Wyoming Wilds: Wind River Range

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
~Marcel Proust

Medicine Bow Peak

Medicine Bow Peak

During my first summer in Colorado, I would encounter groups out on the trail and wonder, “how did they get that?!”
Solitude is only a burden when forced upon one and I often felt that weight. Yet, continued to trek, as this was the only way I knew to contend with the fall-out of such.

In my third summer of trekking amoung these peaks I come to comprehend the answer requires time and being invested. Recognize when another exceptional soul passes by and make the effort to hold on; even as physical distances stretch. Go out of your way even just once and the return compounds over time.

A shared bus ride one year became a Colorado Trail resupply rendezvous in a thunderstorm the next. Throw in a couple bags of bacon and the deal is sealed. So, when Doug invited me for a hike this summer, I leaped at the chance.

Next thing I know, I’m Craigslisting a ride to join my favorite rocket-scientist, a Postdoctoral Fellow neuroscientist, and a Peace Corp turned non-profit start up inspiration for a hike.
Sounds like the start to a great joke hike.

Trash Treasure Avengers.

Trash/Treasure Avengers.

We assembled Saturday morning in Fort Collins and drove across open expanses of Wyoming. Highway 130 led to Medicine Bow National Forest where we parked beside Lake Marie. The first 1/4 [quarter] mile of trail was paved and fed into a road alongside Mirror Lake where we took Lakes Trail #296. A mile or so of gentle climbing past clusters of Columbines and we rose to the saddle between Medicine Bow Peak and Sugarloaf Mountain.

View to the North East from the saddle.

View to the North East from the saddle.

Across a bowl rife with lakes and other packing groups, we could see our next point. Swinging wide to the east we passed Sugarloaf Campground and drew more entertainment than water from the old fashion pump there.

Jumping onto Gap Lakes trail #108 we headed for the saddle between Medicine Bow and Brown’s Peak, where we took an early lunch just above North Gap Lake.

Note- as I am sure you have divined, you’ll need to do as I did and carry at least 4 liters of water due to the severe lack of sources.*
*Hint- This is Sarcastic Irony

Onto Shelf Lake Trail from which we soon wandered, following down a gully to the North-West to Crescent Lake trail.

Our campsite with Medicine Bow in the background.

Our campsite with Medicine Bow in the background.

Considering the volume of people on the trails, this gem of water (less than half a mile off trail) was relatively quiet. Several options for unofficial camps surrounded the lake.

Here began what it is a solo hiker misses. Camaraderie.

We took to the water where Huey, our four [4] legged companion, demonstrated a newly acquired propensity for swimming. We lounged, set up camp, talked, snacked, explored, farted, ate, and just generally went about the business of becoming friends in my favorite context and the best way possible. Each with things to learn and teach. Sharing.

Crescent Lake outlet.

Crescent Lake outlet.

I can’t remember the last time I went for a side-hike, yet when evening began, found myself doing just that. We circumnavigated the small lake, picking through marshy bits and cleaning up trash treasures we discovered along the way. A great amount of giggling bubbled from all of us.

Though it was not until the next morning, as I attempted to race Huey back to camp, tripped, tumbled and rolled that I realized we had wandered out here amidst adult-like pontifications of the importance of being child-like but it was by forgetting these precepts that we became so.

Reduced to the basic concerns and having everything we needed, chores like pumping water were pass-times in this unhurried landscape. At one point Stegosaur asked what time it was and when no one knew or answered he astutely reflected, “I suppose I am looking for some external validation of what I am feeling right now.”
If you are hungry, what time is it? Eating time.

Eventide played out her color set, casting the white ridges and peaks through a myriad of rich hues.

Brown's Peak Ridge

Brown’s Peak Ridge

We nestled close together as the stars overhead thickened into a milky blanket. Dozens of satellites crisscrossed the sky, shooting stars streaked along the horizon, bats squeaked and dove, black against the infinite backdrop.
If you are sleepy, what time is it? Bed time.

The next morning we broke camp and set off to find the trail. Crossing and missing it, only to find and lose it again in the open, rolling fields which surround the base of the range.

Brown Ridge, facing South.

Brown Ridge, facing South.

Instead we decided to rely on group decision making and general direction and problem solving skills. I was thrilled to be practicing off trail navigation with a group! For as much as it test the limits of patience and skill on one’s own, to be in a group who can hold it together enough to work through the inherent struggles and frustrations and maintain any degree of composure was astonishing and inspiring.

Up a thicketed ridge, weaving between the scrub and scat. Crossing the top of the ridge as clouds rolled in we made the best of the steep and rough decent on the other side.

Singing "the bear climbed over the mountain."

Singing and wondering why, exactly, “the bear climbed over the mountain.”

As the Beatle’s sing, “with every mistake we must surely be learning.”
Rather than react in fear and rush down from the high places, we slowed and took visual bearings of the talus field and forest ridges between us and where we hoped to find the trail. Each having a different opinion at first but continued to check in until Stegosaur honed in on a wisp of trail through the trees, so off we went, soon returning safely to the charted track.

With the now easy navigation and bolstered confidence we trucked along, exploring our newly attained depth of trust and truth by sharing stories and experiences until, weary and smelly we reached the car.

Did some fine porch sitting and food eating in Centennial where I took a call from Little Brother who informed me Little Sister, on her voyage back to Korea, had been delayed overnight at Denver Airport.

Returning to civilization, I made my way to her hotel room.

When she opened the door it was as if I stood before a full length mirror; here was the rest of me. I woke several times throughout the night to check that she really was there. Again awoke before the alarm and crept across the bed just to be in contact.
“Stop Fidgeting, we have another 15 [fifteen] minutes to sleep,” she chided groggily.
With that, I knew all was right in the world.

Panda Sisters 4 Eva.

3 thoughts on “Wyoming Wilds: Wind River Range

  1. Jeannine Payne says:

    Sounds like a great time! I like how you are going from hiking by yourself to really enjoying being with a group. So glad you could be with Anna for one night! I can’t wait until we all get to be together and break bread!

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