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Monday, August 28, 2017

Hike to Lake Louise in the Wind River Range

Today, Monday, August 28, 2017, is our last day in Dubois, Wyoming, and we wanted to end our stay with a special hike.  We had heard a lot about the hikes into the Fitzpatrick Wilderness of the Wind River Range.  One spectacular hike is Glacier Trail, but it demands a long backpack, and we don't have enough time for it.  So we chose a 6-mile day hike to Lake Louise.

The trailhead is not far from Dubois, in the Whiskey Basin Wildlife Management Area.  When we arrived, it appeared that nine other groups were already on the trail, and from the register it appeared that all of them were backpacking for a night or longer.  We thought we might meet some of them on the trail.

Here, Kathy poses for our obligatory trailhead photo.  Note how desert-like the environment is.  The temperature would reach 85F later in the afternoon, but because we started early, it was a comfortable 68F.

As we climbed steeply, some of the trees reminded us of the trees that can be seen along the coast in Big Sur or Carmel:

After about a half mile, we reached a promontory, where Kathy looked out over the Torrey Creek valley where we had started:

We reached the boundary of the Fitzpatrick Wilderness.  From here, there are no trail signs, and the trail can be spotty because little if any work is done to maintain the trail.

Had we hiked across the bridge below, it would have taken us south, up the Glacier Trail on a tour of some spectacular glaciers in the northern Wind River Range.  Unfortunately, we weren't going that way, but we hiked down to the bridge to see what we could see.

From the bridge, Torrey Creek cascaded down through its canyon with a tumbling roar:

Further upstream, Torrey Creek was more placid, and we paused to enjoy this little backwater:

A mile or two upstream, we saw, felt and heard the full power of the stream.  Take a look at this video of Torrey Creek crashing down through the canyon from the outlet of Lake Louise.

Our total elevation gain over 3 miles was 1,000 feet, but this is misleadingly low, because the trail was an unending series of steep uphills and downhills, making for a strenuous hike.

Eventually, after finding our way across smooth faces of granite, we reached the trail's end, marked by a rough cairn consisting of a large pile of stones:

From the cairn, it is possible to pick your way up the cliff's rock shelves out to a promontory where you can get this grand overview of pretty Lake Louise:

Once we had paused to enjoy the view from on high, we picked and wove our way down the rock shelves, to the shore of the lake, where Kathy made formal introductions:

David immediately took off his boots and socks to soak his toes in the cold lake water:

Kathy didn't object, and did the same:

We ate a thoughtful lunch, gazing at the glacier carved cirque and the pristine lake set in it.  Reluctantly, we picked up our packs and returned the way we came.

Often we only narrate the sequence of our hikes.  But every hike has pleasures of the senses that are hard to described in words, and can be difficult to show in photos.  We certainly can't show you the smell of fir trees suffusing the early afternoon air in a copse between two rocky cliffs.  We can't describe for you the shaking and noise we hear when we watch Torrey Creek tumble down the canyon (although we can offer you the video).  There are beautiful abstract paintings at every turn, including this Study in Green in an algae-rich pool --

-- or this Symphony in Multicolor Stone --

-- or this sudden, exciting discovery of sparkling Galena (does it contain lead, or silver, or both?) embedded in a quartz-granite rock:

We have to keep some of these pleasures to ourselves, and recognize that there are mysteries to life that are beyond describing.  Everyone experiences them.  Each is unique.  Occasionally, the experience of a hike inspires us to reach further and try to show you some of ours.

Until our next adventure, which we expect in Rawlins, Wyoming, as Kathy and the World's Most Interesting Man will say:  "Stay thirsty, my friend."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fishing on Lake of the Woods

Hi Blog!

On Sunday, August 27, 2017, we decided to revisit Union Pass. We had originally explored this area with Jane and Kim, but it was too crowded. Now that the eclipse has come and gone, we had the place to ourselves. Well, at least until the early afternoon.

Our destination was Lake of the Woods. The lake sits just over the Continental Divide in the Bridger Teton National Forest. Union Pass Road in the Shoshone National Forest is a well graded mostly two lane gravel road. Once we crossed the divide into Bridger Teton, the road became very rough. We then had to follow an even rougher side road for a mile to get to the lake. Dusty was a trooper. climbing over rocks and out of deep ruts. It wasn't the easiest place to get to, but our efforts were well rewarded.

When we launched our kayaks on the lake, it was just us and the ducks.

We paddled across to the far shore where the early morning light had not yet hit the lake surface.

Here fishy, fishy, fishy.....

We had fun playing with the reflections.

