An annual report written in 1879 for the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents relates a marvelous story that illustrates why Wind River Range is so special. It came from the Shoshone Indians who lived there:
"When an old man is dying he finds himself near the top of a high hill on the Wind River Mountains and, as the breath leaves his body, he reaches the top of it, and there, in front of him, the whole magnificent landscape of eternity is spread out, and the Sun-Father is there to receive him and to do everything in his power to make him happy."
There is profound and mystical wonderment in that depiction. After walking through the valleys and over the passes of the Winds, I can fully appreciate how these mountains moved the Shoshone to feel that way. My week here was filled with inspiring views.
I wrote about how I always wanted to come back after a trip to the Winds in 2010, and I wasn't disappointed.
But of course, Top O' and I have to move on. Although I will miss the scenery of the last week, I'm not worried about feeling let down by the trail ahead. We will be walking through Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, and I'm confident an abundant supply of gorgeous scenery is yet to come.
|Date||Saturday, July 31, 2021|
|Weather||Cloudy with temperatures from the upper-40s to around 60|
|Trail Conditions||Easy elevation changes, except for one long climb; a muddy footpath with some blowdowns|
More rain fell from time to time overnight on our campsite at the foot of Squaretop Mountain. Top O' and I found the insides of our tents were soaked from condensation when we woke up.
I'm sure that would have happened even if it didn't rain. Despite being a legal distance away from the banks of Green River, our tents were low in a narrow canyon. Being in a location like this near water was bound to cause condensation.
Shortly after we left camp, we passed two animals grazing in a field near the river. I had difficulty telling from their distance away if they were elk or moose. My first thought was they were a moose female and a calf.
Elk and moose roam this part of Wyoming, so it would not be surprising to see either one.
The day began damp and chilly. A mist lingering from yesterday's rain hung in the air, though no more rain fell.
Our campsite was more than 100 yards away from the river. We were too far to see it because of trees, but the river soon reappeared a short distance down the trail. The valley widened as we walked farther up the trail, and the river used this extra space to meander back and forth from one side to the other.
A mile or so past where I saw the moose or elk, I saw some animals that weren't difficult to identify. Canada geese swam across the river as I passed by. Though these birds are commonly seen in nearly all of North America, they are named Canada geese because that country is almost exclusively where they breed.
Or at least that used to be true. Today, it's not unusual for Canada geese to live in one area year-round and not migrate to Canada. The Audubon Society says habitat loss and hunting had decimated their numbers in the early 1900s. More than 5 million Canada Geese now live throughout most of the continent because of successful conservation efforts.
The valley was several miles downstream from the Green River's source at the glacier near Knapsack Col, yet the water retained its deep green color. When I first saw the river yesterday, it swiftly cascaded over large boulders. Now it was moving much more placidly.
The river was still flowing north. That direction won't continue much farther. Before long, it will curve to flow southward on its way to Utah, where it will join the Colorado River at Canyonlands National Park. Green River is 730 miles long.
The valley widened more, and at 8 a.m. I arrived at the first of two lakes. A natural dam called a terminal moraine formed them after a glacier stopped there and deposited rocks and other debris.
Green River connects the two lakes in the same way Fremont Creek strung together the lakes and ponds I saw yesterday. Geologists call these paternoster lakes. They fill small basins scooped from the valley floor when a glacier retreats.
I could see more evidence of past glacier movement to my right while walking north on the trail. A mountain stood at the side of the lake valley. It had been ground to a steep, flat wall, revealing many horizontal layers of geologic history.
The trail had to start a slight climb up the side of the mountain wall to get around the shore of Upper Green Lake. The footpath was narrow on the slope, with steep rock angling up the right side and an equally-steep drop down on the left.
This was where I came face-to-face with a female moose and her calf.
There was no mistaking these were moose. They couldn't have been more than 20 yards in front of me. The mother hesitated when she first saw me. Moose don't usually consider humans a threat like many animals do, though all bets are off when they are mothers. This one was definitely wary of me.
I had no choice in this standoff. There was no way for me to go left or right around them. I could only hope she figured out a way to lead her calf away from me. When she continued to stare at me, I implored her to go around.
After an impasse of about 30 seconds, she finally agreed it was best if she moved. Their long, agile legs made it easier for them to descend the slope than for me, and that's the direction they went.
The north end of Upper Green River Lake was wide. The open space provided a clear look at the canyon where we had been yesterday. Squaretop Mountain was the centerpiece of this amazing sight. I watched clouds pour over the granite mountain and into the canyon.
The trail took us across a wide, flat valley floor between the upper and lower lakes.
Finally at around 9 a.m., some overhead clouds lifted and thinned a little. There were no patches of blue sky, but a little more light filtered through to brighten the views.
Clear Creek flowed into Green River just before the river reached the lower lake. The trail crossed the creek on a sturdy iron and wood footbridge.
Top O' and I passed many day hikers and weekend backpackers as we followed the trail along the lake. They were all going south.
We also met two southbound CDT thru-hikers. I figured these were just the first of many to come.
