Wind River Backpacking 2018

Last summer, my friend Lindsay and I went on a brief backpacking trip in the Titcomb Basin region of Wyoming’s Wind River Range. This post contains a handful of the pictures I took in this absolutely gorgeous land.

Day Zero – The Drive

I love road trips. During the work week I always find myself rushing from one thing to the next. Even when I deliberately carve out time to relax, I often find myself feeling guilty about doing “nothing” or planning out what I’m going to do next (I can’t even begin to count the number of times I catch myself planning during meditation sessions…). So it’s a pleasant relief when I have a day where my only task is to drive.

That said, driving from Milwaukee to the Wind River Range is a pretty long drive… Initially Lindsay and I planned to sleep in my 4Runner, but after stopping somewhere in Iowa the middle of the night we quickly realized that no A/C was going to make sleeping virtually impossible. So we traded turns driving and trying to nap on sleeping pad in the back. Not ideal, and not particularly safe, but pretty effective!

We were also fortunate to get treated to a beautiful sunset as we neared Pinedale:

Day One – Elkhart Park -> Island Lake

The first day’s hike was about a 13-miler from the Elkhart Park Trailhead to Island Lake, where we set up camp for the next few days. The elevation gain wasn’t too significant (~2500 ft.) and it was spread out enough that the hike shouldn’t have been too difficult. But alas, living at Milwaukee and then hiking 13 miles at 9k+ ft. of elevation with a backpack full of camera gear and a massive bear canister turned out to be a little rough…

Fortunately, the scenery and weather were both amazing and kept Lindsay and I from bickering with each other too much. The view coming down from the pass to Island Lake was particularly stunning and panorama-worthy:

Our campsite was about as good as it can possibly get. We were a couple hundred feet from a lake, we had gorgeous mountain peaks as a view, the site itself was flat and sheltered, and there were very good dogs at the neighboring campsite. To this day, I regret not stealing one of those dogs…or at least getting some pictures with him…we had some good moments together down at the lake… single tear

We also lucked out and got a second beautiful sunset in a row!

Day Two – Exploring Titcomb Basin

Since you’re not allowed to camp in Titcomb Basin itself, there was a bit of an overhead to get from our campsite to where we spent our day adventuring. Fortunately the extra couple miles were mostly flat and we didn’t have to lug all our camping gear (having a campsite in the backcountry is so the way to go…much better than moving camp every night).

Overall we hiked a little over 9 miles throughout the basin on the second day, and aside from a little jaunt up to Mistake Lake (at roughly 40-degree slope) it was a quite easy day.

There’s not much else to say about the second day, to be honest. It seems silly to talk about the beauty of the basin when I can just show you pictures…so here you go!

Day Three – Titcomb Sunrise and Back to Trailhead

Day three started with a plan. We were going to hike into the basin in the dark for sunrise (I had scouted a specific location I wanted to shoot during sunrise), maybe do some more exploring, and then come back to camp for one more night in the backcountry before packing up and heading out the following morning.

Part of the day went according to plan, at least. We made it to the sunrise location I had scouted just in time, but unfortunately the sunrise was somewhat bland:

Oh well, at least I got a somewhat decent image and we didn’t get eaten by any bears. We didn’t really have anything we especially felt like doing in the basin, so we just took our time heading back to the campsite and I took advantage of the morning light and lack of wind to grab a few last images.

We got back to camp by late morning and decided to hike partway back to the trailhead. We weren’t too tired and had plenty of daylight left, so we thought we were being really smart and saving our future selves from having such a tough final day.

And if we would have only hiked partway back to the trailhead, it probably would have been smart. Instead, we just kept going… It just about killed us, but we ended up making it all the way back to the car for a beastly 20.5 single-day hike.

Lindsay’s pointing to the peaks we were strolling by during our sunrise walk

Final Notes

Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the last few years. The Wind River Range is pretty spectacular, and the fact that it doesn’t require permit means I’ll probably be back again soon. Though maybe next time I’ll be less ambitious with my mileage when hiking out…

For those that are interested, here are some additional notes and resources:

  • Link to Caltopo Map:
  • I used a Garmin Fenix 5x for navigation and loaded it with the GPX trails from Caltopo routes. I didn’t really need it as the trail was well-marked, but it’s always nice to have.
  • The Wind River Range is one of just a few places in the lower 48 that’s home to grizzly bears. We took all the necessary precautions (put all our food, toothpaste, etc. in a bear canister that we kept away from our campsite; carried bear spray in an easy-to-access location; etc.), and you should too if you visit!
  • Water was pretty common throughout the route, so thankfully we didn’t need to carry too much on us at any one time. For filtration and purification we primarily used a Platypus GravityWorks, which I love. We also brought some Aquamira drops as a backup in case the GravityWorks failed.
  • Photography stuff
    • My camera setup was as follows:
      • Fuji X100F
      • Fuji X-T2 w/ 35mm f/2, 10–24mm f/4, 50–140mm f/2.8
      • Gitzo GT1544T tripod w/ Really Right Stuff BH–30 Ballhead
      • Various filters & accessories
    • Looking back on this, I probably took too much photo gear. If I were to re-do this trip, I’d leave the X100F in the car, I’d substitute the 55–200mm f/3.5–4.8 for the 50–140mm f/2.8 since I rarely shoot wide open for landscapes, and I probably wouldn’t take the 35mm f/2 (though that’s so light and is great for documentary-style snapshots). If I did that, I’d save about 3 lbs. This may not seem like a ton when my total bag weight was probably 40+ lbs, but over the span of three days it really adds up.

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