Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Day 59 - Out of the fire and into the winds

What a wonderful day! Since we left Togwatee Pass, we've been headed towards the Wind River Range (aka The Winds). Today, ~50mi after the pass, it started to feel as though we've entered the Winds.

First, the fire closure. We had to hike ~5mi West along a partly defined, seldom used jeep road. This was time consuming to bushwhack over to it. We had to contour around the ridge, West of Gunsight Pass, and deep into the woods. Somewhat unsettlingly, we did come across the clean, bleached bones of some large, non-cow, non-horse ungulate. Maybe a deer or elk. Eerie to see its cleft jawbones, with teeth intact scattered near a complete spinal column. The bones were pure white, with no hint of life. It is a brutal forest.

We finally made it down to the jeep road, which went in and out. We were guided by both GPS and the map of the entire Winds, gifted kindly by Cash a few days ago. It was critical in getting us down another seldom used jeep road to cross the aptly named Roaring Forks road on a small wooden bridge. Along the way, we met Mike and Eric, an ecologist and fish biologist for the USFS. We explained our re-route past the forest fire, and they gave their stamp of approval. The hard part was the ford of the broad Green River, which looks so wide on the map, it was a veritable lake. Mike and Eric assured us it was fordable this time of year, so we pressed on.

On the valley floor, we reached the edge of the Green River, which was ~100' wide. The water looked clear, and mostly shallow, so I switched into my Five Fingers and shouldered my pack. The water was chilly, but not too deep, running only to mid-thigh. The current was quite gentle, so it a long ford, but an easy and safe one.

On the other side, we climbed up to the Green River road and started our journey back to the CDT. We were waving at the numerous cars which passed. I have this unproven theory that if I wave at a car on a road, and the driver waves back, I'm less likely to get hit by that car. One truck stopped, and an older mostly toothless gent in his 60s rolled down the window. He offered us a ride anywhere we wanted (which we politely declined), and mentioned he was fishing at the lake. Apparently fish only live in water up to 58 degrees, and it was 61 degrees, so they were not biting. He then mumbled something about global warning, wished us luck, then took off, leaving a long yellow trail of dust behind him.

A few miles later, we reached the campground at the Green River Lakes. A new fire closure notice was posted. Though the CDT was still closed, the fire closure area had narrowed significantly. So, the 12mi detour we did was mostly unnecessary. C'est la vie.

We were rewarded with our first views of the beautiful Green River Lakes. The water is a milky, aquamarine shade. The color was so vibrant, it looked fanciful, as though we were walking into a Thomas Kinkade (sp?) painting. Behind it loomed two huge mountains, with the one on the left resembling the profile of the alpha male in a tribe of silverback gorillas. Welcome to the Winds indeed.

We walked the length of the valley, hemmed in on both sides by spectacular mountains. The valley stretched for 10+ mi, winding towards and away from from the Green River Lakes and the river itself. We stopped for lunch at the second lake, and I took a quick swim / bath. The water was intensely cold, so I was glad for the heat to dry me out. I felt much better, rinsing the salt off my skin. Bathes between town stops are so rare, this swim really made my day. As we were packing up at lunch, we were joined by two section hikers, John and Regina. They're ridgerunners on the AT, and headed to Yellowstone for the season. John is finishing his CDT ('09, '10) with this section from Old Faithful to South Pass. Truly an impressive accomplishment. So nice to meet them both, and to see who the people were attached to the footprints we've been following for miles.

As we pushed on through the valley, we neared ~2mi of switchbacks which would take us out of the green water and up into the Winds. We were feeling peppy, so charged up the switchbacks to Trail Creek. Here we are, a long day through the forest fire re-route, at the mouth of the Winds. They've been beautiful so far, and really looking forward to tomorrow.

Plus, two important notes. First, my sister's birthday just happened--happy birthday, Gloria! Second, it's meteor shower time. Hope everyone wishes upon a shooting star.


Mileage: 27-30mi from Roaring Forks River to Trail Creek (20 trail mi + 7-10mi from the fire closure)

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