and busted hiking pole. It doesn’t make for very good storytelling. That was last year. This was this year. No one wants to hear any more of it.

We turn in under what will be a full moon sometime in the next day or so. The bright light drowns out the stars and galaxies and meteors which on a dark night would be a sight to behold. It will illuminate trips to the trees as we answer nature’s call in the darkness.

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Tomorrow: A first ford, more trout, and lonesome cowboys.

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A helicopter up high is never a good thing …


This is the second of seven successive daily installments about a visit to the backcountry of the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming by a disparate group of six hikers.

A similar hike will take place the final full week of July, 2016. Lace up your boots, put on your pack, learn to cast a fly. Let’s go.

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Day 2, Saturday, July 25

Overnight temps dip no lower than the mid 40s. Special warmers – long undies, fleece cap, mummy bag drawn tight – were in the clothing stuff sack (aka ‘pillow’) but aren’t needed.

I am awake for good before first light, about 5:30 a.m. Part of the high country get-ready-to-hike routine involves efficient management of all your stuff. Before exiting the tent, before even needing to pee, loose items such as an Ibuprofen bottle, camera, headlamp, etc., go into the correct ditty bag. The 10 degree rated Marmot sleeping bag is stuffed into a compression sack with the straps drawn tight. The sleeping pad is deflated, rolled tight and tied off with paracord. Nighttime clothing heads back into the clothing sack that doubles as a pillow. If I absolutely had to, I could deconstruct the tent and be on the trail in 15 minutes.

This morning, though, there is typical condensation inside the tent. The nylon would need time to dry but my tent site is chosen specifically with first sunlight in mind.

One thing about a one person tent- there's not a ton of wiggle room.

One thing about a one person tent – there’s not a ton of wiggle room.

A light breeze will help drying time as will the low humidity altitude. Still, I string paracord between two 10’ pines to drape the rainfly. Down below at the lake, trout feed at the surface and while it kills me to deny it, there is no time to fish. The four section Scott had leaned against a tree overnight but it is disassembled and slid into one of the Osprey’s side pockets.

Others begin to stir. Our day on the trail should be lovely; the sky is already bright blue. The summit of 12,030 ft. Pyramid Peak to our north is already bathed in sunlight which slowly cascades down the eastern slope as the sun rises.

Now it’s onto a top priority: strong coffee (Starbucks dark Italian roast), then oatmeal. The little denatured alcohol stove made easy work of hot water for Reid and me. We two have the same repetitive breakfast: two packets of oatmeal, raisins, powdered milk and brown sugar in sealed bags. Add water, and voila. We eat straight out of the bag as we straddle our bear canisters as impromptu seating. We all prep food and eat at our own pace. There’s no particular hurry today. The six miles the feature a modest grade should take something short of five hours at a decent clip including rest intervals.

It doesn’t take long for an audible reminder of yesterday’s search for Greg. To the south is heard the thump-thump-thump of an approaching helicopter. It can only mean one thing: a heightened search for the missing man. The SAR teams were unsuccessful on foot and now the rescue effort moves to the air. The low flying chopper swings repeatedly back and forth and up and down both sides of the valley. This has to be an expensive proposition and we wonder who will foot the bill. Our guess is Greg’s family.

We are surprised when the helicopter pivots directly above our camp and descends to land 150 yards away on the precise spot on the south shore where we caught fish last night. Two SAR members exit the helicopter and it vaults back into the air to resume its flyover. The two young uniformed rangers, a man and woman, walk directly to our camp. We anticipate what they will ask.

We tell them, no, we’ve not seen Greg. They produce photos of the missing man, and in a surprise, ask if we would stay put at the camp for the day in the event Greg might return. Tom and I exchange furtive glances, and it’s clear a delay would throw a wrench into Tom’s well thought out itinerary. The rangers sense our hesitation, and allow that it’s only a request. A half hour earlier as I pumped more water to refill our bottles, I chance upon the German man who lets on that his family will remain at Dad’s one more day. I counter with that information and that perhaps the Germans would stick around to be on the lookout for the hiker. The ranger team seems satisfied, and they turn and head down the hill to the other camp.

That rangers would take to the skies is sobering. I wonder, too, about the ethics of our role in any search. We are six and the rangers are two (granted they have a chopper). Are we bound by some back country morality to aid in the effort? Do we put our own half dozen at risk in any way to injury or animals? But it’s now a moot point; we continue our packing as we ready to hit the trail.

Experience and pre-packing make a difference in our readiness. Tom and I are the first to be hike-ready, followed closely by Vince. One by one, everyone dons their packs and a final sweep of the camp is made for stray items. None is found. At 10:30, we hit the road.

