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Monday, September 21, 2020

Weekly Post, High and Wild: Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers (#101+)

High and Wild: Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers
by Robert Glenn Ketchum



After receiving my MFA from CalArts, I was invited by Bill Lund, Sharon Disney’s husband, to come stay at the families' Diamond-D Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming. Bill thought I might like to photograph in the nearby Wind River Mountains, which I did, backpacking through them extensively over the next three summers. Welcome to a world of big granite walls and huge alpine lakes!
~Robert Glenn Ketchum



Monday, September 21, 2020


High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, , 
Wind Rivers, #161:  Considering it is August, the storm which moved in during the night brought FREEZING cold with it, besides the pounding rain. There is no point in getting out in it at the crack of dawn, so Vicki Golden, and I, linger in our sleeping bags, and snuggle with Belle Star. About 9am, the rain tapers off, and there are some blue holes that appear in the sky. Not wanting to take any chances, Vicki, and I, bolt to the “kitchen,” and down a hearty breakfast. As we eat, the wind begins to pick up, which I am hoping, signals the storm is blowing off. Unfortunately, it does not. Rather, it signals that a new one is blowing in. Within an hour of our meal, the wind reaches another rage level, and clouds, once again, begin to pour over Round Top Mountain. It looks as though we will NOT be climbing up there today. Then suddenly, there is a massive roll of thunder directly above us, and there are two lightning strikes on the other side of the lake. Belle hates thunder and lightning, and we are not fans of it, either, se we all flee back into the tent. Belle is terrified, and shivering, so we put the sleeping bags over her, and keep petting, and assuring her, it will be OK. However, the intensity of the storm continues to build, and it is rolling right over us. We have a reasonably safe location with taller rocks and trees around us, but this is a massive electric system, and it is striking everywhere. When we close our eyes, we can see the flashes in various colors, and there are often several at once in a kind of strobe effect. Over our three years of backpacking in the Winds, we have lived through some fierce storms, but this one takes the cake. We are actually so frightened, we pull our ensolite pads from beneath our sleeping bags, fold them in half, and balance on them using our tip-toes and fingertips, so there is as little of our bodies in contact with the ground as possible. After about an hour of this unrelenting assault, a torrential rain moves in.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #160, 
Wind Rivers, #160:  As our after-dinner stroll around the lake continues, Belle Star revels in meadow rolls, we all love the fact that the mosquitoes had been blown to the East Coast, and the warmth of the late light grows richer, and richer. Then, it suddenly occurs to Vicki, and I, that the wind is dying down. Miracle of miracles, considering the last three days. It is not yet completely gone, but waves on the lake have turned to a radiant shimmer of reflected color, and the clouds have stopped scuttling entirely. We have provisions for four more days, and since today, having accomplished our goal of crossing the Continental Divide, the question before us is, what should we do tomorrow. On our less-than-perfect small quad topo, we can see that, at our end of North Fork Lake, there is a rising basin that ascends Round Top Mountain which looks doable, and although we may not actually reach several other lakes, we would likely have a great overview of them, so that becomes our plan for the morning. Interestingly, during our walk back to camp, the night becomes VERY cold and clear, unusual for August in the Wind Rivers. When we retire it is a stargazers delight, but about 4a.m., I hear the first drops to hit the rainfly, and for the next two hours, the momentum of the storm builds, and rain drops become a steady drumbeat on the fly.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, September 7, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #159, 
Wind Rivers, #159:  Battered as Vicki Golden, and I, have been all day by raging winds, our skin care regimen, and a good meal restore us, so we can enjoy a stellar sunset. The cloud-passing, skyshow continues, but we notice the wind is dying down somewhat, and they scuttle by more slowly. We are comfortable with leaving camp, and taking a stroll along the shore of North Fork Lake. While not exactly alpenglow, as the sun in the west drops lower and lower on the horizon, the color of the light warms considerably, and sets off the granite around us with a luminous hue. This perceived “warmth” also restores us somewhat. Even though we had a great day, and accomplished our first crossing of the Continental Divide, by the time we got back to camp, we were beat to s*#@, and not in a particularly cheery mood. What a difference a little repair, some warming food, and a brief passage in time can make. Even Belle Star is happier (especially after some trout in her dinner bowl), and she is bounding wildly around, occasionally finding just the the right patch of meadow to dive on her back with her legs in the air, and wriggle around like a fish, making all sorts of guttural noises of joy. We can all say one thing about the windy day, there were no mosquitoes to fend off. I am actually hopeful that they have all been blown to Kansas!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, August 31, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #158, 
Wind Rivers, #158:  After crossing the Continental Divide for the first time, Vicki Golden, doggo, Belle Star, and I, are heading back to our campsite at North Fork Lake. Although it is all downhill on an established trail, we are now walking directly into the wind, which has been raging all day. We have on ALL of our layers, and head coverings, but it is so chill and brutal, I regret I do not have the leather face mask that I bought for winter camping. It never occurred to me that it might be useful on a summer adventure. By the time we are finally back at our tent, and slightly sheltered by the boulders around us, we realize we are, literally, wind-burned. Between the all-day buffeting to which we have been subjected, and the extremely dry air of our high altitude location, our facial skin, and lips, are cracked and painful. Before starting dinner, we take emergency action, retreating inside the tent, to repair ourselves. We have a large variety of lip balms which we goop on, but we also have Nivea, which we slather on our faces. When we finally emerge to initiate the evening meal, we look like greased weasels. On top of it all, we are also sunburned, and my nose hurts so much, I actually put “trout grease” on it after dinner. Ah! The joys of camping. Hahaha!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, August 24, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #157, 
Wind Rivers, #157:  Vicki, Belle Star, and I, finally leave our sheltered place, and brave the howling wind tunnel of Hay Pass to cross over the Continental Divide for our fist time. As windy as it is, it feels to both of us that we have done something cool - we have climbed up through some of the tallest, most rugged mountains in North America, and crested the range, passing from the west to the east. Below us, somewhere WAY out there, are the Great Plains. The surfers have been exchanged for farmers. Then, as we continue down the trail on the east side, we come to Lake Dennis, a huge lake several miles long, at 10,636ft. Although there is a marked trail around the right side shoreline, it looks like a lengthy boulder scramble we have no intention of doing, so we sit for awhile, enjoying the sky show and some more snacks, but when the wind chill finally settles in on us, we turn ourselves back toward camp, and begin the journey.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, August 17, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #156, 
Wind Rivers, #156:  Basking, basking, the clouds are passing. At the crest of the Continental Divide, Hay Pass, we shelter behind a small granite dome, to eat, and soak up some sun warmth, as the hike to this point has left us wind-chilled. Stepping out from behind this dome is like entering a wind tunnel on steroids. For the moment, however, we have some peace, and a good bit of food, so we just sun ourselves, and lay low. Belle is happy to stretch her lovely black fur out to sun as well, and she actually gets so hot, she pants. We stay like this for more than 1hr. as we are in no hurry. The day is young, there is no threatening weather, and the hike back to camp is not a long one, so we enjoy the leisure. When we finally make our move, it will be between our sheltering dome and the granite wall to the right. The actual crest of the Continental Divide is only about 100-yards away to the left, and then there is a small descent that should allow us to overlook Dennis, a large lake on the other side of the divide.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, August 10, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #155, 
Wind Rivers, #155:  The wind continues RAGING throughout the night, and our tent strains and shutters under the violence of some of the gusts. Things are no better the next morning, so we have to layer-up just to fix breakfast. There are clouds in the sky, but being blown through so quickly, there is no chance they will build up and storm, and if we sit around and do nothing all day we will freeze, so we decide to go for the Continental Divide crossing at Hay Pass. We already so high (SO HIGH) that there is little to ascend, our hike is mostly a slow, but modest, uphill traverse. For now that wind is at our back, thankfully we are not walking into it, but Vicki has on a rain poncho as her outer, windproof layer, and the gust keep blowing it over her head. Fierce bursts push us headlong, as though we are being driven,..well, we are! When we reach Hay Pass (above) it is like a wind tunnel, and the air flow is screaming. We have now been so buffeted about, and wind-chilled, we take shelter behind a small granite dome, to drink water, and eat some food to refuel us. The clouds overhead just keep streaming by, and, thankfully, an occasional blue hole provides the warmth of the sun. We both have on our dark blue, wool zip-necks, which soak up the heat when the sunlight hits us.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, August 3, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #154, 
Wind Rivers, #154:  After our sheltered snack stop at Glacier Lake, Vicki, Belle Star, and I, walk briskly back to camp, so we can don parkas, hoods, and booties. The wind has taken a toll on us, and we are wind-chilled, even though we are hiking. It, literally, NEVER stops blowing. As we drop down from the higher basin, it becomes less violent, but it does not abate. Finally back at camp, we feed Belle, stuff her in the tent, covering her with sleeping bags, and then we turn to creating a massive carbo-loaded meal for ourselves. Sadly, there will be no trout for dinner tonight. Once we get some food in us, we warm up substantially inside our down layers, but the air streaming around us never relents. I think this picture of Vicki says it all - LOL!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, July 27, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #153, 
