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Jackson to Flagg Ranch – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Jackson to Flagg Ranch Hike Overview

jackson to falgg ranch, teton crest trail hike on the continental divide trail 2018

After walking 2 miles into Jackson, resupplying and walking across the valley to Wilson in one day, we entered the Jedediah Smith Wilderness and Grand Teton National Park. We hiked our own version of the Teton Crest Trail winds in and out of both of these land administrations.  The Tetons are pretty damn grand to say the least! North of Lake Solitude, we took a steep cross country route out of the basin and over to the west side of the divide. Lots of wildflowers, delicious berries to eat, and bushwhacking!

Thursday August 16th – CDT Day 118

Started hiking at 7. It was less than 2 miles to the trailhead. From there, we walked into Jackson.

When we reached the downtown area, the search for a breakfast restaurant was on. We landed at The Bunnery. Good food, but pricey.

Everything in Jackson is expensive and the people are yuppity. Lots of tourists and tons of traffic. Jackson was not my favorite town stop. Fortunately, we were just getting what we need and walking out later.

We hit up an outfitter, the ranger station and a couple stores. Then we headed over to the rec center to take a shower. They had a pool, hot tub and sauna, so we spent about an hour here taking advantage of the amenities.

Lunch at DQ, then headed to the other side of town. Here, we hit the library for a few hours. Hopeful and I spent some time researching the big sky alternate. Feeling the crunch for time, in terms of reaching Canada by Oct 1st, it was a good idea to have this as a backup.

I called Patagonia to arrange for a new capiline lightweight baselayer shirt to be sent father up trail. Mine has a forearm sized hole in the back.

We then went to the grocery store for food and picked up dinner. Katie found a ride to Wilson, so hopeful and I will do the road walk and meet her there. This will set us up well for entry into the Tetons tomorrow.

I didn’t find Jackson to be very scenic. However, the views were much nicer heading west out of town. The road had a bike path next to it that we followed much of the way. We didn’t leave Jackson till after 8, so it was going to be a bit of a night hike.

There was road construction on hwy 22, next to the bike path. Lots of traffic backed up and honking horns. Kinda hard to deal with after spending so much time in the wilderness.

Katie texted us and said we could camp in the backyard of the guy who gave her a lift. She gave us an address and we headed that way.

We took what liked like a short cut, and it dead ended at a gate with a keypad. No private property signs though. We could walk around the gate. As we were contemplating what to, in the darkness, a truck came flying the corner from the opposite side of the gate. Illuminated by the headlights, all I could do was wave and see who they where and their intentions.

As it turns out, the 5 guys in the truck were trying to take a short cut themselves and avoid some of that traffic. They had just spent last week in the wind river range themselves. When we said we had been walking since April, they have us each a cold beer.

Moments later, another truck pulled up behind the first truck. This was the landowner, and she asked what we were doing. Truck guys said looking for a short cut to pass through, the woman said OK and opened the gate. We said the same thing and she wouldn’t let us walk through. We were only about .3 miles from fish creek road, half mile total from our destination. I mentioned it would be an hour or more detour for us, but she didn’t care. That really sucks!

It was 10:30pm now and we started the long walk around. Back to the road construction, then another pitch dark bike track and country roads with no street lights. I had a terrible headache, and was finding the walk difficult near the end.

We finally reached the house Katie was camping at sometime after 11:30pm. The house backed up to a river, and were told to camp there near it. Fine. I know there’ll be condensation in the morning, but I’m so tired I don’t care. Cowboy camped under the stars. Fell asleep around 12:30am.

Miles – 18
Total Miles – 1939
Rain – no
Sleep – backyard, tent
Animals – deer

Friday August 17th – CDT Day 119

Sure enough, everything was wet this morning. Got up at 7 since hopeful and Katie were already awake. Packed up and went to a bagel shop down the road for 2nd breakfast. Already ate leftover chicken strips and croissants earlier.

Stated hiking hwy 22 up to Phillips trailhead sometime around 9:30. It was already hot out. The road walk kinda sucked with all the traffic and vehicles that don’t get over a little when they pass by. Some came awfully close.

Lots of cars at the trailhead. The people faded out when the trail split off for ski lake. The views also began to open up.

Lots of wildflowers high towards the pass. Good view at the top. Now we enter the jedidiah Smith wilderness and begin the teton crest trail.

The farther we hiked, the better the views became. The trail winds into a new valley. On the other side, rock formations that look like they’re part of a castle. Beautiful.

On the next pass, we entered grand teton National park. The trail winds back and fourth between the national park and wilderness throughout the teton crest trail.

The trail passes by Marion Lake, a really nice spot. The kind of place you only dream of camping on the CDT. But as always, there’s more miles to cover before I can feel good about the day’s progress. 

Great views continue. Good trail, helps to keep a good pace. There was a lot of climbing today and with heavy packs, it was tiring. I listened to some music today for the first time in a while. This helped keep me going.

A few more scenic miles and we were approaching the final pass leading up to death shelf. I’ve seen some great pictures from this area and so I was looking forward to it.

Death shelf did not disappoint. However, it was overcast and it killed the sunlight, so it was not as photogenic at I hoped for. There’s always tomorrow.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1960
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot

Saturday August 18th – CDT Day 120

Nice hike this morning coming out of death shelf.

The Tetons have been looming on the horizon for many miles now, growing bigger with every step. Amazing views in an otherworldly landscape!

Alaska basin was nice. Mainly, the northern section. Tons of wildflowers.

Grand Tetons and Schoolroom Glacier

At the top of hurricane pass was our first unobstructed view of the three tetons; grand, middle and south. Incredible! Oh and fun fact, tetons is French for “tits”. French fur trappers who discovered the area named it as such because the pointy peaks reminded them of boobs. Grand Tetons literally means “big tits”.

Below hurricane pass lies schoolroom glacier. It has a large moraine that was now acting as a berm to hold back a small lake. Icebergs in the lake, beautiful water.

The upper cascade creek area was just incredible. On par with the wind river range. Our pace reflected this too.

Rain clouds building on and off. Hiked down to the junction with solitude lake, and took this trail uphill. Saw a Moose on the way up.

Lake Solitude and The Grand Tetons

Awesome views from Lake Solitude. Tons of people here too. Pretty ironic name if you ask me.

Now it’s time to climb out of the basin. Around the lake and up hill. Some steep rock climbing with limited holds involved.

Now up on the highest shelf, we could see no easy way to the top anywhere. The skies were also pitch dark and looked like rain at any moment. We made the call to head back down to the lake.

May try another way out of the basin tomorrow or head up paintbrush ridge in order to drop down to mink lake to try another way over the crest.

Miles – 20
Total Miles – 1980
Rain – yes, light
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot, moose

Sunday August 19th – CDT Day 121

Started hiking at 6:30am. I spotted another potential exit from the lake solitude basin. It was a grassy chute that looked increasingly more appealing the closer we got. It was steep, but not as bad as last night’s failed route.

Made it to the top of the chute. It was hazy today due to forest fire smoke, coming from who knows where. Nothing close by to my knowledge. Grand Teton was a prominent feature looking through the haze. Really incredible views from here.

After the chute, we walked over some talus fields and pools of melt water on relatively flat ground. Not what you think of when you imagine mountain ridgelines. More impressive views on the other side of lake solitude.

Next we followed a ridge over to Littles peak. It was a bit of a knife edge for a hundred yards or so. Pretty cool! 

We traversed around Littles peak instead of going up and over. This was mostly a great choice, avoiding elevation gain and boulders. First half was grassy and somewhat flat. Then it became steeper and took some work to find a way down.

Lunch break by a steam, then moved on. Nice walking for a while. Passed some scenic little lakes which reminded me of a scene in the Sierras for a bit. 

The trail then goes up and down for a while. Nice little basins and ridges.