We rejoin the Fremont Trail on the east side of the lake. Already, a pecking order of hikers has sorted itself out and is based entirely on speed; Rebekah and Reid lead the charge in front, followed closely by Tom, then Vince and Katy, with me bringing up the rear. This is a semi-official mountain code. Most groups should have experience front and back. Reid and Tom have loads of time at altitude, Rebekah is a former college athlete with tons of hiking experience, while Vince was days removed from walking the entire width of northern Spain. (Tom and Vince have also walked every mile of the Appalachian Trail or ‘AT’ in their lingo.) It is the same orderly file as yesterday and give or take some momentarily jostling, the order of cadence will remain this way the rest of the week.

The trail to Mae’s Lake isn’t much different from Friday. If there is a change, it becomes increasingly rocky. We move up through broken trees and our legs are tested by steep but minor rises and some switchbacks but nothing we can’t handle. It feels as if we are still in the shakedown phase of the hike.

We are lucky on the weather. It had rained enough the week before to create perfect conditions to capture animal foot and hoof prints on the rutted path. Most noticeable and frequent are the splayed hooves of moose. Their tracks loosely resemble two side-by-side kidney-like elongated ovals. Moose apparently make a habit to follow the paths as routes of least resistance. We hope to see the fairly benign creatures given the abundance of tracks and the large, wide areas of low-slung mountain willow. There are limited early signs of other animals: the v-shape hooves of mule deer and the circular prints of shodden pack horses. We seen no other indicators of other animals.

But the most asked about tracks – and most watched for – are those of a bear. This is active grizzly country, yet in all my years I have never seen a grizzly or a black bear in the wild. It would be a thrill to see a ‘grizz’ on our terms; close but not too up close and personal. There are a persistent question as we walk: Is that a bear? The answers are persistent, too: No, that’s a dog or No, that’s a deer.

Yet only a fool would dismiss the potential conflict with bears even in the absence of physical evidence of their presence. The bears are there. They will choose the time and place of any human-omnivore meeting. The bear canisters are heavy and take up a disproportionate amount of pack space. We’ve armed ourselves with another line of defense for several years now: we clip bear spray – a pepper concoction – to our waist belts. The thin bottles, with an effective range of about 30 feet in windless conditions, have never been used. But when you see professional rangers toting one, if not two, of the aerosol bear repellents, they apparently know something we only suspect. John of SAR confirmed the day before that grizzlies have spread throughout the Bridger and the rest of the Wind Rivers.

The heavily used trails in these parts of the mountains offer plenty of chances for hiker/bear encounters. When you have that many campers cooking who knows what, who can blame the bears for coming close to take a sniff – or a taste? Tom and I constantly debate the need for barrels and spray yet we always default to take these carry ons since the hard plastic offers security, especially to new hikers who feel a measure of preparedness. Bears are scavengers and ambush hunters and the effectiveness of the spray is entirely based on humans to be alert and quick on the draw – if you even have time to react. A charging bear will close a 30 foot gap before you can say What the … ?

Pyramid Peak is now squarely in our sights and inches closer. One of the lakes near its base is Mae’s, where we will overnight before we bear right to start a sharp ascent up to Hailey Pass. We anticipate arrival at the saddle around midday on Monday.

Before then, however, is a steep uphill section that proves one of the indisputable laws of hiking. What looks to be the crest of whatever you’re trudging up is never the real crest. It is invariably a morale-sapping false, pseudo crest. We learn this truism several times over the course of the week. When we do reach the real thing today, we come to an open expanse of some size and width. It is where several trails intersect; Freemont, Pyramid and nearby Shadow Lake. It is where we encounter our first potential foot-drenching ford. Washakie Creek, a gorgeous stretch of flat trout water and also a so-named trail we’ll hit later a few days hence, bisects the plain roughly from east to west. It’s where we depart Fremont which heads west to parts not shown on the topo map as we split off to the north and east on Pyramid. The difficulty of our trek has just ratcheted up. We are really hiking now.

In 2014, Tom and I found Washakie filled with snow run off and the swift, nearly groin high and ice cold water was a major challenge. Rocks submerged in ‘14 were now visible and dry above the water line. We could gingerly pick our way across from rock to rock. This is where hiking poles could be planted in the rocky bottom for balance. Our four foot aluminum rod cases prove up to the task for Reid and me. More importantly, there would be no need to remove our socks and boots, thereby losing precious time on the other side to wait for our feet to dry. The water was of no real concern to Tom; he waded right in. He hikes in what is essentially a sturdy running shoe that could drip dry as he rolls onward. The water shoes bungie corded to the back of my Osprey pack will remain there for the time being.