It's hard to tell where the boulder ends and the reflections begins.

At the south end of the lake, we found a bunch of lily pads. The fishes liked to troll along the edge looking for tasty morsels.

Unfortunately, we didn't have any of the morsels they were looking for, so we had to satisfy ourselves with catching photos.

Sometime after lunch, our peaceful quiet lake was invaded. Four ATVs with radios blaring pulled down to the shoreline. We counted at least 10 people, three dogs and three boats.

After trying a few more spots, we conceded the lake to the locals. We weren't catching anything anyhow. Besides, the season finale of Game of Thrones is tonight!

This was our last kayak adventure for this stay, so we took our time cleaning out the boats and securing them to the Jeep.

We have one more full day here in Dubois and we hope to hike up to Lake Louise in the Wind River Range. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Continental Divide Trail to Jade Lakes

Today is Saturday, August 26, 2017.  We only had three more days here in the playground that is Dubois, the Wind River, the Wind River Range, and the Absaroka Range.  We're starting to get serious about our remaining adventures.

So we decided to take a hike from Brooks Lake, along the Continental Divide Trail, up to Lower Jade Lake and Upper Jade Lake, and back again by a different trail.  A moderate hike of 7 miles, with lots of ups and downs.

Here we are at the trailhead at Brooks Lake:

While this is the Shoshone National Forest, the private Brooks Lake Lodge has a vested interest in providing a quality wilderness experience to their guests, so the lodge has maintained trail improvements, such as the entrance gate at the trailhead, above, and the trail sign below, which shows the way to Upper Brooks Lake, beyond which is Bear Cub Pass and the Yellowstone Trail, part of the Continental Divide Trail.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) is a United States National Scenic Trail running 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada. It follows the Continental Divide along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. The trail is a combination of dedicated trails and small roads and considered 70% complete. Portions designated as uncompleted must be traveled by roadwalking on dirt or paved roads. The CDT can be continued north into Canada to Kakwa Lake north of Jasper National Park by the Great Divide Trail.  Only about two hundred people a year attempt to hike the entire trail, taking about six months to complete it.  In northwest Wyoming, the CDT traverses the Wind River Range and the Absaroka Range. The grand finale is Yellowstone National Park where the CDT is routed from Yellowstone's southern back country, to Old Faithful and then exits west to Idaho.

Our good friend Dick Mallery through-hiked the CDT with logistical support from his wife Gaila and their daughter Magda.  We've enjoyed hiking sections of the CDT as we visit different locations in the Rocky Mountains, and this hike made us think of Dick and Gaila.

Here we came to our first trail junction.  David REALLY wanted to hike on to Yellowstone, but Kathy reminded him that we needed to finish the hike today.

The trail wasn't marked for Jade Lakes, but, luckily, we had done some research.  Eventually, after we had already found the lakes, we spotted this ancient, decrepit wooden sign pointing back the way we had come to Jade Lakes:

But we digress.

As we hiked up the  large valley from Brooks Lake, we crossed several small streams, always with Bear Cub Pass in our sights:

A strenuous climb of about 500 feet up in a half mile or so had us turn a corner and - surprise - Lower Jade Lake came into view.  While these photos don't do it justice, Lower Jade Lake earns its name legitimately.  We wanted to tarry, but decided to hike on to Upper Jade Lake for a lunch stop.

Another mile or two and over a ridge, following their common drainage upstream, we arrived at Upper Jade Lake from Lower Jade Lake, and this was our first view at the outlet stream:

Upper Jade Lake presents a stunning view of the granite escarpment known as Brooks Lake Mountain, which also forms the spine of the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass:

Just in case you didn't appreciate the last photo, David decided to pause for another look after lunch and let you appreciate it again:

While there is no formal loop trail for the Jade Lakes, we found an old road on our GPS map which appeared to track with a trail along and down from Upper Jade Lake, so we decided to hike a loop.  We were glad we did.  On the way down the back slope, we saw much evidence of the volcanic activity that formed the Absaroka Range (in constrast to the upheaval of granite, which formed the Wind River Range).  Here, Kathy is hanging out with her volcanic breccia buddy:

The wildflowers were a riot, as can be seen in some of the photos from this hike.  The colors of late summer wildflowers blended with the yellows, oranges and reds of early fall leaves and flowers.  There were too many to photograph for this blog, but here is a late-color photo of one pretty flower:

Our hike gave us an unannounced bonus - a small alpine pond which, though shallow, was quite pretty:

The bed of the pond showed animal tracks in every direction.  Here were some unidentifiable tracks of an animal that decided to just cross the entire pond:

