Moose Mania in the Wind River Mountains: Bridger Wilderness

Llamapacking the Wind River Mountains
Moosely Company along the Green River Lakes
Hike over Porcupine and Green River Passes, Climb Squaretop Mountain

August 11 - 19, 2001
by Rob Jones

(Text and Photos © copyright by Rob)

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Because of my limited server space, these photos have been squished. So, they are not at full resolution.
The good news is that they load faster.... rob

Moosely Squaretop photo (33669 bytes) George, with Llamas Ciscero, Snowball, and Randy, head into the Bridger Wilderness (58846 bytes) A view of Beaver Park (13612 bytes) Name this flower? (14345 bytes) Aster (32316 bytes) Frank on Squaretop, Green River Lakes far below (33528 bytes) John & Frank cross the Green River (47526 bytes) Mr. Bullwinkle takes a break (47921 bytes) Moose between the Green River Lakes (33073 bytes) Rob in Beaver Park, Square Top in background (24204 bytes) Snowball at sunset near camp (20109 bytes) Tim demonstrates his kitchen deportment (36383 bytes)

Other reports about the Wind River Range:

Ecobust Along New Fork:
A Super-Natural Figure-8 in the Bridger Wilderness of the Wind River Mountains
September 3-13, 1987

Do The Washakie: Backpacking The Wind River Mountains
the Cirque of The Towers, to Big Sandy Openings
July 31 - August 6, 1999

    Day 1: A Four-Moose Day: We, George, Paul, and I, are sitting in our deluxe camp at the upper end of Green River Lake, watching the light play across the top abutment of Square Top and two sets of cavorting, courting moose stroll the expansive meadow choked with grass and shrubby willows.

Moosely Squaretop
Moosely Squaretop
(Click the image for a full-size view; Photo by Rob)

    We spent the majority of the day with last-minute organization and driving to Pinedale. Then, out of Pinedale, we passed by Cora, and the entrance to my first hike in the Wind River range. It is clear and windy as we passed through a wide valley bounded by rolling glacial moraines. We were slowed by miles of bone-rattling washboard road. On our part, we are happy we are not running a shuttle, as are members of the other IAC (Idaho Alpine Club) group, starting from Elkhart Park and exiting at Green River Lakes. No, we're planning a loop: Porcupine Pass --> Palmer Lk --> Doubletop Mountain --> Trail Creek Park --> Beaver Park, where we hoped to join with the other IACers along the Highline Trail and loop back to the Green River Lakes.

    Day 2: A Six-Moose Morning: I slipped along the wet sand at the wilderness boundary end of Green River Lake. Peering over the sand spit, I see the palmate prongs of two bull moose and hear the sucking sounds of huge hooves slurping in the mud. They're close, with only a thin picket of pines separating them from me. I sneak from pine to pine and attempt a few photos. Then, we brake camp and hike the Porcupine Trail to near the base of the pass.
Moose between the Green River Lakes
Moose between the Green River Lakes
(Click the image for a full-size view; Photo by Rob)

    It's happy hour at 9500' and Paul and George are alternately scanning the discontinuous, ghost switchbacks of Porcupine Pass. We're debating the existence and the sanity of this rare air route. Camped in a mini-meadow, we have gained about 1500' since morning, through luscious open meadows and the thick shade of Lodgepole Pines. Scarlet Monkey Flowers line the burbling flow of Porcupine Creek. Huge glacial erratics stud the avalanche chutes which border camp.

    Day 3: The Porcupine 3000: The penetrating breeze rustles the low tundra as we gaze South and down the New Fork Drainage at two hanging canyons and the low green park of Palmer Canyon, some 2,000' below. At somewhere around 10,700', the air is rare and the views are deluxe at Porcupine Pass.

    All the llamas are down, resting their tired two-toed pads. Alphie has been temporarily retired and we are packing with Randall, Cicero, and Snowball. After a long rest and some exploring, we continue down and down to the New Fork Lake Trail, arriving at the same elevation as our morning nirvana camp, 9500'.

    After a second gorp stop, llama and foot break, we decide to go the longer route, via the Doubletop Mountain Trail. This necessitates a further decline to approximately 8900', where we camp near the junction of the New Fork River and Reynolds Creek (Palmer Canyon).

    Now, we're sipping Chardonnay wine and cooking stove top lasagna while an intermittent dribble of rain interrupts us.

George, with Llamas Ciscero, Snowball, and Randy, head into the Bridger Wilderness (58846 bytes) John & Frank cross the Green River (47526 bytes)

    Day 4: The Snowball Rebellion: I'm looking up toward gray-granite walls, speckled with silver and yellow lichen, a billow of thunderheads form the backdrop and a trio of llama butts the foreground. In a poof of dust, Snowball brakes to a stop, and, kush (llama for kneel down), he drops, plop in the trail. His lead rope, tied to the athletic Ciscero, makes a tinny "sprong" sound as the metal clasp fails and the llama train separates. George remarks "It's just a miniature Snowball rebellion." No permanent harm, we continue the glacial roll.

    We climb and climb to Palmer Lake, to witness a cow defecating directly into the lake. Hikers are, sensibly, required to camp 200' from water so cows can crap in it. That's the g.w. republican way. Commodities raped from public (your!) land by special interest groups with no thought or consideration of common sense or science.

