Friday, October 7, 2011

Trip to Wyoming

I had delusions of grandeur as to how detailed a write-up I'd give of my recent trip to Wyoming; somewhere I always knew I wouldn't do it, but I had the dream none the less.  However, I've finally come face-to-face with the idea that I would either not write it up, or write it up in a short-form version all in one post.  So that's what I'm doing.  All pictures hosted on my panoramio site, and link to the full version (you can see 18MP versions there).

Preparation and Day 1:
Not much exciting on the preparation, the big set-piece was the fact that I had wrecked my knee earlier.  I finally went to a doctor (well PA, but not the point) who informed me I had patella-tracking problems, was destroying my cartilage and needed to either go to physical therapy or it would keep getting worse and end up with very bad arthritis.  So I went to therapy but only for a week or so, not enough time to do much.  Though I did pick up a specialized knee brace which seemed to help.  The knee would end up dictating the whole trip, and I knew that going in, but I knew I could still take the trip.

The first day (August 26th, 2011) was driving from Boulder to Turpin Meadows, a little ways East of the Tetons and the start of the backpacking trip through the Thorofare that I had planned.  Not a terrible drive, and easily done in a day.  Along the way I ran into a brush fire right off the side of the road.

Brush Fire on the Way to Turpin Meadows

I hit Turpin Meadows in the early evening and in the middle of a mild rainstorm.  I set up camp, had dinner and went to sleep.  Somewhere between those things I wandered around and took a bunch of pictures.

Rainbows over the Campground at Turpin Meadows

Various Images of the Sunset from Above Turpin

Stars from the Campground

Day 2:
I got up a little before sunrise and got my stuff together (I think it was maybe 40-45 pounds, which is pretty good for 5 days), parked at the trailhead at Turpin Meadows and got started.  It was cloudy all day, which was a shame since it didn't do much for my pictures.  I walked along the South Buffalo river all the way to the base of Pendegraft Mountain.  I'm not sure what the distance was that day.  It was over 20 miles but I think less than 25, maybe about that.  I saw a couple backpacking a few miles in: they were fishing somewhere in Lower Pendegraft Meadow.

I felt good most of the day, my knee began to hurt but with the brace it was under control.  By the time I hit the ford of Lost Creek (probably 20 miles in) my knee was groaning quite a bit and I slowed a lot after that.  The ford itself was fine, it was long enough to get pretty cold but no problems at all with depth or flow.  It rained on me a few times, and as the evening came, the rain got more intense.  By the time I hit the ford of the South Buffalo right at the base of Pendegraft it was coming down pretty hard.  Fording that in the rain was a bit miserable but not too bad in and of itself.  There I had some dinner and decided to push on only a half mile or so and camp.  I passed some outfitters who refused to wave at me (what's that about?) and went to a little spot in the woods and set-up my camp.

South Buffalo Falls

Pendegraft From Right After the Ford of the South Buffalo

Day 3:
It was pretty wet when I woke-up; I put my pack back together and took off feeling a bit over saturated.  This day was full of river-crossings, all of the South Buffalo.  It began maybe a mile in: the trail is more of an outfitter trail and thus built for horses who don't care much about fording a river.  I put my wading shoes on and headed out.  I lost the trail on the other side, and based on the number of crossing coming up I decided to just walk straight up the river all the way to the Turner Fork river.  It was a few miles and was both a good and bad idea.  It was certainly easier than changing footwear at every crossing, and finding the trail each time was basically impossible.  However, the wading shoes on the riverbed gravel for that distance ended up destroying my feet.  I kept them on all the way to the last big ford over the South Buffalo and then switched to the boots.

The View Up South Buffalo, it Forks to the Right

Walking up the rest of the river (on a trail now) was a joy.  In and out of meadows with wonderful views of the surroundings.  The trail (and river) take a sharp right turn and start heading up to Cub Creek Pass.  I managed to avoid a few more fords by climbing around the side.  The pass itself was spectacular.  I went up and over it (to far to the South actually) and then back down by Boday Lake and finally up to the Buffalo Plateau.

