5 THINGS I LEARNED BACKPACKING IN THE WIND RIVER RANGE
by Pat Wiederhold
I will admit my backpacking trip to the Wind River Range was a bit of an accident. My cousin and I had plans to hike in the Grand Tetons, but didn’t start planning quite early enough and didn’t want to mess around with the permits and the excess snow. Some of the guys I knew had gone climbing a few years back in the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range and said the scenery was “off the charts”. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be as nice as the Tetons, but it seemed like a good second option.
I have done enough hiking and overnight camping to not be considered a novice, so I felt comfortable with my pack list and the route that we had chosen. With that said, there are always some things on every trip that I am surprised by or impressed with, especially concerning my gear.
Here are 5 of the things that stood out:
1. I was amazed at how much I loved my Osprey Pack. I used the Atmos 50 for my 5 days and 4-night trip. It has a great design and is so comfortable that I really had no issues with how it handled the weight and how it fit my body. The number one rule of a good pack is comfort in my book. This pack fit the bill.
2. I’m pretty sure that my Trekking poles saved at least a few twisted ankles and one or two tumbles. An extra 35 pounds on my back moving in a different direction than I was from time to time would have caused some problems had it not been for the poles. I also felt like they saved a lot of wear and tear on my legs, especially when we were going uphill. I have the Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles. They are relatively light weight and pack down smaller than most when I am not using them.
3. My camp chair was a welcome luxury. I don’t really like sitting on the ground after a long day of hiking or trying to find the perfect rock or stump to relax on. I brought my Joey Chair and really enjoyed being able to kick back and put my feet up after a long day. Yes, I know it is kind of heavy (“heavy” and “light” are all relative when you’re backpacking) and takes up a little extra space, however, it was the one piece of “excess” that really made the whole trip more enjoyable.
4. The mosquitoes were insane. My wife is from Minnesota and I am familiar with these little pests, but they were around from dawn to dusk and often swarmed when you stopped. They weren’t too bad if I was moving or above tree line, but the rest of the time they were brutal. I sprayed my clothes with Sawyer Permethrin and I had zero issues with getting bit thru my clothes or even having them land on my clothes for that matter. I was really surprised at how well it worked.
5. The scenery was spectacular. I expected the Cirques to be the highlight and the rest of the hike to be nice but not so magnificent. Boy, was I wrong! The entire trip we were mesmerized by the views and I would say it rivals the Tetons with a fraction of the people.
This was a trip with very little “hiking drama”, but every trip I appreciate the things that really stand out. Hope this helps you out on your next hike. Cheers!
Nice recap! I have yet to try out my Atmos 50. Glad you are liking it — the little extra comfort makes up for the added weight!
The Winds are my favorite destination for backpacking. That said, the two popular approaches on the western slope are both long (Elkhart Park and Big Sandy). Five miles before you really start to see anything. The Cirque of the Towers is an amazing walk, as are the lakes on the other side of Big Sandy Lake. Titcomb Basin and Island Lake are very popular destinations in the summertime, but you can usually find a secluded spot to plop a tent. I haven’t been able to get there the past two summers, and I am very sad about that.
Titcomb Basin — https://photo.parkerparker.info/2016/e3b697b01 The peaks in Titcomb Basin rival the Cirque in beauty, but it’s above treeline, and super-exposed. The weather turned ugly, and I only a had day to get back to the trailhead, so never had a chance to camp here.