We took a break at a stream above bitch creek. Yep, bitch creek, that’s the name. Descended to the creek then ascended dead horse pass. Something like 1800′ in 1.1 miles. No wonder why they call it dead horse pass… The horse is dead by the time it reaches the top. Just like I felt. Great view and break spot at the top though.

We made quick work of the descent. Covered good ground through the valley and took another break before the ascent to camp lake.

The first part of the climb to camp lake was the steepest. Pretty steep for about a mile. The terrain flattens out some before the lake but I was already whooped at this point. Hopeful and Katie were ahead waiting for me at the lake. It was 7:30pm now, and we decided to stop here for the night.

I went to bed around 8:15 tonight since I was so tired. Katie and Hopeful stayed up and had a campfire. Today involved a ton of climbing, at least 5-6k feet.

Miles – 19
Total Miles – 1999
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Monday August 20th – CDT Day 122

Left camp lake at 8am. We’re hoping to make it to flagg ranch today, or at least very close.

We followed good trail up to a junction for nord pass. From here we needed to take a trail that was on the map but didn’t seem to exist on the ground. More bushwhacking, Yay!

We eventually picked up a faint trail that looked like it hadn’t been used or maintained in many years. Made it to the pass that will drop us down into Webb canyon and enjoyed a hazy view. I hit my 2000 mile mark here which was a nice milestone.

The route down was off trail but an easy grassy slope. We hit trail and followed it down to Moose creek. However, this is where the trail ended.

We crossed moose creek over some downed trees, the last time we’d keep our feet dry. From here on out, it was a nasty bushwhack. Steep slopes, thorn bushes, downed trees and tall vegetation hiding holes, rocks and sharp downfall. This forced is into the river a few times, just walking downstream. The water was cold though, and progress was limited to how long you could stand the pain. This was one of the most difficult sections of bushwhacking I’d face along the entire CDT.

After a couple miles of the above, we hit a poorly maintained trail that faded in and out for a mile or two. More bushwhacking, but not as nasty. After passing through a meadow, the trail seemed to be maintained like normal. Great, because we still have a lot of ground to cover now.

Took a break and was surprised to see 4 hikers coming up the trail. They were seasonal NPS workers heading up to a cabin for a week. Here, they’ll be on the lookout for big horn sheep and mountain goats, studying their numbers and location, etc. We told them, “good luck” with the trail above the meadow. We figure, once they see how shitty it is, maybe they’ll put in a work request for trail maintenance there. But if it goes by how much traffic the area gets, forget it, it’s never getting done.

The next section had some nice waterfalls, lined with vibrant wildflowers. Also, lots of blueberries and raspberries growing along the trail. We stopped to pick some along the way. Delicious!

As we entered a burn area mid afternoon, it started raining. It rained for an hour or so, but we hiked through it. We could now see Jackson lake in the distance.

As we neared the lake, the weather cleared. We reached the berry creek ranger station around 4:30pm and took a break. From here it was 8 miles to grassy lake Rd, then a couple miles of road walking to flagg ranch.

After our break, we decided to go for flagg ranch. It was now sunny and we were in good spirits. The trail was not the most scenic which helped us cover good ground without many stops for pictures.

We reached grassy lake Rd a little before sundown. We walked into the darkness and made it to the ranch around 9:45pm. We checked in and got a tent site. The general store was still open so I bought a couple of hot pockets to stave off the hunger. On a side note, every time I would blow a snot rocket on trail, I get the Hot Pockets jingle stuck in my head, but using the words “Snot Rockets” instead. That’s not gonna leave ya now is it?

After setting up camp in the dark I took a nice hot shower. Almost as good as a hot tub. Looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 2027
Rain – yes
Sleep – campground, tent
Animals – deer,

Tuesday August 21st – CDT Day 123 (zero day)

Slept in til 9am. Headed over to the lodge and had the breakfast buffet. It was a bit subpar but nevertheless, I filled up. I then picked up my boxes from the front desk… Food from dad and a new pair of shoes from REI.

Today was spent organizing food and planning out the next town stops and route for Montana. Did laundry as well.

Ate dinner at the lodge. One of the best burgers I’ve had on trail. We then had a fire in camp and drank some whiskey.

Tomorrow we head into Yellowstone.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 2027
Rain – no
Sleep – campground, tent
Animals – none

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Dubois to Jackson – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Dubois to Jackson Hike Overview

dubois to jackson, gros venture wilderness hike on the continental divide trail 2018

Leaving Dubois, we had another 2.5 days of hiking to cross the northern Wind River Range. This proved to be much more difficult than anticipated, exceeding our time estimates. Road walked from Green River Lakes west to the Gros Ventre Wilderness. The Gros Ventre sees few hikers, and has few established trails as a result. Off trail adventures continued here on fields of snow and boulders, and involved some sketchy moments scrambling down steep rock faces. Once again we found ourselves low on food and hungry, only this time with a different outcome. This section was full of adventure and very scenic, among my favorites of the whole trip. 

Friday August 10th – CDT Day 112

Woke at 7. Went to breakfast then finished packing. Liz, the owner of the motel, gave us a ride to glacier trailhead where we left off. Katie didn’t want to do a section of road walking that Hopeful and I were doing, so she had Liz drop her off about 6 miles back down the road we came in on, and we’ll meet Katie there.

The road walk was, well, a road walk. Not much to say about it other than easy walking for once.

Katie was hanging out at this wildlife viewing pavilion thing in the shade. We joined her for a while, happy to get out of the heat.

Resumed hiking around 12:45. After a short road walk, we jumped on a trail that took us over a ridge. On the other side was a scenic little valley with a ranch.

The trail took us right into the ranch. Not sure exactly where the trail continues through the ranch, we stopped at the office to ask. We were on private property, but the owners gave us permission to pass through. They also gave us ice water, cookies and a loaf of coffee cake!

The valley beyond the ranch was nice. Eventually we left the ranch and entered public land, although this boundary was not marked.

Crossed a river and then took a break. After this, the trail was thick and had lots of blow downs. Also lots of boulders and a little scrambling. Tough section. We lost the trail many times.

Came to another stream crossing. The stream had a steep cut bank that was sketchy getting down. I slipped and cut my hand. Used super glue to close the wound.

Continued uphill on an increasingly better trail. Found some raspberry bushes with some tasty berries. Reached a flat spot that had good camping near a stream, and decided to stop to make camp. We packed out two beers that we put in the stream to get cold for later.

Made a small fire, my first on trail, and enjoyed our one beer with dinner.

Miles – 15
Total Miles – 1816
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday August 11th – CDT Day 113

Woke at 6. Lots of stars last night.

The trail climbs uphill immediately after leaving camp. Went over a ridge then dropped down to a small lake. Kept going and made it to Simpson lake a short while after. Took a break at Simpson.

Followed Simpson lake’s Inlet Stream uphill. It was beautiful here with snow capped peaks, blue lakes and green grass. Stopped at pinto lake for a swim.

Next the trail goes uphill to a pass. It’s scenic and mostly gradual, but had a few steep spots. Good views on the other side of the Divide, so we stopped at the top of the pass to eat a snack.

Excellent views coming down the pass. Found our route down despite the steep grade.

Reached a cliff that forced us to hike around. The new route required some down climbing with a little exposure. This took us a while to find a doable route down, and the doing was slow and sketchy.

Down at roaring fork river, we needed to cross. The bank was very steep and loose, but we traversed it to a point where a safe river crossing was possible. This, and the cliff above, took about 3 hours!

The river Bank was thick, thorny and rocky for a ways. We ended up crossing again. Picked up a small trail and followed it downhill.

More obstacles… Boulder fields and thick vegetation. Came across 3 guys camping along the river, wasn’t expecting this here. Very little traffic in this area. They pointed us to a trail a hundred yards away. Back on track.

Walked another few miles before finding camp along the river at a bridge.

