July 26: Lower Indian Basin to Elkhart Park Trailhead

Fremont and Jackson Peaks---sort of.

Morning arrived far too early for my taste just before 6:00. I wasn't looking forward to the long hike out and was still harboring thoughts of staying out one more night at Island Lake. The skies to the west were partly cloudy, but there was a thick fog rolling in from over the Continental Divide to the east, obscuring Fremont and Jackson Peaks once again.

We quickly ate our breakfast, packed up our wet tents and said goodbye to Indian Basin at 7:30. I figured I'd have to make a decision soon so was paying close attention to the clouds over the continental divide behind us. They seemed to be stuck where they were, not moving past the divide as if blocked by an invisible barrier. To the west, however, the skies were nearly clear. Decisions, decisions.

As we climbed above Island Lake it was clear to me that I'd be hiking out with Reed and Ward and leaving a day early unless I totally bonked somewhere between Hobbs and Barbara lakes. I was still pissed, but not as much as I was the night before or even when eating breakfast.

We stopped for a short break above Little Seneca Lake and took note of a couple camped below us. They must have gotten totally soaked. Their tent was clinging to a large boulder like a wet rag, clothes everywhere including a pair of Carolina blue womens panties---something none of us had seen for more than a week. We also started meeting hordes of folks heading into the backcountry right about here. Not many at first, but they really started to accumulate once we made it past Seneca Lake.

Island Lake.

There was a large group of college-aged kids going in that looked ill-prepared, dayhikers, a few couples and an older overweight fellow who liked like he might keel over at any time. The funny thing was that everyone I stopped to chat with was planning on stopping at Seneca Lake---everyone. I didn't think there were that many places to camp at Seneca and thought it would be fun to do a flyover and check it out. I was beginning to think that they all might get wet tonight as the sun was now nowhere to be seen. Maybe hiking out today would turn out to be the right play?

By now Reed was hiking like a man possessed, leaving Ward and I in his dust. I'd witnessed this behavior before, a year earlier and on the very same stretch of trail, when my wife Yumi was highly motivated to get to the Cafe on Pine for salad and coffee. I guess Reed really wanted to get out just as badly but couldn't figure out why the rush? He wasn't going to go anywhere until Ward and I made it back anyway, and was blowing by some decent scenery in the process.

By the time Ward and I made it to Barbara Lake, Reed was far ahead and the threatening skies that were building all morning finally opened up and it started to rain. We stopped to put on our rain jackets but didn't see the point in putting on our pants. I remembered to take the camera out of my pocket and put it in it's waterproof case after getting a pic of the lake. There would be no more pictures for the last 6 miles of the trip. I sort of forgot about my notebook which naturally became a waterlogged clump of paper.

One last view of Fremont from a rainy Barbara Lake

The rain, which started off as a cooling heavy drizzle soon began falling in earnest. For the first time during the entire trip I was in my element: hiking downhill! Not only did I finally have gravity on my side, but the temperature was a blissful 65 and getting cooler! I began to really stride out, leaving Ward to eat MY dust for a change. Everything was not as rosy as it would appear, however. The torrential rains were creating small lakes and raging streams consisting mostly of liquified of horse shit. The thought of my feet and lower legs marinating in this disgusting solution was not pleasant to me but I slogged on anyway. The temps were getting cooler but I didn't mind. My cool, wet pants, seemingly glued to my legs, were actually acting as ice packs soothing my wretched knees with every step. I'm not sure the climbing party we met hoping to tag Gannet, struggling under the weight of their packs felt the same. They looked miserable.

At 1:30 I noticed we were hiking down the ridge line that would take us to the trailhead and could almost taste whatever meal was in store for us. We almost didn't make it past the Llama road block though. Seems that a couple of the beasts were having a bad day and didn't feel like moving. One was being coaxed by his handler while another was content to sit down in the middle of the trail, only moving when we got close to him. He'd then take a few steps, take a look back to see where we were then sit down again. this cycle repeated itself 3 times before we were able to pass him on the inside shoulder.

Finally, at 1:57 PM I spied some cars in the parking lot, and just like that, we were done. Reed was already changed and sitting in the warmth of the van. He told us the outside temp was 52 degrees which most likely meant high 40's a little further up...perfect hiking weather for me.


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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