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Alpinejo.tripod.com: Backcountry Trails Guide
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Wyoming Backcountry Trails

Hiking up Pole Creek


Wind River Range

Bridge over Freemont Crossing

Definition of terms below
Location: Wyoming's Wind River Range
Directions: Get yourself over to the Pinedale, Wyoming
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation +/- + Feet (- feet out)
Distance: 60+  Miles Roundtrip
Rating: 10 out of 10, This is the place to go if you never hike anywhere else!!!!
Fishing: good
Scenery: Awesome, from the valleys of trees to the Continental Divide

I arrived in Pinedale, Wyoming on Friday afternoon to check the surroundings and see about and permissions I may need to get to hike the "Winds" and get my body used to the elevation.  I had a great Spaghetti lunch and toured the Pinedale general store a bit and picked up my fishing license.

You start out at almost 9,000 feet in elevation and you may dip down a bit but crossing those 11,000 foot passes are something else. I did this 10 day trip solo, against the direction of the numerous park rangers I talked to--if you can hike alone try this one solo. It is a great time if you enjoy solitude. The views are great once you get out of the trees. 

"Hiking the Winds" daily trip log

Day 1: Elkhart Park to Glimpse Lake el. 9100 feet-
Hike rated: 4 hours, strenuous 6 miles, elevation +1950/-1800 (I agree).
Up at the crack of dawn, a little before 6am, packed up the camp at the campground-rolled up the rain soaked tent from Friday night's storm and headed down the Pine Creek Trail. Pack felt good descending some 2000 feet to Long Lake. There were numerous chipmunks and (1) group of (4) people at  Long Lake. Then down to the bridge and soon headed up 2000 feet to Crows Nest Lookout. My pack soon felt like 100 lbs. I had more than a few requests of God to give me the strength to make it. It was a beautiful stretch of trail through the tall timber and scattered aspen groves.  Arrived at Glimpse Lake at 11am and relaxed the rest of the day, reading my guide books and God's word. I could not fish yet because my fishing license didn't start until Sunday ($6 a day to fish).

Day 2: Glimpse Lake to Boram Lake el. 10,145-
Hike rated: moderate 5 1/2 miles, elevation + 1000.
Nice hike though the trees, I didn't get up early after the previous days bone jarring experience, and beautiful wildflower meadows. I made it past Trapper Lake and had a snack. Then I was going to try fishing Trails Lake but someone was camped in the middle of the trail. Gottfried Lake is a pretty basin and a steep hill afterwards. Hiking in the trees still to Boram Lake which is a huge basin of rounded rocky mountains. It was very hot and it was only noon, so I went swimming (brrr) and fishing. I took a nap and relaxed the rest of the day.

Day 3: Boram Lake to Elbow Lakes
Got up early-5am ate my breakfast paste (cold "Breakfast Surprise" listed in Favorite recipes) and a bagel. Oh too tired still and chilly back to sleep until 8am, Broke camp and headed out, seen two moose on the trail at the end of Boram Lake. Broke out of the trees and into some awesome mountain tops up by Summit and some huge meadows. At Summit Lake there are numerous trails heading off in different directions. So I chose one and it was a good choice. From here I headed down into the canyon of Pine Creek, it was full of pine trees and shrubs-pretty rocky also. Trails headed off into different directions, so again I picked one and it was a good choice also. I meandered past some lakes-some people had llamas and about a two year old child. I broke out of the trees and then seen Twin Lakes-10am. I grabbed my fishing pole and dropped my pack and went cross-country. A couple of beautiful lakes lots of fish jumping but none were biting. I ate lunch in the back canyon by the lake and went out for a quick swim--BRRR. Back up to where I had left my pack and lounged in the 70-80 degree sun to let my food settle. Back on the trail I past the first set of hikers on the trail thus far. No shade, boy was it ever hot through the miles of boulder fields. Passed another hiker-an old timer in his 60-70's he was really tired coming up from Freemont Crossing. Lots of ups and downs. Came around a corner and wallah-Elbow Lake. Windy as all get out. It is a big deep lake, without a tree to be seen , lots of high granite peaks all around. I could not find a decent place to camp, so I dropped the pack to go exploring I climb one of the mountains and found a nice flat ledge to block the wind. The wind was blowing so hard it collapsed my 3 season tent. So I rolled up the tent and laid out my tarp so I could roll up like a burrito later that night. The spot I picked was about 300 feet up on a cliff, no one else camped in the valley that night. I went out fishing at sunset-got some bites but no fish. Mosquitoes were out in force so I went to sleep for a couple of hours then got up to watch the stars. I awoke to a layer of frost-BRRR.

