Titcomb Basin

The week of August 5, 2007, David and I took a backpacking trip to the Wind River Range in Wyoming. We started at the Elkhart Park trailhead and headed up to Titcomb Basin. I was little apprehensive about hiking this trail, because I was worried that it would be too crowded for my liking. The trailhead was crowded, and most of the people on the trailhead registration said they were going to Titcomb Basin…but we pressed ahead, anyway. Before starting, we picked up a bear canister at the ranger station in Pinedale. They’re required if food can’t be hung, and we planned to camp above tree line. Turns out that we never did camp completely above tree line, which means we each hauled a bear canister for no good reason. Oh well. We also each got a fishing license for three days…we only fished for about 2 hours on one day, and didn’t catch anything. Oh well. The weather report on Sunday looked questionable, calling for a 40% chance of severe thunderstorms. That pretty much means the forecaster has no idea what’s going to happen. We waited out one storm at the Green River Lake trailhead, and then headed to our trailhead hoping that was the last storm of the day. It wasn’t.

We started late in the afternoon on Sunday, and took it slow since David was coming from Tennessee and I didn’t want the elevation to kill him. We did about 3 miles and then started looking for a campsite. It took considerably longer to find a campsite than usual (David’s GPS said we hiked over a mile off-trail looking for a site), but eventually we did find one, just in time for a rain storm. After waiting out the rain storm, we set up camp and ate just in time for a thunderstorm. We watched the storm approach for a while, and then, worried this was the big storm the weather had predicted, we took cover in the woods. I made us wait it out outside the tent, because there was a lot of lightning, and I think David loved sitting out in the dark woods while the storm raged around us. Good times! But everything was fine, and we went to bed after the storm passed, and headed out the next morning.

We passed quite a few people on the trail the next day. Photographer’s Point was really cool, and we could see up into the range where we were headed. We saw David’s first ever moose at one tarn, and we basically just took it slow going up and down the undulating trail. Another storm hit us at Seneca Lake, and the ascents and rain were taking their toll on David, so, after one particularly close lightning strike, we took cover and decided to go ahead and make camp at Little Seneca Lake. We made camp, did some fishing, and basically just took it easy. David was not enjoying all the storms, and he was worried that his legs were being worn out by the ascents, so we decided to day-hike from camp to Titcomb Basin the next day and then decide what to do.

So we got up early on Tuesday and hiked to Titcomb. Up until Little Seneca Lake, the trail hadn’t been anything special…it wasn’t anything you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the Rockies. But after climbing the saddle over Little Seneca, the trail became awesome. The views above and at Island Lake were incredible, and you could just stare at Titcomb Basin all day. The place was really amazing. There was just one major drawback: the area was freakin’ crowded. I mean, we saw dozens and dozens of people around and near Island Lake. I had expected to see more people than I liked, but there were more people than I imagined. And it was really weird, because I have developed a firm opinion that if you hike more than 3 or 4 miles from a parking lot, then you will leave behind everyone but the die-hards. And here we were, nearly 13 miles from the closest trailhead, and we probably saw about 100 people in four days on the trail. So I have modified my theory: the Winds are Mecca for die-hard backpackers. I mean, we ran into people from literally all over the country, and they were on the trail for about a week in most cases. That never happens anywhere else. So, I think, most of the time we die-hard backpackers are spread out in lots of different places throughout the wilderness areas throughout the country. But some of those backpackers periodically converge on the grandiosity of the Wind River Range. Of course, it earned the Mecca status…it was really, really pretty. But I would like to find a time to go when it’s not quite so crowded. Of course, we may have hit a particularly crowded week because it was the last week or so before school started back, and there were a lot of teenagers with their parents. I don’t know. But after spending a few hours at Island Lake and Titcomb Basin, we hiked back to camp. David was feeling pretty good, but he wanted to see Yellowstone, so we packed up and hiked about 3 miles back Hobbs Lake and found a nice campsite.

We got up the next morning and hiked the remaining 6 miles back to the trailhead. The backpacking part of the trip was really amazing. Somehow I developed my first blister in 10 years. I think my boot inserts are getting worn out. I put a band-aid blister pad on it before it turned into a blister, but it didn’t keep it from getting worse, so I ended up throwing mole skin on it which actually felt better. But the blister didn’t really hurt that badly, so I was fine. I also finally learned how to effectively use a hiking pole, so that was a good learning experience. I certainly now see how beneficial they can be…especially with heavy loads. My pack (which was packed for a 5 night trip) started out at 48 lbs…heavier than I would have liked, but that included the unused 3 lb bear canister and the water I started with.

So, after leaving the trail and returning the bear canister, we headed to Jackson, WY. We stayed in a hotel and drove around the Tetons a little. We saw a grizzly in the Tetons, which was the first grizzly I’ve ever seen there. We got up Thursday morning and checked out the Tetons some more, and even though it was more crowded than I’ve ever seen the park, it reminded me how much I really like it up there. Then we drove up to Yellowstone, and I showed David all the regular touristy spots. I finally saw Morning Glory pool, which was pretty cool. David really liked the thermal pools at the Upper Geyser Basin. He got to see his first grizzly at the Tetons and his first elk and bison in Yellowstone. After driving around Yellowstone, we drove back to Salt Lake in the middle of the night, and got in about 2 am on Friday.

On Friday we just cleaned up our gear while waiting on Tracy to get off work, and then we drove down to southern Utah to watch a meteor shower in the desert. We hiked a little in Iron Wash in the middle of the night, which, of course, I love doing, and we star-gazed for a while outside Goblin Valley. We saw some great meteors in the shower, including one that was really big and exploded, lighting up the entire desert. I love being in the desert at night…it’s so quiet…so dark…so isolated…and the stars are so bright. We spent the night in Green River, and then we showed David around the high points of Arches and Canyonlands. We drove back to Salt Lake on Saturday night, and David left Sunday morning.

I had a great week, and I think David enjoyed his first backpacking trip into the Rocky Mountains. I’ve decided that next summer I might try several 4 day weekends instead of one full week that wears me out after 4 days, anyway. And while I think the Winds were awesome, I’ll probably stick to more secluded trails for the future big trips.

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Elkhart Park

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