Miles – 20
Total Miles – 1836
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Sunday August 12th – CDT Day 114

Last night, We agreed to sleep in to 7am is morning. The extra hour of sleep felt great.

Crossed the meadow with roaring fork running through it. Hiked trail on the other side of the river for a while, before it faded out.

Crossed roaring fork River again, it was cold! Took a short break after.

Trail goes over a ridge and into the valley containing green river lakes. Squaretop mountain can been seen in the distance. Beautiful.

Hiked down to the green river. It was wide but shallow enough to cross. It was a few inches above the knee on me. Fun fact: This is the Colorado river’s largest tributary.

Now it was a long road walk. Katie immediately began planning to hitch down the road to avoid it. We stopped under an awning to figure out the logistics of where to meet up later, etc.

Katie very quickly secured a ride with a guy parked on the side of the road. Hopeful and I continued on our road walk. I guessed 10-12 miles.

The Green River

The scenery was pretty nice overall. The Green river winds along the road for most of the way.

We saw Katie sitting under a tree along the road a few miles before the bridge. After a few minutes of sitting together, a couple atvs pulled up. Really nice people… Gave us cold beers, drinks and were just nice to talk to. Wyoming locals, they’ve been pretty friendly thus far. Then Katie hitched with them to the bridge while Hopeful and I walked. Continuous footsteps to Canada, that’s what it’s all about for Hopeful and I.

A few more miles and we reached the bridge. Took a food break here then moved on.

The three of us were now hiking together again. We’re now following a dirt road towards the Gros Ventre Wilderness. Nice walking.

Hiked a few more hours this evening. Nice calming and relaxing landscape. Rolling hills, sage brush and the sun low in the sky.

Found camp on a small hill along the trail at 8:30pm.

Miles – 25
Total Miles – 1861
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – elk, pronghorn

Monday August 13th – CDT Day 115

Hit the trail at 7am. Meadows and forest as we descended to the creek below. Passed an old mining operation.

Crossed the creek and took a break. Hopeful saw an animal that looked like a cat, and was about the same size. Probably bobcat.

Entered the Gros ventre wilderness. So far, we had trail. Passed an old wagon. Saw bear shit and tracks.

The trail disappeared as we headed up hill to the pass. It was a pain in the ass due to the thick brush, catching each step.

Passed a couple of nice lakes. Looks like very little use here.

The route up the next pass was littered with large pits under he rock towards the bottom. The hole in the ground would look small, but underneath would be a larger than expected pit. Interesting. Gonna have to watch my footing here. 

On the top of the pass, it was a nice but daunting view. Lots and lots of boulders, very barren looking. Found a route down though steep and loose rock. Very sharp too. Climbed many ridges up and down to cross the main valley, and started up hill to a small saddle.

The saddle provided a view of snow and boulders. More hard work ahead.

Now to skirt the mountainside. Steep boulders, and sharp. Truly horrible. However, we did find some really cool rocks. Geode like rocks with crystals. Lots of yellow in the rock. Bagged a few to take with me.

Crossed a couple of snow fields. Micro spikes would have been nice but didn’t feel too bad without. We sent these home in Dubois after the Winds. Hopeful slipped a slid a little. A couple times actually.

Took a break after the snow fields. Lots of huge slabs of razor sharp rock to walk on now.

We headed up to the top of the ridge where we’ll cross and get down into the next valley. Only problem is, it’s all sheer cliffs. Beautiful scenery though!

 

 

Walked to the last saddle on the ridge. At first, it looked like no way down. Then I spotted a steep, but doable, chute to down-climb. Looked to be about a 60ft climb.

Hopefull went first and scouted the route. Katie followed, then myself. The climbing wasn’t as bad as it looked. However, we were now faced with a steep and loose scree field. We slid on our butts and somehow avoided cutting up our hands too badly.

Made camp right below the crazy wall we just descended. It was 8:45pm now and almost dark. Beautiful spot though.

Miles – 19
Total Miles – 1880
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Tuesday August 14th – CDT Day 116

Last night’s nightmare wall was this morning’s scenic view. Just awesome.

Hiked up a small pass above camp. Now we could see the long ridge we needed to walk around. Looks like lots of ups and downs on Boulder fields.

We took a lower route to Steamboat peak, which we’ll hike around. 

Made it around Steamboat peak and was rewarded with an actual trail to follow. Hiked down to a small pond on a shelf. Lots of wildflowers and a great reflection.

Below the pond we came across shoal lake. Another beautiful lake. The outlet was lined with colorful wildflowers as well.

 

 

This whole drainage is just incredible. No wonder it was its own wilderness… The shoal creek wilderness study area. Great trail and awesome views.

The trail drops downhill and through an old burn area. It then crosses the creek and goes uphill again, over the opposite ridge.

The next section of trail is less scenic. Lots of woods and low brushy, weedy plants. Then a burn area. Super.

Finally, we reached the trailhead and a road. Now it was decision time. We had very little food, basically enough for the rest of the day. Jackson was still about 30 miles away, so another day of food was paramount. We didn’t want a repeat of the winds, hiking a full and difficult day on a handful of m&ms.

We walked into a nearby ranch place, which ended up being a school of some sort. There was a guy riding around on a mule, and we informed him of our food predicament. He told us to sit tight and returned with 3 bags full of food. Ham and swiss sandwiches, nuts, apple, cheese, granola and dried fruit. Perfect! This was a real help.

Still, we could use a little more food. We’re hungry thru hikers after all. We then proceeded to chat with an older woman named Jean camped by the river in a huge rv. She offered to drive us to to the granite hot springs about 2 miles up the road to check what concessions they have.

The hot springs had chips, soda, granola bars and some candy. We picked up a few items and headed back. In the parking lot, couple from Texas gave us some granola bars, cold waters and 2 beers. Jean was then nice enough to give us a huge bag of chips, 6 cokes, and some canned foods back at her rv.

Feeling good about our food supply, we headed out. We decided to hike the granite creek trail instead of the granite highline trail, since it looked like It would have a better trail and was more gradual with its elevation gain. We stopped to eat dinner in the granite campground, eating the heavy and most garbage producing foods first.

Hiked up stream along the granite creek trail about 2 miles past the hot springs and found a nice campsite.

Miles – 19
Total Miles – 1899
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Wednesday August 15th – CDT Day 117

Hiking at 7. Great trail, allowed us to cover good ground. Steep sided mountains and cliffs line the canyon.

Morning was very pleasant but uneventful. Just knocking out miles through beautiful country on a legit trail for once.

Made it to the top of the pass going over to cache creek around noon thirty. Lunchtime. With cokes!

The other side of the pass was beautiful too. Great hiking and very enjoyable afternoon.

Down at the bottom of the valley we hit the cache creek trail. 9 miles to Jackson according to the sign.

Good hiking but nowhere to camp along cache creek. Hiked to about a mile before the trailhead, where we found a decent spot. It was only 6pm, early for thru hikers.

I used the extra time to wash up in the creek, gather sticks for and build a fire, and catch up on some journaling. Clearly I didn’t feel like writing much today. Great evening by the fire. 

Tomorrow, we Jackson!

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 1921
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

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Lander to Dubois – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Lander to Dubois Hike Overview

lander to dubois, wind river range high route hike on the continental divide trail 2018

The first 30 or so miles are a lead up from the lowlands of the great divide basin desert into the high country of the Wind River Range. The next 120 miles were the most challenging, beautiful and amazing outdoor experience of my life. I had more adventure in these 10 days then the rest of the entire CDT combined. Jagged peaks, frozen lakes, glaciers, crevasses, abundant wildflowers, miles of boulders and snowfields, mountain lions, big horn sheep, steep snow traverses, scrambling and climbing, milky glacier fed rivers, and almost NOBODY to share it with. Additionally, the majority of this route is off-trail. In my opinion, the Wind River Range offers the best high alpine backpacking experience in the continental US. 