Not too much further ahead and just before Skull Lake is Washakie Trail which heads right and steeply upward to a pass of the same name at 11,600 feet. We do not take this trail. Had we done so it would have offered a much shorter hike to the Cirque and, granted, less wear and tear on our little band of six. But a shorter path is not the point. Our longer, stouter route adds roughly 12 or so miles. So we press onward straight ahead.

We encounter another steepish section perhaps 600 – 700 yards in length and it creates a 300 – 400 yard separation between front runners Rebekah, Reid and Tom and those of us closer to the rear. We reach the southern end of 10,343 ft. Mae’s Lake around 4 p.m. We are right on schedule. There is a stiff wind. It is an omen, a precursor, a cruel harbinger of days to come. To the immediate right at the very point our leaders have stopped to wait for us followers is the Hailey Pass trailhead.

The group is ready to stop. Directly across from the Hailey Trail sign is a flatfish open ground. We head there and find a large area suitable for many more tents than the six we carry. We set up camp but with the heavy wind, not only will casting directly into it be difficult, a fire will be problematic. The wind creates white caps on the lake. No fish will be feeding up top in these conditions. It will be tough to catch/eat brookies this night.

Still, this is the one of two days Rebekah and Vince hold valid fishing licenses. They’re expecting their baptism into the ritual of fly fishing. I rig the Los Pinos and Scott rods. Vince is first to wander over to get his fishing career started. Welcome to Fly Casting 101.

We head to the lake, about 200 yards away. It blows a gale straight into us fisherpeople. The lesson essentially is this: when you take the rod/line back, let the weight of the heavy fly line pull out manageable lengths of line behind you; but let it straighten and ‘load’ first. Don’t force the line out. Don’t rapidly whip your cast. Your rod action should be from the 2:00 to 10:00 o’clock position. Don’t go much beyond those perimeters. Strip in the line with your left hand as it passes through the thumb and forefinger of your right hand as it holds the rod.

Vince pays attention. Starting with short lengths of line, he gets his feet wet in this fine art. But the wind might as well be a brick wall. I see no trout cruising the shallows but there’s a less-windy option to our left about 100 yards. The East Fork River spills out of the lake. The plan isn’t to introduce Vince (or Rebekah) to stream fishing so quickly, but the short casts in these conditions will be easier to handle. We pick a quiet stretch about 25 yards long and 7 – 8 or so yards wide. One short cast, or even a dip of the fly as Vince strips out line, will get the fly moving down the stream into the strike zone.

My belief is this stream is heavily fished since it is very close to several apparently popular camp sites and while Vince deserves his first fish, it may not happen here. But he does as instructed and gets the fly in the water and lets it drift. There are some strikes but no takers. He works several other minor pools downstream. Clearly, he enjoys this. As much time as he spends hiking, my guess is some sort of lightweight rod is in his near-term future. I wish we had full-time rods for he and Rebekah but one week rentals are, at nearly $100, just this side of exorbitant. The cost per pound of fish caught would be on par with fine beluga caviar.

Rebekah isn’t about to be left behind. Once her camp site is squared away, she too wanders down to dip her toes in this trout tutorial. The wind remains unmerciful. Nothing will come to the top until the wind abates and it doesn’t feel like that will be today. But we know trout exist – and big ones at that – near the lake. In a small rivulet not one foot across but at least twice that deep or more that cuts through the meadow up to the campsite leisurely swims a gigantic brook trout, easily 12 – 14 inches in length. It uses this small channel as a personal feeding trough. It sees me, too, and saunters back, unhurried, beneath the cut bank and no amount of enticement – a fly mimicking a dance on the water’s surface – will make the huge fish abandon its lair. It is unaware it would be released since one fish would not make a dinner for six hungry walkers.

We hunker down for dinner near a large boulder. Even in the windy conditions, it amazes me that the efficient little airtight denatured alcohol stoves will boil water so quickly. There was no fire to help us wile away the early evening hours. Once it got dark, the only lights to be seen, other than the stars and an emerging moon, is the glow of headlamps inside each of the tents.

———————-

Tomorrow: Enter the hurricane

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Seven days in Wyoming …


In late July, a small band of hikers – four from Charlotte and one each from Chicago and Berkeley, CA – set out about 11:00 on a Friday morning to walk in the southern portion of Wind Rivers, and in particular, walk the trails of the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming.

This is the first of seven successive daily installments about that trek and the people who made the trip beyond memorable. This stretch of the Winds are marvelous in their beauty, humbling in scope and enabling as we met, or exceeded, challenge after challenge. This has become something of an annual pilgrimage for me. I wouldn’t trade this trip for anything. 

