(For travel in Asia, go to 11/2008-1/2009 & see link below right. For backpacking, see links at right: Wind Rivers 9-20-09, Grand Canyon 4-7-09, Winds 9-12-08, Maroon Bells 7-21-08, Bandelier 5-23-08, Big Bend 3-12-08)
Saturday, 9/5 (1) - more Cirque of the Towers photos here
Headed to Jackson to pick up Mike H, my trekking partner for the Cirque of the Towers in the southern Winds. I was early to the airport and got some completely wrong information from the woman at the Frontier Airlines. Thanks a lot. Picked up Mike, drove to Pinedale, sorted food, stopped by outfitter, and headed to Big Sandy. It’s a long drive through Wyoming high desert over a steadily worsening road and finally into aspen and then pine forests where the road was pretty bad, at least for a Camry. Saw several herds of pronghorns, some up very close, and actually had to slow for two bucks in the road. Photo above: Along Big Sandy Trail; below: badger
We were finally on the trail about 3pm. It was a lovely slightly uphill walk along the Big Sandy River. Uneventful except for seeing a badger. We made it to the junction of the V Lake trail, about 3 miles. Found a nice camp site in the woods next to a huge low granite dome.
Sunday, 9/6 (2)
Back on the pretty forest trail until we got to Big Sandy Lake about 11am. Then the fun started with switchbacks up, up, up and after a lovely park-like section of trail, the trail pretty much quit being a trail and we ascended through well-cairned steep rocky shelves, gaps, boulders with first Sundance Pinnacle, then the mighty Warbonnet Peak looming over us. Around 3pm we’d made about 3.5 hard miles and huge clouds were blowing in, so we found a decent camp site right under Warbonnet. We had a good 15-20 minute rain just as we got our tents up. Photo: Mike on the "surprisingly awkward" trail to Jackass Pass
Monday, 9/7 (3)
The trudging scramble upward continued. On this, as on previous days we met some nice people. I’d say I’d like to know at least 90% of these people. Most were young (younger overall than I met in the northern Winds), all strong, ready to hear about our trek and ready to tell about theirs. The women reminded me of when my mother realized Leslie and I were going to marry. “None of her friends,” my mother said disapprovingly, “wear makeup.” Everyone we saw – women, men, dogs – looking good. Trudge, trudge, pant, pant. We’re at about 10,500 feet – a 10,000 foot gain in 24 hours for Mike, gasp, pant and finally the last descent to Arrowhead Lake and then the long ascent to – at last Jackass Pass. Being as how donkeys, etc. can’t get to the pass, I wonder which jackasses they named it after. I gave a raspy, sorry yodel, unappreciated by my partner, and then we were over the pass, over the Continental Divide and down into the awesome Cirque of the Towers – from Pingora Peak to Warrior 1, the most amazing array of big walls in the Rockies and we are here! Photo above: Jackass Pass; right: The Cirque of the Towers
We headed down the trail, then west toward Hidden Lake, through (what else?) more boulders. It’s important to understand when I say boulder field, I’m not talking about a field with some boulders, but great jumbles of boulders of all sizes – but not as taxing as the Peak Lake boulders. We got through these, stopped to filter water, headed up a small ridge pretty far above Lonesome Lake, and stopped for the night at about 10,400 feet (just inside tree line). Warrior 1, Warrior 2, and Pylon Peak are close above us, but we still haven’t gotten to Hidden Lake.
I feel good about our progress. One full day of hiking plus two half days have gotten us well into the Cirque – not bad for a combined total of 126 years of age! I can see myself returning, making a wider loop, Jackass into the Cirque, Lizard Head Trail north out of the Cirque, Bears Ear, Washakie, and south, past Marm’s & Dad’s Lakes or over Texas Pass for a smaller loop. On the other hand, the northern Winds are higher and I love the alpine … Photo: Warbonnet, Warriors
Tuesday, 9/8 (4)
Today was a rest day. We got a late start and hiked for less than 2 hours, mostly downhill (through a few boulders, of course), to a dell in a grove of old pine trees above Lizard Head Meadows at about 10,200 feet. Leisurely set-up, hung out talking for an hour or so, wandered down to Lonesome Lake where we watched 12” trout swimming in the shallows. Mike caught 3 cuttthroats and threw them back in. He taught me some about fishing, but I caught none. Photo: trout in the shallows
Found myself thinking about the Drop Inn on Sukhumvit Soi 20, coffee on the patio, the pad see eu place around the corner, hanging out in the aircon … Got back to the camp site about 4, fixed Thai noodles with lemon grass, chilis, and chicken. Ate in a sunny place on the side of a hill. Ahhh, the wilderness ain’t all harsh.
Yesterday a girl told us about seeing a moose cow and calf in the meadow, and we found fresh tracks close to our camp site, so we have high hopes for that. Now that Labor Day has passed, this prime Wind Rivers area is almost deserted. A couple hiked past us earlier today and we saw three men across the lake while we were fishing and that’s all. Photo: Pingora
Wednesday, 9/9 (5)
We headed back up to Jackass Pass. As we walked (up, of course) we looked back and saw three moose (bull and 2 cows) standing in a marshy area of the lake. Getting up to the pass from this side is much easier than from the other side. We were resting at the top when who should appear but the man from France who I’d met at Island Lake a week ago. Had a nice time talking, then down, down, down, up, up, up, so on and so forth, clambering down the rocky areas. Dedicating this hike to the cairn makers – Thank You! Pretty tired by the time we got to a camp site at the bottom of the switchbacks. Set up tents, filtered water, dinner. I walked a way up the hill to pee and out of nowhere some people appeared. What? Oh, I forgot that there were switchbacks, so I’d walked almost to the trail. Oops. Photo: morning in the Cirque
Saw an eagle soaring across the lake toward us. Photo: Mitchell Peak
Thursday, 9/10 (6)
I got up early with a song in my mind. Sat on a granite dome and wrote:
In the early morning sun,
Wishing you were here with me
Knowing we’re together soon
Knowing that’s forever more
I’ve loved you for these many years
I’ll love you many more
We’ll be together now
And forever more
Sun coming up (now) over foothills
Like it’s come up these past days
Over mountains stark and grey
How can I be here
In this place so high and wild
All these years passing by
Not like a dream, not like a mist
Like treasures one by one
Passing through my life enriched
Working hard to make it so
Lucky that it’s turned out like this.
When I finished writing I cried, for the beauty, for life. My life.
The hike out along Big Sandy River was beautiful: the river, meadows, forests, dells, mountains, and sky. And finally the trailhead and now we’re on a cheeseburger and fries mission. The Wind Rivers Brewery did not disappoint. Back to the Sundance for a shower, another shower, and sleep in a big bed. Then on the road to Dallas, through huge storms in Kansas, rain in Oklahoma, and home.
More Cirque of the Towers photos here