Looking Down the South Buffalo from Cub Creek Pass

A Storm Over Boday Lake

A storm seemed to be moving in, but after a short bit of fear of climbing up to a plateau in a lightning storm, the clouds passed and the day cleared up.  My knee was began to get me again and with my now decimated feet I didn't want to go too far.  I did, however, decide to climb Crescent Mountain before camping just to the North of it.

The View North Over Crescent Mountain

There I discovered a fire had started down where I had been only the day before.  It made for a great sunset.

The Fire

The Sunset Over the Fire

Day 4:
This was a glorious day of walking North along the Buffalo Plateau.  It was steeper than I had anticipated, but had constant views in basically all directions.  Not the best pictures (not everything with spectacular views is photogenic) but a stunning walk.

Looking North Over the Divide Early in the Day

The View of a Lake and Wall Mnt. From the Divide

A Wonderful Valley on the Divide, Site of my Lunch

As I approached Marston Pass, my knee gave out.  It had been hurting but finally, as I was headed up a slope, it simply gave out.  I collapsed and had to rest for a while; and from then on, for the rest of my trip, I was effectively crippled.  I could still walk certainly, and on the flat I could walk fast as long as I was willing to deal with the pain.  Ups and downs though, I had to hobble slowly through all of it and spent a lot of time grabbing my leg and talking to myself.  Well, talking to my knee actually, which probably isn't a great sign for my mental stability.  I pretended it was because I hadn't seen anyone for a day or two and making noise was good for avoiding bears but I'm not sure that's true.

I ended up following the divide too closely, going too far to the East and stranding myself well above the pass.  There I was walking through smoke from the fire which limited the view but added a rather stunning and eerie light to the surroundings.

The View East Through the Smoke

I headed down from the divide but it was steep enough that I unstrapped my pack's waist-strap.  A few miles later I discovered my bear spray had slipped from the waist-strap and was forever lost.  I had to go the last 2.5 days without pepper spray in an area lousy with grizzlies.  I admit I was a bit worried.

I dropped down to the pass and then back up towards the South Yellowstone.  The climb up was incredibly painful.  I went a little way beyond the top of the valley (down into the South Yellowstone) and ended up stopping right on the side of the ridge.  After seeing the stars so clearly the night before, I took my camera with me and snapped a few shots of the night sky.  Miles and miles from any light source whatsoever, there was nothing to rival the view.

My Camp on the Hillside

Day 5:
It was a spectacular walk down the South Yellowstone to where the North and South joined together.  Wonderful pictures and gorgeous meadows.

Morning Reflection in a Meadow on the South Yellowstone

A Waterfall into the Valley

Sadly, on the way down, as a result of rain the previous night everything was soaked.  The water I had to walk through on the overgrown trail soaked through my clothes.  When I took off my boots for the second ford (the one over the North Fork) I actually dumped water out of my shoes.  Having my feet immersed for so long finished the destruction of my feet that had begun the second day in.  That combined with my knee made for a very painful day.  I think in total it was around 25 miles that day, maybe a bit more.

The trail closed down for much of the time walking down the Yellowstone.  Opening up occasionally for a meadow.  Finally, the canyon took a turn North and between the effects of an old fire and a meadow, the views came back.

Looking Back on the Way to Hawk's Rest

And Again, Looking Up the Yellowstone

The day ended at Hawk's Rest.  Despite the pain, and to my surprise, I made it there by 4:30 or so.  I walked by the national forest cabin there and was met by the volunteer manning it for the summer (Brad).  We ended up talking for an hour and a half.  Both a little light on human interaction as of late (though admittedly one more than the other).  A pleasant discussion on the area and other trivialities.  I ended up camping down on "Bear Box Row" I believe he called it.  A few hundred yards North on the Yellowstone there were a series of bear boxes, all empty.  I stashed my stuffed, had dinner, set up camp and went to sleep.  One day left on the backpack.

Day 6:
Some painful fords early on and the trail opened up.  My knee seemed to be doing better, and I picked up the pace.  It was a little over 25 miles out and I wanted to get out early so I could drive to a campground a ways away, call home to let them know I was all right, and be set-up before dark.

