Day 8 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Before the sun was up, Lupe wanted out of her “tiny house”. SPHP unzipped the door and let her go. The Carolina Dog must have slept well. She hadn’t been so perky last evening after her long trek to Porcupine Pass from Lower Green River Lake. SPHP dozed a bit longer. When SPHP finally emerged, Loop was busy watching 3 deer and a marmot.
Sweet! Having a great time watching wildlife, aye Looper?
Oh, yes! It turns out this Porcupine Pass is a terrific spot. Don’t make any sudden movements, and please be quiet so the deer don’t run away!
Sorry, but we’ve got to get going, Loop. Today’s the big day. Squaretop Mountain or bust! Before we head for New Benchmark, want to take a stroll up Porcupine Pass Peak for a better look at what we’re facing?
Sure! Let me know when you’re ready. I’m going to keep watching these deer till then.
Porcupine Pass Peak(10,890 ft.) is a barren hill on the SW side of Porcupine Pass. Lupe gained less than 200 feet of elevation on her way to the top. The stroll was an easy one, free of obstacles except for a steep snowbank just below the rim of the summit area. Fortunately, the snowbank wasn’t large. SPHP found a way around most of it. The snow presented no problem at all to the American Dingo, who powered her way right on up, chomping snow for moisture as she went.
The top of Porcupine Pass Peak proved to be a large, gently rounded area, carpeted with green alpine plants. Not a tree or bush anywhere. Medium-sized rocks laid thinly scattered across the field. In every direction, Lupe gazed upon magnificent mountains and huge valleys.
Beauty was everywhere, but the view to the E from Porcupine Pass Peak was disconcerting. Beyond Porcupine Pass, Lupe had her first good look at New Benchmark(11,850 ft.). The mountain was bigger, higher, and considerably more rugged than SPHP expected.
New Benchmark was the first of two major obstacles Lupe would face on her intended route to Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.). Once safely past it, she would reach more favorable terrain on the way to Peaks11,820 and 11,590. The second obstacle she would come to was a steep drop down to a narrow saddle leading to Peak 11,415. If Loop could cross that saddle, the remaining 1.5 miles N to the summit of Squaretop should be relatively easy.
Easy? Too funny! Staring only at maps, SPHP had been optimistic Lupe wouldn’t face anything more serious than a long ridge walk to get to Squaretop Mountain from Porcupine Pass today. Now that the Carolina Dog was actually here, staring at the reality of New Benchmark, it was clear nothing about this was going to be easy.
Come on, Loopster! We’ve got a gargantuan day ahead of us. We’d best get on with it!
Down at Porcupine Pass, SPHP disassembled Lupe’s tiny house. It was now perfectly clear she wasn’t likely to get all the way to Squaretop Mountain and back again in a single day. Everything had to come with.
Lupe and SPHP left Porcupine Pass. The Carolina Dog lost a bit of elevation heading ESE over to the base of a long, steep, scree and talus slope. This slope was the first big climb on the way up New Benchmark.
Lupe started climbing NE up the rough slope. Looper had no trouble maneuvering around, but SPHP was slow as always. Steady progress was being made, but it took a long time. While SPHP struggled up, Lupe enjoyed scanning the rocky terrain from increasingly lofty perches. Now and then, she encouraged SPHP to keep climbing.
After a long way up, the terrain finally became less steep. The rocks were bigger here, which was sometimes a help and sometimes a hindrance. Lupe appeared to be coming to some kind of a top.
Loop reached a top alright, but it wasn’t the top of New Benchmark. She was only halfway there on a false summit. The false summit was a large area of rough ground full of big rocks and boulders. Overall it was fairly level. It wasn’t hard to move around here, which was encouraging. SPHP was finally able to pick up the pace.
The highest parts of the false summit were toward the SSE, but Lupe went only partway there. A broad, relatively shallow saddle came into view leading NE to New Benchmark.
Much to her delight, the American Dingo got to romp across a big, gently sloping snowfield on her way down to the saddle. At the saddle, she saw two beautiful pale blue tarns surrounded by ice and snow in a cirque below her to the NW.
Once across the saddle, Lupe angled E. The second big climb was about to begin. Loop would have to gain just as much elevation as on the first leg up, but the terrain wasn’t quite as steep here. It wasn’t nearly as rocky, either, which helped SPHP tremendously. Lupe followed lanes of vegetation staying above, and safely away from, huge SW-facing cliffs.
Suddenly, things were going well! SPHP was able to climb much faster here. Heart, lung and leg power were the only limitations. SPHP could plod steadily upward instead of scrambling slowly among rocks. Lupe was going to make it to the top of New Benchmark! The question now was, what would she find on the other side? Could she continue on to Squaretop Mountain?
Lupe and SPHP approached the summit full of hope. Before long, the Carolina Dog was there, perched atop New Benchmark’s highest rocks! New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) was a glorious peak in its own right. The views of the Wind River Range were fantastic!
New Benchmark’s summit area was fairly large and flat. The highest rocks were along the NW edge. Lupe and SPHP searched around for a registry or a survey benchmark, but found neither.
While the views were grand in all directions, some of the most spectacular peaks were off to the E and SE along the continental divide. Lupe could see Gannett Peak(13,804 ft.), the highest mountain in Wyoming.
Reaching the summit of New Benchmark was a peakbagging victory for Lupe. Her ultimate objective, however, was still Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.). She could see it from New Benchmark, about 3.5 miles to the NE as the crow flies. In fact, she was looking down on it.
The news wasn’t good, though. To get to Squaretop Mountain, Lupe needed to be able to get from New Benchmark over to easier terrain near Peak11,820 to the E. Cliffs eliminated any possibility of going directly E or SE, but the topo map showed Lupe ought to be able to go down New Benchmark’s NNE slope and reach a saddle leading E. This route shouldn’t be any steeper than the route Lupe had taken up New Benchmark.
Lupe started down New Benchmark’s NNE slope, only to discover a huge, long snowbank wrapped around the N and NE side of the mountain. The snow curved steeply away out of sight. How far down the snow went, and how steep it became was impossible to tell. Unequipped, SPHP wasn’t willing to walk out on the snow far enough to tell. A slip might easily become a rocket slide hundreds of feet onto deadly rocks below.
The sky had been partly cloudy all morning. For the last several hours, it had been especially cloudy to the NE. It hadn’t look threatening, though, and Lupe had spent a full hour up on New Benchmark’s superb summit. Now, as Loop stood on rocks above the steep snowbank gazing E, dark clouds and rain were sweeping over the continental divide not too many miles beyond Squaretop Mountain.
Not looking too good, is it, SPHP?
No, not really, Loop. So frustrating! This route has been more challenging than I expected, but it should have worked. If this snowbank wasn’t here, I still believe we would have been able to scramble down this slope easily enough and continue E.
Would we have made it to Squaretop then?
Not sure, but we certainly could have gotten a lot closer. Once beyond New Benchmark, it looks like a cinch to get at least as far as Peak 11,590. Beyond that, who knows? Can’t tell from here. Maybe there isn’t a safe route across the saddle to Peak 11,415? That would have been the last real obstacle, though.
So now what? Are we beaten?
Looks like it, Loopster. We’re staring at defeat here as far as Squaretop Mountain is concerned. Weather’s looking kind of iffy, anyway. Even if we could continue on, it might not be the smartest thing to spend the rest of the day sauntering around on exposed mountaintops.
Well, don’t take it too hard, SPHP. We made it to New Benchmark, didn’t we? That was a peakbagging victory. New Benchmark is a splendid mountain, wouldn’t you say?
Oh, yes, indeed! New Benchmark is awesome! It’s a grand consolation prize as your peakbagging goes. Still, as far as our original intentions went, this day has been a small victory, and a major defeat. Had my heart set on Squaretop Mountain for you. Thought we would be there today. Really did.
Oh, whaa, whaa! Get over it, SPHP. Look at where we are, high in the glorious Wind River Range! Let’s have fun! We going back to Porcupine Pass now?
Yeah, I suppose we better. No sense arguing with reality in the mountains, especially mountains as big as the Winds. Onward, sweet puppy!
Now you’re talking! Maybe the deers and marmot will still be there? I hope so!
By the time Loop made it around to the W side of New Benchmark to start the first big descent, a storm could be seen approaching. The surprising thing was that it was coming from the W where the sky had been relatively clear, instead of from the E. The storm was quite some distance away, so it appeared the Carolina Dog still had time to carry on for a while.
Halfway down to the saddle leading to the false summit, suddenly the whole sky turned gray. Clouds were forming directly overhead. Light rain fell. More was certainly on the way. Continuing down the mountain, SPHP started looking for a place where Lupe could take shelter. Some tall rocks with a slight overhang was all that was on offer. Lupe reached this refuge moments before the downpour began in earnest.
It rained hard for half an hour, with pea-sized hail thrown into the mix toward the end just for fun. Lupe was fairly well protected by the little overhang. The Carolina Dog emerged from the experience only a bit damp. SPHP, however, was thoroughly drenched. Only SPHP’s head and shoulders had been spared.
Ha, ha! Look at you, SPHP! For once, you’re the drowned rat. Usually I’m the soggy doggie!
Heh, that was a bit more refreshing than it needed to be, alright. Come on, Looper, let’s move it! The storm isn’t over yet. Let’s get down to the saddle during this break.
Good idea. I remember some really big rocks down there. We can find a better place to hide!
Stray raindrops continued falling all the way down to the saddle. Lupe was right about the big rocks. The saddle featured a collection of huge boulders all jumbled together. Loop and SPHP found a much larger overhang, almost like a cave. Not a moment too soon, either. No sooner was the American Dingo safe inside than the next downpour began.
This time it didn’t rain quite as hard. A cold wind blew instead. Another shot of pea-sized hail fell. The cave wasn’t very big. It would have been considerably more comfortable, if the ceiling had been higher and dripped less. SPHP sat scrunched over on a small rock, watching water trickle down the wet ceiling, while Loop stared out of the cave. Hopefully it would all be over soon. This wouldn’t be such a great way to spend the night.
After 20 minutes, the rain tapered off. A small patch of blue sky appeared. Lupe watched the patch grow for 10 minutes before it seemed safe to venture out. Scattered raindrops carried on the breeze continued falling as Lupe and SPHP headed SW toward the false summit. By the time Lupe was there, the rain was over.
As Lupe began the final big descent, the sky began to clear. The lucky American Dingo would enjoy sunshine the rest of the way back to Porcupine Pass. As usual, it took SPHP a long time going down the steep, rocky slopes. It didn’t matter, though. The air was fresh and clean, the sky blue, the mountains gorgeous.
Victory and defeat! This was living the life of Lupe. She had it better than Riley ever did!
Days 6 & 7 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
The morning after Lupe’s return from her successful 4 day journey to Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) was a lazy one. The Carolina Dog had certainly earned a rest day! SPHP picked up some fried chicken and a salad at Safeway in Lander. Lupe took a couple of easy walks down by the Middle Popo Agie River across from Lander City Park.
By 11:00 AM, it was plenty hot out. McDonald’s had ice cream cones on sale for 50 cents. Even cheapskate SPHP was willing to spring for that! Lupe got lessons in how to eat an ice cream cone. By watching SPHP’s example, she became quite proficient at it. It turns out Carolina Dogs are naturals at eating ice cream cones!
Lupe’s next peakbagging objective, Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.), was clear over on the other side of the Wind River Range at the far NW entrance to Green River Lakes. It would take all afternoon to drive over there, so right after the ice cream cones vanished, Lupe and SPHP left Lander and hit the road.
On her grand summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, Lupe had spent a day reconnoitering Squaretop Mountain. SPHP has an old book called Wind River Trails by Finis Mitchell, who spent most of his life running a fishing camp in the Wind River Range near the Big Sandy entrance. In it, Mitchell describes a route up Squaretop Mountain from the E leaving the Highline Trail near Beaver Park.
Mitchell wrote that his route up Squaretop Mountain was “not difficult”. He had taken scouting groups, and even a 4 year old child up this way once, yet Lupe had arrived at Beaver Park in late August 2015 only to see towering cliffs. The topo map showed 3,500 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile. No doubt Mitchell knew what he was talking about, but Lupe’s reconnaissance left SPHP desiring a more detailed route description than Finis had provided in Wind River Trails.
On the way back to Green River Lakes, Lupe had met Chad, a friendly forest ranger. Did Chad know of a route up Squaretop? Chad said he’d been to the top of Squaretop himself. He said Mitchell’s route was hard to find since some of the landmarks in his route description (burnt areas) had changed. SPHP asked if there wasn’t a feasible route from the W via Porcupine Pass? Chad confirmed there was one, but it was longer, and he didn’t know the details.
Now, almost two years later, Lupe was on her way to Green River Lakes hoping to find that route from Porcupine Pass to Squaretop Mountain! Hopes were high, bolstered by her success in reaching the summit of Wind River Peak.
The last part of the road to Green River Lakes, which used to be rough, was greatly improved. It was still dusty and washboardy, but wasn’t nearly as stony as in 2015. Gophers were abundant, and frequently dashed across the road as the G6 approached. Lupe was enthusiastic about the gophers, and barked frantically at them as she sped by.
