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Wind Rivers: Green River Lakes Loop

In 2001, we took our first hike in the Wind Wiver range of Wyoming. The range is located about 75 miles southeast of Jackon Hole, WY. The main “big town” near the Winds is Pinedale, WY. Our router started in the northern edge of the wilderness in an area called Green River Lakes and would continue up to the continental divide and then back down a drainage area in a loop to our starting point.

We spoke with a ranger before we got going and showed her our planned path. The ranger was very helpful and warned us that part of the route we had chosen had been badly burned many years back. The trail in this area was not very well maintained she told us. Of course we looked at the route on our map and it clearly showed a nice black dashed trail. How bad could it be? We went off-trail all the time. Any trail would be easy for us even if it was “not maintained” very well.

So on a beautiful crisp morning, we set out around the lakes on the northern side. I took a lot of pictures on the way around. Fairly soon we found our trail headed up to the north to Clear Lake. It was a fairly steep but fairly short climb which only got steeper as we neared the first plateau. Lots of bolder hopping, some trail, and a lot of just picking a path.

Once we got to the top of the first section we had a more level and easier trek for a short while. But we could start to see the burn area the ranger spoke of. In short order, the path was becomming very hard to follow. Dead trees burned in a fire many years before and had fallen over. The fallen trees were everywhere. We all took differet paths trying to find a route. Some took the high route up on the edge of the canyon wall. This path was free of most trees, but it was difficult to find a route and had a lot of up/down to follow. Some of us (me included) stayed low, but we found tons of brush to cut up our legs and very wet soppy conditions if we ventured too close to the drainage/creek area. It took us a LONG time to make our way up that burn area but eventually we got up the waterfall at the end of the canyon and up to Clear Lake (8,900ft) where we camped.

We made a nice camp on the lake and had dinner. Some of us took a swim in the 38° water. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and turned in. The next day had more climbs on up to Crescent Lake (10,500ft).

The next morning we set out on another beautiful day. We hiked up to 10,200 feet to another lake (named?) and had lunch. We were now above treeline and the views of the peaks and continental divide were wonderful. The last little bit of up for the day was about 800 feet to a pass. We could see the trail up ahead. It was a very well maintained trail and it got us up to the pass fairly quickly.

Once on top, we could see Crescent Lake below…and why it had that name. We had to go down only 500 feet or so and we could pitch camp on the lake.

Once we got down and set-up camp, we enjoyed a VERY refreshing swim in Crescent Lake. Well, I didn’t swim…I just bathed on the shore. But some of the more daring folks in our crew went all the way in! The lake had to be hovering around 34° as there were snowfields extending into the water. Oh well, at least the air was nice and warm when you got out – NOT! And it was windy.

Windy you say? You bet. They don’t call it the Winds for nothing. In fact, while we were having dinner on the edge of the lake we experienced a very bizarre localized meteorological event. We could feel the wind picking up a little at one point during dinner. Actually we could hear it. Then we spotted the wind coming across the lake…no, we couldn’t see the wind, but we could see the disturbance on top of the water. As it made its way across, it got closer and closer. After about 10 seconds or so it hit us! Must have been a burst of air blowing at 40 or 50 mph! It blew over all of our stuff, uprooted our tents and scared the crud out of us. But it only lasted for 10 seconds or so. Strangest thing I have even witnessed.

After a good nights rest, we awoke to near freezing temps and plotted our course up to the continental divide. Our plan was to do a day hike up to the divide and explore the Continental Glacier a bit. The hike began by circumnavigating Crescent Lake. At the far end of the lake we met “The Goat Man” so aptly named (by us) because he was surrounded by goats. He had been hiking in the Winds for a month or so with his team of goats to carry the gear. Just him, alone. A little strange, but certainly not a terribly way to spend a summer.

After the goat man, we started up through the drainage to the divide. We hit several small lakes/ponds and small streams feeding from the snow and ice above. Eventually we got the the headwall ad started up the last 500ft or so to the continental divide. Lots of boldering and some all fours and we were there.

Once on top, we took some time to grab a bite to eat. I found out that we could hit the cell towers farther out to the west (Jackson Hole!). So we all made some quick calls back to the families to let them know where we were. It’s always fun to be able to call home from the middle of nowhere. Brad noticed during our calls that we could even see Mt. Moran in the Teton Range. It was a very clear day indeed.

We moved on and toured the edge of the continental glacier. Ice, crevasses, and snowfields abound. It was slow going on the snow, but we eventually made it to easier walking as we continued mostly south. We decided to return to Cresent Lake via a separate route which took us south of the morning route. It eventually wrapped us around and we found a slot to descend through and get us back to goat man and Crescent Lake.

On our fourth day we descended down the Roaring Fork river basin along a nice trail. For the first time on the entire trip (other than the goat man), we saw signs of life! A lone cowboy on a a horse towing a nother horse with his gear. We politely got to the uphill side of the trail and let him pass on by. If you want to be alone, the Wind Rivers is for you! 🙂

We descended down the Roaring Fork quite a ways to about the 9000ft level and made camp by the stream. We were in camp early so we had time to kill. Davy started working on a damn in the river. He found some very large planks of wood….not logs…planks. He found them while wondering around down stream a bit. Evidently they were left over from the construction of a bridge just down stream. Using those nice starting pieces, we spent several hours working on the worlds first Roaring Fork Damn. I think it raised the water level a foot or so during peak operation.

The last day we crossed the roaring fork and wondered along the trail which cut across a pretty open meadow before heading back up (ughh, I hate going up only to go down again) about 250 feet before crossing over to the last downhill leg leading back to Green River Lakes.

Once back in Pinedale, we did a little souvenir shopping and enjoyed burgers at a local pub before the long ride back to SLC.

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