Only a few feet below the top of the last pass I had to cross, my knee really went out.  One moment to the next and it was gone.  I saw a piece of shade less than 200 feet away and it took me over six minutes to get there.  I began popping Advil, hoping if I took enough I could go on.  Waiting for 15-30 minutes I was able to get up and began limping along the trail.  When I got down to North Buffalo Meadow and the trail got flat, I was able to move a little faster.  I ended up making it out by 3:30, which was pretty good considering.  Feeling quite relieved (and realizing that I would not be able to go on anymore serious hikes this trip) I put my stuff away in my car and headed out.  I drove out towards the Tetons and called home.  Then headed back with the plan of camping in the Gros Ventres somewhere.  On the way back I saw my Father on the side of the road; he was out in the area at the same time and by some strange coincidence he was there and I was able to spot him.  We ended up camping together that night at Brooks Lake.

The Sun Setting from our Camping Site

Day 7:
My Dad took off in the morning for his own trip to the Thorofare (culminating in climbing Yount's Peak). I went back to the Gros Ventre Wilderness and drove up to Leidy Lake.  I parked there and walked up Mount Leidy.  There was a nice use trail up to the top, and the views were pretty darn good.

Coming up the Use Trail to Mt. Leidy

The View of the Tetons from the Top

Looking South From the Top, a Major Fire is Partially Visible

Upon returning, I drove a different route back.  I washed-up in a river there, and took pictures as I drove back to the highway.

Looking at the Tetons from the Road Out

The Tetons Again

I went to the Gros Ventre campground and got a spot.  I had planned on staying there anywhere, but now I was getting the spot for my parents who would show up in a few days.  After getting things situated and hanging up all my wet stuff I went over for a gander into Teton National Park itself before the night came. then out to an overlook for some pictures.

The Grand Teton at Dusk

Moon and Sunset Over the South End of the Tetons

Day 8:
This day was a drive into the Gros Ventre Wilderness via the Slide Lake entrance.  There was a rather major fire burning in the middle of it, and after a rather long drive into the park, past some good views and some fire camps I found the fire itself.

The Fire in the Gros Ventre Wilderness

After a drive out I spent the afternoon walking into Bear Paw Lake and reading there for a while.  Dinner and some pictures and it was bed time again.

Mt. Moran

Moran Again, from Further North

Best Viewed in Full Screen, Stars Over the Tetons

Day 9:
This day featured a walk around Jenny Lake in Teton NP.  Even with the knee, it was flat enough I could make it in pretty good time and it was a nice walk, with nice views and good memories.

Jenny Lake and Grand Teton

And Again the Grand

Then a drive North to Signal Mountain and the dam at Jackson Lake.  Afterwards over to Two Ocean Lake and back to the campground where I read and waited for my Father to show up, which he did, not too long after dinner.  I went out again that night for some more photos.

Stars Over the Tetons

Day 10 (Final):
I woke up early and drove down to Green River Lakes at the North end of the Wind Rivers.  Since I knew it was my last day, I did a little more serious walk.  Up above the second Green River Lake,

Squaretop Peaks Out, Taken from Between the Two Green River Lakes

Reflections in the Upper Green River Lake

Squaretop from Above the Upper Green River Lake

 around the meadow there, up to Slide Lake and down to the campground.

Looking up Clear Creek Canyon on the Way to Slide Lake

Slide Lake Itself

Squaretop on the Way Back to the Car

I waited for night to come so I could take some star photos of Squaretop there, and then head out the next day.  Sadly, as I waited, clouds moved in and moved in.  By 11:00pm the moon was about as far gone as it could be for the picture to still work.  There was complete cloud cover, obscuring my picture.  I took a picture anyway, mostly out of spite.

Squaretop at Night, There was Supposed to Be Stars

I was unhappy about the way it ended, but with that feeling and knowing it was about to rain I decided to drive home that night instead of trying to set-up camp or wait another day.  I got in the car and drove.  It was a pretty long day, I had woken up at 5am that morning and it wasn't until around 6am the next day I finally reached home.

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