Lupe arrived at the trailhead near Lower Green River Lake at 5:00 PM. Loop and SPHP were both anxious to go down to the lake to get a good look at gorgeous Squaretop Mountain again.
Lower Green River Lake and Squaretop Mountain were every bit as lovely as Lupe and SPHP remembered. Of all the mountains in the Wind River Range, Finis Mitchell had chosen Squaretop for the cover of his book Wind River Trails.
Lupe and SPHP both went wading in Lower Green River Lake. The mosquitoes were bad, though, and eventually put an end to the fun. Lupe then went down to the Highline Trail bridge where the Green River exits the lake. A sign said that the bridge over Clear Creek (near the opposite end of Lower Green River Lake) was out due to flooding.
The Green River was running high, full of water from bank to bank. Having just seen how full the creeks were, and how much snow still existed in the high country near Wind River Peak, Lupe wasn’t surprised. With the bridge over Clear Creek out, Lupe wouldn’t be able to take the Highline Trail (No. 94) to Porcupine Pass tomorrow. Fortunately, an alternate route exists. Lupe could still take the Lakeside Trail (No. 144).
Even though Lower Green River Lake is at 7,961 feet elevation, the evening was hot. The mosquitoes were bad. Lupe and SPHP ended up staying in the G6, periodically running the AC to keep cool. While SPHP caught up the journal, Lupe watched gophers. Every now and then, she just had to be let out to bark at squirrels, or sniff at a gopher hole.
The next morning it was time for action! Lupe and SPHP went down to Lower Green River Lake again to admire Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.) before setting out for Porcupine Pass. (8:44 AM, 7-14-17, 66°F).
After a good look at her magnificent objective, Lupe followed the Lakeside Trail S along the W side of Lower Green River Lake. Despite it’s name, the Lakeside Trail is seldom down by the shore. Most of the time the trail stayed in the forest 50 to 150 feet above the lake. Only once in a while did Lupe come to an opening with a good view of the lake and mountains beyond.
Lupe was less than halfway along Lower Green River Lake, when a backpacker approached from the opposite direction. He turned out to be quite an interesting fellow. Radek Hecsko was 48 years old, and from the Czech Republic. He billed himself as “Czech Mix”.
Czech Mix was hiking the entire 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada! He had started on May 2 in New Mexico, and hoped to reach the Canadian border by mid-September. In 2015, he had previously hiked the entire 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, which also goes all the way from Mexico to Canada.
Czech Mix jokingly called the Continental Divide Trail the “IPA Trail”. He said he typically hikes 30 miles per day, though not in the most rugged territory, and does take occasional rest days. Depending on the kindness of strangers, he hitchhikes to towns whenever possible to resupply. On the trail he often goes hungry, but in towns he packs in the calories feasting on hamburgers, coffee and IPA’s.
Czech Mix said he might eventually take on the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail to complete the “Triple Crown”, a feat very few people have ever accomplished. He hadn’t really decided yet, though. It was another massive undertaking. For now he was staying concentrated on enjoying and completing the Continental Divide Trail. Completing the CDT would be a rare accomplishment in itself, since it was the longest of the 3 trails and by far the least traveled.
After petting Lupe, and a nice chat with SPHP, Czech Mix pressed on.
Well, that Czech Mix was mighty impressive, Loopster! Can you imagine tackling a 3,000+ mile long trail through high mountains like that? It’s just plain heroic!
Oh, are we gonna do that?
I’ve no doubt you could, Loop, but I’m not up for it. Completing any one of those trails is a gigantic endeavor! I’ll be happy, if we can just make it to Squaretop Mountain.
Oh, I’m sticking with you, SPHP. I’ll be happy if we can find some squirrels!
Lupe continued meeting people along the Lakeside Trail. They came strung out in small groups, but were all members of a youth group that had been camped at Twin Lakes. The group leaders were all concerned about an 18 year old, who had wandered off on his own and never showed up at camp last night. Their anxiety was only increased by the knowledge that his father was an attorney.
Two miles from where she’d started, Lupe reached the end of Lower Green River Lake. Another 0.25 mile brought her to a trail junction. Loop turned R on the Porcupine Trail (No. 137). She would be gaining elevation nearly all the way to Porcupine Pass, a good 6 or 7 miles away as the trail goes.
The Porcupine Trail didn’t begin climbing immediately, however. For almost another 0.25 mile it remained level until Loop reached Porcupine Creek. No bridge! Another ford. Lovely! Lupe had forded a lot of big streams on her way to Wind River Peak, but SPHP had been hoping for a bridge here. No such luck.
Actually, that wasn’t entirely true. Upstream of the ford, a log extended over the creek. A thin cable, which could be easily grabbed for support, was stretched high above it. The log’s circumference wasn’t all that large, however, especially toward the far end. Lupe couldn’t grab the cable, and might easily fall. It was a drop of several feet into Porcupine Creek. This makeshift bridge wasn’t going to do.
The near side of the ford was shallow, slow-moving water. The far side was deeper, and a great volume of water seemed to be racing by. What bothered SPHP far more than the ford itself, however, was what was right below it. Only 20 feet below the ford, Porcupine Creek made a sharp bend. This bend was clogged with sunken logs, branches and other debris. The water was over Lupe’s head. If she got swept downstream, she would be pinned with great force against the debris.
Czech Mix hadn’t come this way. The entire youth group had, however. No one had mentioned any problems crossing Porcupine Creek. SPHP didn’t like the setup, but decided to carry Lupe across.
The bottom where the creek was deepest was stony. Fortunately, perhaps due to traffic on the trail, the stones weren’t very slippery. Porcupine Creek turned out to be only knee deep, but SPHP still had a hard time maintaining balance on the uneven bottom against the force of the swift current. The Carolina Dog was glad to be let gently back down on solid ground again, when SPHP managed to struggle across safely.
The Porcupine Trail now began to climb aggressively, switchbacking SW up a steep forested slope. Partway up, Lupe could hear Porcupine Falls somewhere off in the woods to the N, but she never saw it. After gaining 800 feet of elevation, the trail gradually started leveling off. Eventually Porcupine Creek came back into view.
Shortly after leveling out, the trail turned NW and forded Porcupine Creek again. It could be seen continuing up a hillside beyond the far bank. Thinking that was just the way to Twin Lakes, SPHP skipped the turn, and led Lupe SW beyond a trail junction staying on the SE side of Porcupine Creek.
The trail Lupe was on soon disappeared in a bog. SPHP was puzzled when it couldn’t be found again on the other side. Where had it gone? No matter. Lupe and SPHP continued onward, bushwhacking through the forest up hilly terrain.
After more than 0.25 mile, Lupe did find the Porcupine Trail again! Belatedly, SPHP suddenly realized the trail to Twin Lakes hadn’t branched off until the Porcupine Trail had crossed over to the W side of the creek. To stay on the trail, Lupe should have taken the ford that SPHP had her skip.
Oh, well. No harm done. Lupe had managed to bushwhack her way through, and it was actually better this way when the creek was so high. The American Dingo’s bushwhacking had avoided 2 stream fords in the process. Puppy, ho! Onward!
The trail was in great condition where Lupe found it. It headed SW up a huge valley. Porcupine Creek was often in view flowing through wide green meadows. The trail almost always stayed out in the open, but gradually deteriorated, becoming muddy and passing through bogs in some places. Lupe had wonderful views of rugged mountains towering over the far side of the valley.
More than 0.5 mile from where Lupe had picked up the trail again, Porcupine Creek turned W to go around a small forested hill. This was an especially nice spot, and seemed like a good place to take a break. Lupe left the main trail to follow a short side spur down to the stream. Wildflowers grew in abundance. Lupe laid down for a rest. Mosquitoes were a nuisance for the first time today, but they weren’t too bad.
After a pleasant break, Lupe and SPHP continued on. The Porcupine Trail climbed the small forested hill, but soon exited the forest again. For a while the trail was wet and boggy. However, the valley eventually narrowed. The trail became rockier, steeper, and re-entered the forest. Up ahead were mountains with more snow on them than the scattered patches seen up to this point.
After a long march, the Porcupine Trail finally emerged from the forest again. It approached Porcupine Creek, closely following the E bank. As Lupe continued S, the trail disappeared straight into a huge snowbank. Efforts to pick up the trail on the far side of the snowbank failed. Sigh. What now?
Lupe had been making good progress toward the upper end of the long valley. Ahead was another stretch of forest, but it couldn’t be too much farther to open ground again. There seemed to be no choice, but to resume bushwhacking and see where it led. The American Dingo climbed back into the forest.
The forest was denser here than where Lupe had bushwhacked before. It wasn’t too hard to get around, though. Loopster soon came to two substantial tributaries of Porcupine Creek in quick succession. They were wild, whitewater streams that plunged W down from mountains on the E side of the valley.
Fortunately neither tributary was so large that Lupe couldn’t find a safe place to ford them in short order. Looper hadn’t gotten too far beyond the second stream when she reached the end of the forest. She started crossing a meadow, and came across the Porcupine Trail yet again.
SPHP didn’t realize it at the time, but the trail had once again crossed over to the W side of Porcupine Creek for a short distance before returning to the E side. So what? Lupe’s bushwhacking had avoided another 2 fordings. She was close to the end of the valley now. Porcupine Pass was less than a mile away! The trail went SE, heading straight for it.
The trail became progressively steeper and steeper. Soon Lupe was on switchbacks. The forest began to thin out. The trees became stunted. When Lupe reached treeline, Porcupine Pass was in view. It was nothing like SPHP expected.
Porcupine Pass is at 10,700 feet elevation. Yet due solely to its name, SPHP had always thought of it as being forested. Thought of it as a place one might find porcupines – not that finding a porcupine was a good idea. An encounter with one might end very badly for Lupe.
No worries, though, on that score! Only scattered trees remained in view ahead. None at all were up on the high saddle which appeared to be Porcupine Pass. Lupe was still hundreds of feet below the pass. A very long, steep snowbank led up to the top. Egads!
Lupe continued up the trail, now hidden beneath snow, until she got close to the steep final slope leading up to Porcupine Pass. Here she left the trail, and traveled E climbing a rocky hill. She got up high enough for a good look around at the terrain in most directions.
The view to the E was the critical one. It was decision time. SPHP had originally planned for Lupe to go all the way on up to Porcupine Pass. From there she would head E tomorrow for New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) and Peak11,820 on her way to Squaretop Mountain(11,625 ft.).
However, an alternate route skipping New Benchmark entirely might be possible by continuing E from here without ever going all the way up to Porcupine Pass. The topo map seemed to suggest this might be an easier route.
SPHP hesitated. The view to the E was not all that reassuring. Going E didn’t look clearly possible or impossible for Lupe. There was a lot of rough, rocky ground. Half a mile away or more was a wall of rock. From here, SPHP couldn’t see enough detail to tell for certain if Loop might be able to skirt it to the S, or not.
A significantly longer, but perhaps less rugged option was also in sight to the NE. That route all depended on whether Lupe could manage to get up on a big ridge at the end of a valley. She probably could, but she’d have to travel quite a distance to find out for sure.
Maybe all of the routes would work? Maybe none of them would. The decision on which way to go was an important one, perhaps critical if Lupe was going to have any success in reaching Squaretop Mountain. Yet the right thing to do wasn’t at all clear. Lupe could only try one approach. SPHP wasn’t carrying enough supplies for any more than that.
Only short sections of the trail switchbacking 400 feet up the steep slope to Porcupine Pass were visible. The vast majority of the trail was buried beneath a long steep snowfield. However, a lane of snow-free ground existed E of the trail. It was very steep, but Lupe could climb that slope easily enough. SPHP could probably manage it, too.
In the end, SPHP decided to stick with the original plan. Lupe began the climb up to Porcupine Pass.
It was a good thing the slope wasn’t any steeper, or SPHP wouldn’t have made it. There were places where there was nothing firm to hang onto. Traction wasn’t always good. Yet it wasn’t long before Loop and SPHP were safely up at Porcupine Pass. The views were impressive!
Porcupine Pass was beautiful, but barren. It felt cold, remote and forlorn. Lupe hadn’t seen anyone since leaving the Lakeside Trail many miles ago. It had been a long day. For hours during the afternoon there had been dark clouds off to the NW, but now that it was evening, the sky had partially cleared. There were still clouds around, but they didn’t look threatening.
Congratulations, Loopster! This is it. Porcupine Pass. You made it!
We’re staying here?
Yeah, for tonight. I’ll set up your tiny house in a minute. Want to climb that hill to the W for a look around, once it’s up? It’s Porcupine Pass Peak(10,890 ft.). Won’t take long.
Can we do it in the morning, SPHP? I’m hungry, and ready for a snooze. Mosquitoes are bugging me even up here. I’d sort of like to get in the tiny house, and call it a day.
Sure, we can do that. I’d wish for a breeze to blow the bloodsuckers away, but its probably not a good idea.
I have a feeling Porcupine Pass would be an absolute hurricane if the wind came up. We’re lucky it’s a calm evening, even if we have to put up with some bad bugs. Anyway, you’re right. Tomorrow’s our big push for Squaretop Mountain. We may as well eat and rest up for it as much as possible. Just getting to New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) might be an ordeal, and Squaretop is miles beyond it.
Are we going to have problems?
