Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wind Rivers Surprise
last week i went to the wind rivers for a backpacking trip with some really good friends of mine: karl and cheryl meltzer, and their friends (whom i would now consider my friends) eric belz and his girlfriend kristin. of course, the dogs franklin and artemis went along, too. i went to the winds for several reasons. first off: the mountain range is beautiful. some might say unparalleled in beauty. the mountains are big, the vistas are bigger, and the fish can elusive but feisty. second: i hadn't been to the range for a couple of years. the last time i was there was with an ex-boyfriend (who broke my heart) and i was a little leary about going back and stirring up old memories. i didn't go last year, because franklin was still coming off of his femur fracture, and i was not sure he was up for the task yet. third: i love hanging out with karl and cheryl. they are such an awesome couple. physically strong, and really down to earth. eric belz is a crack-up and always entertaining with great stories to tell, and i was looking forward to getting to know his girlfriend, kristin, a little bit better. lastly: boards. no, not two by fours or planks of wood, but final certification exam testing. my boards were to be the following week, and i needed a little "clear the head" time with little time left over to worry. i also wanted to study my material a little bit more, because the fresh air and wide open spaces always help me to retain information a bit better than if i were sitting at home in front of my computer. minimal distraction in the mountains.
so after a 60 hour work week in the emergency department and on 4 hours of sleep, rise and shine, dark and early, for the 4 1/2 hour drive to new fork lakes. the first day consisted of karl beating the rest of us to a pulp with about 12 miles of hiking, 2000+ feet of elevation gain, and rest stops few and far between. i was determined not to cry, or cry out in pain, or crumple into a heap of frustration and exhaustion under the weight of my 40 pound pack, but i have to admit, about 10 miles into the first day i was like, "wtf?!?" the dogs, of course, were having the time of their lives and skipped across wildflower-strewn meadows under the weight of their dog packs.
i didn't eat well that first night, as my stomach was tweaking hard, and didn't sleep well at 11,000 feet. but i never eat or sleep well the first night out, so i wasn't that concerned. the dogs inhaled their kibble and asked for more.
awakening the next morning, i was able to really take in and appreciate the beauty that surrounded us. i was happily anticipating the hike across lozier pass and the high mountain lakes that were interspersed between us and our destination, clark lake.
we set up camp a little ways away from clark lake (minimum 100 ft from trail or watersource) and the boys immediately started talking fishing. all i could think about was a nap. so i set up my tent, got my books out, settled in with the dogs and started reading. i bet i got a good hour in before i dozed off. then the rain hit. then the hail hit. there is nothing more cozy than hanging out in a tent with your two favorite caning companions in a thunderstorm. i'm sorry--nothing.
got up for a pre-dinner walkabout and watched the boys fish a bit, met cheryl at the far side of the lake, made dinner. bed. reading. sleep. nice.
next day, a big hike down clark creek, up to green river pass and summit lake. amazing views. could see the high peaks that surround titcomb basin and imagined myself within them. not this trip. moose at green river pass. up the drainage to no name lakes, with the intention of stopping at lake #2. but when we got there, karl said, "no; i don't think this is it. let's keep going." hmmm. everyone tired after 10 miles already today. okay, then. to cutthroat lake we go. and then the storm hit. just past cutthroat lake, the skies got dark, and the hail started to pelt. we all hunkered down under a tarp on the south side of the pass. crazy. no camping at cutthroat lakes--no level campsites. up and over another pass. franklin giving me a worried look like he's ready to bed down for the night. another wave of hail storm. looking for a campsite. found one, on the far side of a lake just south of cutthroat.
the clouds cleared and the sun came out. it was cold, but tolerable. i took a nap in my tent for a while; actually we all did. then the boys decided to hike back to no names and go fishing. i decided to study a bit and make dinner. hung out with the girls and played yahtzee. had never played before. and actually got "yahtzee"!
woke up next morning to very cold temps and two inches of snow. franklin had been shivering all night, and i had given him my puffy coat to try to keep warm. it helped. had left my shoes out all night, and they were wet and soggy. sun not looking like it wanted to come out. waited around until 9am, and decided, well, the only way to get warm is to start hiking. the skies being so gray, i decided to see how i felt, but was thinking most likely i'd just hike out to the trailhead. long day ahead--about 12 miles i guessed (which, looking back on it i think was closer to 14, but what's a couple of miles here or there?) another wave of snow came through just as i was hiking above palmer lake. head down hiking uphill, and all of a sudden noticed i only had one dog next to me (franklin) and the crazy blond girl (artemis, the huntress) was gone. gone. for 20 minutes. chasing birds across the tundra. came back (thankfully) and did not run all the way to pinedale.
didn't have a map, as karl had the only map, and was paying close attention to the trail turn-offs and intersections, of which there were only a few. hiking past rainbow lake, kept thinking, "did i miss that last right hand turn? no. this is it. there's doubletop mountain. this is right. is this right? this feels wrong. no. it has to be right... " and on and on my thoughts went for a couple of hours. finally got to the doubletop burn area (large forest fire burn area from last summer), and not all the trees and vegetation toasted and ash, but i'm sure any signs that used to be marking the area are long gone. there's hardly a trail in some places. cross countried it for a few miles, in the middle to cut off some distance and then at the end of the burn section when i finally lost the trail for good.
long hike, only 2-3 miles, but felt longer, along the shores of new fork lakes. back at the car. fed the dogs. changed clothes and into flip flops. coffee and onion rings and a 12 pack of fat tire ale at the c-store. gassed up and ready to roll. talked to my brother up in idaho just before kemmerer at the section of highway that passes all of the wind turbines. he was camping too. nice.
now i'm back home and the legs, which were sore for several days, are feeling better. the pictures, downloaded on the computer and posted to the internet, make me long for more. back to reality--is this what i really want? i'd love to stay in those mountains. clear my head. free from distractions. simplicity.
oh yeah; i passed my boards.