In the southern Winds, we left the official CDT and began the 450+ mile alternate route I created. My route, now affectionately known as the “Famous Route”, takes a much higher route through the Winds and into Dubois, then back through the Winds and cross country through the Gros Ventre Wilderness and into Jackson. Next, we’ll hike west across Jackson Hole and hike the Teton Crest Trail north into Flagg Ranch. Finally, we’ll enter Yellowstone through the South Entrance and hike the Bechler area to Old Faithful where we’ll reconnect with the official CDT route. 

Sunday July 29th – CDT Day 100

Slept to about 8am. Spent the morning getting food and gear together, and didn’t leave until after 11am.

Hopeful, Katie and I hiked down the main strip in Lander to hitch. We got a ride after 20 minutes from a guy named Eli. He dropped us off right where I had left off yesterday morning. Another guy was there at this gate on his way out, having just dropped off a couple of CDT hikers himself. Tim Green from South pass city. Nice guy.

We set off into the wind river range around 1pm today. It was a great feeling to finally be here again but I wasn’t feeling the best. Still worn out from the basin, and the egg casserole I had for breakfast wasn’t agreeing with me.

Today’s hike was an easy one on dirt roads and some trail. Little elevation gain. The landscape is now hills and forest, with Rocky outcroppings dotting the meadows. Looking back to the south, the basin is still clearly visible. Easily identifiable by the lack of trees.

Late this afternoon we bumped into Alex and Ariel, two CDT hikers from Missouri. We took a break together and chatted for a bit. They mentioned a campsite a little ways up and we decided to go for that tonight.

The 5 of us set off for the evening’s hike. Pretty country with mountains in the distance beyond the meadows.

The campsite was decent. Near a river and flat. Wind died down at sunset and it was a good night.

Miles – 14
Total Miles – 1664
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Monday July 30th – CDT Day 101

Got up at 6:45. Still wishing I could sleep more to recover from the basin.

Started hiking at 7:45. The views kept getting better as the Morning progressed. Passed a couple of nice streams and rivers.

Now we have a 2000′ climb ahead of us. The grade was decent so it wasn’t bad at first.

At the top of the climb, there was a great view of little Sandy lake.

Stopped for lunch along little Sandy creek. This is also where the cirque of the towers alternate begins.

After lunch we started hiking the alternate. Mostly through forest. Some steep sections of trail, mostly short though.

Unnamed lake

We stopped at this unnamed lake this afternoon because it was so damn impressive. Favorite lake on trail so far. Jagged peaks make a great backdrop. Katie and hopeful went for a swim while I relaxed along the shoreline.

The trail was hard to follow after this. We thought it stayed high on a hillside above a valley, but eventually we saw a trail below. A short scramble had us down on flat and open ground, much easier walking.

This area, along little Sandy creek, was absolutely incredible. We were all in awe and took our time stumbling through here staring at the canyon walls. This is only the beginning of the treasures that lie ahead in the winds. I know this, but Katie and Hopeful are oblivious.

We ran into a NOLS group this evening, a fairly common sight here in the winds. We pressed on another mile or so to treeline and found a couple of campsites with a great view.

Tomorrow will be a tough day with 3 passes, and cirque of the towers.

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1685
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Tuesday July 31st – CDT Day 102

Started hiking around 8am. Up to the top of a pass, which leads to temple lake. Just below the base of the pass was a beautiful lake, again with no name on my maps. The mountains surrounding the lake were very impressive as well.

Great views going up the pass. Knots was hiking up the pass at the same time, and didn’t stop at the up. We never saw him again today.

Going down the pass towards temple lake was incredible! Temple peak was a massive sheer rock face, which towers over the lake and valley below. We were all in awe.

First bit of hiking around the upper lake was slow. Boulders, snow pack, ups and downs over an occasional use trail. Stunning scenery though!

The trail improved as we headed downhill. Now the cirque of the towers could be seen ahead, especially Pingora. Very enjoyable section.

Big Sandy lake was much nicer this time. When I was here in 2014 on my wind river high route, there was a storm and I couldn’t fully appreciate the area. Lots of people around here too. Big Sandy trailhead is only a few miles away, which is probably the busiest trailhead in the winds.

The trail going up to Jackass pass starts out steep. At least I found the trail… In 2014, I Bushwhacked down the creek since I could not find a path to follow. It was rough!

Again, amazing views hiking up to Jackass pass. Lots of wildflowers and pointy mountains everywhere. Fairytale land, really.

Even though we found the trail from big Sandy lake going up, it eventually turns into a scramble up boulders. It was the heat of the day and really wearing us out.

There’s a legit trail every now and then, but often it was just a matter of hiking uphill. Below the top of Jackass pass were some of the best views of the cirque of the towers area in my opinion. These mountains just blow Colorado away. Unimaginable beauty. The kind of place you imagine in some exotic country.

We stopped for a much needed break at the top of Jackass pass. We sat here for a while looking down at lonesome lake and the whole cirque. Great spot.

Easy hike down to lonesome lake. Took another break here for water and to cook dinner.

 

Next we headed up Texas pass. It was really steep for the first 500ft, a little better in the middle section. More awesome views, but getting cloudy. Looks like potential rain. In 2014, low clouds engulfed all the peaks in the cirque of the towers, so it was really nice to be able to see this place in its entirety. However, we needed to get over this pass in case the weather turns.

Near the top of the pass was a long chute of snow. Same as 2014, and I was here in late August then. Not too bad going up.

Made great time to the top, and it was much easier than anticipated. Jackass pass was much harder. This was the third pass we Climbed today.

More awesome views looking down on Texas lake in the new valley. However, it was really steep going down. There was a path weaving through a Boulder field, but it consisted of fine dirt and pebbles. This made slipping a frequent hazard. We all slipped and fell a few times. Pretty treacherous.

It started sprinkling just before we reached the bottom of the Boulder field. Put on rain gear and continued. The rocks were really slippery now.

The rain quickly subsided as we traversed Texas lake. Stopped here for a break so I could address my rumbling stomach.

The next lake in the chain was Barren Lake. Another beautiful spot. Great views in both directions.

Billy’s lake was next. This lake had a sandy beach which just added to its beauty. 

The sun was setting and creating a pink hue to round out the back drop. Gorgeous. We hiked down to an area just north of shadow lake. We saw a Llama grazing in the field, which was odd. It had a saddle and was probably part of a pack Llama team, but no other Llamas or people could be seen in the area. We ended up camping here in the area though.

What a great day. Easily the most scenic day on the CDT for me, and I believe Hopeful and Katie agree. They were in awe of the winds, and I’m really glad to see how much they’re enjoying it. We only hiked 16 miles though, humbling as a CDT hiker.

Time for bed, gotta recharge for another tough day ahead.

Miles – 16
Total Miles – 1701
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot, Llama, deer

Wednesday August 1st – CDT Day 103

Hiking by 7:45am. Lots of mosquitoes this morning.

A few river Crossings this morning, but able to hop rocks and keep the feet dry. Nice views looking at the back side of the cirque behind us.

Reached the trail junction where the cirque of the towers CDT alternate splits off from our route. Hiked past skull lake, mays lake and then pyramid lakes. Mays and pyramid were beautiful!

The trail ends on the map at pyramid lake. From here it’s cross country hiking for a while. There was a decent use trail in spots but most of the time you just find your own way. There was a very scenic unnamed pond above pyramid lake as well.

We crested the top of the saddle above the east fork River. This was just as impressive as I remembered it. A long wall of imposing peaks. Very cool.

Now we climb up raid peak pass. Snow patches and Boulder fields make up the route, but it wasn’t too difficult or steep. Time consuming on the boulders though.

After a quick break on the top of the pass, we moved on. It looked like rain clouds building so we hurried over to the saddle where we drop down to Bonneville lake.

