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A glacier-fed drinking fountain.
A glacier-fed drinking fountain.

 

As I bushwacked my way up the creek drainage, it became apparent that I needed to take my time and be careful. If I fell off a blown down tree and got critically injured, I was on my own. Another thing was maintaining my hydration level. Fortunately, I was in the Wind River Mountains. As long as I stayed along the creek, drinking was no problem, but as I was forced to venture higher up on the mountain it wasn't long until my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth. I came across the rill pictured above and drank over a liter of its clear, cold goodness. Thanks, Sawyer squeeze bottle.

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I continued upward over the increasingly rugged terrain. Breaking out of the deadfall, I scrambled upward through the scree field. For those not familiar with the term 'scree', it refers to the boulders and rocks that are shed from the mountain face over the eons. These rocks tumble down the mountainside, eventually coming to rest on other rocks that came before. Eventually, the entire lower slope can be covered with scree, forming a dangerous obstacle for hikers. Scree is known for being predictable only in its unpredictability. Even large rocks resting in scree can shift and tilt, sliding or even tumbling down the slope from under a hiker's foot, or onto their head.

There was no way to judge exactly how the rocks are going to react, so when traveling across scree I was extremely cautious. The lichen on the rocks was beautiful, creating a living mural across the entire rockslide area.

 

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I admit I was annoyed when I came across signs of human passage; cairns. On the high rock in the middle of the above picture is the first one I found. I was annoyed because I didn't want anyone else to be up where I was going. I had hoped that the gnarly approach through deadfall and across scree would keep most casual hikers at bay. Still, it was nice to know that the 'trail' I had chosen to follow was going somewhere useful.

At this point I had about three hours 'til nightfall. I needed to make it another mile or so up to the lake, and assess the terrain before I decided where to bed down for the night. I pushed onward, excited to be so close to my goal.

 

I shut my car door and swung my pack on. As I clicked the waist and chest straps closed, it hit me - I was going in, with no help, and there was a small chance I might not make it back out.

I had planned this trip for months: a solo jaunt back into the mountains chasing rumors of the fabled golden trout. Spending hours on my laptop, I had scoured relevant forums, researched the best gear, sniffed out online deals, and generally glutted myself on the euphoria of hardcore gear prep. I perused maps both old and new, digital and paper, hand-drawn and satellite imaged. I was as materially ready as I could be, and as knowledgeable about the area as other people's experience could make me. A true adventure, a trip past where I had pushed myself before. I was stoked.

As I drove back into the national forest lands towards the trailhead, I was struck by the beauty of the surroundings. The light green of the rolling sagelands splashed against the dark green canopy of the pine forest. Streams and creeks dissected the verdant scene, powered by meltwater from unseen glaciers and mountain springs.

I arrived at the trailhead parking lot and glanced at license plates as I pulled in. Georgia, Arkansas, Alaska, Kansas, Minnesota, with plenty of Wyomingites too. As I made one last check of my pack, I hoped that most of the hikers had set off down a different trail than I planned on using. I locked the doors, stowed the keys, and swung my pack on. Time to go for a walk.

The trail crunched under my hiking boots as I moved away from the trailhead towards the mountains. I carried no water, just my Sawyer filter and squeeze bottles. I knew from the maps that streams were common and slaking my thirst would be easy without the 8 pounds to a gallon of water weight on my back. Mountains lifted away from me on either side, towering into the sky. The rugged granite faces were creased with fault lines, and shadowed crevices hosted hold-out patches of snow throughout the year.

I steadily worked my way upwards, headed back into a creek drainage littered with deadfall and other nasties that slowed my forward progress. Between crawling over trees and figuring out how to cross the swift, frigid streams, I was making a good 0.5 mph.

Working on my balance.
Working on my balance.
I can't see the deadfall for the trees.
I can't see the deadfall for the trees. Not my most joyous moment.

Impressive, I know.

However, I figured that the harder the trail was, the higher probability that I would catch some big fish.

Well, that’s assuming nothing funny happened along the way, which, knowing me, would definitely happen.

 

I crossed the stream over those logs in the foreground. Then I had to cross back.
I crossed the stream over those logs in the foreground. Then I had to cross back. Good times.
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