Dunno. Maybe. New Benchmark looks far more challenging than I’d expected. However, once we’re beyond it, you’ll have gained all the elevation you need to, and the terrain ought to be a lot easier. It better be, if we’re ever going to make it to Squaretop. We’ll see, though. One thing is for certain, tomorrow will be another long day.
Whatever. What’s for dinner?
For you, Alpo and Cliff bar.
Oh, that doesn’t sound bad at all! Hurry up and get the tiny house assembled, would you? I’m famished!
Day 5 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
The sun was up, and so was SPHP, busily engaged in breaking camp. Was Lupe OK? For once, it was the American Dingo that still seemed tired. Lupe remained relaxing in her “tiny house” until SPHP was ready to disassemble it.
Come on out of there, Loop! It’s a glorious morning, and we have a long day ahead of us.
I wish, but no, we aren’t. As much as I hate to leave such beautiful territory, it’s time to head back to civilization. The rush is that this whole trip was only supposed to take 3 days, and this is the 4th day. I’ve already had a bite to eat this morning, but now all I have left is one Cliff bar. No doubt you’ll want at least half of it.
We’re out of food!?
I am. You still have plenty Taste of the Wild. At least, until I start chowing down on it, which will happen tomorrow for sure, if we don’t get out of here. It’s a long way back to Worthen Meadow Reservoir.
What flavor did you say that Cliff bar was?
I didn’t, but it’s chocolate coconut, if you must know.
Oh, that does sound good! Let’s get going!
Only 500 or 600 feet S of base camp, Tayo Lake came into view. Most of the lake was still covered in snow and ice. What a beautiful sight it was! It really was a shame to have to leave.
Loop had just been feeling lazy back in her tiny house. There wasn’t a thing wrong with her. On the way down to Tayo Lake, she was bursting with energy. She had a great time racing across the open heather and frisking on big snowbanks.
When Lupe got close to the end of Tayo Lake, SPHP suggested leaving the ridge to go down to the shore near the Tayo Creek outlet. Loopster was in favor of that. She hadn’t actually been to the lake shore on the way to Wind River Peak. This was her last chance to see it.
The water was perfectly still. High rock ridges reflected in the silvery smooth surface. Lupe could hear the nearby gurgling of Tayo Creek starting down the valley. Beyond Tayo Lake was the big green ridge where she’d spent the past two nights in her tiny house at base camp. From there she’d been able to look down on Lake 11,145, now hidden in a cirque above Tayo Lake. Wind River Peak towered over it all. Only yesterday, Lupe had been up there.
After a few minutes lost in contemplation of the magnificent scene, Lupe reminded SPHP it was time to press on. SPHP led Loopster back up onto the ridge. She then started S down wide snowy lanes flanked by stunted forest.
As Lupe descended, SPHP kept watching for the route she had taken up to Tayo Lake 2 days ago, but never really found it. Uncertain whether the Carolina Dog was too far W or E, SPHP led her back and forth in both directions. Lupe traveled over snowfields SPHP was certain she hadn’t been to before. Gradually it dawned on SPHP that Loop was too far W. It wouldn’t really matter, though, would it? The terrain should eventually funnel all routes down to the same general area.
The first indication of a potential problem came when Lupe reached a rushing stream. Cascading swiftly down a narrow channel, the stream was large enough to be Tayo Creek, yet Lupe was W of it. How could that be? Lupe had started off E of Tayo Creek when she left Tayo Lake, and hadn’t crossed it. SPHP was also certain Looper hadn’t crossed or even seen this stream on the way up to Tayo Lake 2 days ago. The maps revealed nothing. Hmm.
Lupe followed the gushing stream down to a large clearing where it fed into a pond. A short distance below the pond, a smaller stream flowed down from the NW to join the larger one. The smaller stream almost certainly had to be Tayo Creek. Tayo Creek wasn’t particularly wide here, but was fairly deep.
Loop needed to get across Tayo Creek, but SPHP didn’t relish the idea of fording it. Near the confluence of the creeks, snow bridges extended over both streams. All the snow banks Lupe had crossed higher up had been strong enough to hold even SPHP’s weight. These snow bridges looked substantial, too.
Just below the confluence, another snow bridge went over the combined streams. If the snow bridge over Tayo Creek collapsed, Lupe might get swept under the downstream bridge where SPHP couldn’t help her.
SPHP tested the snow bridge by the edge of Tayo Creek. It seemed plenty sturdy enough. Lupe would be fine, if she went first.
Lupe dashed across the snow bridge with no problem. SPHP followed. The snow bridge held. Well, that was easy! Way easier than fording the creek would have been.
Lupe was now W of Tayo Creek. She wouldn’t have to cross it again, but knew from experience other big streams were still ahead. The American Dingo followed Tayo Creek S. She ran and sniffed happily in open green forest. Meanwhile, the stream plunged into a narrow canyon. Lupe was losing elevation much more slowly. Tayo Creek was soon far below her.
Tayo Creek disappeared from view. Lupe continued through the forest in a S or SE direction, still losing elevation. A mere 15 minutes after crossing Tayo Creek, Lupe arrived at yet another large stream. This was the stream flowing E from Coon Lake.
The stream from Coon Lake was too wild to ford where Lupe reached it. Loop and SPHP followed it upstream looking for a place to cross. After 15 minutes, SPHP saw a single flat rock that the entire stream was flowing over. The water was shallow and evenly spread. Lupe could cross there!
Lupe had other ideas. While SPHP started for the flat rock, she found some other place to cross the creek. Suddenly, there she was on the opposite S bank!
Having made it over the creek all on her own, Lupe was anxious for SPHP to follow. The big flat rock wasn’t far away, but rocks, trees and a considerable quantity of deadfall made it a struggle to get there. SPHP shouted to Lupe to stay where she was. For several minutes, she did. However, Loop became increasingly concerned as SPHP continued crashing around obstacles on the opposite shore.
When SPHP reached the flat rock, it was possible to see a good snow bridge only a little farther upstream. That would be an even better place to cross! SPHP pleaded with Lupe to remain where she was, but when SPHP turned away she couldn’t wait any longer. Suddenly she was at SPHP’s feet again, fine and dandy. She’d crossed the stream unseen a second time.
Upon reaching the snow bridge, Lupe could see she wasn’t far below a massive snowfield that extended out of sight up the slope to the W. Coon Lake must be up there somewhere, perhaps not too far away. Unfortunately, the already long day ahead meant Lupe didn’t have time for a side trip to go see it. She crossed the creek from Coon Lake for the third time on the snow bridge with SPHP.
S of the creek again, Loop headed SE through the forest. Half an hour went by before she reached another big stream. This was the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake.
Once again, Lupe had reached the stream at a poor place to attempt a crossing. She traveled upstream looking for a better spot, and soon stumbled upon Mountain Sheep Lake itself. The pretty lake was long, narrow, and tucked in a deep side valley off the main canyon Tayo Creek flows through.
A short break was taken to admire Mountain Sheep Lake. When it was over, the problem of where to cross the outlet stream still needed to be resolved. There seemed to be two choices. Not too far downstream from the lake, the creek flowed through a rocky area where it might be possible to rock hop most of the way over.
The other choice was to ford the creek right at the outlet from Mountain Sheep Lake. The stream was wide here, but relatively shallow most of the way. The current was slower, too.
SPHP thought maybe the outlet was the better choice. Convinced Lupe wouldn’t have a problem, SPHP started across, but Loop didn’t follow. SPHP made it to the opposite bank only to turn around and see poor Loop still stranded on the other side. She was intimidated by the width of the stream.
SPHP shouted encouragement to Loop. She could do this!
Lupe hesitated, clearly torn over what to do. She went back and forth along the far bank looking for an answer to her predicament. Finally, as she stood on a rock projecting into the stream, another urging from SPHP seemed to embolden her. She went back to the bank, then waded into the cold water. She had to swim, but only a little bit. Lupe made it across.
SPHP had rewarded Loop with pieces of the last chocolate coconut Cliff bar after she’d crossed Tayo Creek, and again after she’d crossed the creek from Coon Lake. Lupe looked at SPHP expectantly.
Guess, I knew all along you’d get most of this Cliff bar. Here you go, Loop.
I earned it!
Yes, I know. You did great, Looper.
Lupe wouldn’t face another major stream crossing for a long way now. The next landmark she would go by would be Poison Lake, about a mile to the NE. Lupe had a fantastic time in the forest, staying well S of Tayo Creek. The Carolina Dog displayed great energy and enthusiasm, crossing many minor streams and numerous big bogs. She frolicked and cooled off on snowbanks melting away in the soggy forest. She was back in prime squirrel territory, and spent much of her time barking happily.
Going around the SE end of Poison Lake, Lupe returned to the rock platform overlooking the lake she’d been to before on the way up. The sun was almost directly overhead. Time for another break. Lupe and SPHP sat together with a view of Wind River Peak far beyond Poison Lake. What little was left of the chocolate coconut Cliff bar met its doom.
Beyond Poison Lake, Lupe continued following the Tayo River downstream. She didn’t stay as close to it as she had on the way up, since she didn’t need to find a way across. She did see one of the two waterfalls she’d discovered on the way up, but whether it was the upper or lower falls, SPHP didn’t remember.
Lupe had a wonderful time in the forest, but she finally reached Lower Tayo Park again and came to the Middle Popo Agie River. She forded it at the S end of Lower Tayo Park just as she’d done before.
Lupe had finally made it back to a trail! SPHP was curious to see what conditions were like now back at the ford where Trail No. 707 crosses the Middle Popo Agie River below its confluence with Tayo Creek. The situation really hadn’t changed much at all. The ford was still as badly flooded as it was before.
Lupe returned to Middle Fork Trail No. 700, and followed it NE downstream along the Middle Popo Agie River. She was getting close to the junction with Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704 when a backpacker appeared ahead. He was the first person Lupe and SPHP had seen in 75 hours – more than 3 days.
The backpacker was from Flagstaff, Arizona. He said he was on his way to Tayo Lake, but had nearly turned back at the Stough Creek ford. SPHP explained the situation he would soon face at the flooded ford in Lower Tayo Park, and also described how Lupe had bushwhacked all the way to Tayo Lake and Wind River Peak.
The backpacker went on. Lupe would never know if he made it to Tayo Lake using her bushwhacking route or not. She soon left the Middle Popo Agie River on Trail No. 704 to Stough Creek.
Until now, Lupe had been going downhill nearly all day long. Now she had to climb. The American Dingo did great. She still had plenty of energy to run around looking for squirrels in the forest. SPHP felt played out, though. Going uphill was tough. At least a lot of snow had melted since Lupe had last been here, so it was easier to follow the trail.
Lupe reached the ford at Stough Creek. The situation had not changed from 3 days ago. SPHP still didn’t like the looks of it. Stough Creek was too fast, deep and scary! SPHP was going to have Lupe cross a little upstream of the ford again, then remembered the bridge over Stough Creek near the next trail intersection higher up. Maybe Lupe could just bushwhack up to that bridge?
Loop abandoned the trail for the final bushwhacking session of her Wind River Peak adventure. She hadn’t gone far when she came to a sizable tributary of Stough Creek. Loop forded this lesser creek, and entered a lovely green field that proved to be sopping wet. Another bog! She traipsed across it, and a second one, too, before finally reaching the forest and dry land on the other side.
The off-trail climb through the forest was steep. Lupe came to another major tributary of Stough Creek. It was all whitewater where Lupe reached it.
Lupe followed the tributary upstream to where the terrain leveled out. Here she could ford the tributary without much of a problem. Shortly after crossing the tributary, she found a trail. Lupe followed the trail N. Within 300 feet she arrived at the bridge over Stough Creek. Yes!
Lupe had finally reached Stough Creek Lakes Trail No. 702. It would take her the rest of the way back to the Worthen Meadow trailhead, still a good 5 miles away. Only one major creek crossing remained, Roaring Fork Creek which would come near the end. Onward!
The Carolina Dog was now in a nearly level part of the forest. She soon came to the area where stagnant yellow and orange ponds were scattered among the trees. Up until now, the mosquitoes hadn’t been bad, but here they were terrible.
The climb back up to the high saddle N of High Point 10965 where Lupe had first seen Wind River Peak on her way in was torturous for SPHP, who was nearly exhausted by now. The plucky American Dingo was unfazed. Mosquitoes drove SPHP on. Even when Lupe reached the high saddle, they were bad enough to prevent any long delay. Lupe and SPHP did pause for a few moments, though, to gaze upon the grandeur of Wind River Peak for a final time.
It was still 3 miles back to the Worthen Meadow trailhead from the high saddle. Nearly all of it was downhill, which helped SPHP a great deal. The constant whine of mosquitoes was maddening, but all the Deet was long gone. Lupe busied herself looking for squirrels in the forest. Rest assured American Dingoes never tire of this sport.
At long last, the final ford over Roaring Fork Creek next to Roaring Fork Lake appeared. Lupe ran down to the stream and plunked herself down in the water to cool off.
Roaring Fork Creek didn’t look any different than it had 3 days ago. The water was just as high as before. No matter. In a cloud of mosquitoes, SPHP prepared to cross, then simply went for it.
