WY – South Fork Lakes, Southern Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness

I prepare for trips by giving myself many options. This gives me the flexibility to revise my loose itinerary on the fly. Today called for cross-country travel to Rabbit Ears Lake, over Macon Pass and on to Washakie Lake, my legs were feeling the fatigue of the previous days so I told myself I’d make a decision at the junction. I said goodbye to Baptiste Lake and Mount Hooker (see previous post for details).

Soon enough I was back on Bears Ears Trail #716 heading toward Grave Lake

The sound of rushing water always gets my attention. 

Soon enough I found myself at Grave Lake. What a HUGE body of water. It was so nice being on trail. The fatigued muscles said we like this option. To reach Rabbit Ears Lake, I would have crossed the Grave Lake outlet and worked my way south along the outlet stream. I’m sure it would have been fun, but I’ve learned to listen to my body and that internal voice. For safety reasons, I send out an InReach message whenever I change trails, go off trail, or find myself in a risky situations such as crossing rivers. 

I found a beach at Grave Lake

More importantly I found a civilized way to cross waterways, not that it mattered at this point as I’d had wet feet for days. I wear quick dry trail shoes with merino wool socks for blister management. I dry out my feet on breaks. Putting on wet socks in the morning is still one of my least favorite things but since they’ll be wet within 5 minutes it doesn’t make sense to put on dry ones. 

Grave Lake

I dropped back into tree line where I found these gems. 

I decided it was time to rebuild my log crossing confidence. SUCCESS! 

This junction is a little confusing. It was time to look carefully at the map. 

I’d be staying on the Bears Ears Trail to the Washakie Trail junction.

This junction at Ranger Park had met continuing my journey east on the Bears Ears Trail

I believe this is Payson Peak. 

As per usual, I was hiking through yet another afternoon thunderstorm. Favorite gear these past few weeks in the Winds has been my umbrella and poncho. 

Upper Valentine Lake

First view of South Fork Lake

The smallest of the lakes in the South Fork Basin. Notice the waterfall! 

I positioned my tent to enjoy nature’s music while also having views of the lake. Yes, those are my socks on top of my tent. I was hoping for drying time between storms. 

South Fork Lake. Here’s a fun story. Upon arrival at the lake, I found my friend Bill who I met a few weeks ago, shared some miles and camp at Tayo Lake. The Winds are indeed a small place. He was parked at the furthest northwest trailhead while I was at the furthest southwest. What a coincidence! 

I had the basin to myself as far I could tell. There had been four fishermen visiting, including Bill, when I arrived but they all returned to Valentine Lake before sunset. 

I was entertained by this light show as the sun slid behind the peak. 

Watching the sun kiss the mountains is my favorite morning activity. 

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/10/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 8-10 (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, constant up and down (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: moderate on main trails
    • Terrain: rocky in some places, mucky in others
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: excellent
  • Solitude: High! Met a large group hiking toward Hailey Pass, one solo guy, and a group who’d stayed at South Fork Lakes the previous night, plus the four fishermen at South Fork Lakes
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t need deet (overwhelming gnats at South Fork Lakes)
  • Wildlife Sightings: none beyond birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pika, and marmuts
  • Precip: expect thunderstorms in July/August; I’ve been wet and dumped on with hail and rain nearly daily
  • Temp: Overnight varied and seemed to fluctuate a lot in the 30’s and 40’s, highs were probably in 60’s-70’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5).

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, bugs and navigation. Also review current food protection requirements/guidelines (I used an Ursack with an Opsack liner). 

Links:

Resources:

4 thoughts on “WY – South Fork Lakes, Southern Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness

  1. Wow, I love this scenery. The Winds are on my list for when I can backpack again!

    Just wanted to reach out to you about backpacking alone and hear your opinion – I have previously backpacked alone in Denali and throughout parts of the Canadian Rockies. I feel (mostly) comfortable doing it, but it scares the living daylight out of my partner and family. I have a SPOT and carry bear spray plus a bear canister, etc., but that does little to reassure them. My partner currently has never gone backpacking (we are both nursing injuries). I hope to take him someday … but if he does not like it, I don’t want to be forced to give up my hobby for safety reasons and such if I can’t find a backpacking partner.

    I know I commented on your Honda post about camping alone and the safety. What are your thoughts about backpacking alone? I tend to think places like Alaska/Canada are safer from a person-danger perspective. I feel much less comfortable camping alone in places on the AT that have easy access to towns where people could just hike in, do terrible things, and hike right back out.

    Thanks!

    • I agree about feeling more secure in less populated areas. I’m more nervous near trailheads and roads. I’ve never had an uncomfortable experience while hiking or backpacking solo in the US. HOWEVER, my experiences are pretty much limited to the west coast and mountains states and in wilderness areas or national parks.

  2. Hi there! I am just loving this series of posts of yours. You are definitely my kind of hiker! Great Blog and fantastic photos. I live in australia and long for the sort of country you are now exploring. wish I could be there.

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