The route down to Bonneville lake looked a bit scary from the top, but looked doable once we approached it. It was steep and had some butt sliding going on, but we made it down to the Crux. Hopeful went down first, and as Katie headed down she kicked loose a tennis ball sized rock. We yelled “rock!!” down to hopeful who thankfully knew what to do… Tuck into the mountain and cover your head. The rock hit the back of his calf but he was ok. Whew! This was a tense moment. I dislodged a larger rock that just missed Katie later on. Dangerous decent to say the least.

We took a break above Bonneville lake and monitored the rain clouds. The view was incredible! Some of our favorites so far.

The hike around Bonneville lake wasn’t too hard and was beautiful. We really enjoyed this part and took our time. Hopeful and I tried glissading down a slope that ended up being too flat to go the whole way down. Still fun.

Next we hiked the pass leading from Bonneville lake to Lee lake. Bonneville pass? Not sure of the name. Great views going up.

At the top of the pass was some of the most beautiful mountains I’d ever seen. As I crested the top of the pass, covered in snow, towering peaks became larger. The sun shined just behind. This was a magical moment that words or even pictures can’t describe. 

Hopeful and I had another shot at glissading with all the snow on the pass. This time we picked up a little speed, and it was quite fun. Safe runoff so no worries.

We headed over to a ridge to check out a potential campsite. Instead of traversing a steep snow field, we chose to glissade down then walk up. Great choice, fun had by all.

Although we decided not to camp here, the views from this ridge were insane. Below the towering Pronghorn Peak lies Donna lake, which was still partially frozen. Huge chunks of ice were floating in the lake. Just so cool! Where the hell am I, Patagonia??

We headed down the ridge to look for camp. Some of the best views so far of the winds, and thus, the entire CDT.

We found camp around 8:45pm. Got all our camp chores done just in time for a thunderstorm to roll in at bedtime. Heavy rain and lots of lightning. Haven’t had one in a while, and at least I’m in bed now.

Miles – 16
Total Miles – 1717
Rain – yes, heavy thunderstorms after 10pm
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – marmot, pica

Thursday August 2nd – CDT Day 104

After retreating to my tent last night, the rain started. Lots of thunder, lightning and heavy downpours. This persisted for a while, maybe two hours.

I was slow to get up this morning with everything wet. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. Storm clouds were building this morning as well, but they quickly dissipated after we started hiking. Hit the trail after 8am.

It was a soggy hike around middle fork lake but a beautiful one. Our feet got wet crossing a river without ample rocks to hop, and our clothes were wet from the willows. The route around the lake basically goes through a cascading waterfall. Lots of wildflowers, putting our FPH numbers off the charts… Since we were covering so few miles, we decided to rate our progress in flowers per hour instead of miles per hour.

Next was some off trail hiking. Over a small saddle, into a scenic little valley and up another hill. Ran into mold and mildew, who joined us for a while. This would have been a pretty confusing area to hike without a GPS, as the land features were small and not so prominent.

The halls lake area was beautiful. It seemed much more impressive than my 2014 visit. The weather was a little better than last time and I am going in the opposite direction, which gives a whole different perspective. Stopped along the lake for lunch with mold and mildew.

After halls lake we were basically off trail. Awesome views, great hiking.

Europe canyon was cool. Steep decent. Lots of wildflowers around the lake. Lots of boulders too.

Next we climbed a small pass to long lake. Really spectacular views here.

Took a break around Long lake. Progress is slow when things are so beautiful. Also, the terrain is really tough. It was wearing us out. Up here, the ground is seldom flat and grassy, but usually super rocky or piles of boulders.

Past long lake, the clouds started to darken. They were the most menacing looking clouds I’d seen in awhile. Rain looked inevitable. Katie and hopeful had their tents set up before I could find a spot, so when the rain started I jumped into hopefuls tent to wait it out.

Waited for about an hour before the storm let up. I then found a spot of my own and watched a beautiful sunset over glacier lake.

Miles – 13
Total Miles – 1730
Rain – yes, heavy thunderstorms 7pm
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Friday August 3rd – CDT Day 105

Woke up at 6, hiking by 7. Everything around glacier lake was wet, not only from last nights rain but it was soggy and swamp like. Just like I remembered from 2014.

Hiked up to Hay pass. Everything here, and all along this route, seems more impressive this time around. Maybe because I’ve already hiked 1700+ miles and this blows everything else away. Maybe I’m in better shape and not in zombie mode like 2014. Either way, it’s just beautiful around every corner.

The view of Dennis lake from Hay pass was incredible. Now we descend to the Golden lakes area. This too was a sight to be seen. A chain of lakes surrounded by green, nestled in a tight little valley.

Down at Golden lake, we took a break. Then we moved on past Louise lake and then upper golden lake. Again, just awesome. Streams, waterfalls, blue lakes and great camping.

Lake 10787

North of Golden Lakes, we hiked past Lake 10787 and an unnamed lake, just south of Douglas Peak. It’s not on the map, but I believe the pass is called Douglas Pass. Again, very scenic. I mean, what isn’t in the Winds? 

Then we dropped down to camp lake. Stopped for another break then moved on. More water Crossings. Many today. In fact, I got my feet wet on probably 8 separate occasions.

Hiked over a hump separating camp lake from another lake. This unnamed lake was crazy beautiful. We crossed the stream at it’s mouth to the lake, and discovered there was basically a stream flowing into the lake and out of it at the same spot. We stopped to filter water here.

Next we climbed a steep rocky slab slope along mini cascading waterfalls. We called this waterfall pass. Quite an interesting place to be, I don’t recall another spot like it on the CDT. This took us up to the Alpine lakes area.

Hopeful realizing what the Alpine Lakes area is all about

Ledge work. This is where we jumped in the lake and walked around the cliffs

The route around the lowest alpine Lake starts out steep. Had to jump in the lake and walk along a cliff in knee deep water to get around one spot. Tough work in the boulder fields to work around this lake. But, this is only the beginning. Having been through here before, I knew how difficult the route around Alpine Lakes is.

Walking around the SW corner of the lower Alpine Lake was again, gorgeous. This is about as easy as the hiking gets around the Alpine Lakes, although still a rocky mess. 

Next was a large snow field to cross. One part was rather steep and if you fell, you could slide right into the icy lake. However, ridiculously beautiful scenery!

Dark clouds overhead and few campsites ahead past the lower Alpine Lake. No way we’d make it over alpine pass tonight, and no where to camp along the upper alpine lake. I know this from prior experience. Just boulders, ledges, snow and ice.  We decided to make camp at 6:45pm on the peninsula that jets out into the lower alpine lake, where i camped on my hike here in 2014. Good call!

Miles – 15
Total Miles – 1745
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Saturday August 4th – CDT Day 106

A little windy last night. Woke at 5am, hiking by 6am.

Worked our way around the middle alpine lake. This one is not too bad compared to the upper and lower lakes. Nowhere to camp though, and the team was happy with the call made last night to camp where we did.

Do not try this at home

Crossed a river running under the snow before reaching the upper alpine lake. Huge icebergs are floating along the western shore. Hopeful hopped two floating icebergs to reach the main one, which had footprints on it. Katie and I were skeptical, so he ran the length of the iceberg/lake to scope the exit. Nothing good, scrap the iceberg idea.

This was a tough spot back in 2014 when I came from the opposite direction through here. With no shortcut across the iceberg, we headed up and over a notch in the rocks. We should have tried the low route, Because this became a long ordeal.

Now we had a large snowfield to cross. So much snow! However, the snow is easier to walk on than a sea of boulders, so that’s preferable if the angle isn’t too steep.

Two couples caught up to us as we put on our micro spikes to tackle the ascent of alpine pass. They were former CDT hikers themselves. The pass was completely covered in snow and steep. Hopeful went first and kicked steps. We angled up to a Rocky outcrop where we took a short break.

gopro mounted on evo ss gimbal on cdt thru hike

View south from Alpine Pass

The final push up alpine pass was wild. Steep and slippery. Everyone else took the Boulder field once near the top, but I just went straight up the snow field. It was awesome! Steep, but fun.