If you know of hikers who enjoy this sort of narrative, pass the blog link along. It was part adventure, part fly fishing extravaganza and utterly exhilarating in its totality. If you’re interested in the 2016 dates of just such a trip, let me know.

Dave Bradley at david.bradley@yahoo.com

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It's views like this that are the draw to this part of the Winds. Hell to get there, but worth every step.

This is why we walk. This is why we venture into the high country. Views like this are the draw to this part of the Winds. Hell to get there, but worth every step.

Day 1, Friday, July 24, 6:15 a.m.

One would suppose you can tolerate four grown men, a couple of them snorers, for at least one restless Thursday night in the same cramped room at the Baymont Inn on the west side of Pinedale, Wyoming, given that the next seven days will be equally uncomfortable at 10,000 feet or higher. The youngest and least tenured of the hikers, Reid, sacrifices his comfort to sleep on the floor. As members of the age 60-plus crowd, Vince, Tom and I aren’t so chivalrous. We don’t hesitate to snag the two available beds. A couple of doors down are Katy and her daughter Rebekah.

There was one final pre-bed check duty for Reid: pack his flies. He was going to need them.

There was one final pre-bed duty for Reid: pack his flies. He was going to need them.

A couple of us are up early, no doubt in our excitement about an adventure that should begin sometime in the next few hours. What passes for a ‘free’ hotel breakfast is cold cereal and self-made waffles, some stale shipped-in danish that have now been out of the package too long. There is the one requirement expected of an overpriced $147 room on the outskirts of town: hot coffee.

Our packing is done the night before or at least most of it is. There is last minute finagling/juggling of necessities but those come with a sizable caveat: leave enough stowage space for Forest Service bear canisters. The barrels are recommended but not required. In theory, grizzlies can’t crush or mouth the hard black plastic protectors. If you stay below timberline you can probably hang food from tall pines and be perfectly safe, but for lots of folks the barrels are a security blanket. We won’t pick the invasive canisters up just yet since the ranger office won’t open until 8 a.m., local time. So packing is largely a moot point until we know how much of a void these space eaters will require in each pack.

It’s hard to believe that in roughly three hours, the variable being our packing skills, we’ll have driven to the Big Sandy trailhead, some 40 miles away as the crow flies, and a year of anticipation, planning and hiker recruitment will be underway.

We retrieve the black canisters promptly as the ranger station doors open, plunk down an $8 donation although none of us are sure where the money goes, and head back to the Baymont. All our food, about 8 lbs. per person, is repositioned in the four pound barrels which somehow fit each pack without further ado.

Also important to the culinary portion of our trip were the favorable readings on the arching green-yellow-red fire meter at the ranger station. The needle points to ‘Moderate’ which means we’ll have campfires to grill trout. At the Great Outdoor Shop we buy non-resident Wyoming fishing licenses at $14 per day. It used to be you got a discount (small, of course) the more days you bought. The state did away with that knowing it can gouge visitors like us and get away with it. It’s state sponsored hostage taking.

Gear fills every spare inch of the Yukon and as a newbie, poor 6 ft. Reid again volunteers to relegate himself to the cramped seventh seat – the same perch he inhabited on the 80 mile drive from Jackson to Pinedale. He’s so far back and insulated by so much stuff if he squawks about his poor luck or bumpy roads, I won’t hear him.

About 9:30 a.m. we turn the SUV south on WY. Rte. 191. Some 10 miles later at Boulder, we turn left onto state road 363 and head past surprisingly green hay fields that are surprisingly green for late July, and isolated ranches. There’s not much in the way of housing. This is the ranch life where you drive your pickup down the lane to get your mail and it’s at least a half day trip for groceries. Local antelope are the star wildlife attractions. We see quite a few of the smallish animals, some within 20 yards of the road. As we climb, the dominant sage and scrub brush landscape becomes dryer and browner. After another dozen miles, the pavement gives way to maintained gravel. It doesn’t slow us down much. Such roads often feature occupant-rattling washboards but Reid doesn’t moan too much about the vibration and bumps.

Before much longer is another sign that points left toward the Big Sandy trailhead. We head east on it. Up and to our left are the high ridges of the Southern half of the Bridger Wilderness. There is very little snow in evidence, a far cry from last year when unmelted snow fields bamboozled Tom and I. Trace amounts of snow mean two things: fewer mosquitoes and fewer and shallower fords across streams. Somewhere in that terrain are the trails we’ll traverse over the course of the next week.

Below us in the valley we can see one final sign that will steer us toward Big Sandy. We’ll be truly off road for 10 miles of rock-and-roll dirt and crushed rock road that slows our pace to 10 – 15 MPH in many spots. Reid absorbs some serious butt compressing jolts along the winding, dusty, narrow potholed road. We yield regularly to horse trailers coming down from the back country, some with stock, some empty.