Wind Rivers, #153:  Vicki, Belle Star, and I, finally reach Glacier Lake, and do find enough large boulders that we have some protection from the raging windstorm. We layer up with ALL the clothes we are carrying, and settle into a rocky niche to have some food and water. Belle does her sunbathing thing, and all seems well with the world. Our topo map shows that at the end of the lake, the sloping rise to the left, provides an accessible route to the top of the Continental Divide, from which we could overlook the Milky Lakes on the other side of the range, but we have been worn down by the windstorm, and it will only get worse if we push higher, so we decide to soak up some heat, eat food, and then wend our way back to camp, where we have parkas, booties, and sleeping bags into which we can retreat.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, July 20, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #152, 
Wind Rivers, #152:  Onward and upward! Vicki, and I, pursue “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get.” Continuing our ascendance of the lakes grouped in the Glacier Lake basin, we have but one more to reach, and that is Glacier Lake, itself. Behind us lies a string of smaller unnamed lakes, around which we have enjoyed the morning’s hike. Now we approach the top of the basin that cradles the largest in the group. The wind has been screaming all day, unrelentingly, and at this high point of our hike, it is at full rage. We are warm because we are moving, but there are times when we are actually pummeled off-balance. There is little cover up here to shield us, so I hope we can find a boulder or two when we reach Glacier, behind which we can seek refuge. Belle Star, my lab, looks hysterically funny, because in the torrent of rushing air, her ears seem to have minds of their own, and they are flapping around wildly.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, July 13, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #151, 
Wind Rivers, #151:  Passing around the first lake, we slowly ascend the shore of the inflowing creek from the second lake slightly above us. In looking back, I am struck by how different these summits are from those we have been hiking in the central section of the Winds. The ones around us now, lack the big walls and sheer faces we camped beneath out of Elkhart Park. Rather, these are like massive mounds, with green, terraced meadows across their faces, that crawl all the way to the top. We could probably pick our way up anyone of them if we chose, but this is a lazy day for us, and the windy exposure would only be worse, so we are perfectly happy to amble along just drinking it all in. The weather seems to be growing a little more “iffy,” but there are still plenty of big, blue “holes,” and the endless wind is pushing the clouds by quickly, so it seems unlikely it will storm, thus we keep plodding on. I assure you I would NOT want to be up here, and this exposed, if things started to go off. There is NO place to hide.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, July 6, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #150, 
Wind Rivers, #150:  The basin of small lakes Vicki Golden, and I, are hiking into are VERY high. Summits no longer tower above us. The first lake we encounter is small and shallow, so, of course, Belle wades right in. (Be sure to click on the link (COLORED LETTERS) and see the Google mapping of this basin, so you can follow the hike. Also, scroll to magnify some AMAZING detail!) If you ARE looking at the map, North Fork Lake, where we are camped, is to the upper left. The first lake we reach is long, narrow and dead-center. From there we will ascend a short rise to the other small lake, right, and above it. Finally we will traverse across to Glacier. This pass must be windy most of the time, because it sure is today, and if you blow up the detail on the Google map, you can see on the day the satellite took this shot, all of these lakes are glistening from being wind-swept.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, June 29, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #149, 
Wind Rivers, #149:  As Vicki Golden, my lab, Belle Star, and I, follow the slowly ascending traverse line across the slopes of the summits to our east, we rise into a series of stunted tree stands, big meadows blooming with wildflowers, and a string of small, interconnected lakes that will eventually bring us to the largest of them, Glacier. This is really a stroll, more than a hike, because there is very little ascending to do until the rise just before Glacier. Thankfully there is quite a bit of sun, because the wind is howling around us, and the wind chill is considerable. This being a relatively short, leisurely hike, we are in no hurry, so we stop frequently to sit in the sun, water-up, and snack. Belle is classic. The minute we shelter and sit, she finds a windless spot, sprawls, and passes out, soaking up the heat, with her gorgeous jet-black coat. There are no trails up here. We are definitely off-road, and some of these big meadows fully a bloom, buzz with insects, and smell wonderful, even in the stiff wind. Vicki, and I, feel like we have found a very private Garden of Eden. Belle thinks she has found a place to run around wildly and chase eeks (rock Pika), who are definitely baiting her like a whack-a-mole game.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, June 22, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #148, 
Wind Rivers, #148:  After the previous, long gray, drippy day, our tent lights up early in the morning because the sun is shining on us. Having slept the better part of the last 24hrs., we are now eager to have a low key dayhike, and decide we will investigate a basin to our east and south that appears to have several small lakes, and a larger one, named Glacier. The storm of the previous day has been driven past by a howling wind, so while it is warm in the direct sun if you are sheltered by a rock or trees, standing in the fierce air flow is quite chilling. As a consequence, Vicki, and I, layer-up, and put on our wind shells. The lakes in the Glacier Lake basin do not drain into North Fork Lake, where we are camped, they drain into the smaller, swampy, mosquito-ridden lake where we camped on our first night, which lies below them. North Fork Lake is nearly as high as they are, and so our ascent is a gradual upward traverse of the western face of summits to our east. Considering how few trees can be found at North Fork, we are surprised to find substantial stands of them as we rise into the Glacier Lake basin. We are also grateful because, when we stop to snack and drink, we can shelter in them, while warming ourselves in the direct sun. It is finally a VERY beautiful day, and the sky is swimming with fast moving clouds, none of whom look to bring any threatening weather. Excelsior!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, June 15, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #147, 
Wind Rivers, #147:  The weather streaming over Round Top Mountain descends on North Fork Lake, and our campsite, with a vengeance. The wind REALLY picks up and the rain POURS down. Our tent pitch appears well-chosen because we do not bear the brunt of the wind, nor are we flooded, as is the rest of the meadow just beyond our vestibule. Best of all, our rainfly remains taught and we stay dry inside,..at least for the time being. The storm intensifies, and shows no sign of abating, so I suggest this become a “rest” day, welcome after our arduous two day hike in, and we take our clothes off, getting back into our sleeping bags to preserve our warmth. We then proceed to pass out to the drone of water hitting the fly. Doggo likes our decision as well, so she curls up in the vestibule, and starts snoring away. Sometime around noon, I wake up to check our tent seams for leaks, and eventually stick my head out to find this (above). It looks to be a day of steady, POURING rain, so I crawl back into my bag, and doze off again. Interestingly, the sound of the rain has become such a background noise we sleep with, when the rain lets up around 4p.m., it wakes me. I dress, and get out of the tent to survey our circumstances. The world is VERY soggy, but we are relatively well off at the moment, and I make the call that we do dinner now, in case there is more of the storm yet to come. The gods are kind, and we have about a 2-hour window in which I fish, successfully to Belle’s delight, as she loves trout to improve her dry kibble, and Vicki, and I, chow down our dinner which also includes some trout. The respite in the weather allows the flooded meadows to drain a bit, which is good, because around 6-6:30 the weather rolls back in. We retreat, once again, into the tent, but before we sleep, the rain lets up, and the storm does seem to be tapering off. Perhaps tomorrow we will finally have a walk around.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, June 8, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #146, 
Wind Rivers, #146:  Exhausted from two days of carrying heavy backpacks up steep trails, we sleep well, but even so, I am occasionally awakened by a howling gust of wind, or an abrupt downpour of rain pounding our rainfly. Come the morning when we rise, we find the tent is still dry inside, and our pitch proves well chosen, as the ground immediately around us is not flooded, but everywhere else is flowing with water. Shortly after we begin to collect ourselves and dress, the weather breaks off briefly, so we take advantage of it, and scramble out to make breakfast. In many places over the last two summers, we have made fires at our camps, but we ALWAYS carry our stunningly dependable MSR stoves. It is good we have them now, because nothing around us would ever burn, it is all completely saturated. Belle Star takes a morning stroll to investigate the surrounding terrain, and Vicki, and I, scarf down a big breakfast, partly to re-energize after the grueling hike in, and partly to generate body heat for what we expect to be a cold, wet day of walking around. As we finish the morning meal, the brief respite that has allowed us to eat, ends rather abruptly. Across North Fork Lake is a considerable summit called Round Top Mountain, and as I am cleaning plates and pots, a storm of clouds and weather literally pours over it, coming in from the west. It is impressive to watch, but a harbinger of some serious stuff about to happen. Vicki, Belle Star, and I, decide to retreat back into the tent for the moment, and let this play out, before launching any hike.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, June 1, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #145, 