The earliest SOBO hikers can leave the Canadian border is usually early-to-mid June. A lot of snow fell in Glacier National Park this year, similar to what we found in the San Juan Mountains. Southbound hikers who wanted to start from the Canadian border this year had to begin their hikes a little later.
Lower Green River Lake was its widest a short distance past the footbridge. The trail rejoined the shoreline there and followed it for the rest of the lake's length.
I thought to turn around again here, figuring this would be a spot for another wonderful view of Squaretop and the other mountains behind me. I was not disappointed. The lake's surface was calm, providing a perfect mirror image of the same scene.
The trail left the boundary of Bridger Wilderness when it turned away from the lakes. This was the first time we had not been inside that wilderness area or Popo Agie Wilderness since we left the CDT to follow the Cirque of the Towers Alternate on Day 103.
The differences in the terrain here were immediately obvious. The glacial till of boulders and the jagged granite spires that stood overhead were gone. In their place were rounded hills with grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers.
Nearly all of the first 7.5 miles of today's hike had been flat along the river and lakes. A long and continuous climb started soon after we passed the end of the lower lake. The next 3.7 miles went up 1,200 feet.
There were almost no trees on the way up, which was a little surprising because the top was below 9,200 feet in elevation. The climb provided a continuous supply of long-distance views.
Paddles and Sprout passed me on the climb, followed by Tumbleweed a short time later.
Top O' and I stopped to eat lunch when we reached the top at 12:15 p.m. This was a pleasant spot to sit and take in one of the last views of Wind River Range. Clouds obscured some of the mountains and the temperature was a little chilly, but it was still an enjoyable place to take a rest break.
Top O' began walking again before I did. After finishing my lunch, I continued over the crest of the climb and entered a forest of burnt trees and fireweed flowers. The fire that burnt this area was started by lightning in August 2013. More than a thousand acres burned, and the trail was closed for several days.
Firefighters had their hands full then. Two other fires were started in this area by the same storm system.
The trail dropped to Roaring Fork Basin. It wasn't far or difficult.
On the way down, I met a SOBO section hiker, and we had a long chat. He told me his name was Kermit. His job as a nurse occasionally gave him enough vacation to take long section hikes.
Kermit provided a lot of helpful information about the trail to the north. The one thing I liked hearing the best was when he told me we should be able to finish in six weeks. I hadn't stopped to calculate how much farther we had, and this was a pleasant surprise.
I had been concerned about the possibility of not finishing until late September or early October. That would put us at risk of running into winter weather before we reached the Canadian border. Learning we could probably finish a couple of weeks earlier than that eased those worries.
The way up the other side of Roaring Fork Creek was slowed by several downed trees. After standing dead for several years, they had toppled over, perhaps during the storm that ripped through this part of Wyoming last September.
This climb from Roaring Fork Basin was steeper but shorter than the one from the lakes. It also climbed 1,200 feet but did it in 2.7 miles. The steepest part was the last mile.
The climb took us up to Gunsight Pass. When I arrived there, Top O' had already started to lay out his wet gear to dry on a fence. The sun never came out today, but the gap was breezy enough to mostly dry everything. I stayed a little longer after Top O' left to give my stuff a few more minutes to dry.
The view from Gunsight Pass didn't include Squaretop Mountain, or many other mountains, for that matter. Only a small portion of Lower Green River Lake could be seen.
By contrast, the look north was of rolling hills with trees and grassy valleys. The elevation of Gunsight Pass was 10,135 feet above sea level. There will be only a couple more climbs on the CDT that will take us close to this high.
I was unexpectedly passed again by Paddles and Sprout while I prepared to leave the pass. They told me they somehow managed to take a wrong turn.
The forests we walked through were primarily spruce and pine trees.
I caught up to Top O' where he stopped to rest and collect some water. We agreed to break for dinner a mile or two before we stopped for the night. This is a recommended practice when in grizzly country.
We weren't entirely sure we were in grizzly country yet but decided it was best to begin that practice. We were also carrying the bear spray we bought in Pinedale and planned to take better precautions in handling our food.
There were no more climbs the rest of the day, only a series of short, rolling hills.
We hiked together and stopped for dinner when we found a couple of large rocks to sit on.
South Fork Fish Creek was narrow but without rocks to hop across. We chose to remove our shoes because we thought we were near a place to camp. We didn't want to end the day with wet shoes.
The trail passed several ponds after the creek. They were on the southern end of Fish Creek Park, a wide open area with few trees.
The spot we found for a campsite was two miles past where we stopped for dinner. It was near the largest of the Fish Creek Park ponds.
The time was 8:30 p.m., which was later than we normally stop. Still, we had already eaten dinner. After setting up our tents and hanging our food, we were ready for bed.
Top O' later said from his tent he thought he heard a noise, maybe a critter messing with our food. I didn't hear anything.
I figured if the noises weren't loud enough for me to hear, they couldn't have been made by a grizzly bear.
Yes, let's go with that. It wasn't a bear.
Alabama getaway, get away
Alabama getaway, get away
Only way to please me
Just get down and leave and walk away