This time, SPHP stayed upstream of the big rock. The water wasn’t mid-thigh deep here like it was downstream of the rock, but was still several inches over the knee. The even gravelly bottom and gentle current made this ford seem trivial now after all the streams and rivers Lupe had crossed on the way to Wind River Peak and back.
Lupe hadn’t come, though. The water was over her head for a long way. SPHP tried coaxing her from the opposite bank, but without the aid of the enticing chocolate coconut Cliff bar, Lupe stayed put. Seeing further entreaties were futile, SPHP dumped the backpack and waded back into the stream.
As soon as Lupe saw help was on the way, she plunged into Roaring Fork Creek and started swimming toward SPHP. She remembered being on the big rock SPHP had put her on before midstream and swam to it. However, the rock was steep where she reached it. She tried, but Lupe couldn’t get up on it by herself. The current carried her out of sight behind the rock.
Lupe didn’t reappear downstream. What was happening? No doubt she was still striving to get up on the rock, but SPHP couldn’t see her. Before SPHP could get there, Loop grew fearful and gave up. Suddenly she was in view again heading back to shore. SPHP continued over to get her.
SPHP picked the cold, drenched Carolina Dog up, and carried the grateful, dripping Dingo across Roaring Fork Creek. Lupe’s last adventure of her 4 day journey to Wind River Peak was over.
At Worthen Meadow Reservoir, Lupe lost no time hopping into the G6 (9:00 PM). She curled up on her pillows and blankets, licked herself clean, and devoured an entire can of Alpo. She still had room for a McDonald’s cheeseburger in Lander an hour later. The night time scene at Lander City Park was astonishing. The place was absolutely packed with tents and RV’s.
SPHP took the last parking spot available. It was right beneath a bright streetlight. For some strange reason the streetlight cycled on and off at 30 second intervals. After Lupe’s long march all the way from Tayo Lake, it was only a minor annoyance. Lupe and SPHP were both fast asleep, dead to the world, still dreaming of fabulous Wind River Peak.
Day 4 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Lupe wanted out. SPHP unzipped the door of her “tiny house”, and she vanished into the night. A nearly full moon hung over the mountains bathing the world in a ghostly glow. It was late, very late. Hours of light rain showers were over. Fortunately, the tiny house and everything in it had escaped being drenched. The clear sky was a welcome sight.
SPHP scanned nearby terrain tying to pick out the Carolina Dog. She was nowhere to be seen. Many secrets remain concealed beyond the pale power of moonlight to reveal. SPHP listened. Nothing but a soft breeze sighing.
Ten minutes later, she came racing back all out of breath.
Out having adventures in the night without me, aye Looper?
Maybe. A short one.
Want to tell me about it?
Nope, gonna go back to sleep now.
Smart. You’ll need some of that energy for Wind River Peak in the morning.
SPHP zipped the door of the tiny house shut as soon as Lupe was in. Best get as much shuteye as possible. Dawn couldn’t be more than a few hours away.
The moon was gone the next time Loop wanted out. Sol blazed well above the horizon. Morning! This was it! Breakfast. Final preparations. Everything ready. The great moment arrived. Now or never! Wind River Peak or bust! Lupe and SPHP headed N abandoning the tiny house. Nothing but up, now! 2,000 feet should about do it.
Lupe, who had been too tired to eat yesterday evening, was chock full of energy and ambition. She ran this way and that sniffing around big rocks. No squirrels, today! The American Dingo was already above tree line. SPHP was feeling the effects of the thin air, and two long days struggling to get to base camp above Tayo Lake. At the top of the first steep rise, SPHP paused to catch breath.
The S slopes of Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) were directly ahead. The way up seemed straightforward enough. Just keep climbing while avoiding any steep snow. Lupe would work her way NW to gain a S ridge that looked snow-free all the way to the top. It would be a long boulder hop, but that was OK. American Dingoes are great scramblers! Nothing was in view that should prevent Lupe from reaching the summit.
Lupe and SPHP continued on, pausing now and then to look around and let SPHP catch breath. The terrain grew rockier. Lupe gained elevation steadily, but reaching the rocks slowed SPHP down considerably. The Carolina Dog had plenty of time to wander, sniff and survey the tremendous views.
Looper couldn’t completely avoid the snow fields, but had no problem traversing them. She enjoyed the snow, and crossed at points that SPHP could manage. She made it above the last big snowfield, and gained the upper S ridge she’d been aiming for. The rest of the trek was just a long, long scramble up the rocks.
The morning had been breezy until now, but it was just plain windy way up here on the S ridge. A gusty 20 to 30 mph wind blew out of the W. Occasionally the air was calm for a moment or two between gusts, but most of the time the wind was powerful enough to be an annoyance. Lupe stayed E of the ridgeline for a little protection whenever possible.
After a long scramble up countless rocks, the S ridge began to level out. Loopster had to be getting close to the top! She encountered a couple of larger rock formations, but had no problem scrambling around them. Ahead the ridge broadened out to perhaps an acre or more of gently sloping jumbled rock. Was that the summit?
A rock formation at the far N end looked noticeably higher than anything else in sight. Lupe headed for it. Even before she got there, it became apparent she was indeed approaching the summit of Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.). SPHP was overjoyed! The Carolina Dog had made it! Lupe leapt up onto the rock formation. She stood proudly in the breeze atop the glorious mountain.
SPHP joined Lupe at the top of the mountain. The sky was a bit hazy, whether due to smoke or humidity was hard to say. Even so, the views were simply superlative! SPHP congratulated Lupe on her peakbagging success, and shook her paw. For 10 minutes, Loop and SPHP sat in the wind up on the highest rocks, while SPHP stroked her soft ears and fur.
It wasn’t noon yet, but seemed like time for at least a snack. Lupe and SPHP got down off the summit rocks, and took shelter from the wind next to them. While Lupe devoured Taste of the Wild, SPHP had a Cliff bar, then searched around for a survey benchmark shown on the topo map. Nothing. SPHP couldn’t find a Nalgene bottle that was supposed to contain a summit register, either.
Puzzling. Wasn’t this the summit? It seemed obvious that it was. There were a couple of competing high points that didn’t look too much lower, though. One was to the E and the other along the W edge of the summit area. Better have Loop check them out, too, just in case.
Yeah, that was a good idea. Lupe had discovered a pika living among the summit rocks and was chasing it. The pika knew its home well, and had an easy time avoiding the Carolina Dog bent on its destruction. Completely fascinated by the elusive pika, Lupe was racing and bounding around oblivious to monstrous cliffs only a few feet away. Better put a swift end to this merry chase before it was Dingo overboard and the pika scored a victory!
Lupe found nothing among the large rocks at the E high point. Since she was close to the E edge of the summit area, she went a little further to check out the views over there.
Having seen the views to the E, Lupe visited several of the highest rocks along the mountain’s W edge. No sign of any benchmark or registry turned up here, either. However, the views to the W were even more glorious, due in no small part to the eye-catching proximity of Temple Peak(12,972 ft.) and East Temple Peak(12,600 ft.).
Beyond Haystack Mountain(11,978 ft.), Lupe could see the famed Cirque of the Towers, a gorgeous area she had been to before in 2015. Closer by, a slice of Black Joe Lake was in view more than 2,900 ft. below the American Dingo’s lofty vantage point.
Unfortunately, there was enough humidity, smoke or whatever it was in the air to ruin any really distant views Loop would have had on a totally clear day. With 360° of incredibly beautiful nearby panoramic splendor to admire, though, it hardly mattered.
While Loop relaxed, SPHP took some close ups.
Loop? Loop, where are you?
The American Dingo had been resting at SPHP’s feet just a minute or two ago, but she wasn’t here now. SPHP quickly scanned Wind River Peak’s summit area. Nada. Where had she gone off to?
Suddenly there she was, leaping and scrambling madly around the rocks over at the true summit. She hadn’t forgotten that pika, and had slunk off to pursue it again. No doubt mountaintop pika hunting was great sport, but it involved an element of real danger for both pika and Dingo.
Once more, SPHP put an end to the merriment.
Lupe stayed up on the summit only a short while longer. An hour had flown by already. Maybe it was time to think of moving on? Many hours of daylight remained, but as slow as SPHP is climbing a mountain, SPHP somehow manages to be even slower going down rocky slopes like those on Wind River Peak.
Partly for the pika’s sake, and partly to get on with it, Lupe and SPHP left Wind River Peak’s true summit for the final time ambling S. Loop got up on a boulder for a last look at Temple Peak.
Lupe and SPHP continued S toward the rock formations near the start of the steeper descent down the S ridge. Of course, the views here were tremendous, too. Lupe delayed the start of her descent until SPHP had taken a few more photos of the magnificent Wind River Range.
An hour and a half after she’d arrived at the summit of Wind River Peak, Lupe began her descent in earnest. The Carolina Dog did lots of exploring, sight-seeing and waiting around as SPHP slowly clambered down the long rocky slopes. Two hours passed before Lupe was below the big snowfields again.
Another two hours passed before she arrived back at her “tiny house”. Although Wind River Peak didn’t look 2,000 feet higher from here, it most certainly was. Lupe and SPHP could both vouch for that now. At least 4 hours of daylight remained, but it had been another strenuous long day already. Lupe joined SPHP inside her tiny house for a needed nap.
It was evening by the time Lupe emerged again feeling refreshed. The rest had done SPHP some good, too. SPHP proposed a stroll over to Lake 11,145. Lupe was enthusiastic about the idea, but she never made it all the way to the lake. Streams and marshes blocked the final approach, and SPHP didn’t want to get wet feet.
Loop circled around to the S end of the big ridge her tiny house was pitched on. For a long time, Lupe and SPHP sat together on a rock overlooking Tayo Lake watching the evening light fade from the mountains.
When the mosquitoes got bad, it was time to return to the tiny house. Lupe remained outside while SPHP arranged things inside for the coming night. When all was ready, SPHP went back out.
N farther up the ridge, more than 100 feet away, Lupe was all alone. She rested on the ground, still scanning the vast darkening wilderness. She saw SPHP, but didn’t come. For 10 minutes Lupe and SPHP watched each other from a distance. Loop didn’t move a muscle. What was she pondering all by herself?
Hard to say. SPHP would never really know, but if a guess had to be made, she may have been thinking about the elusive pika she would never see again that lives at the very top of towering Wind River Peak.
Day 3 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Lupe hadn’t seen the stars all night. In the wee hours, SPHP woke to the sound of raindrops on her “tiny house”. Not good. The rain cover had been lost years ago. If it rained hard at all, everything would get soaking wet. Lupe wanted out to sniff around in the darkness. SPHP unzipped the door and let her go.
The Carolina Dog returned before too long, content to lay down on her red sleeping bag again. SPHP folded it over her for warmth. Light rain continued intermittently for hours. A gray dawn finally heralded the new day. Everything was damp. Better get going nonetheless.
After a brief bite to eat, it was time to find out what fate had in store.
May as well leave things here while we do a quick reconnaissance, Loop. This might all be over before we even get started.
Over! Last night, you said you had a plan!
Yes, two plans actually. The first one is no doubt doomed from the start. We’ll know for certain in a few minutes. The second plan might well suffer the same fate. Maybe, though, it will leave us with some hope, at least for a while.
Oh! Doesn’t sound too good. Are we going back soon, then?
Yes, Looper, if neither plan works, we won’t have any choice. Our Wind River Peak dreams will be kaput. Come on! Let’s go down to the river, and get this over with.
The Middle Popo Agie River was only a couple minutes away from the tiny house. Surprisingly, the river had actually dropped an inch or two overnight. It wasn’t enough, not nearly enough. Plan A was a failure. Lupe would still have to traipse 80 feet or more through a shallow lake just to get to the river channel where the ford was. No way! The river was way out of its banks, and far too dangerous.
That was Plan A, SPHP? You’re kidding, right? You knew the river would still be flooding!
Of course, but yeah, hoping that the river had gone down enough to ford it was Plan A. We at least had to come and take another look, didn’t we? Thought maybe it would look more possible this morning than when I was tired last night. It doesn’t. Let’s go check out Plan B.
Plan B had better be a doozie compared to Plan A!
Lupe had spent the night camped only 0.25 mile away from the intersection of Trails No. 707 & 706 up in Tayo Park. From there, she would have had two possible routes to Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.). She could have taken No. 706 N to Deep Creek Lakes, or No. 707 W to Tayo Lake.
The original idea was to make a nice loop up via Deep Creek Lakes and down by Tayo Lake. SPHP had seen trip reports where others had done it that way. However, the Wind River Range still had tons of snow in the high country. Snow melt was flooding the Middle Popo Agie River. Loop couldn’t even get to the ford on Trail No. 707, never mind across the river.
Lupe and SPHP returned to her tiny house, then took a shortcut S to Middle Fork Trail No. 700. On the way, Lupe could see Tayo Creek on the opposite side of the valley roaring down a hillside to join forces with the Middle Popo Agie River only a little upstream of the ford. That sight was what had given SPHP hope yesterday evening. Maybe Loopster wasn’t totally thwarted yet in her efforts to get to Wind River Peak?
Lupe reached Middle Fork Trail No. 700 a little S of where she’d left it yesterday evening to take Trail No. 707 to the flooding Middle Popo Agie River. A small wooden sign along No. 700 read simply “Tayo Park”.