Wind Rivers, #145:  At the first camp, on the first tier of our ascent, the morning dawns very overcast, but it is not raining. We do a hasty breakfast, pack everything up, and start another relatively long, upward trek. As the hours go by, a cool breeze arises, which makes our carry more tolerable. Meadows blooming with wildflowers, and strewn with boulders, increase significantly, and trees begin to disappear. Given our past summer's often terrifying experiences with lightening storms in this range, we are hopeful that some tree shelter will remain at the next lake where we intend to put down our permanent camp. When we arrive, we realize we are VERY exposed in this basin, more so than just about anywhere else we have been in this range, but we find a location that is low, and which we believe is safe from flooding, as well as being surrounded by enough high rock and big trees that it will keep us from being strike targets. Good judgment is everything, so we count on our two previous years of camping to inform our decision, and we set up. (Blue tent, lower left.) North Fork Lake is large, the mosquitoes fewer, and during meal prep, the wind begins to rise, while the clouds descend. It sprinkles off and on, but generally a good evening is had by all, and we are thankful that tomorrow, we will not have to shoulder the heavy packs again. From here, even though the ascent to the pass is long, it is not especially steep, so we feel confident that for the first time in our three summers of being high and wild in the Winds, we will finally crossover the Continental Divide at Hay Pass, somewhere up ahead on the trail.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, May 25, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #144, 
Wind Rivers, #144:  Carrying a very full, and weighty rig, Vicki Golden, and I, are glad to have the steep ascent of the switchback trail concluded. It is great relief to be alpine, and walking through the blooming meadows of late summer. It has been hot, and humid without rain all the way in, but in the late afternoon, at this altitude, we are finally experiencing some cooler air. The trail behind Vicki in this picture, plunges downward between the treeline and the granite wall, and it is a long walk out from where we are now, yet we are only halfway to our ultimate destination, Hay Pass, where we hope to cross over the Continental Divide. That being said, we are EXHAUSTED, and will not go much further today. Our walk through these meadows finally brings us to a small lake, so we have water and plenty of room for a comfortable campsite. Glad to get out from under the pack weight, we snack, drink, and set up. My black lab, Belle Star, is especially glad to have her saddlebags off, so she celebrates by chasing meadow eeks and swimming in the lake, while Vicki, and I, do food prep. It is a lovely evening, except the swampy lake hosts hordes of mosquitoes, so the headnets come out while we cook. From where we are, the trail goes up again, to a larger lake above us, but instead of resting for a day after such a long hike, we both agree we want to leave the mosquitoes behind if we can, so we retire early, because we will have another long, upward hike tomorrow.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, May 18, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #143, 
Wind Rivers, #143:  This starts the final adventure of my partner, Vicki Golden, and I, being high and wild in the Wind River Range, for three consecutive summers. Although we begin this summer camping in places we have already visited (Elkhart Park entrance to Titcomb Lakes Basin detailed earlier in this blog (posts #90-97), we went there to get ourselves in shape for an unknown hike, that would take us over the Continental Divide to its east side. In the final weeks of August, the moment for that trek arrives, and we feel well conditioned and up for the task. In previous summers, we have worked our way south in the range, using the Big Sandy entrance to access the Deep Lake/Temple Peak quad, also part of this earlier blog. Now, for this final backpack, we plan to go further south and use a trail that will take us up through Boulder Canyon, eventually leading us over Hay Pass and the Divide. It is a VERY long hike, which in the Wind Rivers, truly means something, hence our two months of prepping for this by backpacking other locations. I must also say, some of this is sketchy, as I did not take notes, and the topo maps for this area are the 1/2-sized quads, so not every lake is named, and sometimes the trail on the map is hard to follow. What I believe we do is ascend through Boulder Canyon, a full day of hiking with 10-day packs, culminating in a steep switchbacked climb, that finally levels off into some lovely alpine meadows in full wildflower bloom. The day is hot, making the hike even more grueling, and although weather streams over us, it does not rain, it is just muggy. At the top of the switchbacks, this (above) is the view north and to the west. Directly below, behind the line of trees, is the trail we have been on, and in the reverse direction, the meadows and a lake unfold before us.

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Monday, May 11, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #142, 
Wind Rivers, #142:  As darkness descends, my hike-mate, Vicki Golden, and my now very tired black lab, Belle Star, finally reach our camp at Deep Lake, after a 16+-mile day-trip around Black Joe Lake in the neighboring basin. We have just enough energy left to prepare dinner, after which we all pass out cold. When morning comes, it seems a pleasant enough day, which is good because we now have a 10-mile walk out, this being our last camp of the season. Last night, when we crossed over the granite ridge of Haystack, and dropped into Clear Lake below our camp at Deep, a VERY large group of guides and drunken guests had established a huge camp, and were ringing the shoreline in the twilight, yelling loudly to each other while they fished. To our good fortune, they cooled their beer stash in the lake waters, and some of the full cans of Coors drifted away. Finders keepers,..so Vicki and I enjoyed three beers with our evening meal. That party came in on horses, A LOT of horses, which we knew tore up the trail, so when we pack out, we opt to cross the dome into the Miller Lake-Rapid Lake valley, and descend that trail as it will be in better condition. At the top of the dome traverse, we stop for one last look at the Deep Lake basin that has been our stunning home for the last 8-days (above), and marvel at the granite walls of East Temple Peak and spire. From here on out it is all downhill to my van, and then back to my studio in LA. Another GREAT summer in the Winds, and a good time had by all. Already looking forward to our planned return next year.

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Monday, May 4, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #141, 
Wind Rivers, #141:  At the outlet end of Black Joe Lake, a sheer wall forces the trail to rise up through boulders, crowning out on a granite dome. By the time we reach there, we (Vicki Golden, my partner, my dog, Belle Star, and I) are exhausted, and running on empty. To this point we have done about 14-miles today, and we still have several more to go. However, this dome we have had to ascend offers an amazing overview of the world in which we have been camped for the last 10-days, so we linger with our last snacks, water up one more time, and take it all in. The minute we stop walking, Belle lies down and snoozes. Even wild dog is tired. Thankfully the view and the food are renewing. In the foreground (above) is the long, narrow Black Joe Lake, above which looms the impressive granite of Haystack Mountain. It is hard to grasp the scale of this, but to the middle-left, Haystack has a large, dark shadow from which a rock jumble extends in the lake. That is the spot where our morning traverse turned ugly. That is an avalanche of boulders the size of houses. To the right of Haystack, Temple Peak defines the skyline, and in the basin between Temple and Haystack, lies our camp at Deep Lake. It is a grand view, but we have miles to go before we sleep. Interestingly, I will be on this dome two more times in my life, once with my friends from Sun Valley, and then, at age 60, with my son and daughter. How blessed I feel to have been able to do that.

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Monday, April 27, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #140, 
Wind Rivers, #140:  My partner, Vicki Golden, and I, have scrambled down from the basin of small lakes, now high above and sitting directly beneath East Temple Peak and spire, which can be seen in the distance. We have reached the far end of Black Joe Lake, and have stopped to drink, snack, and re-lace our boots. We are about 1/3 of the way back to our camp, after what has already been a long day of hiking. We are only carrying daypack weight, but we have done miles and miles of rugged terrain, and still face a long stretch of it before we are back in our camp at Deep Lake. Black Joe is a long, narrow lake and we are now on the side with an established trail, so it will easier to navigate than the boulder field we traversed this morning (Thank God!) It is about 4pm, and we need to keep moving if we expect to be in camp before dark, so we are off. Most of the trail is flat, with several stream crossings, but at the other end of the lake, a sheer wall comes down to the water, so we must ascend it, only to descend once again, and cross the outlet. That will be followed by another ascent of the granite ridge of Haystack Mountain. There is A LOT of up-to-go-down-to-go-up before we are home. We make good time around the lake shore, but the trail up through the boulders at the far end, is exhausting and slow. At the top, however, there is a reward.

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Monday, April 20, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #139, 
Wind Rivers, #139:  Working our way down from the so-named-by-Vicki, Aurora Lakes basin, we are paralleling the flow of Black Joe Creek. There is an established trail that traverses a series of descending terraces, ultimately intersecting the far end of Black Joe Lake. The trail is not difficult, but the day is wearing on us now, and we are plodding along carefully so as not to turn an ankle or strain a knee because we are tired. In this shot, Vicki has entered a steep, treacherous terrain of rounded pebbles, and is being extra cautious not to loose her footing. Most of our descent is kinder, fortunately, and we hit the shore of Black Joe about 5pm. Most of the lake, and the boulder field on the opposite shore we crossed through this morning, are in deep shade, but we are catching late afternoon light on our side. It is still a long way around the lake, and it does involve a considerable elevation gain (up-to-go-down) at the very end, before the trail crosses the outlet, taking us back to camp.
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Monday, April 13, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #138, 
Wind Rivers, #138:  After a short downhill slab walk from the lake-tarn cluster at the head of this basin, we encounter the biggest lake in the basin, nestled at the foot of the VERY dramatic backdrop of East Temple Peak (left) and its spire (middle). This lake is situated in a place that gets more sun than the lake above us, and so this one has less ice cover. It is amazing to us that our camp at Deep Lake is just over the saddle on the right, and down nearly 1,000 VERY sheer feet. As there is no way from here to there without rope, we still have a long trail home, before we are back there, and although we know we need to keep moving, we linger here some moments to take in the sapphire blue water, sparkling with highlights in the light breeze. It is breathtaking, and Vicki decides to call this place the Aurora Lakes basin. Watered and snacked-up, we are now ready for a 10+ mile walk back to camp. We leave the basin by scrambling down a steep trail next to a waterfall that forms Black Joe Creek. Meadows are blooming around us, the water is gurgling everywhere, Belle Star is bounding, and we are hitting a decent stride, considering we have been going at this ALL day.