Day 4: Elbow Lake to Cook Lakes, BEST Day of Hiking for scenery
Strenuous day of hiking.
Up at 5am, very dark still ate some "breakfast surprise" and a bagel. I let my food digest and watched the stars fad away as the sun lit the sky from behind the  Continental Divide. Down the trail, all the puddles were frozen solid, I climbed out of the lake basin. I was breathing so hard I had t stop a few times, then the Continental Divide rose up and touched the skies. The sun still had not made it over the Divide yet. The terrain was awesome- no trees just patches of green bushes. I seen a few camps by Upper and Lower Jean Lakes-nobody was up yet-I had the trail all to myself. It was still chilly. Up and down past various lakes and marshes down to Freemont Crossing- I guess I missed the trail to 'Big Water Slide' so I did not go down there. I then seen my first hiker, then around a corner two more. So I took a quick break. Then back at it and past those two guys, fly poles in hand, and then whammy-Titocomb Basin. Titocomb Basin was crawling with people. The trails are like two feet wide here due to all the traffic. The trail forked left to Titocomb Basin and with people building up in front of me I punched the legs into high gear straight up the side of the mountain passing people right and left. As I was looking down dogging the 8 inch diameter boulders on the trail I noticed a guys hiking boots as I passed him. 'Nice boots' (he had a pair of Vasque boots on, my all time favorite hiking boots) I said and the guys smiled and let me past him. I passed a few more people and hung a left on the trail to Lester Pass. I stopped and talked to a nice older couple with their dogs for about 10 minutes and none of the people I had passed had made it to the ridge yet. Lester Pass what a back breaker up, up and up. The other side down, down and down amongst 3 inch diameter rocks-try not to break an ankle. Now I am tired and just looking for a place to stop. A couple of miles later Cook Lakes now I am really tired. I stop find a nice established campsite above the lake to rest and take a nap. I get up to go over my maps and boom a backcountry forest ranger comes by and informs me I am camped too close to the lake. (you have to camp out of site from the lake) So I pack up camp hoist the pack and climb up the adjacent canyon wall. Great spots up here. So I grabbed my water purifier and fishing pole and headed to the lower lake and stream. I caught my first  to my tenth fish, Yeeha. I hiked back to camp and had some vegie chili and corn pasta. Fishing was in my blood and the only thing on my mind. Energy was shooting out of me. I headed to the lake I had taken a nap at-no fish biting. So I headed to the lakes in the nearby canyon-it starting raining. I caught one huge brookie and then the thunder started and the rain drops were getting bigger and more of them. I found a nice rock shelter and waited the storm out. It was about 8pm and getting dark, so I headed back to camp. The lighting put on a show this night. It was so bright, it was like someone was turning a light on in your bedroom.

Day 5: Cook Lakes to Baldy Lake el 10,175
Hike rated: moderate 4 miles, elevation + 1000.
Woke up early but just could not get the ole bones to move, so back to bed until 8am. Headed out under partly cloudy skies down to the Upper Pole Creek crossing, tried to find a spot to rock hop across but only succeeded get wetter from the bushes, finally just took off my boots and waded across. The valley was so beautiful with wildflowers under foot and the high mountain peaks in the background. Quite a bit of uphill and then the sign-"Hat Pass" my legs said another pass? It was not near as bad as Lester Pass but t was up, up and up. It was great scenery in the treeless basin with wildflowers and shrubs and half dozen lakes. The mountains were all rock at this altitude. Straight down the other side of the pass to a marshy meadow. I got off the Freemont Trail and headed towards the marshy Baldy Lakes basin. Tired I looked for a spot to rest and boom  a thunderstorm was rolling in fast. The skies sent down the rain for a couple of hours-12pm. I pitched my tent up on the ridge and then the sun came out-go figure! 

Day 6: Baldy Lake to Pole Creek
This was a nice jaunt by a couple of lakes, I met a fellow fisherman at them. The first person I had seen in a couple days. This a great stretch for seeing some foresty scenery. I really enjoyed walking through the big meadows and did see a few horsemen. I wandered on over to the Lower Pole Creek area. The Park Ranger had mentioned that a guy had been said to be missing in this area for a week and still had not been found. So I grabbed my pole and headed out to Island lake in the back valley. I lounged and fished the creek. Then I made my way out to the lake-huge lake I say. I went swimming after no luck with swimming. I took a nap and ate some lunch. I headed back to camp and decided I would fish the Lower Pole Creek. Good choice I caught a bunch a brook trout and the scenery was breathe taking.

Day 7: Pole Creek to Elkhart Park Trailhead
Talk about picking them up and laying them down, I flat was making good time this day. The morning was great walking in the forest past a lake and then boom-wide open prairie and the smell of horse. The trail now was about 6 feet wide and very muddy from all the horse traffic coming in this way.

Fishing-- It was good. 11-13 inchers

 Do it again? yes, in a heart beat

Other Links:

Pinedale Online! Visitor's Guide to Pinedale, Wyoming!
A Week in Wyoming's Wind River Range
GORP - The Wind River Range - Hiking Wyoming
Ranges: Wind River Range
Earthwalk Press maps from Omni Resources
Wind River Range trip reports from 1979 and 1998 by Jim
Thermophile-Northern Wind Rivers

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