Hey, Loop, look at that! We’re already at Tayo Park! Lower Tayo Park, that is. The topo map only shows Tayo Park on the other side of the Middle Popo Agie River 120 feet higher than where we are now. Guess there’s an Upper and a Lower Tayo Park? At least now we can say you did make it to Lower Tayo Park, if not the upper one.
Nothing’s really changed, though? We’re no better off than we were?
Not yet, sweet Dingo! We’ll know soon if there’s any hope of improvement.
Lupe and SPHP followed Middle Fork Trail No. 700 going S toward Sweetwater Gap. The Middle Popo Agie River snaked through flooded Lower Tayo Park just W of the trail.
The S end of Lower Tayo Park was only 0.2 mile away. When Lupe got to it, SPHP led her off Trail No. 700 over to the Middle Popo Agie River.
Hey, you’re in luck Looper! It’s on! Let’s go back and get the tiny house and rest of the gear.
Plan B is going to work?
Well, at least at the start. We’ll just have to see how far we can get. No guarantees at all.
So what is Plan B exactly?
Divide and conquer.
Meaning we’re coming back to cross the Middle Popo Agie right here. Most of the flow at the ford comes from Tayo Creek, which is actually by far the larger of the 2 streams above their confluence in Lower Tayo Park. After crossing the Middle Popo Agie, we’ll still be on the wrong side of Tayo Creek. You will have to keep following it upstream until either there’s a way across, or some impassable obstacle blocks the way forward. The farther we can make it upstream, the more tributaries we’ll get by, the smaller Tayo Creek will be, and the better our chances of reaching the trail again somewhere.
So in the meantime, we’re going to let the waters divide, and conquer them one smaller stream at a time?
Precisely, dear Dingo!
So there won’t be a trail?
Nope, a total bushwhack for miles, probably.
Oh, I love bushwhacks, SPHP! Plan B sounds like a great adventure!
Doesn’t it, though?
What are we waiting for? Let’s run!
Lupe streaked back to Trail No. 700. Of course, SPHP was much slower, so Loop had to keep returning to bark encouragement. It wasn’t too long, though, before SPHP had retrieved the tiny house and all the gear. Once again, Lupe stood on the E bank of the Middle Popo Agie River at the S end of Lower Tayo Park.
The Middle Popo Agie River was still a good-sized, fast flowing stream, but much smaller here than farther downstream where Tayo Creek added its torrential flow. SPHP forded the river first. Loop followed close behind. The waters were still pretty deep for her, but she managed to get across without any help. Plan B was underway!
Loop headed N along the W side of Lower Tayo Park. The whole bottom of the valley was a bog or worse. Lupe climbed a little up onto drier ground along the valley’s edge. She passed over a small forested ridge and came to a field on the other side, much of which also proved to be boggy. Loop crossed the wet field, and again climbed to drier ground in the forest.
The roar of Tayo Creek could be heard ahead. Lupe continued climbing steadily through open forest toward the noise. The terrain wasn’t bad at all. Mosquitoes were, though. Those miserable blood suckers were awful again today. 0.25 mile N of where Lupe had crossed the Middle Popo Agie, she reached a rock where she could see Tayo Creek rushing down a narrow channel below a steep bank. A small island was surrounded by whitewater.
Somewhere not too far away on the other side of Tayo Creek was Trail No. 707 to Upper Tayo Park. As fully expected, Lupe had no way to cross the raging stream yet. Lupe and SPHP turned W staying in the forest and following Tayo Creek upstream.
After gaining only a little over 100 feet of elevation, the terrain began to level out. Lupe had reached the S side of Upper Tayo Park. The surface of Tayo Creek was calm here, though ripples showed the water was still moving fast. A bog full of bushes prevented the Carolina Dog from getting anywhere close to the creek, which looked deep. On the far side, the bog extended hundreds of feet beyond the stream.
The American Dingo continued WSW following Tayo Creek. Beyond Upper Tayo Park, she started gaining elevation again. Tayo Creek reverted to a whitewater torrent. Though most of the ground in the open forest was dry, Lupe and SPHP crossed many snowdrifts. Despite the mosquitoes, Loop was having a fantastic time! Squirrels were everywhere! The Carolina Dog’s incessant yipping and yapping echoed through the valley.
SPHP’s promise, recently made back at Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.) in the Laramie Range, to bring Loop to higher mountains where there would be squirrels galore was being fulfilled!
Tayo Creek was becoming even more wild as Lupe continued upstream. SPHP feared it would eventually flow right up against cliffs, or other obstacles on the S side of the valley that Lupe couldn’t get past. So far, though, it hadn’t. Instead of finding herself blocked, Lupe discovered a lovely waterfall.
Lupe came to two separate waterfalls on Tayo Creek. They weren’t far apart. The lower falls were the largest. Staying in the forest, the American Dingo had no problem continuing upstream beyond them.
Loop didn’t have to travel very far beyond the waterfalls before the valley began to open up more. The American Dingo could now see some of the high country ahead.
Loop had been making good progress. SPHP realized that the valley opening up meant the Carolina Dog was fast approaching Poison Lake. If she couldn’t get around it, Poison Lake would spell the end of Plan B’s success.
Poison Lake! You never said anything about a Poison Lake, SPHP!
Oh, don’t worry about it Loopster. I can’t imagine it’s actually poisonous.
Ridiculous humans! Then why on earth would it be called Poison Lake?
How should I know? Someone once had a poor experience, I suppose.
Well thanks so much for the heads up, SPHP! Think I’ll just keep eating snow and drinking from these smaller streams, if you don’t mind.
Suit yourself, Loop. I think you could drink gallons from Poison Lake and be none the worse for the wear, though.
Lupe went over the crest of a little saddle, and there it was. Charmingly named Poison Lake, dead ahead! Loop went right on down to the shore, but did not wet her whistle. The view was reassuring. Yeah, Loopster shouldn’t have any problem getting around the S side of the lake. That was welcome news! Poison Lake had been a potentially serious obstacle.
Lupe headed S through the forest close to the E shore of the lake. The steepest terrain was near the SE end of Poison Lake. Lupe had to climb some distance above the shoreline. She came upon a big rock platform with a great view of the lake. Loop could even see Wind River Peak from here!
The sky was finally clearing. The day was brighter, more cheerful, and pleasantly warm. The mosquitoes, which had been bad until now, were less troublesome on the big rock. Plan B was going well, much better than SPHP had feared. Time for a break to celebrate Lupe’s success in reaching this lovely spot!
Lupe and SPHP lingered on the big rock overlooking Poison Lake for close to half an hour, enjoying the views and successful execution of Plan B to this point.
When break time was over, Lupe and SPHP continued the rest of the way around the S side of Poison Lake to the W shore. Lupe then began following Tayo Creek farther upstream. SPHP had hoped Loop would find a way across the stream beyond Poison Lake, but those hopes were quickly dashed.
The whole valley was boggy anywhere near Tayo Creek. The creek was smooth surfaced again as it flowed through nearly level terrain. The stream was so wide, it was hard to tell where Poison Lake ended and Tayo Creek began.
Eventually Tayo Creek narrowed down enough so it was clear Loop was beyond Poison Lake. She finally came to a place where relatively dry ground went almost all the way to the creek’s edge. Loop and SPHP both made it onto a big white rock where it was possible to peer down into the water.
Good heavens! The water was very clear, but remarkably deep. It was easily over SPHP’s head, and perhaps twice that depth.
Since crossing Tayo Creek was still totally out of the question, Lupe pressed on. She had to stay quite a distance from the stream channel due to surrounding bogs. Looper traveled mostly in the forest or along its edge. The Carolina Dog was making progress, but even the hillsides were soaking wet now. Rivulets of snow melt ran down every ravine, and pooled in every low spot.
Often it was advantageous to travel over huge snowdrifts at the forest’s edge. Usually the drifts held even SPHP’s weight. For Lupe, they were Dingo super highways. As SPHP marched onward, Lupe dashed about the forest in a relentless search for the next squirrel to annoy, frequently enjoying success.
Nearly a mile from Poison Lake, Lupe finally reached a major obstacle. A stream much larger than any other tributaries of Tayo Creek she had come to so far cascaded down rocky rapids from the S. This had to be the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake.
Crossing the tributary from Mountain Sheep Lake was an absolute necessity. Success would be a huge step forward in the divide and conquer plan. Failure meant defeat plain and simple – Lupe would have to turn back without ever having reached Wind River Peak.
Loop had reached the tributary at a bad spot. It didn’t look safe to cross here. The search began for a better place. The American Dingo needed to find one fast. The map showed that Mountain Sheep Lake probably wasn’t any more than 0.1 mile away. If Lupe reached the lake without finding a decent ford, it was all over.
The luck of the Dingo was with her! Going upstream, Lupe soon came to a place where the rocks were smaller. The creek spread out widely and evenly without deep spots. She could do this!
Lupe had no problem fording the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake all by herself. This success was a huge boost to her chances of reaching Wind River Peak. Once across, Loop and SPHP turned NW. Tayo Lake wasn’t much more than 1.5 miles away now!
Before long, Lupe could see a signpost sticking up out of a snowbank ahead. She’d reached a trail junction! Both trails were hidden beneath the snow, but one sign pointing W was for Trail No. 705 to Coon Lake. The other sign was for Trail No. 707 to Tayo Lake!
Beyond the snowbank, Lupe found the actual trail to Tayo Lake. She quickly lost it again beneath more snow, and was almost immediately confronted with another big stream. This was the tributary of Tayo Creek coming down from Crow Lake to the W. After searching around in a bog not far from the trail intersection, Lupe found a way across this relatively large stream, too. More progress!
A steady climb NW through the forest began as Loop forged ahead looking for the trail to Tayo Lake. It took a while to find it again. Even once it was found, it was hard to keep it that way. The trail was a fairly minor single track here. It kept disappearing beneath more snow, or disguising itself as a small stream.
About 0.5 mile from the trail intersection, the terrain leveled out. Trail No. 707 hardly existed here, but cairns showed Lupe was still on the right track. She was getting close to the final big creek crossing. Fording Tayo Creek could be delayed no longer.
Trail No. 707 was nowhere in sight when Lupe reached Tayo Creek again. A cairn on the opposite N shore showed that this was the ford, though. The creek was greatly reduced from the torrent it had been miles downstream. Divide and conquer had worked! SPHP waded across.
Even though Tayo Creek was greatly reduced, the water was still over Lupe’s head by the S bank where she reached it. An icy plunge into the swift stream was still intimidating. SPHP encouraged her to come, but Looper sat forlornly on the far bank looking worried.
Poor Loopster was afraid. How many scary, icy river crossings did she have to make in a single day, anyway? SPHP decided to go help her, and turned around momentarily to drop the backpack. Even more afraid of being abandoned than she was of Tayo Creek, Loop plunged in and crossed all by herself. What a trooper!
Lupe’s climb resumed up a forested hill. Once again, the terrain soon leveled out. Up ahead, beyond a boggy plain, Loop saw a snowy saddle. That saddle was where Tayo Creek flows out of Tayo Lake. Lupe was almost there!
After crossing the bog, Lupe started climbing. She stayed NE of the snowy saddle following avalanche tracks through a stunted forest. Views behind her improved rapidly as Loop gained elevation. The view of Mt. Nystrom(12,356 ft.) was particularly impressive.
Finally, 250 feet above the boggy plain, Lupe saw her objective – Tayo Lake! Plan B – Divide & Conquer had worked! Despite what SPHP had thought were poor odds, Lupe had made it. She was really here!
Tayo Lake was absolutely gorgeous! A layer of snow and ice floated on most of its surface. Impressive rock walls guarded the S and W shores. Two miles N, and nearly 2,500 feet higher, Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) beckoned. Tomorrow Lupe would have a chance to climb it. For the first time, her prospects for success suddenly seemed bright!
To the N & E of Tayo Lake, a long, broad ridge rose steadily toward the NW. Parts of the ridge were covered with stunted forests, but most of it was open ground. To further improve the chances of a successful ascent of Wind River Peak tomorrow, Lupe and SPHP started up the ridge.
From the broad ridge, Lupe could soon see a large waterfall plunging into a canyon to the E.
Lupe climbed more than 400 feet above Tayo Lake to a flat part of the ridge straight N of the lake. Although the afternoon had been mostly sunny, rain showers were now threatening. SPHP didn’t put up Lupe’s “tiny house” right away. Instead, Lupe and SPHP took a tour of the ridge to see the sights. An even higher mini-Tayo Lake, Lake 11,145, was in view to the W.
It was early evening and had been another long day. Lupe and SPHP were weary. Both curled up together beside a big rock where there was a grand view of Tayo Lake 400 feet below. The rock had an overhang offering partial protection from any rain showers. Drowsiness set in. Before long, Lupe and SPHP were completely out it.
The nap was helpful. When it was over, the sky was clearer. Lupe and SPHP set off to the N on top of the ridge looking for a place to pitch Lupe’s “tiny house”. A good spot was hard to find. Although it looked grassy, the ridge was actually rather rocky and dotted with boulders. Finally Lupe came to a place at around 11,250 feet elevation where the ground was lumpy, but not rocky. This would do.