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Monday, April 6, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #137, Wind Rivers, #137:  After the massive boulder field traverse, Vicki and I have used more time and energy than we expected, so our climb up into the unnamed basin of lakes is slow, but steady. In the thin air, with each breath our lungs burn for oxygen. Fortunately, the granite slabs we are now navigating offer relatively easy passage up, and eventually roll into a broad, flat basin, well into the shadows of the afternoon, and directly below the east face of East Temple Peak and spire. It is a hot day in late August, and the first lake we encounter is still covered by substantial ice. It seems that whatever we discover in this high basin as a body of water, spends most of the year frozen solid. The underwater ice edge glows a luminous blue, and drinking from the lake provides a freezing nectar to the now-fading, hot afternoon. Our topo is not clear about how many lakes or tarns are here, but we are at the highest point in the basin, so everything before us is a downhill walk on some clean granite slabs. Because the morning in the boulder field took more time than we expected, we are now here later in the afternoon, and as the shade of the day grows, the air begins to cool down as well, so we add back some clothing layers and shells, and start our descent that will eventually take us to the shore of Black Joe Lake.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #136, Wind Rivers, #136:  The trail from the ridge of Haystack Mountain down to Black Joe Lake is a breeze, and in little time we stand at the shore. The “actual” mapped trail now crosses the river, rising again, then descending to a mid-point on the opposite lakeshore. We choose, instead, to gamble on the unknown, and traverse the boulder field shoreline beneath Haystack. We reason that it is just a puzzle of rock-hoping that can be navigated, and we can see on the topos, at the far end of the lakeshore, the boulders give way to granite ledges and a complex of small lakes in an extremely high basin, none of which are named. Going off-trail in the Wind Rivers is always a gamble because of the scale of everything, and we would be reminded of that for the next 3hrs. The boulder field we begins in very manageable terrain, and picking our way through is easy. We cover nearly 1/2 of the traverse in the first hour, and then we hit a massive avalanche path, whose “boulders” are ENTIRE slabs broken off of Haystack, jumble together, and extending out, into the lake. Vicki and I must make many weird choices about our routes, especially because it has to be one that Belle Star can also follow. At one point, Belle even has to swim in the lake to get around a huge slab, that I could navigate, but she could not. Happily, and finally, with considerably more effort and time spent than we expected, we leave the monster rubble, and find connected granite ledges and gardens. The weather has vaporized completely. It is hot under the clear blue skies. Vicki has pulled her shell pants off in favor of shorts, and Belle Star also likes this less challenging terrain. We are headed up these slabs because, above that roll at the top, the basin of unnamed lakes begins, and we think we can get there from here.
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Monday, March 23, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #135, Wind Rivers, #135:  Vicki and I descend the granite slabs between our camp at Deep Lake, and Clear Lake below, then begin to ascend the relatively smooth granite-garden ridge of Haystack Mountain. Around 10:30, we pause at the high point of our ridge ascent, before dropping down into the Black Joe Lake basin. The smooth granite is warm to the touch, and the day is growing warmer also. Instead of building into stormy weather, it appears. more and more. that the clouds are thinning, and streaming out, rather than building up. While we enjoy some mid-morning snacks, we take in this changing view to the west. It will disappear for most of the rest of the day, once we descend into the long, narrow basin of Black Joe. Our morning will be in the eastern shadow of the sheer walls of Haystack. Our western horizon will be 2,000ft. above us.
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Monday, March 16, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #134, Wind Rivers, #134:  Despite the fact that there is clearly weather moving through, Vicki, and I, think that it is going to keep moving, because it is being pushed by strong, high altitude winds, and not really building up. The air is also warming up, so the breezes are almost tropical. If we do what we have planned, it is going to be a very long, 16-mile day. In this view, we are at the head of the waterfall/pool “staircase” that outlets from Deep Lake, and meanders through the granite down to Clear Lake, well below. To the left, War Bonnet and the Cirque of Towers flicker in the cloud light. To the far right, the ever-ascending slope that final goes out-of-frame, is Haystack Mountain. On the other side of that rising ridge is the Black Joe Lake basin, which we intend to visit, and circumnavigate, before returning to our camp. To do that, we will descend the waterfall bedecked slabs to Clear Lake. From there we ascend the rising ridgeline of Haystack, and about 1/3 of the way up, a trail will break off, to the other side of the ridge, and begin a descent to Black Joe. Time to double-check the boot lacings, and take the plunge.
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Monday, March 9, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #133, Wind Rivers, #133:  With breakfast finished, doggo fed, and daypacks packed, the lasts tasks are to secure the tent, and fill our water bottles. While doing so at the edge of Deep Lake, we can see that it is CLEARLY a stormy morning over the Cirque of the Towers and War Bonnet Peak, but our basin is still graced by sunshine, and it appears it will be safe enough to ascend the exposed ridge of Haystack Mountain, to cross over into the Black Joe Lake basin. To do what we planned is going to be a good deal of work. We first must descend the slab-waterfall staircase down to Clear Lake, well below us. From there, we go back up steeply, walking the granite spine of Haystack. About halfway to Haystack’s vertical face, a trail breaks off and begins another downward plunge. This will bring us to the outlet end of Black Joe Lake. The trail then crosses the stream, goes back up a wall, then down again to the mid-shoreline. We have a different route in mind, however. There is no trail on our side of the lake, just a MASSIVE boulder field of rock sluffed-off of Haystack. Although we can’t be sure it is traversable, we both agree to attempt it, and so the circumnavigation begins in an untracked terrain, where some of the rubble is the size of small houses. This is a boulder field with GIGANTIC boulders, and it takes a lot of cautious navigating not to get blocked-in somewhere. Several times I worry Belle Star can’t follow our route, but she is SO smart she always seems to pick out her own path, so we creep ahead, taking much more time than we expected for what is just the first few miles of our day.
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Monday, March 2, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #132, Wind Rivers, #132:  The sun rises early, and with warmth, so the tent becomes toasty in our last moments of doze. Belle is the first to stir, because she wants to go run around on the slabs, and drink from the lake, but eventually Vicki and I also crawl out of our bags to greet the day. We both do nightly aspirin doses to ward off any sore muscles from the previous day, and the regimen seems to be working well, because we are NOT stiff, and expect to have another epic dayhike ahead. Weather is blowing through, and it looks like it might turn into something later, but at the moment, we stick with our plan to cross over the ridge of Haystack Mountain, and encircle Black Joe Lake. While breakfast is hydrating in a bag of hot water, I am enjoying the “tent’s view” of Temple Peak. Last night it was blushing at our bed time, but this morning, it is back to “looming" above our basin. It is a most impressive face, that seems to get more impressive with each passing day. Well, time to get on with our meal, and outfit our daypacks for a long one,..lots of snacks, fishing poles, blister pads in case the day takes a toll on our feet, and full rain gear, as it does seem some weather is building.
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Monday, February 24, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #131, Wind Rivers, #131:  My campmate, Vicki Golden, doggo Belle Star, and I are TOAST! It has been a wonderful day, but a long one, involving miles of terrain and several thousand vertical feet of up-to-go-down-to-go-up, again. Dinner has been a trout feast, thanks to some productive fishing at Temple Lake to begin the day, and the after-dinner light has been radiant, so we are just a bit overwhelmed. Vicki is in the warmth of her sleeping bag, Belle has sidled right up next to her, and as I am also about to give up the ghost and pass out, Temple Peak glows one last blush, reaffirming a beautiful end to a beautiful day. There are now clouds in the sky, but they do not look like threatening weather, so we rest early in expectation of tomorrow’s attempt to complete a 16-18 mile circumnavigation of neighboring Black Joe Lake. There will be A LOT more vertical in doing that, so we hope to rest well, and awake to that sense we have had, that we are gaining strength each day we are in this amazing place.
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Monday, February 17, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #130, Wind Rivers, #130:  As our basin at Deep Lake drops completely into the shadow of the oncoming night, the last lingering rays of the sun still linger on distant summits. The Cirque of the Towers sits to the north of our view from camp, and of the many varied days of light which we have had offer us spectacular views of it, tonight may the most grand of all. The pinnacle spire of War Bonnet Peak (left) glows like a golden spike into the sky, and the crown of cone-like, Pingora is similarly aglow. Even the tip of the Shark’s Nose is decorated. The sky above us is perfectly clear, but there is a haze of clouds behind our view, whose tones of gray-purple make the illuminated summits even more radiant. I am not sure the the concentration of climbers camping in the Cirque are taking this all in, but the three of us, completely alone in our solitude of the Deep Lake Basin, are loving it. Even my lab, Belle Star seems to be appreciating this particular visual, as she too, is sitting quietly with us and staring, instead of doing her usual dance about the meadows after a trout dinner. OR, perhaps she is just so stuffed tonight, she can’t move. Soon to retire after our long day, we decide that if weather permits, and our legs have recovered, tomorrow we will double the length of today's hike, and circle Black Joe Lake on the other side of Haystack Mountain - an ambitious plan to say the least!
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Monday, February 10, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #129, Wind Rivers, #129:  Although the clear skies above us, signal a colder night, for the moment our camp site at Deep Lake is awash in the glow of twilight, and the radiance of the setting sun, which is alighting the slab granite faces of the surrounding summits. Our tent is near the base of Haystack Mountain, on a raised shelf overlooking Deep, so to one side of us, the waters of the lake shimmer in the surreal blue light reflection of the perfectly clear sky, and on the other side is this (above) - the west face of Haystack, seeming to flow like molten gold, down into the valley below. It has been a cosmic day, and it is now being followed by a cosmic twilight. The smell of trout rises from our fire, our meals are nearly ready, and my black lab, Belle Star, is quite literally, motionless, sitting with a fixed stare on the sizable fish being fried. She will not only get some of the day’s catch, but we will drip the grease all over her dry kibble, so she can’t wait, and at the moment she is making sure the preparation is proceeding as planned. Vicki and I are of two minds at the moment - watching Belle’s intense focus on the food prep, which is hysterical, AND, we are also in awe, while watching the surrounding terrain radiating the final glow of daylight. There is still no one that has come up into this high basin to camp besides us, and so we have it to ourselves for yet another day, proving, “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get.” Believe me, we are all very high right now!
