Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wind River Trip

Man O Man, what a great trip we had into the Wind River Range of Wyoming! Nick had invited many, but only 3 of us showed up. Myself (Gordon), Dave Harris, Brad Chatlin and of course Nick himself. We all met up at the Diamond 4 Ranch near the Dickinson Park Trailhead just west of Lander, Wyoming. This ranch is run by the Allen family and was straight out of the movies. Rustic log buildings and beautiful horses and hard working wranglers all decked out in chaps, long coats and cowboy hats. They put us up for the night in a small cabin (complete with the crisp walk out to the outhouse) and fed us in the kitchen with the hired help. The next morning they loaded up our gear onto the pack horses. We needed 3 pack horses in addition to the "wrangler" leading them on his horse. We got a head start hiking with our small day packs and fishing poles. We soon crossed into the Popo Agie Wilderness Area on the trail and headed for the Smith Lake Basin. Four hours and 8 miles later we arrived at Middle Lake and made camp. We were just ahead of the horses. Because of the horses, we were able to take much more with us than our typical backpacking trips. Each of us had our own tent. The horses carried in our food, dutch oven and large stove and even Nick's "float tube" for fishing the large lakes. Lets just say that we ate well! I was first to string up my fishing pole. On my first cast I caught a colorful brook trout. It set a precedent that lasted all week. The fly fishing was! Brad and I preferred the streams flowing between the lakes. Nick was very successful out in his float-tube catching some large lake trout in addition to many brook trout and soon had the frying pan filled with fresh fish. Losing flies wasn't the problem, but wearing them out from catching so many fish was. I also had brought in my climbing gear and Dave and I spent one morning climbing the cliffs behind our camp. I put up a 2 pitch trad climb that I am sure has never been climbed before. Dave and I also decided to climb the most prominent peak in the area, Cathedral Peak. It took us 8 hours and a couple of thousand feet of ascent, but the view from the top was spectacular! I was even able to get in some roped-up rock climbing near the top of the peak. During our stay in the Smith Lake Basin, we so no other persons. The weather was clouds and therefore no rain. The one hassle we ran into.....literally......was a pesky black bear. He kept prowling around our camp and one morning quite early he got into some of our food and I had to chase him off. I didn't sleep as soundly as other trips because of the thought of that bear near our camp. He wasn't particularly big, but he did seem bold around humans. Brad was the first to encounter our bear-friend (ask him about it, as it is quite funny). When it came time to go, Nick and I felt like we could stay another couple of days and enjoy this spectacular area. The wrangler showed up on time on the appointed day and he loaded up our gear again and set out for the ranch. I got in some last minute stream fishing below Smith Lake and it was unbelievable! I was reeling them in as fast as I could dry off my fly and cast again. Sometimes, 3 fish would strike for my fly at the same time. If only all fishing outings were this successful, then I would pursue it more often. Once we made it back into Lander the reality of the long drive home sunk in. We all departed in different directions and said goodbye. We all talked about coming back and I'm sure we will, but it may be a few years. Good friends, fantastic fly-fishing, great food, light packs, awesome weather, solitude and the most scenic and wild mountains in the west! What more can I say?