July 20: Elkhart Park Trailhead to Mary's Lake

It seemed like yesterday that Yumi and I posed at this very spot here at Photographer's Point. I'm even wearing the same clothes.

Like it usually does, it got chilly at night in Pinedale and I found myself awakening under every cover on the bed when I went to sleep with nothing covering me but a sheet. Ward and Reed were awake in the adjoining room debating who would shower first. It was 6:15 AM and I knew what I wanted: breakfast. I'd hauled a large cooler full of food and snacks to eat along the way and was ready for some cereal drowning in ice cold milk and an apple.

While the showering continued, I quickly threw on my Teva's and took a warm-up hike over to Obo's Deli to get a real Coke (as opposed to the diet variety) and Danish for a little extra fuel for our first day. Hell, I'd burn that off in a half hour considering the pathetic physical shape I was in so I wasn't at all worried about getting fat.

Upon my return a gentleman sitting on his porch asked where the milk was. I told him I'd return in a minute and did so, with about a quart I had left over from breakfast. We chatted for a few minutes and I returned to our cabin to get ready.

Ward and Reed were about ready to go by now so I grabbed the room keys and returned them to the office. After short conversation with Sophia and her husband I vowed to return once again to their establishment and met the other two guys out front. We were just about ready.

But first, we needed some more gas, coffee, and I needed to send my postcards. NOW we were ready.

I took control of the vehicle just after 8 AM and took us upward out of town on Skyline Rd. There had been a wild fire the previous week that, by all accounts, had threatened the city of Pinedale and a few resorts and homes on Fremont Lake. A few minutes later we saw the damage. The hillsides were burned bare of all vegatation so all that remained were boulders and scorched earth.

The boys were quite impressed at the lakes below various turnouts along the way, but were in awe when we stopped at the larger viewing area about a half mile from Elkhart Park. Yeah, they were in for a treat.

I parked the car at 8:45 and we proceeded to get our gear together. I had a minor water bladder malfunction as someone's gear must have been laying atop my suck tube resulting in a wet cargo area. No problem, I just filled up again at the spigot near the outhouse. AFter talking with a group that had just got off the trail I sighed the register and we were off.

Just like last year, the trail gradually climbed over and through Engleman Spruce and horse shit. I didn't know it at the time, but dried horse shit is a lot more pleasant to walk through than horse shit flowing downhill in a torrential rain. But that story is for another day.

The switchbacks above Eklund Lake took something out of us but we were paid back in full with the view.

Reed took the lead, with Ward close behind, setting a rapid pace up the gentle grade. Reed had been having some minor back troubles the previous few days and wanted to take a "stretch" break after 25 minutes. Already sweating for 10 minutes I called it a "sweat" break. We stopped again 20 minutes later and again at 10:00.

have never lost anything in the back country save a pair of cheap $8 sunglasses, but the loss of my floppy hat at our 10:00 break would prove to be most unfortunate in the clear Wyoming skies. But at the time, I didn't know I had left it behind.

We continued up the trail and met the first real hikers of the trip, a couple of guys from Arizona. They were planning on heading over to the Golden Lakes, east of the divide, off trail over Angel Pass. I didn't think they'd make it based solely on the loads each were carrying, but what did I know? It was only my second trip to the Winds? We'd leap frog this duo a few times before stopping for lunch at Photographer's Point.

Reed and Ward were stunned by the panoramic view which lay before them. While I started munching on my lunch they did a little exploring around the area and found another "point" to access some killer views, which I later strolled over at Reed's reccomendation, to see with one of the Arizona fishermen who had caught up after taking their lunch about 200 yards from the point. Bad luck for them, actually. Reed was right: it was photo worthy.

By the time we got back to the others another pair of fisherman had arrived, mentioning they were at the Golden Lakes and had caught zilcho. It wasn't a good few minutes for the Arizona pair.

Our "second" camp at Mary's Lake was much more scenic than the first.

By noon our trio was back on the trail heading for our first night's camp at Mary's Lake. "Ooops, I forgot my hat" I said, as I dropped my back and walked the 250 yards back to Photographer's Point. I had a sinking feeling on the way as I hadn't recalled seeing the hat while eating lunch. It wouldn't be a good thing to lose it as I'm very fair-skinned, prone to sunburn.

It wasn't there. Dammit!

I caught up to the others, slathered some sunscreen on my face, nose and ears while hoping for the best. After 15 minutes we came to the trail junction at Eklund Lake. This would be new trail for me and I looked forward to eyeballing Eklund Lake for the first time. I'd heard the lake was a "catch-all" destination for folks going to or coming from Titcomb Basin. What I didn't hear about were the switchbacks on the south side of the lake. I don't think any of us were ready for this despite the modest climb.

It only took another 20 minutes to arrive at a few tarns near Mary's Lake and we immediately separated in hopes of finding the all-important first night's camp. By 1:30 we were set up and ready for bed, or at least ready to find some way to beat the searing sun and heat. Essentially, we laid about in partial shade, drank lots of water and did nothing for a couple of hours.

Around 4 PM Ward and I found enough energy to take a look around. I'd told him that no matter how good a site you find (in all honesty ours was not even "average"), there's almost always a better spot within a couple hundred yards. Our exploration was rewarded as we did find a better spot to pitch our tents---and only 125 yards away---complete with kitchen rocks that were to utility as Jessica Alba and Eva Longoria are to hottness. The sight of us hauling or erected tents down the meadow would have been semi-humorous had anyone been around.

My first night's beef and bean burrito dinner turned out better than expected.

Now that we were finally settled on a campsite it was time for a little dinner. I'd dehydrated some taco meat, mexican flavored rice and refried beans at home and was looking forward eating burritos only to see if everything would work freezer bag style. I foolishly didn't test everything beforehand but figured, correctly, it would be edible. I was right, though I had packed about 30% too much. Ward happily took a few spoonfulls to kill it off.

After dinner we climbed down to the lake and sat on a large, flat rock for a few minutes before Reed decided he needed to sleep. The truth would later reveal he really wanted to listen to his ipod! Ward and I hung out at the rock looking for any signs of life in the lake. No trout were rising, which surprised me, but there were no mosquitoes either. A fair trade as I look at it. A gentle breeze made for a peaceful evening.

By 7 PM both Ward and I were ready for sleep as well and we retired to our tents. I spent a few minutes writing in my journal and devising ways I could keep from adding to the minor sunburn I'd already had. Stupid hat.

Click for a map of our camp site


Wind River Range
Trip Planning
The Drive West
Mary's Lake
Tommy Lake
Lower Jean Lake
Stroud Glacier
Titcomb Basin
Indian Basin
The Hike Out
The Drive Home
Final Thoughts
Trip Photos
Back to Backcountry Trips


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