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Monday, February 3, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #128, Wind Rivers, #128:  It has been a long day for my trailmate, Vicki Golden, myself, and doggo, Belle Star, as we started at the base of Temple Peak near sunrise, did a good deal of fishing at Temple Lake, then visited Miller and Rapid Lake, and finally rounded a granite dome to intersect the waterfall “staircase” (last post) that would take us back up to our camp at Deep Lake. Fishing has been a great success, and the hike was many miles long, but useful, because we are all beginning to hit our stride at this altitude, and we are getting stronger every day. Nonetheless, we are tired when we finally embrace the view of East Temple Peak and the shoreline of Deep (above). Our camp is just out-of-frame to the left in this image, and as you can see, as our afternoon has worn on, the sky has cleared completely, and it is surprisingly warm for being this late in the day. Belle Star also knows we are “home,” so she begins another wild frolick of running around, even bolting over to our tentsite, and then sprinting back to us in a frenzy. We are not fooled, however, because as glad as we all are to be back in camp, she is acting this way in anticipation of having trout for dinner. We are as well, but Vicki and I are a little too leg weary to be sprinting anywhere.
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Monday, January 27, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #127, Wind Rivers, #127:  By late morning, my tentmate, Vicki Golden, and I have a a large baggie filled with 5 very sizable trout, and feel that will be enough for our dinner (and doggo’s). Belle Star is VERY excited at the prospects of the evening meal. Some clouds have begun to drift over, but do not indicate any impending weather, and the day is young, and warm, so we decide to explore this large basin before heading back to Deep Lake and our campsite. If you will look at this link, you can see the basin beneath Temple is long and narrow, as it descends from Temple Lake, also quite long and narrow. I love these hi-def satellite maps from Google because you can actually see the trail in this image. We have fished our way “down” the lake, so at the end, we stop for some snacks, and then rejoin the trail as it drops toward Miller Lake. Miller is small and sparkling in the midday sun, because a light breeze is beginning to rise. It is also steeply below us, so we choose to remain on the trail. About 1/2 to the way to the next lake below, Rapid, the trail nears Rapid Creek, which it parallels. There is the notable sound of rushing water and many small falls, so we decide to descend to creekside to continue our hike. It is a beautiful series of cascades, and the wildflower bloom in the shoreline meadows is spectacular. Shortly after we come to Rapid Lake, the trail veers near the lakeshore, so we rejoin the trail. Our topos tell us at this point we are well below Deep Lake now, so we walk the beaten path until it nears the granite dome (to the right in the map link) and then we veer off-trail and onto the dome, hoping to work around it, and back into the Deep Lake basin on its other side. The strategy is perfect and we soon find ourselves on the Deep Lake side, once again surrounded by the gardens of wind-stunted, sculptural, limber pines which we discovered the previous day (post #121). Picking our way through them, we eventually come out onto the descending slabs between Deep and Clear lake that are aflow with water, pools, and waterfalls, and through which we hiked up on our route coming in (posts #111-114). We love this cascade staircase, so we happily climb back up through it en route to our camp, and Belle proceeds to do her wading and splashing fun once again.
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Monday, January 20, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #126, Wind Rivers, #126:  After an early morning rise, doggo, Belle Star, my tentmate, Vicki Golden, and I, have climbed the dome that separates the Deep Lake basin from the Temple Peak basin, in time to catch the early morning light (last post), and now as the day warms up, it is time to catch some trout (Belle definitely agrees with this idea). At the base of Temple peak is Temple Lake, which is quite large (and in the Google map link, still sporting a good deal of ice). There is no ice on the lake today, however, as it is clear, sunny, and warm. The near shore to us is crusted with large boulders, and does not offer much access to the waterline, but it does afford some standable platforms from which we can cast. We are not flyfisher persons, we are casting and trolling, so I start off with a really flashy, wiggly lure, and get a strike immediately - a big one at that. It is clear that there are A LOT of trout here, and they have not been fished much, so they are not wary. Vicki finds a platform of her own, and throws out her choice of temptation, which eventually brings her a fish as well, just not as quickly as mine. I love how she is even getting her tongue into the action in this picture - LOL! If you think Belle is staring intently, she is. Her focus is on a patch of grass I have watered down, and onto which we have placed the trout we are catching. Belle wants to make VERY sure that none of them try to escape back into the lake.
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Monday, January 13, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #125: My partner, Vicki Golden, doggo, Belle Star, and I, are up early and out of camp, as we are on a mission. Yesterday we circumnavigated the Deep Lake basin, and today we intend to climb the dome across the lake, that will take us to Temple Peak and the large lake beneath it. They lie about 800ft. above the basin in which we have camped. As we round Deep Lake, headed for the dome, it is cold in the shadows, but refreshing, and there is no wind chill effect, because there is little, if any, weather brewing at the moment. The dome is not difficult to surmount, although we are breathing more heavily as we increase our altitude, and finally we summit. Temple Peak is massive, breathtaking in the radiant morning light, and towers over the entire basin.The lake, however, is just barely visible as there are some further rolling meadows and granite exposures to cross before we will get a full view. Belle loves the big open expanses of grass and blooming alpine flowers, and especially the fact that on day trips, she does not wear a pack, so she is doing the crazy-dog-run-around, and pursuing every pika that eeks at her. Of course, they are just torturing her, and she never catches anything. It is more like doggy whack-a-mole - she chases one down its hole, and another pops up behind her and squeaks. A good time is being had by all. Vicki and I are surprised by the distance to the lake and how big this basin is, topo maps give you no sense of scale, but finally we arrive at the shoreline, and the setting (above) is quite impressive. This looks like it is going to be a GREAT day. Break out the fishing rods!
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Monday, January 6, 2020

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #124: There is a good, deep sleep had by all, in spite of the dog snoring, so my partner, Vicki Golden, my black lab, Belle Star, and myself, awake refreshed, and ready for another day of rock & roll in the granite of the Deep Lake basin. It is a cool, beautiful morning with some high clouds, but it certainly is not threatening anything as yet, so we get fired up with a good breakfast, Belle does several laps around the meadows, and we load our daypacks, expecting to be out ALL day. I could not resist this (above, and the post for next week) because our tent pitch in the stunted tree forest, comes with some dramatic views. You are looking at the front of the tent, with the pointed summit of War Bonnet Peak in the background, and the morning light is also perfectly defining the cone-shaped sheer walls of Pingora, just to its right. I believe the distant fang between the two is called the Sharks Nose.
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Monday, December 30, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #123: Wind River, #123: By the time Vicki, Belle Star, and I, get back to camp, there is just enough illumination to do a little twilight fishing from this rock, and I have success, so we soon prepare a sumptuous dinner involving fresh catch, and our favorite Mountain House freeze-dried pasta. Yummy, and warming. Belle LOVES trout also, so she is beside herself with her dinner, and after gobbling it down, does a wild run-around to celebrate it. It is very clear, so the night will be cold, and it is still too early to retire, so Vicki and layer-up, grab our ensolite pads, and seek out some flat granite, to lay around and watch the star show. I am sorry camera tech at this time, can not capture it, but rest assured, it is AWESOME. Belle gets in on it as well, snuggling between us, and making snore noises. She also passes some TRULY stinky trout-dinner gas, heretofore referred to as LTF,..LOL! Eventually we begin to stiffen in the cold, so it is time to crawl into our sleeping bags. With such a dazzling night/day behind us, our expectations for tomorrow run high.
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Monday, December 23, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #122: Wind River, #122: It has been a long, but wonderful, first day of camping for my partner, Vicki Golden, and me in the Deep Lake basin of the Wind River Range. The unending granite terrain was very traversable, the views about the lake, spectacular, and the tree terraces, like secret gardens of the ancient ones (see last post). The exploration of the large dome across from our camp was just eye-popping. Even better, in the late afternoon, it was looking like weather was rolling in, but as evening has drawn down, the build-up has stopped, and by the time we reach the lakeshore, it is perfectly clear. Camp is now, not very far away, so we pause for awhile to drink it all in. The late light on the surrounding summits is radiant, and there is a strange excitement in both of us (probably my labbie, Belle Star, too), because we are the only ones here. This is OUR basin, for the moment, and we are the only ones enjoying the spectacle of this sunset. How unique is that? How lucky are we? What a world!
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Monday, December 16, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #121: Wind River, #121: As Vicki Golden, my partner, Belle Star, my black lab, and I, finish the traverse of the far end of Deep Lake and start up into the garden terraces of the dome, the puffy clouds coming in from the west (last post) begin to look more like a storm might be building. Although clouds take over the blue sky, they are not yet cumulonimbus, and so we are comfortable being up on the exposed dome, exploring its terrain and many amazing stunted, weathered trees. In fact, these trees are SO stunted, they grow more like bushes, fanning out and hugging the ground, rather than rising up. As beautiful as they are, they also serve to make us perfectly aware of how extreme the winds must be at times, across this granite bald. Some of the gardens are relatively new, but at one point we come to an area that sits in a pocket, and is slightly sheltered from the western flow of weather, where we discover this. This pine is ANCIENT, and twisted into the most fantastic shape. It has a HUGE, gnarled trunk, and is almost barren of needles, but proving that it still lives, a few spare ones sprout from several extended branch arms. It is an AMAZING living thing, in an equally amazing setting. In the background lies Deep Lake. To the left is the sheer slope of Haystack Mountain, beneath which lies our campsite, and behind the lake, East Temple Peak and spire, spike into the sky, defiant of the passing weather. We ARE in a garden of the gods.
