July 21: Mary's Lake to Tommy Lake

One of many small falls along Pole Creek.

You would think that after driving 21 hours, getting 7 hours of sleep, then hiking 7 miles uphill in the heat and all the fresh air a guy could get more than an hour of uninterrupted sleep, right? No freakin' way. I can say without reservation the night spent at Mary's lake was THE worst night of sleep I've never had in the back country. No night even comes close. I don't know what it was, but I couldn't fall asleep in the first place, and when I did , it would be for 45 minutes, 30 minutes, 50 minutes... Dammit.

No matter. The three of us woke around 6:45, fairly late as it turned out, and began our morning ritual of stretching out sore muscles and cracking our middle-aged joints. How fun it is to grow older!

First things first: I had to eat my GORP and powdered milk for breakfast resulting in an instant 1/2 pound loss of pack weight! I already had the feeling I'd packed too much food for the trip despite almost always becoming ravenous on or around day 4. This would be an 8-day trip so I wasn't going to take any chances. Still...

"Now where did I put my spoon?"

First a hat, now a spoon. What else could possibly happen? Had it last night for dinner. Maybe Ward has it by mistake---he's got one just like it. Nope. What the fuck?

We pretty much scarfed down our breakfast in record time, Ward down by the lake after he let me borrow his spoon, and were on the trail at 8:30. I had no ideas of what we'd see today, just a vague notion we'd be following Pole Creek. Hey, we were on the Pole Creek trail---it's not rocket science after all.

Within a half hour Reed again had to stop to stretch his back. Secretly, I wasn't sorry he had to stretch as he was a strong hiker and leaving me in his dust. Extra stretching breaks? No problem, take all you want. Memo to self: get your butt in shape the next time you plan on hiking the Winds.

We'd actually take quite a few breaks during the morning, time I'd spend looking for a suitable piece of wood I could carve into a usable spoon. Where the hell did that go? Did a varmint take it? Whatever, I'd get by. There was always duct tape.

Ward and Reed trying to figure out where we went wrong.

By 10:20 we reached Monument Creek and a short time later came to our first water crossing. I was ready to take a little break and found the perfect spot near a beautiful waterfall 200-300 yards away. After a quick bushwhack I was perched amongst the foamy whitewater enjoying the view, waiting for Reed and Ward to arrive.

Another hour of up and down hiking brought us to a nice wet meadow along the shores of "Lilly Pad Pond". Since it was almost noon we decided to eat our lunch here, beneath the shade of a few spruce.

As I was sitting indian style, enjoying my granola bars I noticed 1.5 inches of stitching coming undone on my left boot. Of course, why not? I had serious doubts whether the boot would make it through the next 5 or 6 days since there was no indication of stitching failure before the trip started. Climbing Knapsack Col was not something I wanted to do in a pair of Crocs. So I did what anyone would have done in a situation like this: stitched it together with duct tape and said a quick prayer, hoping the boot would hold up through the rest of the trip.

While filling my water bladder I discovered a nice surprise: My spoon! I keep my Nalgene Canteen in a light stuffsack for protection and forgot I had put the spoon inside. Finally, some good karma.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent hiking along the creek, watching the trees thin out, and my face burn. I'd been wearing my bandana which kept my scalp and neck shaded, but my face was getting roasted despite a healthy coat of sunscreen (which usually ran off my face like glacial melt due to my profuse sweating).

Lake 10175 was a sub alpine gem near the end of a long day.

At one point we hiked right past the first Pole Creek crossing but got our bearings and caught the second one. I thought I could rock hop across and nearly succeeded but for one bad step resulting in a wet boot. At least it was the good boot. Reed and Ward changed into their water shoes and got both feet wet going across. Score one for the Dorfman!

Once the two sissies changed back into their boots we began our climb towards Lester Pass. We'd been eyeballing what we thought was the pass from our lunch spot and, as it turned out, we were wrong. With the sun beating down on our tired, sore bodies, we trudged ever upward. Well, I trudged while Ward and Reed sprinted. Lake 10175 was a welcome respite and something pretty to look at besides my partner's trail dust.

We'd made the decision just after lunch that we didn't feel like hiking over Lester Pass today and would try to find a camp site at Tommy Lake. The topo made it appear there would be plenty of places to camp on the northwest shore. Basically, the topo lied.

We hiked to the north end of Tommy Lake, climbing higher with each step, looking for a suitable (read: legal) camp site. While Ward climbed down to the lake, I forged ahead (read: climbed further up the trail) looking for Nelson Lake which also looked promising on the map. I didn't see Nelson Lake but did hear Ward say there was enough room for three tents down by the lake or about 200' below my current position. Good enough for me but climbing out just to get back to the trail tomorrow would royally suck.

Tommy Lake proved to be a difficult camp site to leave.

Legal or not (not), the site was level, close to the water (read: no climbing back up to camp with a water bucket) and in the sun. Oh, and there were horseflies and mosquitos bad enough that my Madisonian pals donned their head nets shortly after setting up camp.

I think we were all pretty gassed from the day and didn't spend much time lounging about camp. Instead, we all bathed, did laundry, filtered water and waved hello to the pair from Arizona on the trail above our camp. They had indeed aborted and took the Indian Pass Trail over to Little Seneca then over Lester Pass to Tommy Lake. I knew they wouldn't make Golden Lakes. Score one more for the Dorfman!

By 7:00 Reed was faking tiredness for a little quality time with his ipod, signaling it was time for us to think about hitting the rack as well. It had been a tough day yet it seemed we hadn't really done anything. During the planning stages I had marked off several possible after-dinner side trips or higher points that might make for some good viewing...we were doing none of these, nor did we have the energy. I vowed that wouldn't happen 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


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