SPHP put up the tiny house. Lupe had a great view of Lake 11,145 to the W from here. She could see Wind River Peak to the N. It was supposed to be more than 2,000 feet higher, but didn’t look that high. No doubt that was an illusion. Tayo Lake wasn’t in sight, but a 500 or 600 foot stroll to the S was all it took for a grand view.
What a day it had been! Lupe had tons of fun racing around the woods barking at squirrels. She had forded 4 major streams, countless small creeks, crossed numerous soggy bogs and huge snow drifts, climbed on rocks, and traveled many a mile. Divide and Conquer had worked! The Carolina Dog was now in position for an ascent of Wind River Peak tomorrow.
She’d had hardly anything to eat all day, though. Part of a Cliff bar and a single bowl of Taste of the Wild. Didn’t matter. Lupe was too tired to eat. The sun wasn’t down quite yet, but Loop was ready to go inside her “tiny house” and curl up on her sleeping bag.
Outside, clouds were gathering. A few raindrops struck the tiny house. SPHP pulled some of her sleeping bag over the exhausted Carolina Dog.
So far, so good, Loopster. You did great again today, sweet Dingo! Just hope we don’t get drenched tonight.
Lupe didn’t hear it. She was already in Dingo dreamland still barking happily at all those lovely squirrels.
August 28-30, 2012, Days 21-23 of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast.
As soon as Lanis woke up; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP would hit the road again. In the meantime, Lupe and SPHP took a little stroll. For SPHP, it had been a restless night trying to sleep sitting up in the Element. This car camping business was starting to get pretty old. Lupe, of course, was always fresh as a daisy, since she could stretch out and relax on her mountain of pillows and blankets in the back of the Element.
Last night’s car camping was SPHP’s own fault for being so stubborn. Lupe’s tiny house could have been set up back at the Farewell Bend State Recreation Area in Oregon. Instead, SPHP got persnickety about bureaucracy and regulations, and had Lanis keep driving. Lupe had made it as far as Boise, Idaho before stopping for the night.
Oh, well. It didn’t matter now, the night was over. On the bright side, SPHP had saved $18-22. When Lupe and SPHP got back to the Element, a bleary-eyed Lanis was at least conscious. He was soon pressed back into chauffer service driving SE on I-84. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP left I-84 at Mountain Home taking Hwy 20. Hwy 20 started out winding NE into the S end of a very dry looking mountain range.
The sky had been a little smoky in Boise, but along Hwy 20 the smoke was much thicker. The smoke got denser and denser until it was like being in a fog. Lanis started expecting to see the actual flames of a forest fire around any bend, but it didn’t happen. Way back in the early days of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation, back at the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming, the sky had been smoky then, too, but never this bad. Apparently the fires in Idaho had been burning all this time.
The skies were much clearer by the time Lupe reached Craters of the Moon National Monument. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP stopped briefly near the visitor center. Lanis went inside, and soon returned with the unsurprising news that Dingoes aren’t allowed on any of the trails. Well, that was that! Lupe made a few more stops at pullouts along Hwy 20 for photos, but she really didn’t get to do anything at Craters of the Moon.
Lupe continued on. Idaho remained hot and parched until Lupe reached Idaho Falls. E of Idaho Falls on Hwy 26, the scenery improved steadily. It was much greener here near the high mountains. By early evening, Lupe reached the fabulous Wind River Range near Pinedale, Wyoming. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP took Skyline Drive up to Elkhart Park for a look around.
From viewpoints along Skyline Drive, Lupe saw two big lakes, Half Moon Lake and Freemont Lake, formed by the retreat of large glaciers ages ago. Near Elkhart Park was a pullout along the road with a sweeping view of the central portion of the mighty Wind River Range. SPHP recognized Fremont Peak(13,745 ft.), one of many visible along the Continental Divide.
After going up to Elkhart Park and back down again, Lanis and SPHP pitched Lupe’s tiny house at the Fremont Lake campground. The campsite was some distance away from the lake. Lanis and SPHP feasted on sandwiches after a quick run in to Subway in Pinedale. Both Lanis and SPHP were feeling pretty tired, and looking forward to a night stretched out in Lupe’s tiny house.
Lupe wasn’t tired, though. She’d spent most of the last two days and nights cooped up in the Element. Lupe was bursting with energy! She was very happy to be out sniffing every tree and bush around. She was finally getting to do Dingo stuff again! With great enthusiasm, she raised a ruckus over each and every squirrel. Slowly the sun went down. Twilight faded. The squirrels went to bed. It still took a lot of persuading from SPHP to get Lupe into the tiny house and settled down for the night.
SPHP woke up. It was still early. Like dark out with the stars still shining early. SPHP had no idea what time it was, but felt better. Lupe was instantly awake, too. Lupe and SPHP stole out of her tiny house and into the night. Fifteen minutes later, Lupe and SPHP reached the dock down by the boat ramp. Fremont Lake sits at around 7,400 feet elevation. Overhead, the Milky Way was blazing in a cloudless night sky. The brightest stars reflected clearly in the still lake.
To the E, SPHP saw Sagittarius, Venus and just a hint of light. Dawn was coming. The night sky was gorgeous, but it was probably best to get a little more sleep. Lupe and SPHP returned to rejoin Lanis in Lupe’s tiny house. Well, at least SPHP did. Lupe had other ideas. She wouldn’t go in the tent. SPHP tried to rest while listening for the tinkling sound of Lupe’s tag as she sniffed around outside.
It worked for a little while. Lupe was sniffing around out there pretty close to the tiny house. As it grew lighter though, the squirrels started waking up. Sniffing became growling. Pretty soon the growling was barking. Just occasionally at first, but the barking sprees lengthened. SPHP had to get up, or Lupe would succeed in getting evicted from the campground.
Lanis was pretty played out. After successive long days driving, he was just plain zonked. It was light out now. The sun came up and rose high in the sky. Lanis snoozed on. Lupe and SPHP made a couple more trips down to Fremont Lake. There was a little beach near the dock and boat ramp. Lupe went wading. SPHP watched minnows swimming near the shore.
It was almost lunch time when Lanis finally regained consciousness. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP drove down to the Lakeside Lodge, Resort & Marina at the very S end of Fremont Lake. The resort features a restaurant with both inside and outside dining available. Next to Fremont Lake, there was a large deck with tables shaded by big umbrellas. Beyond the lake was a gorgeous panoramic view of high peaks of the Wind River Range.
It was sort of busy. The clientele looked upscale. Lanis and SPHP were in rather disreputable condition. There was an open table, though, at the far edge of the deck separated a little bit from the rest of the guests. The wait staff was willing to serve mangy Lanis and SPHP. Lupe was even allowed to rest on the deck at SPHP’s feet. On Lupe’s entire 2012 Dingo Vacation, this was the only time Lupe, Lanis and SPHP actually got to eat at a restaurant. It was wonderful!
Lanis and SPHP both ordered big burgers. They were great! SPHP stealthily slipped some burger down to Lupe. Everyone was happy. The scenery was magnificent. It was a relaxing, beautiful time.
After the glorious lunch by Fremont Lake; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went into Pinedale for a little while. SPHP hoped to find a good map of the mountains to look at. There was a USFS map posted outside a forest service office near the grocery store. SPHP studied it for a few minutes while Lanis was in the grocery store. Lupe was on a leash right there with SPHP.
Lupe and SPHP were both about ready to leave, when an overly helpful ranger came along. The ranger almost insisted that SPHP come inside for more information, and a cheerful lecture on a blizzard of federal rules certain to enhance any wilderness experience.
Rule No. 1, of course, was that Dingoes couldn’t come in the building. Why just the other day, some Grand Poo-Bah supervisor from the District of Bureaucracy had sent out an email on the importance of never allowing a Dingo to set paw in any forest service building.
Lanis was waiting at the Element by the time Lupe and SPHP extracted themselves from all the helpful assistance. At least SPHP had seen enough of the map to have a pretty good idea where to go. Since the day was off to a rather late start, the best day hike without a map to bring along with was probably to take the well-traveled Pole Creek trail up at Elkhart Park.
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went back up to Elkhart Park. The trailhead was already at 9,350 feet elevation, so Lupe was going to get to see some pretty high country. The Pole Creek trail started off heading SE as it went up the Pole Creek drainage. The trail was wide and well-worn. It gained elevation steadily, but at a moderate pace.
The area was almost all forested. There were squirrels in the trees. Lupe got to run, and run, and run. She had a fantastic time. The trail eventually turned NE, and then gained elevation more slowly. Lupe began to encounter clearings in the forest and little ponds. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP made it as far as Photographer’s Point(10,400 ft.). There was a huge panoramic view to the N.
The inspiring view from Photographer’s Point just made SPHP want to go farther. There were lakes nearby that SPHP had seen earlier on the map posted outside the forest service office in Pinedale. Lupe is always game to do more, but Lanis was ready to call it a day. However, even though Lanis really did need to get back to Indiana very soon, he did agree to spend another day in the Wind Rivers.
So Lupe didn’t go any farther into the Wind River range than Photographer’s Point. With an earlier start the next day, she could, though! After spending some time admiring the sweeping views; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP returned along the Pole Creek trail.
The sun was getting low in a cloudless sky, by the time Lupe reached the Element again back at Elkhart Park . A little while later, Lanis and SPHP crawled into sleeping bags in Lupe’s tiny house near Fremont Lake. Lupe curled up for a snooze, too. Tomorrow was going to be an even bigger day spent in the spectacular Wind River range!
After midnight, there was a sound that Lupe, Lanis and SPHP had rarely heard on Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation. Raindrops on Lupe’s tiny house! Not too many, but some. SPHP took a look outside. No stars in any direction. The whole black sky must have been overcast. Not good. The tent was old, and had always leaked. The raindrops came in little spurts. No big deal, if it stayed like this. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP tried to ignore it and go back to sleep.
For at least a couple of hours, the rain was sporadic and light. Gradually the intensity was increasing, though. Water started dripping inside Lupe’s tiny house. SPHP remained hopeful that the rain would hold off until dawn, when it would be possible to get a good look at the sky and assess the outlook. More rain came, harder too. As the tent started leaking more, Lanis and SPHP sat up talking about what to do. Stick it out and wait for dawn, or pack things up before everything got soaked?
Nature decided. Suddenly there was a volley of intense rain, with big drops. Lupe got hustled into the Element. Lanis and SPHP scrambled to take down her tiny house for the last time. Everything got pitched into the Element. Very suddenly, Lupe’s grand 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast was over.
The rain became light and steady as Lupe left Pinedale and the Wind River range behind her. On the way to Farson, the first light of dawn appeared and began spreading along the E horizon. Before reaching Farson, Lanis drove out of the rain. Back to the NW, clouds still hung over the Wind River range. The rain showers were likely just local. Lupe could probably have gone back, and spent another day exploring the Winds.
The decision had already been made, though. On the 23rd day of her first ever Dingo Vacation, after more than 5,000 miles, 5 states, and 3 weeks of adventures, Lupe was going home.
Lupe was gone. The bright-eyed, sharp-eared Wild Dingo of the Night had taken her place. Stars blazed above while the Wild Dingo of the Night sniffed eagerly around this way and that in the darkness. In and out of the tiny house, again and again. Finally the Wild Dingo of the Night was gone for good. Lupe snoozed on her red down sleeping bag. SPHP could finally pass out, too.
Morning came. Day 25 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation. Lupe was camped in the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. She had come over Jackass Pass from Big Sandy Lake the previous day. There was lots to do and see! Lupe and SPHP began the day by climbing up the valley just SW of Pingora Peak(11,884 ft.) to see Cirque Lake.
Lupe and SPHP took a short break up at Cirque Lake. Lupe drank from the lake and had some Taste of the Wild. SPHP watched mountain climbers way up on the ridge between Pingora Peak and Wolf’s Head. They were shouting to each other, and apparently having a great time as they worked their way slowly toward Wolf’s Head.
Lupe and SPHP were quite content with the stunning views from Cirque Lake. American Dingoes don’t go in for any sports that require ropes, except Tug-‘O-War. SPHP feels the same way about it. It’s both fun and scary enough just watching those daring souls who enjoy clinging to the face of some precipice.
Only the day before, on her way up the trail from Big Sandy Lake to Jackass Pass, Lupe had seen a climber coming down the trail who had been injured in a fall. The climber had been limping along under his own power, but others in the party said he had a rather badly injured leg due to a 50 foot fall on Pingora Peak. In his case, ropes and equipment had prevented a more disastrous outcome.
After shouts of joy and triumph were heard from the climbers now on top of Wolf’s Head, Lupe and SPHP left Cirque Lake and started back down into the main part of the Cirque of the Towers where Lupe’s tiny house was still set up. Lupe’s next destination was the biggest waterfall in the Cirque of the Towers.
The waterfall was gorgeous. Lupe took a big refreshing drink, of course. No trip to the Cirque of the Towers is complete without a side excursion down to Lonesome Lake to the E. So Lonesome Lake was Lupe’s next destination. SPHP also had plans for Lupe to complete one peakbagging goal, too. After checking out Lonesome Lake, Lupe was going to climb up towering Skunk Knob(11,099 ft.)!