We steadily gain altitude and the rough final 5-6 miles take another 20 minutes. What’s odd is that beyond the occasional trailer, there is no other vehicular traffic but as we round the bend to the jumping off point parking area (there is no parking lot, you jockey for space along the road), there are easily 70 – 80 cars, trucks and SUVs jammed or wedged into every available parking crevice. The predominant license plates are WY, UT and CO. By dumb luck we land a just-vacated spot. This number of cars is unnerving, but even a few hundred visitors in this large and vast portion of the Bridger will disburse to nothingness soon enough.

Within minutes packs are on and cinched and Katy signs the six of us in on the forest service log book (we are the only apparent visitors from North Carolina) and we hit the trail (9,205 ft. alt.) at 11:50 a.m.

The opening stages of our walk are moderate at worst. We head up Fremont Trail, which breaks slightly to the northwest and away from the more traveled Big Sandy Lake trail. Big Sandy Creek is to our right, and will be for a while.

The trail was moderate to start but even the benign portions of the trail were stunning.

The trail was moderate to start but even the benign portions of the trail were stunning.

Its water level is much lower than in ’14 when near-record snows caused near bank-high torrents in every stream. Today’s goal is modest, too; six miles and 600 feet in elevation gain on our way up to our first overnight: Dad’s Lake. Day One is basically a shakedown cruise.

The route is mostly non-rocked and smooth, with plenty of shade from pines. The plan is to rest 10 minutes for each 60 walked on the trail. After a couple of easy miles a sign merges us left to Dad’s Lake.

It’s altogether wonderful country. Already the views are beginning to form. Vince and Katy stop for photos despite assurances these minor vistas are nothing compared to the grandeur of what’s ahead.

A few hikers pass us on their way out and we step aside as a standard courtesy to those on exiting the back country. One of the kids has his standard issue bear spray clipped to his left hip belt but on his right hip is a holstered pistol of some large calibre. I wonder why people bother. A charging grizzly had better be damn close, and the shooter quite calm and collected, and accurate, for that gun to be effective.

As we saddle up after our first rest break which features a quick review of where we are on the topo maps (we are not yet halfway into the Day One jaunt), we see three orange tee shirt-clad hikers charge up from behind us. I mistake them for scouts but there were no youngsters among the trio. The packs of the two men and one woman are not of the overnight variety. These folks each have two big radios affixed to their belts plus assorted rescue gear. They are on a mission.

They approach us. The tallest of the three, John, asks if we’ve seen a hiker gone missing for two days along this trail. On John’s pants in big, bold letters is SAR – Search And Rescue. These are apparently forest service people. The name of the missing hiker they say, is Greg, and his last known whereabouts had him headed south on the very trails leading to and from our destination, Dad’s Lake. As John retells it, the 6’, 240 lb. Greg was part of a large group but he had become sick.

John, one of the searchers for Greg, was professional but concerned. Greg hadn't been seen in several days.

John, one of the searchers for Greg, was professional but concerned. Greg hadn’t been seen in several days.

Our conjecture was altitude sickness or possibly Giardia intestinalis, an intestinal parasite that makes its way to water via animal fecal matter. But it would take days for that bug to manifest its symptoms of dehydrating diarrhea. At any rate, Greg is gone.

In a severe high country blunder, part of the missing man’s group broke off to continue their journey, leaving him behind with two others who, according to John, didn’t immediately escort Greg down when the poor man decided to make an ill-advised break for Big Sandy Trailhead. They assumed he had beaten them to the parking area when they arrived; however, Greg had not emerged and no one had seen him since. Now the group was split and a search party formed.

The three SAR staff stay roughly on our course and fan out across the wide expanse of the Dad’s Lake watershed, and loudly call out to Greg by name. The thinking was that a sick man, possibly dehydrated and disoriented, would not be able to stray too far from the trail. We meet the threesome often enough that more and more details of the man’s disappearance emerge.

The search team spread out across the valley floor, calling to the l

The search team spread out across the valley floor, calling the missing hiker by name.

We’d also become de facto assistant searchers, and Greg’s disappearance was now part of our on-foot conversations. It underscored that the Bridger is indeed a wild place; beautiful when docile and unforgiving when it turns the other cheek. The missing man and his group found this out the hard way.

Our route to Dad’s is mostly smooth and gradually uphill with a few big rocks and gradients to remind you of where you are. We pump water as necessary. Hydration is a big deal in the dry altitude. Reid and I pull most of the pump duty. The new $50 filters should sift out any Giardia which in itself is worth any cost.

