July 23: Lower Jean Lake to Stroud Glacier

Upper Jean Lake.

We managed to survive the night though I wasn't so sure about making it through today. Once we made it to Peak Lake we'd be heading off trail, up what should be a beautiful valley and over Knapsack Col into Titcomb Basin where we'd run into the trail again.

I wasn't worried about getting us lost but was concerned about what looked to be a significant distance climbing up, down and all around boulders at Peak Lake. That was in the future, for now we had to break our scenic camp on another gorgeous day.

I spent a few minutes carving up what was left of my small block of Colby-Jack cheese and feeding it to the hungry trout therby lightening up my load in the process. Instead of eating oatmeal for breakfast as was originally planned, I scarfed down 4 granola bars losing even more pack weight. I wasn't going to carry any more weight than I had to over the boulders or up Knapsack.

By 8:45 we were back on the trail and almost immediately ran into a solo hiker from Massachusetts wanting to know about the trail down to Green River Lakes. All I could do was tell him I'd heard the way down from Peak Lake was known by some as the "Chute from Hell" and wish him luck.

Elbow Lake held a plethora of camp sites.
The easiest hiking we'd do the entire trip was up on this plateau between Shannon and Cube Rock Pass.

Meanwhile we began our day following Upper Jean Lake's outlet upstream and eventually to the lake itself, noting a scarcity of obvious camp sites near the lake. Passing another small we we shortly came to the trail junction near Elbow Lake. The views up here were unlike anything we had seen to this point. A broad plateau spread out before us broken by peaks like Elbow, Sky Pilot and Brimstone. It was truly an amazing sight to see the large Elbow lake perched below in the distance.

Equally amazing was the look on Reed's face when he discovered the trail climbed Shannon Pass, directly to the north, after already climbing up from Upper Jean. In honor of this discovery we decided to take another break. We crested the pass shortly after 10:00 and began the easiest part of the hike.

The previous 3+ days were mostly spent on rocky trail, climbing and descending with unpleasing regularity. Now, however, we were hiking on an absolutely flat, sandy trail surrounded by grass and wildflowers. The Winds weren't looking so tough after all. After a few minutes we came to a small tarn flanked by the slopes of peak G-14 and stopped to take a break and to filter some water.

The easy hiking wouldn't last for long as we arrived roughly at the location of Cube Rock Pass. The isolation factor here was off the charts as we descended toward Peak Lake on the narrow, rocky, confined pass. It wasn't surprising to see "Livestock not recommended" printed on my map. It was rough but incredibly scenic, and as I said, isolated.

Stonehammer and Peak Lakes as seen from the new trail we mistakenly blazed.

At some point during the planning stages Swimswithtrout had told me there was a trail along the north shore of Peak Lake. Well, this important bit of information had somehow slipped my mind since then. As we got our first look at Peak Lake it looked impossible to traverse around the lake to the north but only difficult to hop over, through and around a half mile of boulders along the south end.

Seeing no obvious route through the granite, we picked a spot and started hopping and hoping nobody would get hurt. The going was slow and I reminded Reed and Ward that every year somebody dies out here---mostly in jest but it was my way of making sure they would take it easy and be safe. About halfway through Reed took a small chunk out of his shin and I had a small slip that got my heart racing a bit, but nothing serious. We decided to stop for a break beneath the shade of a large boulder then discovered what looked like a trail on the opposite end of the lake. Yeah, a trail, I'm pretty sure Dave mentioned that when he was helping me plan the route. Oops. Oh well, it made for a more interesting day, especially to Reed who had the quotes of the trip:

"Not wanting to die puts a whole new twist on hiking"


"That guy from Colorado is getting a letter bomb"

After starting up again we began to take more and more steps on grass and less on boulders, eventually making it to the valley bottom on the east side of the lake. The sun was beating down, we were tired and hungry---the perfect time to stop for lunch. Reed again found the perfect resting spot but I had to run down to the stream to pump some water first.

Swimswithtrout's waterfall was a major reason I'd wanted to do this loop in the Wind River's and was a great spot for our 4th night out camp site

Once I filled my bucket and sat down I decided there was no way I was going to climb back up to the shady rock and plopped my tired ass down in the middle of a dazzling display of wildflowers. I drank one liter or water, then another while devouring my favorite lunch of peanut butter and potato chips. When i finished eating I pumped another liter and started on that. As a group, none of us felt we were ever totally hydrated since the first day of the trip. If I wasn't hydrated now I didn't think I'd ever be. Reluctantly, I grabbed my pack and trekking poles and slowly made my way up to the others where we sat for another 15 minutes before starting off to find "the falls" and a camp site for the night. If the scenery near the lake was any indication, our site tonight would be the most scenic yet.

We began a gradual climb up the valley, following the stream that flowed from the melting of Stroud Glacier. It didn't take long to find the falls but a bit longer to find a patch of level grass large enough for our tents. There wasn't a suitable place to camp within sight of the falls, but our persistence paid off and we found a great spot just below the pool above the falls, with a view of another waterfall behind us. Sweet.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent devising various ways to keep cool. Reed found some fine shade rocks and spent quality time beneath them. Ward and I found an equally nice rock, complete with a recliner rock and cooled off before deciding that a sit down by the falls mist might do wonders. It did. Later on I climbed to the top of the falls to get a better view of the valley.

After dinner we decided to see if we could get a better look at Stroud Glacier and Lake about 500' above our camp. We were able to scramble right up and were rewarded with some terrific views of our camp far below, the Glacier and the lake. It was a great way to end the day's adventures.

True to form, Reed was the first to hit the sack while Ward and I stayed up for a little while, checking out our valley before turning in ourselves at 8:45.

By 8:51 it started to sprinkle but, thankfully, absent of wind. It would continue to rain lightly for another hour while I wrote a few pages of random thoughts in my notebook...

"My right boot is now in danger of blowing out inside the big toe. I can duct tape this easy enough."

"Ate like a pig today trying to drop pack weight for tomorrow's climb"

"There is no way Yumi could have handled this trip. This is 5 x more difficult and more than a little bit dangerous, plus the scenery is not the type she likes. Good thing we didn't do this one last year."

"This has been a fabulous trip so far even if I'm not losing my fat gut. Too much food brought along."

"I was thinking this morning how there are two loves in my life: Yumi and the kids, and the mountains. When I'm with one, I'm longing for the other. Can I ever be satisfied?"

" I really hope that in 10 years we can move to the west. Of course by then i might be a crippled old man so what would be the point? I suppose I could be content hiking/hobbling in 2-3 miles and camping out for a couple of nights before hiking/hobbling back out."

"I wonder if I can get my Therm-a-Rest inside my pack tomorrow?"


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


Copyright 1999-2012. www.dorfworld.net. All rights reserved