Lupe certainly had one of the most gorgeous playgrounds a Carolina Dog ever had this day. She spent the entire day absolutely surrounded by spectacular peaks. She saw sparkling lakes and drank from cold, clear streams. She searched for squirrels in shady green forests. She explored long, twisting secret passages in jungles of tall bushes. She climbed up high rocky hills and ridges. All of the time she was busy having an epic wonderful day.
After reaching Lonesome Lake, Lupe crossed the North Popo Agie River where it leaves the E end of the lake. She then headed W on a trail in the forest. The trail paralleled the N shore of Lonesome Lake at some distance from it. SPHP thought this trail would ultimately lead up to Texas Pass. However, when the trail emerged from the forest out into some open ground close to Pingora Peak, it pretty much just disappeared.
There was still forested ground higher up. Not knowing where else to look for the trail, Lupe and SPHP began climbing higher and entered the forest again, heading toward Texas Pass.
Part way up through the forest, Lupe found a semblance of a trail heading up toward Texas Pass. Lupe and SPHP followed it above tree line. Once above tree line, Lupe left the trail and started climbing the open ground heading directly for Skunk Knob. When Lupe reached the top, SPHP was surprised to find two other people already there. They were quite friendly.
The two people were on a long backpacking trip and had come up from their camp down at Lizard Head Meadows. They planned on climbing Mitchell Peak the next day, which is supposed to be a relatively easy scramble. Lupe and SPHP wanted to climb Mitchell Peak, too, but there wasn’t going to be time. The two backpackers were busy watching climbers up on the ridge between Pingora Peak and Wolf’s Head through binoculars.
The climbers were not the same ones Lupe and SPHP had seen earlier in the day in the same location. The backpackers were concerned that these climbers were going rather slowly. They needed to get to Wolf’s Head pretty soon, so they would have time to get safely back down before storms or darkness.
Now and then the climber’s shouts to one another could be heard, but SPHP couldn’t make out what they were saying. No doubt with those big soft keen ears, Lupe knew, but she wasn’t providing any translations.
SPHP chatted with the two backpackers on Skunk Knob. They let SPHP look at the climbers nearing Wolf’s Head through their binoculars. Lupe rested happily among the boulders. Well, pretty happily, it was rather windy on Skunk Knob. Wind is not a favorite with Lupe. When SPHP finally finished the conversation with the backpackers, Lupe was ready to go.
Just NE of Skunk Knob is a deep cirque with an unnamed lake in it. The way down to it looked pretty easy, so Lupe and SPHP headed down toward it. Lupe didn’t get all the way down to the lake, but got pretty close to it before turning SSE and following the valley below the lake back down into the forest.
There was a stream in the valley that came down from the unnamed lake. Lupe crossed it several times. Eventually she left the stream to head through the forest. SPHP was looking for Lonesome Lake. Lupe was looking for squirrels. She found a few, too. There were even a few deer in the forest.
Lupe and SPHP emerged from the forest at the E end of Lonesome Lake right where the North Popo Agie River flows out of it. Lupe and SPHP crossed the stream (easy rock hopping this time of year, but no bridge), and followed the trail to Jackass Pass for a little way near the shore of Lonesome Lake.
It looked like autumn was arriving today. The fall colors looked stronger and brighter than they had just this morning. Before leaving Lonesome Lake, it was time to stop and appreciate this view for a while longer. SPHP and Lupe took a break near the shore. Soon the very busy American Dingo was conked out among the pretty leaves.
There was time left in the day to climb back up to Jackass Pass to see the Cirque of the Towers and Lonesome Lake from that splendid vantage point. SPHP lost the trail going up there, and didn’t run into it again until nearing the pass. Lupe didn’t care, she had fun in the forest.
Once again, it was quite windy up on Jackass Pass, but Lupe and SPHP had a stupendous view of nearly all the territory Lupe had explored on this fantastic day in the Wind River Range.
Evening was coming on. It was time to leave Jackass Pass and head once more down into the Cirque of the Towers to Lupe’s tiny house. Her big day of exploring the Cirque of the Towers, Lonesome Lake, mighty Skunk Knob, and Jackass Pass was almost over. So was her great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation.
There was still a surprising amount of daylight left when Lupe got back to her tiny house. She rested a little bit, but not for long. She spent the evening racing up and down the mountainsides. It was simply amazing.
SPHP wasn’t racing up and down anything. Instead, SPHP watched the sunlight retreat higher and higher up the mountain slopes. For dramatic effect, every 20 or 30 minutes big boulders were sliding off long melting snowbanks on Warrior Peaks. SPHP saw them go, and heard them crashing down on the rocks below.
Even for high-spirited, fun-loving American Dingoes, all good things must come to an end. Lupe’s first little backpacking trip enabling her to spend a whole day up at the Cirque of the Towers, Lonesome Lake, and Skunk Knob was a huge success, but except for the trip back, it was over. Essentially, so was her great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation.
Lupe spent another restless, excited night in the Cirque of the Towers. She and SPHP were up before dawn the next day (Day 26 of her 2015 Dingo Vacation) to head back out over Jackass Pass, down to Big Sandy Lake, and on to the G6. The road trip back home (involving a lot of hard barking at hundreds, maybe thousands, of cows and horses along the way) began shortly after reaching the G6. Lupe spent that evening at Guille’s in Casper, WY.
About 2:30 PM on 9-4-15 (Day 27 of her 2015 Dingo Vacation), Lupe arrived back home in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She ran over to Dog Heaven at the neighbor’s, and was welcomed back with a big Milk Bone. She raced back home with it to show SPHP what a smart, lucky and beloved Dingo she is.
August 31, 2015, Day 23 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, was spent getting repositioned from Green River Lakes at the NW end of the Wind River Range down to the Big Sandy Trailhead at the SE end. Early in the morning, Lupe and SPHP went down to take a look at Lower Green River Lake and Squaretop Mountain one last time. There were three moose down there! One was just a youngster.
All three moose were soon out of sight in the forest. Lupe has now seen 5 moose. One in Canada during her 2014 Dingo Vacation, and four on her 2015 Dingo Vacation.
After a last fond look at Green River Lake and Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.), Lupe and SPHP made the long drive along the dusty and very washboardy road following the Green River back to pavement. Lupe and SPHP stopped for a while in Pinedale, WY, and then continued on to the Big Sandy trailhead and campground. This ultimately involved another long drive along another dusty and very washboardy road.
Starting in June, 1930, Finis Mitchell and his wife, Emma, ran a fishing camp at Mud Lake near the Big Sandy opening. As a 4 year old child, Finis had arrived with his parents at the Wind River Range in April, 1906. He spent much of his life in the Winds. Lupe and SPHP went to check out the Big Sandy Lodge near Mud Lake.
The Big Sandy Lodge is not related in any way to Finis Mitchell’s old fishing camp, except that it is in the same location. There is no electricity, and the lodge does not accept credit cards. Meals are served in the main building for lodge guests only. The lodge complex features very nice individual cabins. The entire complex is located just S of Mud Lake.
After visiting Big Sandy Lodge and Mud Lake, Lupe and SPHP spent the rest of the day near the Big Sandy campground. There were lots of cars at the very popular trailhead. SPHP spent some time getting ready for Lupe’s big trip up to Jackass Pass and the Cirque of the Towers the next day.
On the first day of Lupe’s 2013 Dingo Vacation, she had spent a night out under the stars on top of Bald Mountain in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. Lupe had also been tenting on the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone and other places during her Dingo Vacations. But Lupe had never before done what she was going to do the next morning. She had never been on a backpacking trip. This was going to be a very short one, just 3 days and 2 nights, but SPHP was pretty certain she would love it.
September 1, 2015 (Day 24 of Lupe’s 2015 Dingo Vacation) was bright and beautiful. After breakfast at a picnic table, Lupe and SPHP set out on the trail to Big Sandy Lake, about 5 miles to the NE. The first part of the trail was near Big Sandy Creek. Nearly all of the trail goes through forest. Most of it gains elevation at a slow to moderate pace. Lupe had fun exploring the forest, and occasionally barking at squirrels along the way.
Although some big mountains could be seen now and then, it didn’t really feel like Lupe was among them until she reached Big Sandy Lake. At Big Sandy Lake there were towering mountains in every direction, except back the way Lupe had come from. Lupe and SPHP stopped for a little break at Big Sandy Lake.
After the break, Lupe and SPHP continued along the trail on the NW side of Big Sandy Lake. Several trails branch out from Big Sandy Lake. Lupe and SPHP were looking for the trail to Jackass Pass, which leaves the area from the NW corner of the lake. The trail to Jackass Pass had no signage at the intersection, but Lupe and SPHP found it without any trouble.
Although Lupe had gained some elevation in the 5 miles getting to Big Sandy Lake, the real climb began when she started heading N on the trail up toward Jackass Pass. The trail went through forest at first, but the trees became progressively more stunted and scraggly, and the way became rockier as Lupe gained elevation.
The trail to Jackass Pass went past two lakes. In both cases, the trail gained a couple hundred feet of elevation to go around the E side of the lake, only to drop clear back down to lake level before continuing on to regain the lost elevation and more. In some places it was possible to lose the trail among the rocks, but it wasn’t too hard to find it again. Usually a Carolina Dog appeared on it before the search was even begun.
The first lake the trail came to was unnamed on SPHP’s maps, but a backpacker said it was North Lake. This made sense, since the map did show North Creek heading down to Big Sandy Lake from it. The second lake Lupe came to was Arrowhead Lake.
SPHP isn’t exactly sure where Jackass Pass is officially located. Lupe got her first view of the Cirque of the Towers from the high point on the trail as it passed to the E of Arrowhead Lake. Not too far ahead was another ridge of about the same elevation, which is probably technically Jackass Pass.
SPHP believes the 2nd ridge is really Jackass Pass. To get to it, the trail dropped clear down almost to the level of Arrowhead Lake and then went back up again. From the second ridge, there was a huge panoramic view encompassing the Cirque of the Towers, Pingora Peak(11,884 ft.), Lonesome Lake, Texas Pass and Lizard HeadPeak(12,842 ft.). Lupe and SPHP headed for the highest part of the ridge at Jackass Pass to take in the amazing scene.
The views were tremendous, but it was really windy up at Jackass Pass. Lupe tolerated SPHP hanging around up there looking at the scenery only so long. She was ready to get out of the wind. It was time to go pitch Lupe’s “tiny house” (the tent). Lupe and SPHP crossed over the pass, and headed down into the glorious Cirque of the Towers.
Down in the Cirque of the Towers there was a little breeze, but nothing like the wind up at Jackass Pass. Lupe and SPHP traversed much of the Cirque of the Towers to get to a grassy area close to the side valley up to Cirque Lake. There SPHP pitched Lupe’s tiny house.
Years ago, SPHP had been to the Cirque of the Towers once before. On that previous trip, which had been in early August, SPHP would have traded all of the food in the pack for a single can of bug spray. The mosquitoes had been horrendous. On this first day of September, though, there were none at all. It was going to be a spectacular evening without any bugs.
Once the tiny house was up, Lupe and SPHP poked around exploring here and there near by, surrounded by magnificence in every direction. Lupe was having a blast! The evening couldn’t have been better or more fun, or could it?
When the light faded and the stars came out, SPHP went into the tiny house. Lupe came into the tiny house, too, and laid down on her sleeping bag. It had been a long day’s journey up to the Cirque of the Towers, and she was tired. As she rested, though, it began to dawn on her – there wasn’t going to be any long trek back to the G6 this evening. SPHP intended for her to stay right here in the Cirque of the Towers all night.
The American Dingo lifted her head up. There was a sparkle in her eyes. Lupe was gone. The Wild Dingo of the Night was here. It was going to be a long night!
Near the end of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, SPHP had to cut out of the plan some really terrific adventures. There just wasn’t time enough left for Lupe to do them all. The last of Lupe’s adventures she would actually get to complete would be in the fabulous Wind River Range of Wyoming. The first of these adventures was for Lupe to travel the Highline Trail from Green River Lakes to Beaver Park near Squaretop Mountain.
After arriving at Lower Green River Lake the previous evening, Lupe started Day 22 of her 2015 Dingo Vacation ready to hit the Highline Trail. She set out at 7:41 AM (52°F) under partly cloudy skies. Lupe reached the Highline Trail by crossing a bridge over the Green River just downstream of where it leaves the lake.
Once Lupe was across the bridge, the Highline Trail took her SSE paralleling the NE shore of Lower Green River Lake. The trail stays well above the lakeshore for the entire 2 miles or so it takes to get to the far end of Lower Green River Lake. The area along the trail is only sparsely forested, so there is a splendid view of Lower Green River Lake with Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.) looming in the distance almost the entire way. The scene is one of SPHP’s very favorite mountain scenes anywhere.
When Lupe got near the S end of Lower Green River Lake, the trail began to head down closer to lake level. The bushes at the S end of the lake were already showing some fall colors. Lupe crossed a bridge over Clear Creek coming down from Clear Lake to the E. A couple of miles up the Clear Creek Trail there is a natural bridge where Clear Creek flows through a big hole in a mountain. Lupe didn’t get to go there. She continued on the Highline Trail on the way to Upper Green River Lake.