We walk into Dad’s at almost 4 p.m. under beautifully clear, blue skies. Dad’s is a good lake. Tom and I have camped there before (indeed, there is no shortage of top end – and flat – camp sites in the Bridger, quite unlike my experience in Colorado and some other states where you sometimes sweat where you’ll overnight). Our hoped-for spot in the southwest corner of the lake under a tree canopy is already spoken for by a nice family from Germany. We opt to left to head up a path to find our consolation prize, an even larger, even more airy spot about 50 feet above the lake with nice views to the north of Pyramid Peak, our destination for Saturday. Also visible to our right within two miles, and running parallel to our south-to-north route, is the back side of the Cirque of the Towers although there is no direct path to it. It remains just another nice view, for now.

Our tent village is up in short order. My Mountain Hardware one man takes literally moments to erect, and within 10 minutes my sleeping bag, Thermarest ground pad and other gear is laid out or stowed inside.

If you're gonna have a tent, make it a good one. I'll give Mountain Hardware two thumbs up.

If you’re gonna have a tent, make it a good one. I’ll give my Mountain Hardware one person tent two thumbs up.

Tom has loaned three of his spare ultra-light tents to Katy, Rebekah and Vince. The tents, weighing mere ounces, are of state-of-the-art materials and technology. Reid is stuck with my old three person Mountain Hardware tent, but he is deemed young enough to handle the added 6 lb. weight.

Basic duties done, the search for firewood is on. A few armloads from dead pines about 75 yards away and we have enough for a nice fire. A year ago Tom and I caught big, fat brookies at Dad’s and we talked often during the planning stage about the specter of delicious cold water trout seasoned and broiled in foil over a camp fire. Making it easier on us is a ready-made fire ring of medium size granite stones. Indeed, all the signs point to a fish dinner. On the surface of the lake are the telltale circles of rising fish, many in the eatable 8 – 11 inch range. Reid, Tom and I rig our rods, Reid an Orvis given to him as a child, Tom with his reel-less Tenkara and me with a new Scott A4 recommended by Reid’s brother-in-law, Tim, the best fly caster I have ever seen. The Scott is a spectacularly responsive rod. Typically we are catch-and-release fishers, but tonight we angle for supper.

Reid and Tom break off to the shoreline directly down from camp, and I head toward the south end of the lake where a small stream enters, possibly washing food down the mountain and straight to the waiting trout.

It is good to cast again. But after decades of self-taught technique, my casting/retrieval mechanics lack proper elements of style. I recalled Tim’s sage advice to hold the fly line with my right thumb and forefinger as line is stripped in with my left hand. It gives onlookers the false impression that I know what I’m doing.

There are a lot of strikes in the first 10 minutes but no hooked fish, a clear sign of a poor angler. That changes as the first fish clamps down on the Adams. It’s about a 10 incher, just fine for our evening meal.

It wouldn't be an official backpacking trip without the tools of the trade - including a Scott A4 fly rod.

It wouldn’t be an official backpacking trip without the tools of the trade – including a Scott A4 fly rod.

A make-shift stringer is fashioned from the branch of a mountain willow that is stripped of branches except for a final twig at the bottom of the main branch. The tip is run through a gill and the fish is slid to the bottom of the branch. The two foot fish holder is laid in the water along the shore and held in place by a couple of rocks. The trout is now secured. Not too long later, a second fish is landed, then a third. I can only hope Reid and Tom have combined to land a similar number.

And sure enough, Reid has. One of his catches is the fish of the day, a gorgeous 11” brook. He lands a couple more and now we have enough for dinner.

To clean a mountain trout takes a matter of no more than 60 seconds, tops. You slit the fish up from the anus to the top of the underside where it meets the gills. The innards are pulled out (the gullet, which feels like a tough tube of gristle, rarely comes out in its entirety). Your thumbnail is useful to scrape blood collected beneath a membrane along the length of the spine. Then comes a final rinse. That’s all there is to it. Most of these fish are females loaded with eggs. This drives their need to feed voraciously in the shortened season. I wonder if enough time remains in the summer for eggs to mature and hatch and for the fry to survive heading into the harsh winter.

Brook trout aren’t the toughest fish to catch. Some anglers consider them almost a nuisance fish due to their great numbers and their propensity to crowd out other less populous but more favored game fish such as natives and cutthroats.

Brooks may not be the hardest fish to catch, but what they lack in smarts, they make up for in flavor.

Brookies may not be the hardest fish to catch, but what they lack in smarts, they make up for in flavor.

