Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lander and thereabouts.

After enjoying the glitz of Jackson, we piled back into our white box and busted North to work our way around the mighty Wind River Range.  Along the way we witnessed herds of buffalo and some random pronghorn antelope.  Our goal for the day was Lander, Wy.  And, after 3 hours of mountain roads and prairie highways we arrived.  Lander sits at the SE end of the Winds and plays host to some amazing limestone climbing and backcountry terrain.  Ever heard of the Cirque of Towers?  Fish the size of goats?  We'll they might not actually be the size of goats; but, we were told they get VERY big indeed.  At Safeway we stocked up on some basic goods and then drove to Wild Iris climbing shop.  This shop was started by a late friend Todd Skinner.  The shop offers great gear, advice, and drinking water.  We filled big blue (our trusty 5 gallon water tank) and ambled West of town looking for Sinks Canyon.  Temps in town were around 80.  Seeing that we were the only people in the parking lot I'd wager that most climbers head up to Wild Iris or other 'secret' crags when things get this hot.  80 doesn't probably sound too bad, but combined with walls that get sun all day it can make a nap in the shade much more appealing.

  Over the course of the next week we enjoyed several evening sessions at Sinks.  After 4pm some walls go into the shade.  Unfortunately, the sun was going down at 730 which didn't give us all that much time on the wall.  And, for those of you who aren't in the know, Ben is psychologically mortified of wasps/bees.  He suffered an emotionally disturbing event at the hand of an entire mob of bees at the tender age of 8 and hasn't been the same since.  So, when he was up redpointing a particular sport route in the Killer Cave only to have a very large and multi segmented brown wasp land on his chest...you can only imagine the turmoil!  Paul, you'd be proud though.  I just keep my chin up, brushed it off, and sent that soft jug haul.  Locals later told us that the wasps mate during Sept.  And, it is for that reason that they were literally everywhere.  During one episode I was warming up and encountered over 10 wasps on route.  

After a few days pulling down at Sinks we made our way to the Big Sandy Trailhead on the SW side of the winds.  It took us two hours from Lander.  The last 40 miles are on dirt road (really good roads mind you).  The last 10 of of these get gnarly and offered us pause.  

The Winds poking up in the upper right frame.  Most of road to the trailhead feels very wild wild west.

We had purchased a map in Jackson of the Southern Winds and had picked out an alpine loop.  It would take us to Big Sandy Lake and up to Deep Lake, over to Temple Lake and back down a different valley...

With only 4 hours of light left and 10 miles of trail to our first camp, we hit the dusty trail with vigor.

For years I had heard tales of the Wind River Range. And, after spending a few hot days in Sinks Canyon we were ready to cool things off.  Gentle mountain winds buffeted us on our hike in.  I'd say conditions couldn't have been nicer.

Moreover, there weren't any bugs to speak of.  I mean, we literally saw 3 bugs our entire 3 day stay in the winds.

Our only point of aggravation was"wind", which after day one just kept hammering us.  The following morning it came on strong at Deep Lake, and for the next couple days just kept howling.

Fortunately, we, being seasoned mountain folk from seattle donned our long underwear and jackets, and made the best of it.

Those blissful looks say it all!  Good friends, great mountains, and some much needed exercise.

Big Sandy Lake with East Temple peak poking up in the background.  This place reminded me of the High Sierra.  Glorious!

Tiffers and Big Sandy as we make our final approach to Clear Lake.  

Haystack Mountain rising above Clear Lake. 

Temple Lake was a possible camp for day two.  But, we found the raging winds a little disheartening.  And, so we opted to soak in the view and head down valley to find warmer sites.  

Temple Peak shown here rises to over 12 thousand feet.  Ben did a little fishing along the way to no avail.  He could only surmise that fly fisherman are the superior type here.

Tiffers with East Temple in the distance.  
Hmmmmm, yummy Porter at the end of day two... Alpine lake chilled to perfection and garnished with home made (almost) calzones.  Ok, Pillsbury helped a little with the dough.  But, honestly, this has to be our favorite backcountry meal.  It is so worth the extra weight in food and cooking implements. 

The Camp with the firewood wasn't ours.  But, don't those horse packers know how to do it!  Yeauh

This waterfall is on the Popo just up Sinks Canyon.  Ah, hard life!  

For those of you who haven't been to Sinks Canyon State Park, these fish are actually Trout.  Yes, we realize that they might look like sharks, salmon or even small Orcas at first... but really, they are mostly brown trout that gravitate to a pool of water called the Rise.  The river in Sinks Canyon actually goes completely underground into a labyrinth of limestone and comes out 1/4 mile downstream (two hours later) at this pond.  And being ecologically sound of mind, the state park offers "fish Food" for 25 cents for the masses.  And no, there is no fishing in the pond.  Bummer.  I'd like that fatty down in the lower right corner.  

With a few days of in Sinks and a short excursion to the winds we put our ducks in a row (laundry, grocery shopping etc) and launched East.  We enjoyed the free camping in Sinks and beautiful aspen trees!

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