Indian Pass in the center, Knife Point Glacier below

Coming down into a new valley now, finally out of alpine lakes area. Tons of snow here. The entire upper basin was filed with snow and glaciers, specifically, knife point glacier and bull lake glacier. Very impressive. We descended boulders for a while until we reached a snowfield. We glissaded the rest of the way down. This is always fun!

Took a snow filled valley down hill. Then we entered a prehistoric looking Valley filled with a maze of streams. Crossed downstream where the channels of water had converged into one.

Then we hiked over a pass leading into another valley. Lots of wildflowers here, very nice.

The next area we entered was north fork bull lake creek. Super long name, I know. Huge impressive peaks, lots of snow. The river was this milky blue green turquoise color, so beautiful. This was one of my favorite places so far.

Crossing North Fork Bull Lake Creek

Crossed the river and made camp partially up the climb to blaurock pass. It was 6:45pm, not enough time to make it over the pass and down safely the other side to find camp there. So again, we stopped early. Only 12 miles today. Beautiful views from camp though!

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 1757
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Sunday August 5th – CDT Day 107

Start hiking at 6am. The sun never came up though, it was obscured by clouds today. These clouds looked like trouble, too.

Almost immediately after leaving camp, we found ourselves in a massive boulder field that leads up to Blaurock Pass. These were some pretty big boulders, with big gaps in between. Tough to work your way through. To make matters worse, it was beginning to snow. This made the boulder field even more treacherous, as the rock was now slippery too.

Whiteout conditions pose a serious threat for us at the top of Blaurock Pass

The snowfall became heavier as we climbed higher. It wasn’t long before the conditions had deteriorated severely, and we found ourselves in a complete whiteout. There were less big boulders to contend with now, and mostly just snowpack. On top of the pass, we could see nothing. On the other side, the topo map appeared to be steeper. Going down in these conditions seemed like a poor idea, but we had no cover either. We considered waiting it out under an emergency blanket. As we discussed our options, the snow began to clear up and visibility improved. Good thing, because this moment was one that had the three of us pretty worried.

Going down the north side of Blaurock pass wasn’t as bad as we anticipated. The grade was steep but the mountainside was littered with scree and not big boulders. Much better to work with, but still not easy. The weather improved as we dropped in elevation.

After losing more elevation, we stepped off the snow and scree fields and onto a grassy hill. Around this time, the clouds cleared momentarily and the sun shined through. The surrounding mountains became visible and knocked our socks off. This place has an otherworldly feel to it. The kind of stuff people dream up, but never see in real life.

The weather changed rapidly throughout the rest of the day. From sunny to storm clouds and back to sunny all within 10 minutes. Get used to it.

We continued downhill, traversing a couple more snow fields along the way.

Once we reached Dinwoody Creek on the map, we followed this uphill again towards Dinwoody Glacier. The small ponds here were an intense turquoise blue color, due to all the minerals in the water. Water like this always had a way of mesmerizing me.

Dinwoody Glacier

Above the mesmerizing turquoise ponds lies a massive boulder field, which likely would have been covered by Dinwoody Glacier only decades ago. It probably would have made walking through this area easier had it been glacial ice and not boulders.

 

Next we began the climb up West Sentinel Pass. The best route appeared to be a high one in the snow above a bowl. We began the traverse along a steep snow slope, kicking in steps as we went. The closer we got to the top of the pass, the more steep it became. In an instant, Jay had slipped and slid 150′ down the snow into the bowl. Fortunately, the slide was not a dangerous one with boulders or a cliff below. Moments later, I too slipped and fell down into the bowl. Poor Katie was left alone up there, and decided to glissade down herself. It’s a bit easier when it’s on purpose.

On top of West Sentinel Pass

The three of us took a more direct route up the pass this time, no issues. At the top of West Sentinel Pass, we entered Gannett Glacier. This was the largest glacier we’ve been on yet, covering the entire upper basin we were standing in. Massive.

Hiking across Gannett Glacier

Straddling a crevasse on Gannett Glacier

We worked our way across the glacier until we encountered some melt out. Going down straight down would just mean more water, and the map shows crevasses here. We decided to go up and around the melt out, and then back down. Still, this had us weaving in and out of crevasse territory. We encountered several crevasses, mostly smaller ones. Down in a gully below us, only an unintentional glissade away, we could hear the roar of water flowing under the snow.

Gannett Glacier terminus

After dropping in elevation, we reached the terminus of the glacier. This is quite an interesting place to be. Much of this ice is dirty ice, a mix with mud and debris. The ground below the terminus is freshly exposed for the first time in potentially thousands of years. I wanted to search for interesting rocks, if only I had more time. It started raining around this time, and we continued downhill in search of cover where we could take a break. The clouds had really moved in fast.

 

By the time we reached Gannett Creek, the rain had subsided and it was sunny again. No cover but we stopped here for our break.

We worked our way up Gannett Creek, which was more like a series of ponds and small lakes with an occasional stream in between. Beautiful color.

We continued uphill through a sea of rocks until we reached a snowfield above an icy pond. We thought about traversing the slopes above it, but the team was not up for it without an ice axe after this afternoon’s slip down West Sentinel Pass. Instead, we dropped down to the pond and found a narrow spot to hop boulders across. We followed the other side of the pond until we were clear of the pond, then continued the ascent up an unnamed pass NE of Bastion Peak.

From the top of the pass there was a good view of Bastion Peak behind us, and Grasshopper Glacier to the north. The closer we got to Grasshopper, the more prominent the terminus of the glacier was. A wall of ice at least 50′ tall marked the edge. And that’s where we need to go tomorrow!

We found a place to camp near the temrinus of Grasshopper Glacier. The ground was a fine sand/silt, a little wet and soft. It seemed this area was usually covered in snow and or ice, and only recently exposed. Not the ideal campsite, but a unique one for sure.

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 1769
Rain – 2″ snow, complete whiteout. Rain, hail
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – pronghorn sheep?, marmot

Monday August 6th – CDT Day 108

Hiking at 6am. Cold night, Frost inside tent.

Grasshopper Glacier terminus

Walked up to the edge of grasshopper glacier. The terminus of the glacier must be 60+ feet tall. Never seen anything like that up close. Hiked up the glacier to the snowpack, uphill for a while.

Huge snow fields. Just massive. Easy walking too!

Hiked up to the Continental Divide. Followed the ridge for a while, fairly easy walking.

Iceberg and Baker Lakes

Iceberg Lake

Reached baker lake and iceberg lake. The latter was really cool. Another tall glacial terminus. Lots of icebergs too!

 

Next we Climbed uphill and followed the Divide for a while.

Reached a saddle a mile before downs mountain. On the map, We saw what looked like a route down to our end point the glacier trailhead. Skirted the mountainside along the least steep terrain the topo showed. This looked easier than the Ley alternate coming down from the summit of downs mountain.

We spent 5 hours working our way down a series of ledges and steep boulders on the mountainside that ended at a really steep snowfield. This appeared to be steeper than we could safely cross, but I went down for a closer look. I attempted to take the first step off the boulders and onto the snow, but the angle was so steep that step kicking may not cut it. Right then, Katie and Hopeful said they weren’t going to follow me even if I go for it, due to the danger of it. I stopped and assessed the situation and they were right. The runoff below is boulders or a cliff. Without ice axes, it would just be stupid. Reluctantly, we turned around and headed back uphill to find another way.

Back at the saddle we started from, we headed up the ridge to downs mountain. We weren’t going to be able to drop down into the valley we saw this earlier from here though. Instead, we’ll have to continue many miles north and take a completely different route. Awesome views from the climb up Downs mountain though. Lots of boulders, hard work and sometimes sketchy. We were already rationing food for the last several days, and nearly out. We planned on getting to the trailhead tonight, but that’s not gonna happen now.