Indeed, the Jackson newspaper reports the state of Wyoming plans to eradicate brookies along a 38 mile stretch of another river to make room for these other species. Some high country lakes I’ve fished seem to have huge populations of what appear to be stunted brookies that compete fish-on-fish for available insect resources. But not at Dad’s. These trout have shoulders. For the once-a-year back country diner, these pink-fleshed trout hold an honored place as tasty – and valued – protein on the fireside menu.

The real genius of dinnertime (and breakfast), however, is Tom’s introduction to us of ultra-light, ultra-efficient stoves fueled by minimal amounts of denatured alcohol (antigravitygear.com). One-half oz. of alcohol is enough to bring a small pot of water to boil for two cups of coffee and piping-hot liquid for our dried meals. The fuel is dumped into an old soda can – mine held Pepsi at one point – stamped into the shape of a fuel burner with holes punched in the side for flames to escape upward. The pot slips atop a near airtight siloed windscreen and the burner does the rest. Vince assembles a very old and very well used, rusted out version of the same concept. It did the job just like the new models.

So rather than lug several 30 oz. bottles of white gas as we’d done for decades to power increasingly complex and finicky Mountain Safety Research (MSR) stoves, 11 oz. of denatured alcohol in a plastic orange juice bottle bought for 98¢ at a convenience store was more than enough for the entire seven days of oatmeal/instant Starbucks breakfasts and horrid day-after-day rice dinners.

We had a gorgeous view of Dads Lake and in some ways our upper perch was better than our hoped-for camp site nearer to the lake.

We had a gorgeous view of Dads Lake and in some ways our upper perch was better than our hoped-for camp site nearer to the lake.

The stoves were the tip of the less weight, less stuff, less overall poundage iceberg. That owed squarely to Tom’s persistent prodding that less is better. We carry no dinner plates; meals are sealed in freezer bags, hot water poured in, stirred and dinner is served. The plastic serves as a mini-trash bag.

The ‘less is better’ mantra applies to every conceivable item from minimalist hiking shoes in lieu of clunky boots to the tents to ground pads. Why use a thick, heavy Nalgene when a much lighter SmartWater bottle will do? A Tyvek ground cloth saves several ounces vs. regular plastic. Take one spare shirt rather than two. Parachute cord weighs much more than the same length of very thin nylon lines favored by serious backpackers. A down jacket weighs less than a fleece one. No need for a full tube of Neosporin when the salve can be squirted into one-half inch sections of drinking straw melted to seal both ends. And the list goes on. With 8 lbs. of food, my Osprey Atmos 50 tops out at about 32 lbs., sharply down from the overly burdensome, shoulder-crushing 45 – 60 lbs. of prior years. I voilate Tom’s cardinal ‘minimal weight’ rule with two stocking caps, six too many tent pegs and a bulky (but safe) PUR water filter system, among other ounce padding no-nos. But it is true: an ounce pared here and an ounce saved there, and pretty soon you’re talking a real savings in poundage.

Our first night's meal await the indignity of final preparations.

Our first night’s meal await the indignity of final preparations.

We wrap up dinner just as the sun sets. Water bottles are filled a final time at the lake. To thwart aromas that might attract bears, we immolate the trout skeletons in the camp fire turned pyre. Temperatures turn chilly quickly after the sun slips down and out and we all hit the sack at the first real darkness. The only light in the tents is the glow from headlamps as hikers stow their gear or get ready for shuteye. Saturday would be our first full day on the trail. We’ll gain 600 feet in the six mile northward trudge up to Mae’s Lake, the gateway to Hailey Pass.

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On Tuesday: Enter the helicopter

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No dusty roads this time around, said the chief sinner …


Reid and his old man are getting cranked up to head back out West again, and still fresh in both our memories (at least in mine) is a long night of fitful sleep in his Saturn along a dusty road under a bright, moonlit sky outside Pinedale, Wyoming. That was the best we could do when we couldn’t find a room for the night in this little berg on the western slope of the Wind Rivers. We don’t want to go through that again next week. Maybe the young can tolerate sleeping on a reclined car seat, but not us oldsters.

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July 5, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Reid, I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk on your 30th birthday. From the sound of it, Liz had a party for you and that must’ve been a lot of fun. If there are any pics, send ‘em. You only turn 30 once and those are the fateful ones, the b-days that end with a zero.

Hey man, in a couple weeks time we’ll be in the high country. Watch for a series of calls to make sure we’ve got the menu and the gear buttoned up. Remind me to get new filters for the pumps, and stakes for the two person tent. That would be a helluva thing for you to be making the circuit of the Cirque only to discover there would be no way to keep your tent upright. We can probably wait until Pinedale to buy flies. We need to attach some new tippet/leader to whichever fly line we’ll use since we don’t want a line failure at a critical moment, especially when dinner is on the hook. Katy, Tom and I had breakfast on Saturday to go over last minute items. We also secured a big Tahoe as transportation. Katy will pick it up on that Wednesday and she’ll ferry us from the airport to Jackson. We drive on down to Pinedale to the Baymont Inn. It’s one of those spots you and I couldn’t get into all those years ago. No way I want to sleep on a dusty road again.

