Day 3 in The Winds found us camped among the granite giants on the west side of the Cirque of the Towers. The plan for the day was to head up to Shadow Lake and scope out Texas Pass, our original intended route. After breakfast we knew we'd have to face the river crossing from the day before. Even though we'd safely made it across once, it was still intimidating, but once again, we crossed without incident.
Once across the river we met up with the trail to Shadow Lake. It led us straight towards the peaks that had been looming over our shoulders for 3 days. The trail was a soggy carpet of flowers and grass and eventually, snow.
As we gained elevation the snow got deeper and covered more of the trail, until eventually there was no trail. We made our way in the direction we thought Shadow Lake would be and soon emerged on it's rocky shoreline. Another couple was there, having camped nearby overnight, so we gratefully posed for the only photo of us together that wasn't a selfie.
We spent our lunch break perched on the boulders you can see right behind Daniel's head in this photo, snacking on salami and taking photos that couldn't possibly capture the immense beauty of the landscape around us.
Despite the temptation to stay in that spot for hours, we knew we had to move along. We were still curious to see Texas Pass so we made our way through snow that drifted into heaps more than 6' high in places. Each mound of snow was like climbing a mini mountain - kick in a few steps to climb up, slide down the other side. Eventually we agreed that there was just too much snow to continue, and route finding was taking a lot of time that we didn't have to spare, so we headed back the way we'd come. I often glanced behind me at the cirque of snowy mountain tops, wistfully saying goodbye and hoping I'd be back to see them again someday.
Click a photo below to enlarge it.
Heading back the way we'd come we passed the lovely Marms Lake again with it's abundance of wildflowers, then headed further down the trail to Dad's Lake where we set up camp.
When backpacking in bear country it's often required that you carry a bear canister (pictured to the left). These are heavy duty plastic tubs where you store your food. Bears can stomp and chew on them but can't get into them. Daniel and I would set up camp at night then walk a few hundred yards away from our tent to cook dinner. Then we'd store the bear canister (and our cooking gear) in a rock crevice or a tree root for the night and hope it was still there in the morning.
We use what's called a gravity filtration system for gathering clean drinking water from the lakes and streams. You simply scoop up the fresh water in the sturdy plastic bag, connect it to the hose and filter, and then connect that to the dedicated clean water bag. Hang the dirty water bag in a tree (if you're lucky to have one nearby) and wait. The "dirty" water filters down through the system and soon you have a bag full of drinkable, cold mountain water.
After one last night it was sadly time to head back to the car. We hefted our packs and made our way back to the Big Sandy Trailhead parking lot, with a brief stop at the aptly named Mirror Lake.
Click through the photo gallery below to see some of Wyoming's wildflowers.
As we neared the car we came upon an inviting spot where the trail ran close by the Big Sandy River. After 4 days of sweat and bug spray a dip in the cold river
was irresistible. So much so that we didn't even mind standing there in our underwear as hikers headed up on their own journey into the Winds.
And with that, we were back at the car, concluding our adventure in Wyoming's Wind River Range. It's always bitter sweet to reach the car after several days in the wilderness. You're excited about the prospect of beer and cheeseburgers and a hot shower, but in return you leave behind a part of the natural world that had been your home. So you start planning the next adventure, and the next one, always looking to get back that joy of living among wildflowers, lakes and rivers, and mountain tops.