Monday, November 21, 2016

Reduction of Southern Wind River route

Well, we spent some time looking over my scheduled vacation for 2017.  Because of my youngest son's Type I diabetes, I've had to commit more days to following him around while he's doing things like out of town field trips, Scout camp, etc., which has reduced my available vacation considerably.  While I earlier had thought that I had some days to spare, it looks like I'll have to keep my hike down to a good, solid week alone.  If I use the weekends on either side of the week to travel out west, that gives me exactly 5 days.  The only way I could potentially resurrect a slightly longer hike is to use the Labor Day Weekend as the final bookend, but even then, that only buys me one additional day.  So, I had to get my very ambitious 7-day southern Wind River hike reduced by two days.  This meant 1) cutting out either the Bonneville Basin and Pronghorn Lake spur, the Baptiste Lake spur, or the Deep Lake and Temple area spur (I've elected the first), 2) spend a little bit less time just exploring, i.e., no two-day stop in the Cirque of the Towers area, and 3) do a little bit of backtracking to maximize travel time rather than maximize spending as many trail miles as possible on a different trail.

Here's how it turns out:

Day 0 (Sunday): After spending the night in mid-Nebraska, I head out west into Wyoming again.  At Rock Springs, instead of turning south for Vernal like I did the last two backpacking trips, I head north towards Pinedale.  Curiously, the distance is almost exactly the same, which means that I might yet have some time to go see Scott's Bluff one more time, or better yet, do some exploring of the Oregon Buttes or some other features of the Great Divide Basin area, since I've now seen Scott's Bluff twice. I don't want to take too long, though, as my goal would be to actually spend Night 0 at the Trailhead, which is Big Sandy campground.  If I go try to go see Oregon Buttes or something like that, it actually will take me off the interstate earlier, at Rawlins.  And I don't quite go all the way to Pinedale before turning off to get to the Big Sandy campground.

Day 1 (Monday): A relatively big 11½ mile day, but since I'm sleeping literally at the TH, I can be up really early and take my time.  Although it does gain some elevation, it's mostly very gradual.  I get, at the end of the day, to Mae's Lake, the last area along the way to Pyramid Lake where there are trees near a lake, making it an ideal camping area.

Day 2 (Tuesday): Leaving the campsite without breaking camp yet, I can continue on to Pyramid Lake and into the East Fork valley to have a look around and explore.  I mapped the little blue spur all the way to the high lake at the cirque walls, but chances are I won't actually walk that far before turning back around.  I plan to be back at camp around lunchtime to eat a bit, break camp, and then go over Hailey Pass with my gear.  This part of the day is just shy of 4 miles, and gets me to the Baptiste Lake area, where I want to have some time to look around before the sun sets, and take pictures of the huge rock wall of Mount Hooker.

Day 3 (Wednesday): This is mostly a day of backtracking; a concession I had to make due to my shortened itinerary.  I could go around and see new trails, new valleys, new peaks, etc.—but it would add miles and therefore time.  This is an 8½ mile day, so long, but not terribly so, and other than gaining 900 or so feet to go over Hailey Pass again, it's actually mostly downhill.  Near the end of the hiking day, I turn and head towards Shadow Lake where I set up camp.  If I'm making better time than I think I'm likely to be making, and I still have some energy and some more daylight, I could keep going up and over Texas Pass at the end of the day and come in to camp in the Cirque of the Towers area; a highly desirable outcome... but I'm not planning on it, necessarily.  It would add more than 2 and probably closer to 3 miles to my day.  But maybe it's worth it to push on Wednesday so I can have a better Thursday, with some time to explore the Cirque area before having to move again.  I did add the Lonesome Lake area as an alternate Night 3, at least.

Day 4 (Thursday): At almost 8 miles, this is a decent sized day with two big passes; although if I have pushed it on Wednesday, it's down to only about 5 miles and one pass.  Either way, it's where I get to see the Cirque of the Towers, either mid morning after crossing Texas Pass, or first thing in the morning, where I can walk around it before even breaking camp.  Then I go back over Jackass Pass and head towards the car.  Rather than going all the way, though, I turn east at Big Sandy Lake and make camp at Clear Lake, with views of the Temple area.  Cirque of the Towers exploration will probably make this day longer than it appears to be just based on miles that need to be crossed, but if I somehow have time, I'd like to climb just a bit further up the trail after setting up camp to see Deep Lake too.  Although according to the map, camping at Deep Lake looks iffy, I've seen plenty of pictures of people who have done it.  Maybe I'll just go all the way there for the night.  It's not even another full mile after Clear Lake, and the views are certainly better.

Day 5 (Friday): Continue the loop, either from Clear Lake or Deep Lake, around the little x10,980 massif without a name, and back to Big Sandy Lake.  From there, get back to the car. It's just shy of 10 miles today, although really only 9 if I make it closer to Deep Lake the night before.  This should give me time to get back to the car with some time to spare, so I can drive out of the mountains, check into a hotel and take a shower before heading home.  If that ends up not flying, well, I can always take a quick dip in a lake somewhere and then just change into some clean clothes at the car for the next day.  Saturday and Sunday are, again, driving back home days.

What does this route miss that my bigger route had?  I lost the area beyond the East Fork Basin.  That's a real shame. I'll want to come back for that some day.  I also don't get to see Grave Lake, Ranger Park, Valentine Lake, Payson Peak, Lizard Head Peak, and the whole eastern approach into Cirque of the Towers.  I'm worried about feeling rushed at the Cirque, which really should be the headline destination of the whole trip.  If I pushed it more, I could maybe get a little bit of that back, but I'm wary of having too many too big days.  I'm not as young or spry as I used to be, and I live at a lot lower elevation; closer to sea level.  Having hiking days that are less than 10 mile minimums is a good thing, and if I get more miles out of some of the days where I have the option to do that, that's a surprise and delight bonus rather than something that I have to do.

Total Backpacking mileage: 41.84
Total Potential mapped Dayhiking mileage: 7.82
Total total: 49.66

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