The two Green River Lakes are less than a mile apart. The area in between is flat. Quite a bit of it is covered with bushes and tall grass. A bridge crosses the Green River between the lakes. Beyond the bridge on the W side of the valley are two trails. One heads around the W shore of Lower Green River Lake, so that it is possible to make a complete loop around the lake. The other heads SSW along the Porcupine Trail up to Porcupine Pass.
Lupe stayed on the E side of the river following the Highline Trail to Upper Green River Lake. If anything, the view of Squaretop Mountain beyond the upper Green River Lake was even better than the one from the lower lake. Lupe agreed not to look so stiff or scowl at the Upper Green River Lake.
The Highline Trail passes to the E of Upper Green River Lake. It goes up and down well above the lake through a much denser forest than exists along the NE side of the lower lake. There were fewer viewpoints along the way, but there were a few.
Squaretop Mountain lies 3 or 4 miles beyond the S shore of Upper Green River Lake. The Highline Trail follows the Green River valley upstream passing to the E of Squaretop Mountain. Sometimes the trail is close to the river, other times it is away from it up in the forest. Although the trail goes up and down, there is little net elevation gain. The views of Squaretop were more and more impressive as Lupe got closer.
SPHP has an old book called Wind River Trails. It is the 3rd edition printed in 1979. The book was written by Finis Mitchell, who moved with his parents in a mule-drawn wagon from Missouri to Wyoming in 1906, arriving at the Wind River Range on April 26th. Finis Mitchell spent much of his life in the Winds. Eventually he ran a fishing camp with his wife. Although only 5 lakes in the Wind River Range had fish naturally, Finis Mitchell used milk cans and horses to pack in 2.5 million little trout and stock 314 lakes.
In Wind River Trails, Finis Mitchell describes a route up Squaretop Mountain from the E. The route is supposed to be relatively easy. Finis talks about taking a child as young as 4 years old up Squaretop (the child had to be handed up over a lot of ledges), and Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops making the trip. The route up leaves the Highline Trail at Beaver Park, about 5 miles S of Upper Green River Lakes.
Looking at Squaretop Mountain, SPHP got the feeling maybe a guy who spent his entire life in these mountains might have a different view of what was easy. Maybe things would look different from Beaver Park. If children could do it, certainly an American Dingo could. There wouldn’t be time for it, though. For Lupe and SPHP this was just a scouting trip.
On a section of the Highline Trail passing through the forest, SPHP saw some rapids on the Green River down below. There were some nice rocks and rock ledges along the bank of the river, so Lupe and SPHP went down to investigate. The river had the beautiful color of rivers carrying glacial silt. The rapids were very pretty. There was a particularly handsome boulder out in the stream.
When Lupe ran down to the rapids, she waded in the stream to get a drink of water. She climbed right out again just fine, but SPHP saw that her right rear paw was all bloody! It took some persuading to get Lupe to lay down and let SPHP take a look. It must have hurt, because Lupe didn’t want SPHP touching that paw. SPHP had to be very gentle.
Her right rear dewclaw must have gotten caught on something. Part of it had snapped off, and SPHP could see that it had been bleeding. Nothing else looked injured, and the dewclaw did not look torn from the rest of her paw. SPHP washed the blood off Lupe’s paw. She licked it for a while. After about 10 minutes she seemed to feel better about it. She was ready to get up.
Lupe posed for some pictures along the beautiful Green River. She waded a little bit in the cold water, which probably made her dewclaw feel better. By the time Lupe left the rapids to return to the Highline Trail, she seemed to have already forgotten all about the injured dewclaw.
Beyond the rapids, the Highline Trail continued S passing to the E of Squaretop Mountain. Lupe was starting to get close to Beaver Park. She was looking for a footbridge across the Green River. At the footbridge she would cross over to reach the upper end of Beaver Park.
When Lupe reached Beaver Park, she went out into the big field to take a look around. It was certainly a beautiful spot. SPHP saw no easy way up Squaretop Mountain from down in Beaver Park. The first part of Finis Mitchell’s route required a climb of 1,000 feet from Beaver Park up to Granite Lake just SW of Granite Peak.
It would probably have been possible to get a much better look at the route up the ledges to Squaretop Mountain that Finis Mitchell talked about in Wind River Trails from Granite Lake. Earlier in the day going to Granite Lake had seemed like a great idea, but by now the 1,000 foot climb seemed like too much work.
Besides, the American Dingo had an injured dewclaw! It was probably best not to overdo it. Never mind that the Dingo seemed to have forgotten all about it. The trek to Beaver Park along the Highline Trail had been a pleasant one, with lots of fabulous scenery and without a ton of elevation gain or loss. Why not just enjoy the day? Lupe still had to go all the way back to the G6.
Lupe and SPHP went over to the Green River again and took a break. Lupe had Taste of the Wild and water. She relaxed on the bank above the river and grew a bit sleepy. SPHP looked at maps. There were dramatic high cliffs on the mountain on the other side of the river. After a little while, the sky seemed to cloud up more. The day grew darker.
Lupe had explored only a short segment of the Highline Trail coming to Beaver Park from Green River Lakes. Backpackers doing the most popular through hike from Green River Lakes to Big Sandy reported estimated trip lengths of 7 to 9 days. The entire trail is over 100 miles long, although portions beyond Green River Lakes and Big Sandy at either end are seldom used.
Lupe was only here for a day hike, though. Beaver Park was about as far as Lupe and SPHP could go and still return in a day. When it started to rain with tiny hailstones, Lupe and SPHP took refuge under tall pines near the Highline Trail. It was time to think about heading back. About the time the rain stopped, a forest ranger came along the trail from farther upstream. This was an amazing thing in itself!
In all her many explorations and adventures, Lupe had never seen a forest ranger away from the pavement before. This forest ranger was actually out in the forest, and doing what one thinks of as forest ranging. SPHP talked to him. His name was Chad. Chad was quite friendly and full of information about the Wind River Range. This was his 3rd year working in the Winds.
Chad said the Finis Mitchell route up Squaretop was rather hard to find, since some of the landmarks (like burnt areas in the forest) which Finis Mitchell used to describe the route had changed since Wind River Trails was written. SPHP had been wondering if there wasn’t another easier route via the Porcupine Trail. Chad confirmed that there was. It was longer, though. Chad had been up on Squaretop Mountain and knew what he was talking about.
After a fun chat with Chad, he needed to be moving along. He was on his way up into high country near the Golden Lakes, and from there clear up to the glaciers beyond, to check on wildlife, hunters and climbers. He would remain on the Highline Trail for a little while longer before looking for a place where he could leave the trail and climb up to Golden Lakes.
Lupe and SPHP followed Chad along the Highline Trail. Despite carrying a huge, heavy pack, Chad was faster than SPHP. Lupe and SPHP did catch up to him again several times when he stopped to chat to people along the trail. The last time Lupe and SPHP reached him, he had stopped to have a sandwich before leaving the trail. Chad very kindly gave Lupe some of his cheese sandwich. (Dingoes love cheese!)
On the way back, Lupe stayed on the Highline Trail until she was between the two Green River Lakes. There she crossed the bridge over to the W side of the Green River. Lupe headed for the intersection of the Porcupine Trail and Lakeside Trail. To complete a loop around Lower Green River Lake, Lupe took the Lakeside Trail heading NNW near the W shore.
The Lakeside Trail was in forest much of the way. There were only a few spots with open views from the trail on this side of the lake. Most of the time, the Lakeside Trail stayed well above the shore.
It was 7:52 PM (66°F) when Lupe reached the G6 again. After a glorious day along the Highline Trail to Beaver Park and back, she was ready for a whole can of Alpo before curling up with her blankie. Maybe someday she will return to explore further along the Highline Trail, or take the Porcupine Trail and find the way up Squaretop Mountain.
What was for certain was that her final big adventure of her great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation would start the next day. It would also take place in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.
After successfully climbing Wyoming Peak(11,378 ft.) the prior day, Day 21 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation was destined to be a bumpy one. SPHP was determined NOT to take the same La Barge Creek Road (No. 315) out of the Wyoming Range that Lupe had taken into it. There was no sense putting the G6 through that again. SPHP checked the maps. Heading for Big Piney looked like the shortest way out of the Wyoming Range. Big Piney was also the closest to Lupe’s next destination – the fabulous Wind River Range.
Before 7:00 AM, Lupe and SPHP left the Wyoming Peak area driving S on Greys River road. Lupe was very interested in a herd of 8 pronghorn antelope grazing in a valley. More antelope could be seen up at the edge of the forest. It was a gorgeous morning in the Wyoming Range. A bit farther S, at a sign about the history of La Barge Meadow, SPHP stopped the G6 for a few minutes to let Lupe out to take a sniff of the morning air.
Lupe and SPHP continued S from La Barge Meadow. SPHP turned E on USFS Road No. 10128 where there was a sign indicating this road went to Big Piney. No. 10128 was a good gravel road for a long way. It went through some beautiful territory as it took Lupe down out of the Wyoming Range. Part of the route was not so pretty, there were 5 miles of burnt forest along the way, too.
SPHP had hoped the experience with very rough dirt roads coming up La Barge Creek would not have to be repeated. However, as Lupe continued E out of the Wyoming Range, as soon as the road left the Bridger National Forest to cross private land, it deteriorated significantly. It wasn’t as bad as the 3 miles of crummy road coming up La Barge Creek, but made up for it by being twice as long – 6 miles of rocks, potholes, and big dips.
The road finally improved. Lupe reached pavement on Hwy 350 about 10 miles W of Big Piney. Two hours of bumping along on gravel and dirt roads finally came to an end, but there would be plenty more later in the day. At Big Piney, SPHP turned N on Hwy 189. N of Big Piney there was a sign commemorating the Green River Rendezvous held annually from 1824 to 1840. SPHP stopped to take a look.
The Green River was not in sight where the sign was, but there was a wooded area beyond the sign with a couple of dirt roads going back into it. SPHP thought the dirt roads might lead to the river, so Lupe and SPHP took a walk back into the woods. Pretty soon SPHP realized there were homes ahead. Without ever finding the Green River, Lupe and SPHP went back to the G6.
At Pinedale, WY, Lupe and SPHP had a picnic at a city park on Pine Creek. After the picnic, Lupe went wading in Pine Creek. SPHP sat on a rock with feet dangling in the cool, clear water. It felt really good. Lupe curled up for a little nap in the tall grass along the shore.
The town of Pinedale lies just S of the heart of the Wind River range, which stretches over 100 miles in a NW/SE direction. Gannet Peak, the highest mountain in Wyoming at 13,804 feet is in the Winds. Of the 20 highest peaks in Wyoming, 19 are located in the Wind River range. The single exception is the famous Grand Teton in the Teton range.
Lupe and SPHP left the city park to go see a few of the sights near Pinedale. Lupe stopped by Half Moon Lake, one of a number of large lakes on the S side of the Wind River range left after the retreat of glaciers. After wading in Pine Creek, Lupe didn’t seem inclined to go wading in Half Moon Lake, so Lupe and SPHP left to go check out the Fremont Lake campground.
The Fremont Lake campground was closed “until further notice”. The gate was padlocked shut. SPHP decided to take Lupe up Skyline Drive to Elkhart Park. Lupe had been there once before near the end of her very first big Dingo Vacation in 2012. Along Skyline Drive there are great views of Fremont Lake from high above. Near the end of the road is a panoramic view of the highest and most rugged peaks of the central Wind River range. At Elkhart Park are trails leading into the wilderness.
The road to Elkhart Park was blocked due to road construction. A semi-truck carrying huge metal drainage pipes was being unloaded. It looked like a long wait. Another adventure got crossed off Lupe’s to do list. She wasn’t going to wait around.
So Lupe and SPHP went back to Pinedale. After a few errands there, Lupe headed W out of town on Hwy 191. At Hwy 352, SPHP turned N. Lupe was going to get a tour of the scenic Green River valley all the way to Green River Lakes at the NW end of the Wind River Range. The paved road turned to gravel when it entered the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
The gravel road following the Green River into the Wind River range was long and very washboardy. SPHP drove very slowly so the poor G6 wouldn’t end up just a bucket of bolts. Huge pickup trucks, vans and SUV’s raced on by stirring up big clouds of dust. The drive was gorgeous. Slowly the Green River and road both curved around to the NE and then E. When the river turned SE, SPHP knew Lupe was nearing her destination.
Finally, the mighty watchtower of the NW Wind River range, Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.), came into view.
The washboardy road ended at Lower Green River Lake, the largest of two big lakes the Green River flows through as it leaves the Winds. Lupe and SPHP left the G6 to go down to the beach. The views of Squaretop Mountain looming beyond the Green River Lakes are among SPHP’s favorite mountain scenes anywhere.
SPHP waded in the lake near the N shore. The sand was coarse and loose. Lupe didn’t want to get wet. She played on the beach and explored the nearby vegetation. SPHP threw a few sticks for her to chase, and played tug-of-war with her when she brought them back. The American Dingo won every time in the end, but SPHP didn’t let it be too easy.
It was evening. The sun was about to go down behind the mountains. The long day bumping along so many gravel and dirt roads was ending. Even the feisty Carolina Dog was getting a bit tired. To the gentle sound of little waves lapping up against the lakeshore, Lupe laid down and went to sleep.