|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,
|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:
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?"