Hiking over the ridge between Upper Jade Lake and Brooks Lake, and around the ridge, we burst out onto a dramatic alpine meadow leading all the way up to the base of the escarpment:

Hiking yet further back into view of Brooks Lake, we caught sight of our beloved Pinnacles, shining brilliantly behind the lake and across the wetland meadows above the lake.  The meadows, too, were starting to turn early fall colors:

North of the Pinnacles, the valley meadow stretched uphill toward another, unnamed peak:

Our trail led us back to an old cabin we had spotted on our hike up the valley toward the Jade Lakes.  This gave us a chance to inspect it closely.  No longer occupied, it looked as if it had regurgitated its wood stove out into the front lawn.  Kathy sat on the front porch and pondered how time causes the decay of all things:

From the cabin, our trail led us back down to Brooks Lake and our trailhead.  We had expected a shorter, 5-mile hike, so by the time we were done, we had completed a respectable day's walk.

Tomorrow we vary it up with another kayak and fishing trip - this time to Mosquito Lake in the Wind River Range.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Paddling Torrey Creek and Trail Lake

Hi Blog!

On Friday, August 25, 2017, we had a chance to take our kayaks back up to Trail Lake. We had scouted this area as a possible eclipse viewing site, but felt the hills on either side of the valley were too close for sweeping views. However, we felt the beautiful green lake surrounded by colorful mountains would make for an excellent kayak outing.

We discovered that summer in Wyoming is for early risers. If you want to do anything outside, you have to get up early and take advantage of the blue sky mornings. By 1:00 p.m., the wind and clouds build and there is always a chance for rain. We were on the water by 10:00 a.m and worked our way over to the Torrey Creek inlet.

Torrey Creek starts way up in the Wind River Range at the base of the Whiskey Mountains. The East Branch and West Branch come together and flow for nine miles before forming four lakes on its way to the Wind River.

Torrey Creek was named for a prominent rancher, Captain Robert A. Torrey of the 13th Infantry, who was very active in Wyoming affairs at the beginning of the century. Captain Torrey was the first in command at Fort Washakie.

Torrey Creek is in a very picturesque setting, as it braids its way down to Trail Lake from the Fitzpatrick Wilderness:

The part of Torrey Creek closest to Trail Lake was wide and easy to paddle up. As we paddled up the creek's snaking path down from the canyon, we found some sections to be quiet and still.

We paddled past some beautiful red rock outcrops.

As we turned a corner, we got our first good look at Klondike Peak. We plan to do a hike up in that direction to Lake Louise later in the week.

Around the next corner, the creek narrowed and a bridge almost blocked our path. See Kathy duck. Duck, Kathy, duck!

Right after the bridge, we encountered our first shallow rapids. Try as we might, we couldn't paddle up without getting stuck on a rock. The creek looked clear after the riffle, so we decided to get out of our kayaks and walk them upstream. As soon as we cleared the rocks, we managed to get back in our boats and keep going. Once we reached a calm section, we beached our boats and stretched our legs. Time for a selfie!

The further up the creek we paddled, the stronger the current became. We decided turnaround time would be when we could no longer make forward progress. We made it as far as the Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp, but we could get no further. We allowed the creek to take us downstream to a nice gravelly beach for lunch. After snarfing his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Dave is ready to start paddling again.

Our return trip took half the time of our strenuous paddle upstream. We hardly had to paddle down, as the current took us back to the lake.

Like clockwork, the clouds began to build.

The rapids that had stopped our upstream progress, barely slowed us down on the way back. The swifty flowing water just pushed us right over the rocks.  Here, Kathy is challenging the "white water" of Torrey Creek:

When we got back to Trail Lake, we hoped to kayak around a bit, but the wind began to blow in some serious looking clouds.  We'll just have to satisfy ourselves with this photo --

-- and the linked video showing a 360 degree view of Trail Lake.

After stowing the kayaks, we hoped to find some of petroglyphs this area is famous for. The Whiskey Basin was a favorite winter ground for the Sheepeater Clan of the Shoshone Tribe because of the relatively mild winters and the abundance of big game.  Petroglyphs carved in the large glacial rocks by the Sheepeaters provide a vivid history of this area.

With a petroglyph map from our campground, we quickly found a couple great specimens.

While a few cars drove up and down Trail Lake Road to take in scenery, we had the creek and lake all to ourselves. What a difference a week makes, after the eclipse crowds. We are so glad we decided to stay in Dubois for another week after the eclipse. 

We still have several more outings on our list. Stay tuned.