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Monday, December 9, 2019
High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #120: Wind River, #120: As the stream from the small lake beneath East Temple Peak winds its way into Deep Lake, it fans out across the slabs we walk upon, and winds around the random boulders, creating some beautiful shallow pools, which my black lab, Belle Star, takes every opportunity to walk through. At the POV above, I am looking directly across the significant expanse of Deep Lake, and directly into the very distant Cirque of Towers. It is a stunning view of a VERY granite world, which we are in the heart of. The pointed summit to the left is War Bonnet Peak at 12,487ft., astride the Continental Divide, and just to the right is the distinctive flat-topped, cone-shaped, Pingora, an amazing sculpture of sheer granite walls. Interestingly, there may be dozens of campers-climbers residing in that basin at this moment, but there is NO ONE where we are, and the walls surrounding us are equally impressive. We feel so lucky to have it all to ourselves, and to have found a discreet place to hide in a tree garden, in case weird weather decides to roll through. So far, our day has been mostly clear, but it has also been hot, and as the afternoon wears on, some puffy clouds drift in from the west. Our route back to camp will take us onto the dome on the left, and as the afternoon is wearing on, it is time for us to get moving.
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Monday, December 2, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #119: Wind River, #119: My partner, Vicki Golden, and I, finish our snack break at the edge of the tundra pond behind Deep Lake, while my black lab, Belle Star, continues her wading around in the pond chasing small, darting fish to no avail, but a lot of splashy amusement for all of us. The day is very warm, so it is good to be a water dog. It is impossible not to be in awe of our surroundings, as we are directly beneath East Temple Peak and spire, which means from our elevation at Deep Lake, we are looking up at 2,000’+ of granite, as East Temple crowns out at about 12,645ft. Shortly before we repack our daypacks to continue our circumnavigation of Deep, a few clouds appear to the west, and as they cross in front of the sun, they cast a shadow on East Temple, dramatically separating some of its multiple crags. I cannot resist the moment (above). However, there is still a good distance we have to travel to get back to camp by going the long way around, so once again, our party of three begins the granite stroll and rock ramble. It is a short distance along a tiny creek from the “lunch” pond, back the shore of Deep, and from there we just enjoy slab walking. Deep Lake is entirely encased in granite and facing out across the lake, Haystack Mountain is to our right, East Temple Peak is behind us, and to our left, a sizable dome of tree-meadow terraces, mostly obscures even-larger Temple Peak, and the big lake that lies at its foot. We do not have time today to climb to Temple, but we do intend to explore the dome, while wending our way back to camp.
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Monday, November 25, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #118: Wind River, #118: During our afternoon circumnavigation of Deep Lake, where are now encamped for the next week, my partner, Vicki Golden, my black lab, Belle Star, and I, reach the end of the lake to find ourselves directly beneath the towering, sheer walls of East Temple Peak and spire. There is a tiny, no-name lake here, which makes a great location to stop for a snack, and Belle Star goes wading in the water. We sit and stare for awhile, and then I decide to work my way around the edge of this alpine pond, and get right up against the big walls, as closely as I can. The upward viewpoint is dizzying, with the ragged spires and ridgeline seeming even more so, etched against the blue-blue sky. Upon occasion, we have heard rocks tumble down from above, but have never seen anything fall, thus suggesting it happened some where distant to our location. Our walk, however, has made it clear, granite debris DOES come down all the way to the lakeshore, because there are boulders scattered everywhere. Now, in this position, I notice how many unattached granite plates still cling to this nearly vertical wall in defiance of gravity, making me rethink what I am doing in this particular location, and causing my quick retreat to rejoin my “family” on the other side of the pond, where we have stopped to snack. We have only covered about 1/2 of our intended circumnavigation of Deep Lake, so it is now time to slip back into our daypacks, and continue our walk-around.
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Monday, November 18, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #117: Wind River, #117: With our camp established in what my partner, Vicki Golden, and I, believe is a sheltered location, we shoulder our daypacks for a traverse about Deep Lake. The terrain could not be more inviting. The basin consists of massive, rolling slabs of granite, punctuated by alpine meadows, and small clusters of stunted trees. Boulders are strewn everywhere. The sheer walls of numerous summits form an amphitheater of peaks around us, and Deep lake is crystal clear, so much so, it is easy to see there are a lot of trout, which will make us very happy come dinnertime,..especially my black lab, Belle Star (anything to make the dry kibble tastier). As we walk further into the basin, and away from the outlet edge, the tree islands disappear completely, so our world is now defined by rock, grassy terraces, and a few low hedges. Our camp is quite near the base of Haystack Mountain, which we have since walked past, and before us lies East Temple Peak and spire (above). The peak and spire rise into the sky like ragged fangs, and their very sheer, clean rock faces are both impressive, and intimidating. When a few clouds drift through, spotlights of sun swim across this landscape, randomly lighting parts of the basin in very dramatic ways. It is definitely time to stop for snacks, and to take this all in. It IS a “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get,” kind of day.
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Monday, November 11, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #116: Wind River, #116: My partner, Vicki Golden, and I, have backpacked into a high, and very exposed, granite basin that surrounds Deep Lake. After a number of camps in similar Wind River locations, we know we could be fiercely stormed upon, so we hoped to find some refuge, and we do. After unloading our packs, she, my black lab, Belle Star, and I, do a walk-around, looking for a spot where we can “hide” our camp, and we come upon a dense cluster of stunted trees, that have a small meadow at their center, that is large enough for us to pitch a tent. The trees are not much taller than we are, but they are so dense, we feel certain they will shelter us from strong winds and, hopefully, any lightening. It feels like we have found a discreet fort to protect ourselves, so we set up camp. Our position has an unparalleled viewshed, as you will see in the ensuing posts. We are slightly above Deep Lake, and quite close the the sheer granite walls of Haystack Mountain. Our tent vestibule opens to a spectacular perspective of Deep Lake with Temple Peak towering above it, and the reverse position looks over the Clear Lake basin below us, directly at Warbonnet, Pingora, and other big walls in the Cirque of the Towers. We are surrounded by a display of some SERIOUS granite. With our site established, we have a good lunch, and then load our daypacks for an afternoon of exploration, determined to circumnavigate the lake, better orienting us to our new home for the next week. By the time we are ready to roll, the day has grow warm, with little wind, and no visible threatening weather, so we launch ourselves with positive anticipation about what the rest of the afternoon might offer.
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Monday, November 4, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #115: Wind River, #115: If your are backpacking into a place that you have never been before, but you have chosen to go there because the topo maps suggest a dramatic, albeit exposed, setting, THIS IS IT!, When our granite slab-waterfall-pool staircase finally reveals the Deep Lake basin, my partner, Vicki Golden, and I, are pretty sure we have arrived in a backpacker’s nirvana. The lake is large, and the surrounding gardens and peaks are off-the-chart. We are nearly encircled by some of the most significant, and visually domineering summits in the Wind River Range. There are easily walkable granite slabs everywhere, and it seems there will be more than enough cover to find a semi-safe campsite. When I peer into the crystal clear water of the lake, I can see trout swim by, not even trying to be coy (not Koi - LOL!). But, most impressively, East Temple Peak, 12,645ft. (to the left), and Temple Peak, 12,977ft. (middle), loom above it all, lords of the terrain, of which they are indeed. After the climb up here, it is time to take our packs off, have some snacks, do a walk-about, and imagine that we have found a “good” place to camp. Which we do,..and it is, as you will see in the next post - a dense little garden terrace of trees, at the imposing foot of the SHEER walls of Haystack Mountain. Clearly, a severe case of the DFC&FC motto, “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get.” (And, look how far away Temple Peak still is. There is yet another big lake still above us.)
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Monday, October 28, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #114: Wind River, #114: In the last post, you see a trail-up POV, and it certainly seems steep. Steep in the Wind Rivers, however, has an entirely different meaning. In this picture, made some days later, Vicki and I are standing across from the foot of Haystack Mountain, looking at the staircase of granite slabs, waterfalls, and pools, we traversed to get to our Deep Lake campsite, and it appears from here that we were just ascending a modest rise in the terrain,.. a sloping hill, at best. If you look carefully, you can see the flow of water coming out of Deep Lake, and crossing right through the middle of the picture. Besides belying the upwardness of the actual hike, what is notable are the ASTOUNDING granite garden terraces that abound in the new world that surrounds us. Besides throbbing with the green of full summer, they are not only supporting some significant trees but in a closer look, you would find them abloom with a profusion of wildflowers. The scale of this terrain is simply AMAZING, and in the ensuing days we will discover that in grand fashion. For the moment, however, we are still ascending the “staircase,” and the Deep Lake “reveal” is somewhere just up ahead.
