Over this past Labor Day weekend I hiked around 50 miles through the Bridger Wilderness of the Wind Rivers Range in Wyoming. Below are some excerpts from my journal and some images from the trip. Because of the distance and quick pace on this trip, I had only my iPhone and my GoPro to capture images.

Mistake Lake

I began at the Elkhart Park trailhead near Pinedale, WY – about 4.5 hours from Salt Lake City, UT.

Route: Elkhart Park – Trail Lake – Elbow Lake – Titcomb Basin (via Big Water Slide) – Elkhart Park

29 Aug 2013

4.5 hours of driving through the dreary brown summer hills of Wyoming has deposited me at Elkhart Park in the Wind River Range.

Pine Creek Canyon Trail

I began my trek beneath a radiant orange glowing sky. Descending into the trees on the Pine Creek Canyon Trail, I am utterly alone.

The red orange light of sunset filters through the trees to create a soft, dreamlike atmosphere. Depth perception is all but lost as shadows melt away and details soften. I can’t help but feel an intruder. I am trespassing upon a deafening silence that overwhelms me. I long for a birdsong or the quiet gurgling of a crick.

Descending into the canyon, I click on my headlamp as the last rays of sun slip below the horizon. I am in an open, exposed space, but before me lies a forest. My open space is somewhat illuminated by the twilight, but the forest before me is a black gaping maw. I feel as if I am about to be swallowed. I swallow hard, and keep walking.

The focused shaft of my headlamp reaches out in a bright, indignant and hopeful beam, but is no match for this forest that drips with darkness. It is not the dark that concerns me so much as what lives and walks in the dark.

Bears and mountain lions, moose and elk, large powerful and deadly creatures many times my weight and strength. I clutch my survival knife in one hand, though I  know it will do little good.

Humankind is incredibly advanced, but when stripped of our technology, we are weak and exposed. Within the great equalizer of mother nature we are not always at the top of the food chain.

Tired of the shifting shadows and uncertainties I finally reach a more flat area and search for a place to pitch my tent. My shelter. My thin-walled reprieve from the night.

As I kick aside dead limbs to clear a space, I startle something close by. Very close. Something Big. Goosebumps cover my skin and a flood of adrenaline hits me as the beast goes crashing straight down the side of the mountain.

Night Campsite

Here, there be dragons.

30 Aug 2013

I awoke this morning to find myself in a dense forest with thick undergrowth.

A short distance into my hike I arrived at Long Lake, glittering in the newly risen sun. Pausing only to eat a PopTart, I continued down the Pine Creek Canyon trail. After crossing Fremont Creek, the one mile stretch to Glimpse Lake was a hellatious 2000 vertical foot ascent.

Reaching Glimpse Lake was a relief. I took a long break to refill water and contemplate the deep azure sky above me. As I sat on a rock, trout rose before me in the water – a temptation, and an indication of good things to come I hope.

A little further up the ridge the forest things to a clearing and the lovely lilly-covered Prospector Lake. Some aspens are just beginning to turn and their already fallen leaves dot the ground with bright yellows.

I passed the Trapper Lakes and took a tuna and cracker lunch right before a rainstorm quenched the dry thirsty ground. Here I catch a glimpse of the only other humans I’ve seen thus far – two backpackers and a woman guiding a string of pack horses.

I’ve setup camp at Trail Lake with hopes of catching grayling.

Coyote and Trail Lakes don’t seem to have much fish. The only thing rising this evening were otters. The Neil Lakes had rises to a midge hatch, but I didn’t catch anything.

31 Aug 2013

Summit Lake glitters in the sunlight beneath a cloudless sky. A light breeze skims the surface just fast enough to break the glassiness so that the water sparkles like a thousand diamonds.

The lake sprawls out amongst a large, flat expanse of grass – browning now with the coming of autumn. Above the lake rise flat-topped giants – Sky Pilot Peak and another unnamed at 12,000 ft.

I am nearing the treeline and will soon be above its sheltering branches.

This mornings’ hike was a relatively easy one – past Gottfried and Borum Lakes, both gorgeous in the morning sun.

The wooded trails here have been a pleasure to hike – lush and verdant. I’m off now to Elbow Lake, which I hear is a haven for large golden trout.

I saw only a handful of rises today. While the fishing was a disappointment, the sunset was spectacular. Off to bed now.

Elbow Lake

1 Sept 2013

Today’s been one hell of a day. I’ve just taken a refreshing yet brief swim in the frigid water of Titcomb Lake. As I sit on a large flat rock in my underwear, the 5 o’clock sun still warms my back. Light clouds stretch out across a blue sky and reach to graze the spires that rise above me on all sides.
Titcomb basin
Soaking FeetTitcomb Basin Upper

About 12 miles ago I awoke to a frosty morning and set off from Elbow Lake. Before long I reached Upper Jean Lake where I found llamas and brook trout.

Upper Jean Lake

I carved down the mountain off-trail to the end of Lower Jean Lake and then headed south towards something on my map labeled “Big Water Slide.” Indeed, there was a large, gently sloping, slippery waterfall that ends in a deep clear pool.

I am reborn!

2 Sept 2013

Last night I laid my pad and bag out beneath a blanket of stars. I couldn’t believe my eyes – the way the celestial bodies twinkled, almost as if they were moving.

Sometime in the night I awoke to raindrops on my forehead. I set up my tent in a matter of 5-10  minutes.

This morning the soft pattering of drizzle on my rainfly brought me back to consciousness. I enjoy the sound and find it soothing, but dread the prospect of leaving my warm cocoon to gear up and then dismantle the soaking wet tent.

Upon exiting the tent I didn’t mind the weather. The landscape was too dramatic to care. The ridgeline of the basin, dark and sinister, reaches skyward – the thin sinuous spires of an evil mythical castle. They are nearly black beneath the thick gauze of dark grey mottled clouds that cover the sky and settle upon the jagged their jagged tips.

Titcomb Basin Storm

I beeline for the trailhead – 15 miles – 2 breaks to refill my water bottle from streams.