The 4th of July party in the garage for my golf group went over really well. If nothing else, it forced me to tidy things up for once. People had a great time and we reveled well into the night. The cowboy caviar you guys all like was a hit and the grill saw some overtime use. At the 11th hour I thought I’d better check to see if there was enough propane, and good thing. The tank was nearly empty. Wouldn’t that have been great to run out in mid-broil. We had enough food to feed a small army, and what wasn’t eaten is sitting in the fridge, even after making to-go plates for everyone to take home.

My Golf for One group are all pretty sticks, but they know how to get down, too.

My Golf for One group are all pretty good sticks, but they know how to get down, too.

The best part was blowing off a package of cheap fireworks and sparklers. A friend of mine, Paul, served as chief arsonist, and it was hilarious to watch him try to get fuses started. I re-made acquaintance with gin and tonics but no one was watching out for my best interests by shutting me off. Really, it wasn’t too bad but it was a fun night. By 1 a.m. I had everything cleaned up and ended the night sitting in the garage (Ellen, you’d be proud of me for stringing some decorative lights for low level ambiance) with a final beer while listening to Michael Burks play the blues. A good way to end the evening.

There’s been some upheaval at Caldwell. Our Session voted to end the contract of an associate pastor, and it set off some fire alarms. Ellen, you know John, and he’s been attacked unmercifully and, in my view, incredibly unfairly. He’s a good man and a great steward. I sent him a letter yesterday offering up my views of the situation and lending him my unconditional support for encouraging an environment that would draw in even the most heathen-like among us,

There's been a little upheaval in my small church, but we shall overcome.

There’s been a little upheaval in my small church, but we shall overcome.

including me. It’s become a race Continue reading

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Get off your duff and lace up your hiking shoes – Wyoming!


Mountains in the Wind River Range, Wyoming Gre...

Yeah, baby! This is what I’m talkin’ about: the unrivaled mountains in the Wind River Range, Wyoming Green Lakes region of the Bridger Wilderness, Briger-Teton National Forest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attention all outdoorsy types or outdoorsy wannabes: Hey, if you’re looking for a strenuous, test-yourself sort of outdoor semi-survivalist trek this summer, book the week of July 15 in the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming.

Six nights of sleeping on the hard ground (but inside a tent away from the mosquitoes), nearly 37 miles of potential blister-inducing huffing-and-puffing trails – all offset by incredible views of the Cirque of the Towers and fly fishing for fresh brookies. They say this is God’s country, and The Almighty hasn’t denied it.

We assemble in Jackson, WY Friday, July 12 (or Saturday, if you prefer just-on-time arrival) and head into the country around noon on Sunday, July 14.

Me doing my pack mule imitation in the Bridger Wilderness a few years back. Tom has helped me lighten the load considerably.

Me doing my pack mule imitation in the Bridger Wilderness a few years back. Tom has helped me lighten the load considerably.

Physically, we’ll be in the Southern Half of the Bridger Wilderness near Big Sandy, which is southeast of our favorite town, Pinedale. We’ve been doing this foolishness for years. (You might wonder, and rightly so, ‘what the hell does this have to do with his weekly letters to Ellen and Reid?’ Well, a guy has to have something to write about.)

Seven or so objects of our affection. We are mostly catch-and-release hikers, but keep some brookies for supper.

Seven or so objects of our affection. We are mostly catch-and-release hikers, but keep some brookies for supper.

We stumble back out on Friday, July 19 and lick our wounds over cold beers and burgers (bison, we hope) at the renown Wind River Brewing Company on West Pine Street in Pinedale before further licking our wounds (after soothing showers, of course) once we get back to Jackson. We wistfully fly out on Saturday. (When you make your flight arrangements, pick a window seat on the right side of the plane. On the approach into Jackson, you’ll see why giving up an aisle seat was worthwhile.)

Me and my boy Tom (The Beast Walker) Bohr

Tom (Beast Walker) Bohr has walked the Appalachian Trail, across Spain and the guy is a pro.

Tom (The Beast Walker) Bohr has solo hiked the length of the Appalachian Trail in a single pass, trekked across Spain and the guy is a pro. Ain’t no mountain he can’t climb.

will handle ground arrangements (it means we rent an SUV) and hotel stuff in Jackson and Pinedale. We need to know your Continue reading

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