Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Into the Winds - July 2014 - Part Seven

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"Want to hike up Boulder Canyon," I asked. "There's a small campground at the end of Boulder Lake at the trailhead. We could spend the night and organize there."
We were sitting out a storm in a Pinedale, Wyoming parking lot. The Lady had the maps and guide books on her lap.
"Everything we want to visit up that way is a long two day hike. I really want to see Texas Pass after the New York folks mentioned it," the Lady said.
"Why?" I asked.
"We could see the Cirque of Towers again."
"Want to do a carry up the Big Sandy over Jackass and then the route over Texas? We could also do it in reverse?
The Lady was thinking. "Too many people. Any place we could backpack to and then day hike over Texas? I'd just like to look in The Cirque again.""
"Let me see the map." I answered. I had an idea. "Look, here's a basin right on the west side of the cirque. There's a lake up there." I fiddled with the maps. The Lady beat me to it. "Donald," she said.
"Where's the map with my notes about trout species?" I asked.
The Lady dug it out and checked. "Cutthroat."

That settled it. We'd head the 50 miles south to the Big Sandy Opening, one of the busiest trailheads in the Winds because of the Cirque of Towers. We were hoping if we stepped just a little ways off the main trail we'd leave the human world behind. Would it work?

We arrived at the trailhead around three in the afternoon. The small (four sites) campground was empty (it would fill) but the trailhead was overflowing with vehicles. And we thought it was busy back in 2007. We put our packs together, took a quick shower, dinner, and went for a walk. The Big Sandy River ("crossing the Big Sandy" was one of the waypoints of the Oregon/California Trail) broadens into a wide meadow where it exits the Wind's peaks.

The evening's clouds were thickest to the west.

We got an early start. We chuckled while taking this photo because we did the same in 2007. That year we headed up past Big Sandy Lake. This time it was north on the Highline.

The Highline works its way through timber the first few miles and then enters Fish Creek Park and we were reacquainted with why we came back to the Winds.

And we did pull out the maps and identified all the peaks so we'd be oriented.

We turned off the Highline just past Mirror Lake and climbed east into the Donald Creek drainage. It opened up into a glorious high basin with the peaks of the Cirque of Towers above. It was just what we wanted. This whole area was ours. No one else was up here. Donald Lake is in timber and campsites there were too claustrophobic for us. We moved back out a few hundred yards to the edge of the huge park. This would do nicely for "Big Park". We tucked our tent out of sight against a small group of trees and selected a spot out in the open about a hundred yards away for our cooking and dining area. We liked the view.

The first fish was a frisky cutthroat of 14 inches that enjoyed pulling a little line off my reel. Donald is a shallow but more nutrient rich lake with weed beds in places. We did spot nice trout cruising and I hooked but failed to land a couple that could have gone eighteen inches. Donald had potential. The fourth fish fought very hard but turned out to be a brook of about 13 inches. Later in the evening, fishing the shallows, I connected with several small brooks, so there is a mix in this lake.

After dinner we walked a big loop around "Big Park". This was the nicest evening of our entire trip. The tops of the Cirque's towers were visible against the storm clouds to the east. Overhanging Tower is easily identified.

Donald Creek had nice meadow sections.

I hadn't said a thing because I knew the Lady wouldn't miss it, part of my "idea" when I mentioned going to Donald. It worked. As we walked, we had a great view of the back of the Cirque of Towers. The Lady looked off to the southeast. "See that pass in the ridge?" she asked. "I think we can climb up that. Look!" Her eyes worked the terrain. "From there it looks like we could climb the ridge to the top of that peak. We could see into the Cirque of Towers from there I bet!"
"Let's see what the weather looks like in the morning," I cautioned.
The peak she was pointing at was Warrior 2, the highest in the Cirque of Towers.

The skies gave us concern about what the next day would bring. We turned in.

It was a "go for it" morning.

We worked our way along Donald Lake.

From here we entered timber heading for the gully that led to Wisconsin Col and the gateway to that low point in the ridge the Lady had spotted and got her mind to working.

"Wow! Oh my gosh!" The Lady was stopped in her tracks. We were moving through the timber. "It is huge!" She was riveted looking ahead.
"What?" I quietly asked.
"A royal bull got up right in front of me! At first I thought 'Why are those trees moving?' and then his big butt went into the air. His antlers looked like trees! He got up on his front legs, looked at me again, and just left. Did you see him?"
I hadn't. Not only that, I didn't hear a thing.

We made it to the base of Pylon Peak and the route to Wisconsin Col. We were climbing to the south.

The steep gully was mostly rock with wonderful patches of wildflowers, Indian Paintbrush, Alpine Columbines, and Primroses.

As we climbed, the views opened up around us.

We reached the top of the ridge and a familiar vista came into view, Temple Peak, East Temple Peak, Haystack Mountain, with Wind River Peak behind. You want a great backpack trip? Go to Deep Lake at the foot of East Temple.

The ridge gets a lot steeper as you head up.

It is class three to the summit on delightful rock.

The Lady loves the puzzle of route finding through mazes like this. She usually hits it head on. This time I was the one. I was climbing up a chimney. I could see the end; I knew it would go. The last move was a high step with the right foot, waist high, and then a mantle up to a left hand hold, and then a great place for my left foot. The Lady's head appeared in a notch above. "Why are you going this hard way? she asked. We laughed.

The Lady got to look into the Cirque of Towers. She was happy. 

We looked back at our route up.

And to the southeast and Wind River Peak.

And, of course, down into the Cirque.

This is what mountain days are for.

We were in the Rocky Mountains. Clouds were building.

We headed back down to our camp at Donald Lake and Big Park.

It was the little things that caught our eyes on the way down.

Weather was not going to allow a quick run up to the top of Bunion Peak.

We took a swim after reaching camp. I suggested a early supper, that would give us a long time to fly fish in the evening. We enjoyed dinner while watching the clouds continue to move in. Thunder started to our north. It was raining by five. We already had food and cooking stuff stashed in the bear canisters. It was into the tent.

It let up enough around eight to allow a walk with our rain gear.

It rained all night.

We found a sheltered spot under thick fir trees for breakfast in our rain gear. Our idea about climbing Elizabeth Col was shot.

We stretched out back in the tent. The Lady snuggled against my side. "It's gonna rain today."
"Yup, and this looks like a front, not thunderstorms."
She asked, "What should we do?"
"Deal with the rain all day, probably spend most of the time in the tent, and pack up wet in the morning and hike out or pack up wet this morning and hike out."
"Now that's an easy decision." The Lady said.
We didn't need to hurry. It was only a little over eight miles out.

We exited the rain at the trailhead around two. The break gave us a chance to arrange all the gear and get the truck and camper ready for travel. "I'll buy you a Mexican dinner in Pinedale if you buy us hot showers." I offered.

We headed up to Half Moon Lake above Pinedale for a spot to just spend the night. We got in a nice walk between rain showers.

In the bunk that night we talked about options for our route home. We settled on getting a milkshake in Fields, Oregon as suggested by our friend Mark.

It was pouring rain the next morning. This weather pattern was going to continue. We didn't get that milkshake. On our way we received word about a medical emergency with the Lady's Mom back home.

It was the dreaded Interstates for us...............................................but how on earth could we complain? That seductive voice had more than had its way with us. And, I suspect we will again venture "Into the Winds".


1 comment:

  1. What a spectacular adventure! And how wonderful that you are both now in good health and can enjoy the mountains to the fullest. The Winds are now on our "must do" list. Thanks for taking the time to put these reports together!