Tired and hungry, we worked our way around the west side of downs mountain instead of doing the climbing up it. Lots of boulders either way. Mentally exhausting. Saw some big horn sheep on the ridge above us, that was cool. Basically right on top of Downs Mountain.

Continental Glacier

Hiking across Continental Glacier

At the saddle after Downs, we set foot on Continental glacier. It’s all snowpack up here. Absolutely enormous!

Hiked to 8pm. We descended the glacier instead of staying high above it on a ridge to find camp. Cleared rocks in a debris field for campsites. Dinner was 1 granola Bar. Can’t wait for town tomorrow, I hope we finally make it.

Miles – 15
Total Miles – 1784
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – big horn sheep

Tuesday August 7th – CDT Day 109

Another cold night sleeping in a debris field next to a glacier. Woke at 6, didn’t start hiking until almost 8am.

Today is our 10th day in the winds. We ate the last of our food for breakfast, which was basically starvation rations to begin with. We only planned on 7 days of food.

Walked over some boulders and back down to Continental glacier. Hiked on the glacier since it was much easier travel than rocks and boulders.

Walked up shale mountain next. Fairly easy walking, for the winds anyways.

Crossed a large snow field with a collapsed section where a stream runs underneath. Some crevasses as well. 

Made it to the top of the pass that leads down to the ross lakes area. Really steep. Took a break at the top, couldn’t see much of a way down. For the record, I don’t think this is really a pass at all. Just a possible route down for those willing. 

Found a ridge to follow down. Walked down a snowy slope to a patch of boulders. Another snow slope below the boulders, but this one was steep. Hopeful went first, no micro spikes, and slipped. He slid about 40 feet and crashed into a large Boulder. He turned at the last moment and his backpack took the brunt of the impact, but still hit his ankle. Fortunately he was alright.

Although the slide down was scary, it was really the only good looking way to continue downhill. I kicked some super deep steps with my spikes on and made it down safely. Katie went last and also made it safely.

Down on the valley floor, we filtered water from a steam. Just downhill, I saw 2 mountain lions standing in some large boulders. Side profile, tail curled up in the air. Big cats. They saw and heard us, and ran off. These were the first mountain lions I’d ever seen.

Next we went through a section of blown down trees in thick brush. Kinda where the mountain lions were. I tripped a few times and cut my hand. Pain in the ass. Would be nice to have some calories in my stomach.

Ross Lake

Climbed over one last hill before mostly heading downhill. Awesome view of Ross lakes from here.

Picked up a trail at the bottom of the hill. You don’t know how good it felt to reach this trail! Now it’s time to haul ass to the trailhead. We were just empty shells now, running on a couple hundred calories and less than 2 liters of water all day. Hopeful hiked the day on 12 M&Ms. Running serious deficits that cannot be sustained.

Reached the trailhead around 6pm and luckily ran into a guy named Stephen. He was headed back to Dubois and so he had no problem giving us a lift. He also had a couple of ice cold beers for us, which tasted amazing! Keystone Light never tasted so good.

We ate at the noon Rock pizza place in Dubois with our new friend Stephen. Pizza and wings really hit the spot! Got a room at the black bear inn which was very hiker friendly. I think we all went to bed with an enormous sense of satisfaction having just completed the greatest adventure of our lives. I know I did.

Miles – 17
Total Miles – 1801
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – 2 mountain lions, marmots

Wednesday August 8th – CDT Day 110 (zero day)

Slept in today which felt amazing! Ate breakfast and got started on town chores.

Picked up packages at the longhorn ranch, which we intended on staying at. However, the allure of a hotel was much too great. The ranch was kind enough to give us the packages at no charge, even though I offered to pay a reasonable fee for the service.

Did laundry, ate at the cowboy Cafe (2 entrées), and backed up photos and GoPro videos.

Thursday August 9th – CDT Day 111 (zero day)

Hurried to pack up and get ready to hike. However, it was obvious I had too much to do today, and we could all use a little more rest. So the decision was made to stay another day. This gave me all the time I needed to check off items on my to-do list, like sending in a couple pairs of Darn Tough socks for warranty, etc.

The motel we were staying at was the Black Bear Inn. Super hiker friendly. They had a river flowing through the property and there was a sweet patio setup down by the water… BBQ grills, tables, hammocks, christmas lights. Bumped into a few other hikers today in town and invited them over to grill out with us and drink some beers. We made grilled cheese sandwhiches and italian sausages. So naturally, we combined them… yum!

Back on trail tomorrow.

Like what you see?

Sawtooth Wilderness, ID High Route – 8 Day Solo Hike Aug 2017

Sawtooth Wilderness High Route – 8 Day Solo Hike August 2017

 

 View All Sawtooth Wilderness Photos | Watch the Sawtooth Wilderness Hike Video On Youtube 

  • Park Administration – National Forest Service
  • Fees & Permits – No fees to access the Sawtooth Wilderness. You need a permit which is FREE. Permits are available via self-registration at the trailheads.
  • Trailhead – Tin Cup Trailhead at Pettit Lake
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 8 Days, 7 NIghts
  • Miles Hiked – 67
  • Route Difficulty – On marked trails, 6. Off trail sections, 9
  • Fires Allowed – Yes, on a fire pan or fire blanket. Campfires are not allowed: Off-trail from July 1st through Labor Day. In the following drainages: Alice/Twin Lakes, Toxaway/Farley Lakes, Goat Creek (tributary of the South Fork of the Payette River), or Alpine Creek. Within 200 yards of Sawtooth Lake, Goat Lake and Alpine Lake near Iron Creek, Alpine and Saddleback Lakes in the Redfish drainage, and Scenic Lakes.
  • Scenic Beauty – 9
  • Solitude – 4 on Trail, 9 Off Trail 

Sawtooth Wilderness Pre-Hike Planning Notes

Actually, the route I set out to hike was much longer, closer to 90 miles and over 25k feet of elevation gain. Averaging 8517′ over 89 miles, I called it “The Ultimate Sawtooths High Route”. Over 50 miles of the 89 mile route was off trail. A route like this would have a lot higher chance for successful completion if one had firsthand knowledge of what to expect in key sections. I didn’t have that luxury though, this will be my first visit to the Sawtooths, and first to the sate of Idaho. I will be sharing more info on the Ultimate Sawtooths High Route later on. 

My goal with the route was to to stay as high as possible, while hitting as many of the places I could that were on my “must see” list. As far as planning a hike goes in the Sawtooths, you’ll find information from scattered sources online but there is no dedicated forum or “go-to” resource for the Sawtooths. I gathered what info I could about my route between trip reports and pictures, google earth, and studying the topo maps to create the route. 

Sawtooth Wilderness Weather Forecasts

For weather in the Sawtooth Wilderness, I was using mountain-forecast.com for Mount Cramer:

https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mount-Cramer/forecasts/2500

Sawtooth Wilderness Backpacking Maps & Route Information 

Here’s my caltopo map I used to plan my route:

Total distance: 68.42 mi
Max elevation: 9921 ft
Min elevation: 7011 ft
Total climbing: 22789 ft
Total descent: -22822 ft
Download

Download GPX file of this hike

 

Day 1 – Friday August 18th, 2017

Miles Hiked – 6.35
Elevation Gain – 2090′
Route Hiked – Pettit Lake to Alice Lake

The road to Pettit Lake from ID-75 was well graded and in great shape for a dirt road. I was driving a Chevy Cruze, and wouldn’t hesitate to take the smallest car. High clearance not need whatsoever. I arrived at the Tin Cup Trailhead (located at Pettit Lake) around 6pm, and man was it packed. I was able to find a spot, but there were’t many left if any at all. I changed clothes and did my final packing, and was on the trail at 6:30pm. 

My destination tonight is Alice Lake, hopefully. I have 2.5 hours of daylight max to work with, better get moving. I quickly passed several groups of hikers, walked past the lake and hit the Wilderness Boundary sign. Here is where you self register for your permit. 

