Located outside of Pinedale, Wyoming the Wind River range is a rugged section of the Rocky mountains, that stretches for nearly 100 miles along the continental divide. The plan for this trip was to connect the Highland trail and the Fremont trail in order to hike from Big Sandy trailhead, south of the Winds, to the Green river lakes in the north. The solo mission would cover nearly 90 miles and follow the Continental Divide Trail through the Winds. In addition I planned a zero day in Titcomb basin, so that I could take a day to explore the area.
Arranging a shuttle for this trip was a bit of a challenge, but thanks to some amazing friends I was able to make it work. The drop off at Big Sandy was a seven hour drive from my place in Bozeman. We left Bozeman in the afternoon and drove south into Idaho. Not far outside of Jackson Hole, WY we found a place to camp for the night. We settled in for the evening drinking beers around the campfire.
The following day, day one of the hike, two of my friends decided to hike north with me for the first day. (They’d driven all that way, might as well get one night in the Winds out of it.) At first sight Big Sandy trailhead looked a bit more like a Walmart parking lot then a trailhead. The number of cars in the parking area made me seriously doubt I’d get much solitude over the next 9 days. Luckily within the first couple miles on the trail the traffic thinned, it looked like the bulk of the crowds were heading northwest to the Cirque of Towers, thankfully my route along the Highland trail appeared to be less traveled.
After only 5 miles the first day we camped next to
Dads Lake. In the morning after a quick breakfast I said my good byes to my companions and they returned to Big Sandy for the long drive back to Bozeman. In the early morning light I turned north and began my solo Wind River adventure.
For the first two days the trail was less mountainous than I had expected. I could see the towering 13,000ft peaks of the Winds in the distance, but I mostly hiked through low rolling hills and expansive plateaus. Accompanied by the ringing bells of the many sheep that graze in the Winds, I slowly made my way into the higher elevations.
The Winds are pretty sparse when it comes to sturdy bear hang trees. Each night I would search far and wide for a reasonable hang, sometimes I would simply hang the bag over the edge of a tall bolder. The bag of food, my lifeline for the next week would hang easily within reach of any bear, but I took solace in knowing that at least I’d put in some effort. Knowing that my food was at least safer from rodents I slept soundly, for the most part.
Approaching Lester Pass a came across a group of climbers that had just been dropped off by horseback. They had hired a packtrain to aid them in getting all their climbing gear closer to a project that they would be working on over the next ten days. In an attempt to reduce weight the group of climbers had gone so far as to open all their dehydrated food from its packaging, ahead of time, and pour it into a plastic bear canister. This potpourri of dried food I’m sure was going to bring the group some interesting culinary treats over the course of their adventure. I couldn’t help but think that there meals were going to get saltier and saltier as the days went by. You could just see all the salt settling at the bottom of the canister!
On the 5th day I arrived at the magnificent Titcomb basin. I spent the next 24 hours in absolute mountain bliss. I wandered around the lakes and explored some of the accessible high points in the area. Drinking coffee and absorbing in the beauty of the basin I felt a deep satisfaction, an ease of mind and body that only the outdoors can provide. What an amazing spot!
Leaving Titcomb basin I ran into a couple from Salt lake and their two Lamas. The Lamas each carried between 25 and 35 pounds and the hikers had only small day packs. I admit that I was jealous of their setup. They told me that they had done many trips to the Winds and that they had been in knee deep snow by the first week of September in years past. I was very thankful that it was a pleasant September for my trip.
On my last night I camped in Beaver Park along the Green river. That night The thunder roared through the valley as the lightning put on a show. Laying in my tent I watched for hours, pitch black one moment, and the next I could clearly see the rock walls lit by the flash of lightning. The roaring thunder kept me company throughout the night. The power of the storm was a perfect sendoff for an amazing Wind River adventure!
Evening shadows in Titcomb Basin