Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wind River Titcomb Basin

I made it. It was quite a journey, the kind that make these trips worthwhile.

It started in Pinedale. The Elkhart Trailhead is 16 miles up a paved road from Pinedale, where I spent the night prior to the trip. This is the only paved road to a trailhead in the Winds. The others are rough gravel roads of 10-25 miles. Pinedale and Elkhart were the starting point of my first visit here in 2006. The picture below shows the Winds from a suburb of Pinedale. Quite a view for a really nice small town.

Last time, I took just a 10 mile day trip to Photographer's point and back on the Pole Creek Trail. I traced those same steps on this trip, so I got some friends I made on the trip to reprise this photo from the previous trip.

But, this time I continued on to Titcomb basin on the Seneca Lake, Highline, Indian Basin and Titcomb trails for a trip of about 31 miles, billed by my guide book as the best of the Winds. My original plan was to camp about halfway to Titcomb at Hobbs lake, making the trip in 4 days of about 7.5 miles each. However, I reached this location about 3:00pm. I was tired, but while I rested and thought about it, I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I knew the next good camping area was about 3 miles further, along the Highline Trail. I decided to push on. Little did I know that the most rugged pieces of the trail were still to come. I finally arrived, dog tired, at a beautiful site on a 10,600' knoll near the intersection of the Highline and Indian Basin trails. It was a rugged day of 10.5 miles with about 2000' of elevation change.

The net result was that I was able to complete the trip in 3 days of a little over 10 miles each day. It also meant I could hike the second day with only a partial pack. Good thing, because I don't think I could have made it with a full pack. But, best of all, the camp site was probably the most beautiful I have experienced.

From beginning to end, the trails were both difficult and beautiful. Much of the high country trails were still covered in snow. But the snow was rapidly melting, making for muddy trails and high water crossings. In places we were forced into scrambling up almost sheer cliffs to avoid areas where the trail was underwater. In others we had to make our way around downed trees. Where the trails were not snowy, muddy or water covered, they were rocky. Meanwhile, any rest or meal stops were swarmed with mosquitoes, so it was not practical to take extended rest stops, despite generous applications of deet. The result is that I arrived in camp each night dog tired, barely managing to force down some dinner and hit the sack. Not that I slept...I always have a problem sleeping on these trips and that continued. But at least my tent and sleeping bag gave me some rest and respite from the mosquitoes.

Forgive my fanciful engineering, but I calculate that between weight carried, slipping in snow and mud, rock hopping and elevation change, my efforts were equivalent to running a marathon on three consecutive days. And yet, around each corner was a spectacular view that made it all worthwhile. Here are a few more pictures from along the trail to give you a sample.

I mentioned the campsite. My guidebook had indicated that there were good campsites where I camped, but I was so tired by the end of the first day that I was ready to accept anything. Suddenly I look up a knoll and see what looks like a beautiful spot. Sure enough, after climbing the knoll, it was perfect. I had a least 2 parties along the way remark about seeing my tent on the knoll and what a great site it was. Here are a few pictures taken from the campsite.
And finally, I arrived at the coup de grace, Titcomb basin. This is an area of 12 glacial lakes completely surrounded by 13,000' mountains. They fail to do it justice, but here are pictures looking in all directions from inside the basin.

Wildlife? Not so much. I failed to see signs of bear, deer or elk, though we are assured they are there. About the best I could do was this marmot, whom I saw both out and back in nearly the same spot before he spied me and ran for cover.

I've had people ask me if I'm worried about hiking solo. While most hikers do travel in groups, it feels perfectly safe to hike solo. Everyone is extremely nice and friendly, and there is enough traffic along the way in case of emergencies. I probably passed an average of 5 groups per day. I even met one female hiking solo.

All in all, a great trip. But, it took so much out of me, I've decided to head back to Texas tomorrow for a more docile life of grilling steaks over a mesquite fire followed by a real bed on my farm in Temple, and maybe an occasional visit to the big city for some football.

Ah, life is good.

1 comment:

Amanda W said...

Your pictures are gorgeous! I'm jealous (although not of the mosquitos)