The trail is mostly forested for the first few miles. Eventually, it emerges into a couple of open areas where boulders and talus have spilled down the slopes above. Hiking is still easy through these sections because this is such a well traveled trail, and in great shape. Once the first set of switchbacks are encountered, roughly half the way there to Alice, you start to get some nice elevated views. The Sun was already going down fast at this point.

Hiking to Alice Lake

sawtooths wilderness hiking near alice lake

The hike to Alice Lake was pretty nice for a day 1 hike. Normally, the trail taking you to the high country is in a low valley, long and rather uneventful. I would say the trail to Alice Lake is much more interesting, and if nothing else, shorter than many of the approach hikes I’m used to. 

Dusk near Alice Lake

Alice Lake at sundown

Right before I reached Alice Lake is a couple of small ponds, with great views and lots of people already camped there. Farther up the trail, at Alice Lake proper, I was again out of luck finding a campsite in a prime location such as the outlet. With the Sun fading quickly I hurried on farther along the lake. The trail starts to climb above the lake offering no viable campsites.

Towards the center of the lake, at a point where the trail had veered farther from the water, I found a place to hang my hammock. Not the most scenic spot, but who cares, it was already time to bust out the headlamp. Nothin’ to see here tonight. No need to use the tarp over my hammock, skies are looking clear and will remain so for the next couple of days according to the weather forecast.

I arrived at camp around 9pm, and after setting up headed to bed at 10. I’ve got a long week ahead of me!

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Eagles Nest Wilderness (Gore Mountains), CO – 4 Day, 25 Mile Hike July 2017

Eagles Nest Wilderness, CO – Gore Mountains 4 Day Backpacking Trip July 2017

panoramic view of the gore mountains in eagles nest wilderness colorado

 View All Eagles Nest Wilderness Photos | Watch the Eagles Nest Wilderness Hike Video On Youtube

  • Park Administration – US Forest Service – White River National Forest
  • Fees & Permits – No fees to access the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Register at trailhead (although I didn’t see where!)
  • Trailhead – Gore Creek Trailhead
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 4 days, 3 nights
  • Miles Hiked – 25
  • Route Difficulty – 7.5
  • Fires Allowed – Yes
  • Scenic Beauty – 9
  • Solitude – 7, less within 4-5 miles of trailhead

Eagles Nest Wilderness Pre-Hike Planning Notes

Gore Mountains Weather Forecast

– https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Buffalo-Mountain/forecasts/3894

Gore Mountains Road & Trail Condition Reports

– https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd542981.pdf

The Eagles Nest Wilderness is a 133,496 acre tract of land located within the White River National Forest. The Gore Mountains are the backbone of this wilderness area. It’s right off I-70, giving you the impression that it’s going to be a popular, well known hiking destination, but it’s not. Apparently, this area doesn’t get much use in comparison to other Colorado backpacking hotspots. One reason for this is the fact that there are no 14ers in the Gore Mountains. Don’t let the lack of notoriety fool you, as the Gore Mountains are definitely a hidden gem.

The first thing you need to realize about hiking the Gore Mountains is that it’s a rugged place with a lot of steep terrain. Because of this, many of the valleys are “dead ends” for the average hiker, and some are completely unpassable by all except the most skilled climbers. Stringing together a long hiking route that stays high is pretty difficult here. To make long loops, you either have to be OK with spending a lot of time in the lower valleys or be a really good climber. 

Access to the Eagles Nest Wilderness is said to be easier on the west side near Vail. See this map for trailhead locations in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. I parked at the Gore Creek trailhead, 2.3 miles east of Exit #180 off I-70 on Bighorn Road. This road to this trailhead is completely paved, so you can access it in any vehicle. Watch out for all the bikers on the road, there’s a tons of ’em here. Coloradans are probably used to seeing this many cyclists, but here in southeast Michigan the only people riding bicycles on the road are doing so because they have a DUI! The Gore Creek trailhead was pretty packed but many of them were bikers, not hikers. 

Nearby towns of Vail, Silverthorne and Frisco should have everything you need for last minute stops. Also note that you can get a shower after your hike for $5 at the Silverthorne Rec Center if needed. The address for the Silverthorne Rec Center is 430 Rainbow Dr, Silverthorne, CO 80498. 

 

Eagles Nest Wilderness Backpacking Maps

Total distance: 22.83 mi
Max elevation: 12851 ft
Min elevation: 8717 ft
Total climbing: 8451 ft
Total descent: -8967 ft
Download

Download GPX file of this hike

Here’s my caltopo map of the route I hiked:

Day 1 – Saturday July 8th, 2017

Miles Hiked – 6.54
Elevation Gain – 3058′
Route Hiked – Gore Creek Trailhead to Gore Lake

I started my hike at the Gore Creek trailhead (8688′ elevation) around 10:15 am, just in time for a few clouds to start brewing. The trail immediately begins to climb after leaving the trailhead. The trail itself is pretty well maintained here. There’s a sign marking the entry to the Eagles Nest Wilderness after about 1 mile. Once you pass the sign, the trail goes over the top of a small hill where you lose sight of I-70. The sound from the road is also gone, and replaced with that of Gore Creek. The trail winds through a few patches of aspens before the evergreens become the dominate tree with increased elevation. 

Gore Creek Trail near Gore Creek trailhead

On the Gore Creek trail

The crowds of people started to thin out about two miles from the trailhead. Most of the people on the trail were older folks, and seemed to be locals coming out to get a few miles in for exercise. I stopped along a slow bend in Gore Creek after an hour to eat a little food. I didn’t see any fish, but it looked like there would be potential if one were to walk the bank looking for deeper holes. 

view of gore creek from the gore creek trail in the eagles nest wilderness of colorado

Gore Creek

There were few sweeping views of the valley, and the trail only occasionally swings alongside Gore Creek. The trail maintains a pretty manageable incline much of the way to the intersection with Gore Lake trail, with occasional steeper bursts. I passed a guy who said he’d just seen a large bear at the intersection, which I arrived at about 10 minutes later. No bear, fine with me. 

At the intersection of Gore Creek trail & Gore Lake trail, the elevation is 10,180′. AT this point, the elevation gain is roughly 1800′ (with the ups and downs of the trail) over 4.15 miles. Now on the Gore Creek trail, I’ll climb 600’+ in about a half mile. There’s a little view of the valley below after gaining a little elevation. The trail then overlooks a creek, although don’t believe it’s the main creek flowing out of Gore Lake. I saw my first patch of snow around 10,700′.

mountain peaks beyond the meadow in eagles nest wilderness below gore lake

At the top of the 600′ push I was rewarded with a nice meadow. It was flat, open and green, the first of the hike. It sprinkled a little now, but not heavy enough to be a bother. The views were definitely improving now. In the meadow, jagged peaks and snow capped mountain sides loom in the distance. There were some small patches of colorful flowers here and there, still a ways off from peak bloom though. 

hiking trail just below gore lake in eagles nest wilderness colorado

Approaching Gore Lake

hiking trail near gore lakecolorado

After passing through the meadow, the trail then climbs another 500′ in .6 mile along the final stretch to Gore Lake. I enjoyed the final approach to the lake, where your view of a nearby peak is hidden and then revealed as you crest the top of the final slope. A somewhat “dramatic” way to arrive at such a beautiful lake!

ice on small pond next to gore lake colorado

First view of Gore Lake

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10 Day Sierra Loop Hike – Kings Canyon NP & John Muir Wilderness – Aug 2016

bear basin panorama from dancing bear pass

Kings Canyon National Park & John Muir Wilderness 10 Day Loop Hike Starting From Florence Lake

All Photos From This hikeWatch the HD video of my Sierra hike on Youtube

 

Kings Canyon/John Muir Wilderness Loop Hike Maps & GPS Files