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Monday, October 21, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #113: Wind River, #113: Ever upward, my partner and I, Vicki Golden, continue to climb towards Deep Lake. The topo maps show us a large lake surrounded by seriously wild vertical summits, so we hope to find enough protection from the fury of Wind River weather, that we can secure a safe campsite, and enjoy exploring this basin, and others that are adjacent. The hike-in rose steeply from Big Sandy Lake to Clear Lake, where we had lunch, and then the forest trail ended. It has given way to a SPECTACULAR, tiered group of granite slabs, awash with outflow from Deep, creating a myriad of waterfalls and pools that make the walk up, infinitely interesting. We have stopped many times along the way to snack, and enjoy our ascent. As the horizon of our path slowly gives way to the distant view, one of the largest summits in the range, Temple Peak (12,977ft.), emerges in our view. With each step, Temple’s presence is evermore commanding, and yet it is still miles away, sitting in its own basin with its own lake, and not even part of the Deep Lake basin, where we hope to camp. Vicki and I are very excited, and also a bit intimidated, because to rise above the protection of the forest, into an exposed granite basin we don’t yet know, may subject us to serious weather, if we chose to stay. Nonetheless, following the mantra of my colleagues in the DFC&FC that introduced me to high alpine backpacking, “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get,” we press on, and upward, marveling at the beauty of the landscape through which we are climbing.
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Monday, October 14, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #112: Wind River, #112: As my partner, Vicki Golden, and I, continue our first backpack of the summer, we have risen from Big Sandy Lake, to Clear Lake, where he had lunch, and now we are on our way to Deep Lake, even higher up. We are traversing the base of Haystack Mountain, now, and the forest trail has given way to one across open granite, aflow with much running water, and pocked with beautiful pools. There is no “path” to follow, but generations of hikers before us have built cairns to guide us on the passable direction, so we do not get cut off by water that cannot be crossed. Although we are DEFINITELY climbing, at times rather steeply, it is a enjoyable effort because the granite provides an excellent, gritty walking surface, and the surroundings are strikingly beautiful. My dog, Belle Star, especially likes it, and anytime we stop to snack or rest, she goes and stands in a pool - those Labbies are such water dogs! As we rise, Haystack is more than visible with its massive, sheer walls completely blocking our eastern horizon. For awhile, all we can see ahead of us, is the upward curve of granite slabs, but in time, the summits that surround the Deep Lake Basin begin to reveal themselves. One of the tallest in the Wind Rivers is the first to emerge. Temple Peak, at 12,977ft., is still in the considerable distance, but in the image above, can be seen poking out from behind this boulder erratic. “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get."
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Monday, October 7, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #111: Wind River, #111: On the first backpack of the summer, my partner, Vicki Golden, and I, have come into the Wind Rivers through the Big Sandy Lake and trail. After an acclimatizing camp at Big Sandy Lake, we push up into a much higher basin, that first brings us to Clear Lake, and then (we hope), even higher to Deep Lake. We take a lunch break at Clear Lake, and then launch for Deep, but after we round the lakeshore, our trail changes dramatically. What has been a dirt path through the forest, emerges onto massive granite slabs, flowing with water pouring out of Deep Lake, somewhere well above us. There are numerous streams and pools, and you could easily wander into an impassable position were it not for the thoughtful cairns that generations of hikers have created to guide those who might follow in their path. Cairns are a stack of stones, built just tall enough to be visible, and placed so that when you stand at one and look around, you should be able to see the next in your line of sight. Following this “visual” trail, Vicki and I pick our way up through the terraces, streams, pools, and waterfalls. This is the most interesting “path" either of has ever walked upon, and it just keeps getting better.
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Monday, September 30, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #110: Wind River, #110: On the first backpack of our summer, my partner, Vicki Golden, and I, have decided to enter the Wind River Range from a trailhead we have not previously explored, called Big Sandy. This trail is mostly trafficked by climbers headed for the Cirque of the Towers, where many big walls abound. The initial trek to Big Sandy Lake, is a short 6-miles, with relatively little rise in elevation, so it is a perfect breaking-in backpack, as we get used to carrying the weight of our needs for the next 12 days. From Big Sandy, all trails go UP, steeply! Vicki and I want to avoid the climbing campers in the Cirque, and plan to go instead, into the Temple Peak basin, but we acclimatize by finding a protected campsite at Big Sandy, directly beneath the impressive summit of War Bonnet peak (12,487’), and not far from the Jackass Pass trail that leads into the Cirque. The lake has great fishing, which my dog, Belle Star, really appreciates, as she loves trout as much as we do, and of course, we get ragingly stormed upon, just to remind us of how spooky the Winds can be when the weather gets cranked up. The morning of our departure for the Temple basin sees the storm of the night before, rather quickly, blow away. Although it still lingers after we first awake (last post), by the time we finish breakfast and break camp, it is clear, and pleasantly cool. Packs on, we are off, and as I look back, War Bonnet appears even more imposing because of how our angle of view has changed. The trail that we follow climbs steeply to Clear Lake, and although it takes work, it is nowhere near as demanding as the one into Titcomb Lakes Basin, where we camped last summer. We arrive at Clear Lake in time for a nice lunch, while we recoup, and prepare to go up, yet again, to our hopeful camping destination at Deep Lake. Although we expect considerable exposure at Deep Lake, we hope to find enough cover to stay, because the lake appears to be surrounded by some stunning summits, Haystack Mountain, East Temple Peak and spire, and tallest of all Temple Peak. Exclesior! Or, in our parlance, “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get."
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Monday, September 23, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #109: Wind River, #109: My partner, Vicki Golden, my black lab, Belle Star, and I, have found a nice sheltered campsite in a small group of trees at the far end of Big Sandy Lake, where many trails branch off. This is our first backpack of the year, and we are carrying 10-day-weight packs, so having come this far, it is our intention to only explore and day-hike tomorrow, before moving camp again. After some successful fishing, and a great dinner, we have a clear night, star-filled skygaze, and retire early, expecting that in the morning, we will climb Jackass Pass to view Lonesome Lake and the Cirque of the Towers. Belle does not like thunder and lightening, and about 4a.m., when I hear the first faint rumble, I also hear her awake in the vestibule, and come to the mosquito screen, so I will let her in. She wants to snuggle with us, and hide under the sleeping bags, should the weather come this way. It does,..and with a vengeance. The storm literally blows-up when it hits the Cirque of the Towers and War Bonnet Peak, beneath which we are camped. The electric-strike, light show through the tent walls is just amazing, and there are numerous passing downpours of rain, with deafening thunder that shakes the ground. Our first night in, is serving to remind the three of us, what weather in the Winds is all about, and why you want to be sure your campsite has some protection. As dawn breaks, the rain stops and the storm rolls off into the distance, so I stick my head out to see what is going on, and find War Bonnet being illuminated by the rising sun, like a fiery tongue against the dark sky.
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Monday, September 16, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #108: Wind River, #108: By the time Vicki Golden and I arrive at the outlet of Big Sandy Lake it is mid-afternoon, and it takes a while longer to navigate around the shoreline to a big meadow. Nearby, the trail climbs Jackass Pass into the Cirque of the Towers, which we hope to day-hike tomorrow, so we find a sheltered spot in a cluster of trees, and set up camp. By the time we are finished setting up, the big meadow has developed the golden glow of late light, and my black lab, Belle Star, is running wildly around in the flowers, and jumping into the creek to chase trout skittering through the pools. It is warm and beautiful, so we sit in the sun watching Belle frolic. There are other campers here, but they are around the meadow, on the other side of the lake, so they are undisturbed by the traffic of climbers walking through to get to the Cirque. I do note, however, that Belle is chasing fish, so I grab my pole to see if dinner can be enhanced with fresh trout. It is a wonderful twilight of fishing, and I catch two, large enough to have some for Belle, as well (it is her FAVORITE thing!). After dinner, the clear day, gives way to a cold, clear night, and thankfully the full-blown mosquito population has not yet arisen, so we sit for awhile under a stunning star-filled sky, both glad we are once again high and wild in the Wind Rivers,..and we are about to get a whole lot higher.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, September 9, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #107: Wind River, #107: On the first backpack of this summer, Vicki Golden and I have come into the Wind River Range through the Big Sandy entrance. The trail into Big Sandy Lake is one of the shortest entry hikes in the range, but we are adjusting to 10-day-weight backpacks, and enjoying a dazzling clear, cool morning, so we linger along the way, in no hurry to get to the lake. Not only is the trail relatively short, it is also quite flat, but it will take us to Big Sandy Lake, from where, all branching trails go UP! Our plan is to camp at the lake tonight, day hike the trail over Jackass Pass to see the Cirque of the Towers tomorrow, and then go into the Temple Lake Basin to camp the next day, avoiding the Cirque, and the “crowd” of climbers that are camped there scaling the big walls. It is mid-afternoon when we finally reach the lakeshore, where expansive vistas open up. Most of our walk has been among forest meadows, occasionally encountering granite rock gardens, but at the outlet end of Big Sandy Lake, the forests give way to the gardens, and the lake truly is an “alpine” habitat. Small islands are abloom with flowers, and there are numerous peninsulas, such as the one above, adorned with storm-sculpted bonsai trees. Recalling our many encounters with Wind River weather, we want more protection then we see here, and we also want to get closer to the Jackass Pass trail branch, so we continue around the lakeshore, to find a huge meadow at the far end, where many trails split off. In the shadow of War Bonnet Peak, we also find a small cluster of trees to offer some cover for our camp.
