Featured Photo: The Fortress from Alpine Lakes, Wind River Range, Wyoming
Photo: War Bonnet and Warrior, Cirque of the Towers.
Driving south from Green River Lakes, our exit trailhead, to Sweetwater Gap trailhead at the southern end on the range, you crest a hill just outside Pinedale, Wyoming. From the top of the hill, stretches a hundred mile vista of the Wind River mountain range: 3000 square miles of granite rock walls, alpine lakes, rivers, snowfields and glaciers. The adventure begins.
Photo: Let the adventure begin. Green River Lakes, Wyoming.
Over ten days this August, Paul Gardner and I hiked the 100 mile Wind River “Haute Route” from south to north. Up every morning at 5 am, we hiked for eight to twelve hours a day mostly above ten thousand feet and off-trail. We crossed fourteen named rock and snow covered mountain passes over 11,000 feet, marveled at immense granite rock walls and glaciers, navigated around stunning alpine lakes, forded rushing creeks and rivers, passed through stunning meadows overflowing with wildflowers, and scrambled through fields of boulders the size of railroad cars. Every day provided stunning vistas and serious challenges.
Photo: Wildflowers in Bonneville Basin.
We met a few other high route hikers, but none even half our age. We experienced pain, discomfort, hunger and arguments. The winds proved particularly strong this trip; at times forcing us to our knees to prevent being blown over. One gust caught me mid-stride on a steep rocky slope throwing me to the ground breaking a rib. We preserved. We worked through the challenges sharing the joyful and painful moments.
Photo: Paul Gardner and Pronghorn Peak, Bonneville Pass.
Why? For love: love of the world’s wild places, love of the struggle to overcome adversity, and the love of adventure.
Photo: Campsite at Glacier Lake.
On the last day, I was hiking by myself along the Green River through a lush alpine forest with huge grey granite boulders; the air heavy with the scent of pine. My mind wandered to a day forty six years ago walking the same path. I remember turning a corner and coming face to face with an oversize bull moose. He was old and ornery. He looked at me, snorted and charged. I quickly scrambled up a boulder with my heavy pack as fast as my nineteen year-old legs would allow. The moose stopped at the base of the boulder, looked up at me, and satisfied he made his point, wandered off.
Photo: Paul Gardner and the Knifepoint Glacier.
I was jarred out of my reverie when turning a corner I came face to face with a young bull moose. How weird is that? He appeared to be several years old; gorgeous jet black coat and beard with a good size rack of antlers covered in soft velvet. Twenty feet separated us. It was a standoff: old man and young bull. We gazed at each other with respect and caution. He edged closer, but I refused to budge. I took a few pictures and eventually he nodded his great head and stepped off the trail into the woods. It was a message—write the story.
Photo: Young bull moose on the Peak Lake Trail.
On the tenth day, fifteen pounds lighter (ten in food consumed and five in lost weight) we walked out of the wilderness on sore and swollen feet to our car in the Green River Lakes parking lot. We made goal, but it will be the journey that’s remembered.
Photo: Paul and me at the end of the trail.