I’d passed through the Tetons earlier that day and witnessed Mother Nature’s fury. As the temperatures quickly plummeted 20 degrees, heavy rain, hail and winds blasted for a couple hours, I was reminded to pack accordingly for my upcoming trip.
With 2.25 million acres and 110 miles to choose from, how did I decide on this trail as my first experience in the Winds? Well as most of you know I’m an opportunist. When friends needed help with a shuttle between trailheads, it made sense to start where I’d be meeting them especially as my goal is to hike more, drive less.
The ranger station in Dubois was closed when I arrived so I headed out blindly hoping to find decent conditions. I’d recently seen a trip report of the loop I planned to hike which started on the Glacier Trail #801; I’d packed accordingly.
Based on Nancy Pallister’s book, Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, “the overall rating for this trip is EASY although off-trail navigation skills are critical.” Feeling a big pudgy and out of shape after abstaining from serious hiking the past couple of months, I figured EASY was exactly what I needed. And so it began . . . nice trail, beautiful bridge, perfect temperature, blue skies . . .
All too soon, I left maintained trail and followed the old trail to Bomber Falls, so named due to a WWII B-17 bomber crash site. According to Ron Adkison’s book, Hiking Wyoming’s Wind River Range, “expect to encounter faint tread, a tangle of fallen trees, and steep pitches.” I rate it a B+ for unmaintained trail conditions; it was pretty easy to follow, with not too many obstacles but the steep was really steep and could have used some nice switchbacks.
I was spent by the time I reached Bomber Basin, a mere 5.5-6 miles from the trailhead, albeit with 2400-2600′ of elevation gain. Looming thunderstorms helped cement the decision to spend the night next to this lovely stretch of East Torrey Creek.
Slippery rocks with risky consequences were well beyond my comfort zone; the creek was much too high to cross safely in my opinion. I’d recently heard a saying, “no epic today is worth no epic tomorrows,” and this certainly applied here.
I met a group the previous night who were returning from Bomber Lake. They successfully traversed the west side which made me feel “if they can do it, I can do it too.” I couldn’t help but remember the photos I’d seen of the beauty to be found ahead. All I had to do was get through a few miles of burned forest, deadfall, swamps and that mass of horrible tallus.
With morning came the decision to turn around. I knew what to expect by reversing my steps and the time it would take. With a commitment in 2.5 days, I sadly set forth to conquer those dreaded miles of boulder fields, mud bogs, down trees and so much misery. My body was really hating me. I was carrying a ton of extra weight with cold weather and rain gear, snow travel gear, and bear protection.
- Date(s) Hiked: July 18-21, 2017
- Mileage: Around 18 miles
- Elevation Gain/Loss: Around 4,000′ ascent/descent
- Trail Conditions:
- Tree obstacles: TONS
- Overgrowth: Little
- Signage: None
- Terrain: EXTREMELY challenging boulder field and deadfall
- Water: Plentiful
- Camping: Plentiful
- Solitude: Only saw the one group over the 4 days
- Bugs: Plentiful
- Precip: Afternoon storms
- Temp: Lows of 45ish, highs 70-80
- Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 2 cherries (out of 5)
- Be on your A game with fitness, prepared for multiple conditions, and good with navigational tools.