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Monday, September 2, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #106: Wind River, #106: The Big Sandy Trail to Big Sandy Lake meanders through forested rock gardens throughout most of the hike. To our north, Laturio Mountain is just barely visible behind the foothill of granite benches that descend to our trail, and to the south, we parallel the tumbling waters of Big Sandy Creek. On the other side of the creek, the impressive walls of Schiestler Peak rise quite sheerly, offering themselves for occasional dramatic views through the trees of the forest. Some of the faces that tower over us as we approach Big Sandy Lake, remind me of the vertical walls around Clear Lake, that my friends and I encountered on our first Wind River backpack, 2yrs. before (posts #19-37). The morning sunlight is radiant, and as the trail rises beautiful terrace gardens begin to punctuate the forest. Stunning, groups of large limber pine assert themselves here and there, as well. Above is one such section of the trail, which you can see, crossing right through the middle of this picture.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd


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Monday, August 26, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #105:
Wind River, #105:  Vicki Golden and I keep ourselves in good condition throughout the winter months by doing cross-country ski camping with our friends in Idaho, The Decker Flats Climbing and Frisbee Club (DFC&FC), and regularly skiing and boulder scrambling in the Sierra’s of California, staging trips out of Sequoia National Park. For several years running now, she and I have been VERY physically active, and we are probably in the greatest shape of our lives. As such, we are more than ready to return to Pinedale in June and backpack once again into the Wind River Range with which we are growingly familiar. As before, we stage and supply from a cabin at the Log Court Motel, but this year, we are going to use a new trailhead, farther south of the Elkhart Park entrance, much of which we explored last year. For our first backpack of the new season, we intend to go in at Big Sandy. Of all the entrances, Big Sandy may be the deepest road entry, and the shortest trail walk in the entire range. The trailhead starts at nearly 9,200ft. and it is 40 miles out to the closest town. It is only about 6 miles however, to Big Sandy Lake. This entrance is also the gateway to Pingora, Warbonnett, and The Cirque of Towers, one of the most-trafficked, big wall climbing areas in the range, and this attraction helps shape our plans. We do not want to join the “crowd” in The Cirque, but we do want to see it, so we plan to camp at Big Sandy Lake for two nights, explore The Cirque on a day hike, and then move to different high basin for the rest of our trip. The morning of our departure is sparkling clear and cool, with no weather showing. The start of the trail is quite forested, and the early morning sunlight causes everything to glow. The trail is a VERY gradual ascent and in good condition, so with a relative short hike ahead of us, we linger, and adjust to being back beneath a pack for another summer.
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Monday, August 19, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #104:
Wind River, #104:  Following a cold, blustery day of on-and-off rain, Vicki Golden, Belle Star, and I awake to a dark overcast on the morning we plan to walk out to Elkhart Park, about 12-miles away. At the moment, it is not raining, so we have a “final” backpacker's breakfast for this season, and then break down camp. Although the skies ares ominous, it does not storm, and actually, the cool day makes the hike more pleasant. The Pole Creek Trail is well worn by both hikers, and horses, and with the recent rains, there are many places that are a flooded, muddy slog to get around. Since the weather is civil, we are not in a hurry to get to the trailhead, and so we take our time, stopping regularly for whatever snacks remain, and to take in our late summer presence in this astounding range of granite and high peaks. Vicki and I have already decided to return for a full summer next year, so we can explore other trailheads and basins, and at the moment we are just relishing these last few miles for this year. Especially, because we are so late in the season, there are few others still out here, and we have not seen a single other person all day. Not far from the start of the trailhead and parking lot, there is an expanse of meadows called Millers Park, and it offers a dramatic view of the numerous summits that comprise the Titcomb Lakes Basin, where we started this backpack ten days ago. It is late afternoon now, and although the skies above remain stormy, to the west it is clearing and the sun gets under the cloud deck to send warm, low angled light across the landscape. It lights up the entire peaks section which is now more raggedly defined because it is beginning to accumulate snow. There is much more there now, than there was 5 days ago when we camped there. Winter is coming! For Vicki and I, however, this is an inspiring “last look,” and we both agree we cannot wait to return in nine months for new adventures in other sections of this very long mountain range.
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Monday, August 12, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #103:
Wind River, #103:  Our rising traverse from the southern shore of Upper Cook Lake into Bald Mountain Basin, is an off-trail ascent that brings us through wildflower meadows, granite rock, and dome gardens, and some gently sloping granite slabs. It is a pleasant, nearly effortless hike, and even my dog is having fun romping around. Finally, Vicki and I reach a broad “terrace” of rolling granite that is pock-marked with small lakes, expansive meadows, and very small clusters of trees. Everything is VERY exposed, and this does NOT look like an intelligent place to camp. Our topo shows another, larger and more forested lake, not far ahead, beneath another face of Mt. Baldy, so we press on with hope, as it is our last chance before the trail descends. This last lake is spectacular, and the setting VERY dramatic, directly beneath a steep face on the opposite shore. The trees here are taller, as well, and do not show the directional wind-sculpting that those do on the other side of the plateau. We establish camp in a protected swale with big trees, and a peninsula nearby extends into the lake, offering a great view of the Mt. Baldy summit. As the day has progressed, the weather we saw this morning has been building. It is now about 4p.m. and we have established our site, set up our tent, and broken out some munchies, as we take in our new location. Belle Star has become an insane dog, and is running wild laps around the meadows, jumping on and off of boulders,..and then, we all hear it - faint, and VERY far away, the first rumble of thunder. For the moment, it does not stop our activities, BUT over the next 1/2-hour, the rumbles grow louder, and the wind begins to pick up. Eventually Belle comes back to camp to sit with us because she does NOT like thunder and lightening, and it seems this storm may pass close to us. The mosquitoes in this basin have been horrible, so I am only too happy to have a blusterous evening, but now It seems to be rising to the “raging howl” stage, so Vicki and I put Belle Star in the tent, and don our rain gear to sit outside, and watch whatever is about to happen. Within minutes, the first lightening, offers the illusion that the storm is passing to the north of us. A split second later, however, a deafening thunder clap scares the weepus out of us, and a massive cloud raining hail and lightening pours directly over the summit of Baldy, coming right down on top of us. Yelping, she and I flee inside the tent to hide under the sleeping bags with Belle Star. The fierce storm is over in a matter of moments, but the rain lingers, which makes for a wet, cold night. The next day is windy, cold, and raining on and off, so we hike around the basin to stay warm, and circumvent our lake, where we encounter this beautiful limber pine overlook. A good place for snacks. The fishing is also excellent, so a great trout dinner is had by all, Belle Star included, and we retire early because in the morning we will walk out to our van in Elkhart Park, regardless of the weather.
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Monday, August 5, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #102:
Wind River, #102:  As Vicki Golden and I slowly rise on our off-trail traverse between Upper Cook Lake and Bald Mountain basin, the initial plethora of paintbrush-filled meadows gives way to small granite domes and large sections of exposed slab granite, none of it offering any vertical challenge. Trees and shrubs begin to replace the flower patches, and as we get higher into the basin with each step, something becomes visually obvious. Although there are many trees, few of them up here are of any height. Most are stunted, sprawling horizontally, and others show signs of being struck by lightening. Curiously, they all also lean, bend, and grow in the same common direction, not because they reach for the light, but because they are being sculpted by fierce winds. When I point this out to Vicki, we agree to make our campsite selection as wind-sheltered as we possibly can. Our hike is not without effort because we are climbing slowly upwards with some substantial backpacks, but it is actually quite pleasant. The slabs and connected meadows make walking easy for us, and my black lab, Belle Star, is now carrying less then 1/2 the weight of food in her saddlepack that she started with, so she is bounding around, exploring everything. I think she likes this basin as well.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Monday, July 29, 2019

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #101:
Wind River, #101:  Vicki Golden and I understand that we are deep into the Wind Rivers backpacking, AND it is late in the season. On the first part of this trip, we were with our friend, Michael Knowlin, and we camped in the Titcomb Lakes basin, where it snowed upon us lightly. Since leaving Michael and dropping down into the Wall Lake basin, the last few days have been clear and warm, but the nights are cold, and we know fall/winter is coming. Today, after we broke camp at Wall, and walked around the lake to where the trail and waterfall descend to Cook Lake, we could see that on the distant western horizon, clouds were forming. Because this could be incoming afternoon weather, we double down on our walk, descend to Cook, and then navigate the eastern shore. Were we to go farther down the trail, we would find an established trail juncture for Baldy Lakes Basin, that would take us up to those lakes, where we want to camp tonight. Given our successful, off-trail traverse into Wall Lake two days ago, I suggest instead, that we go off-trail again, and rather than dropping down to the trail juncture, we begin a rising traverse through rocks and meadows that will get us to the same place in less time, fewer miles, and no down-to-go-up. The topo map offers no indication of any dangerous exposure, or blocking walls, so Vicki and I depart the Cook Lake Trail past the end of the lake, and veer upward, wandering south along the east side of the Cook Lake Basin. Having NOT explored this route previously, there is always concern it may not work because of topographic obstacles, yet from the moment we step off-trail, this route-less meander welcomes us. This late into summer, and fall in the air, most meadows are loosing their blooming wildflowers, but we now find that we are surrounded by an endless array of paintbrush, and boulder strewn gardens everywhere.
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