    Continuing to gain altitude, we pass tarns wet and dry, to Cutthroat Lake at 10,600', arriving in a cold hail and rain storm. Now, we huddle under the tarp, wearing nearly all the clothes we possess, and enjoying the relief of the changing light. When we crawl over the glacier-polished pinkish granite, we see a cadre of rocking penguins at the distant camp, attempting to keep warm kinetically.

A view of Beaver Park (13612 bytes) Name this flower? (14345 bytes) Aster (32316 bytes)

    Day 5: Short Summit: Paul stands on the polished pink granite and calls through the radio "Idaho Alpine Club, are you out there?" No answer, except for the grumble of another thunderstorm approaching with the piercing wind. Today, we are penguin people, wearing all our earthly clothing, some from the cosmic community (wish we had this or that), and we nestle under the tarp drinking tomato soup and red wine, two of the basic food groups.

    We made the short tundra hop from Cutthroat to Summit Lakes, accompanied by a drop in elevation to 10,324'. Of course, we're surrounded by toothy peaks over 12,000.' We hoped for a languish and a shower, but the weather has made these activities difficult at best.

    As the day closes into the gray mist, and the toothy teeth of gray granite fade in and out of view, there is no answer from or glimpse of the IAC hikers who had entered the area via Elkhart Park. This is the first of two expected rendezvous with the backpacking group.

    Day 6: Highline to Lowline Trail: My feet thud softly in this land of dirt and the aroma of conifers. We're pounding the well-graded, fairly well-maintained Highline Trail, approaching Three Forks Park and enthralled by the thunder of the turquoise-glacial milk of the apropos Green River, fresh from its icy birth above the park.

    We started the day near Summit Lake at 10,324', entering the Highline Trail for the first time and lilting from the land of rocks and ice to the tree-infested lowlands of Beaver Park near 8,000'. The miles easily roll by as we circuitously spiral the switchbacks between Trail Creek and Three Forks Parks, dropping elevation from the high to the low line.

    During lunch, the llamas began to roam, and Ciscero, sensing a pack-free roam, trotted behind and bumped into an unsuspecting hiker who had not heard or seen anything due to the roaring Green. As Ciscero leaned his massive head over her shoulder and bumped into her pack, she jumped with full pack, a foot off the trail. It was terribly amusing, to see this whole episode unfold.

    Approaching Beaver Park, we contact on the radio, then met the other IAC hikers, John & Frank from the lowlands of the far-out East, Tim and Betsy, and Mark and Donna. We joke and share pudding and brownies into the crepuscular scarlet and magenta zone.

magenta zone
Snowball at sunset near camp
(Click the image for a full-size view; Photo by Rob)

    Day 7; Into the Square Zone: "More?!" I thought and muttered. "Where on this endless tabletop is the high point of this Square Zone?" We plodded severely up hill all morning, struggling from near 8,000' to 11,695', climbing Squaretop Mountain. First through the downfall, then the open incline and rock bowl, and then a gription scramble up a blocky couloir to the rambling table top, and wandering along to the North seeking the high point, wherever it is. We did it, we attain the top, a checkerboard bump on this massive square.
On the big square
Frank on Squaretop, Green River Lakes far below
(Click the image for a full-size view; Photo by Rob)

    The ascent is difficult, the descent more so for certain body parts. When we return to camp, George points out that the Granite Lake trail is just beyond camp and how we had missed it, climbing instead through deadfall and forest.

    My quads and other downhill muscles scream just a bit today, as we eat lots of everything because folks are hungry and because we are cleaning out our packs. A real kickshaw, a cholent (stew) of possibilities. The down bag is indeed snugly tonight.
Tim demonstrates his kitchen deportment
(Click the image for a full-size view; Photo by Rob)

    Day 8: Flatlands to Mooseland: Mr. Bullwinkle high-steps over the deadfall, then pauses, flicks his turret ears and softly snorts, flaring that most stupendous of Roman noses, blinks those relatively tiny red eyes, and looks directly at me. "Oops," I think. He stands like a statue, a mere 20 feet away, but I can see his nose wiggling. Then, it occurs to me how near we are, because some of the insects bugging him come over to visit me. I snap a photo and Mr. Bullwinkle orients to this foreign sound. After awhile, he lies down to chew cud and I sit on a log, admiring his cosmic contentment (see photo) and enjoy my own.
Mr. Bullwinkle takes a break
Mr. Bullwinkle takes a break
(Click the image for a full-size view (47k); Photo by Rob)

    I saw the moose pair harried from the meadow near where the trail crosses the Green River and then stroll towards the forest edge to escape the weekend hikers and too-many-children proliferation. We are definitely too near what passes for 'civilation.' I hurried into the forest and got ahead of the mooses.

    Today, we hiked the meadow edge to between the Green River Lakes, camping at camp 1. It was during a lounge in camp that I noticed Mr. Bullwinkle escaping the hikers.

    Day 9: Early Out: Paul and I are on the trail to see the first sun rays glance off the mirrored surface of Green River lake. We stroll into the CG to see the horrors of winnehogs with generators, ATV ecotrashers, and assorted destructive picayune toys. Locating the other IACers, we quickly change clothes and head for Pinedale for breakfast. Along the way, we see a Bald Eagle scanning the Green for breakfast.
big square
Rob in Beaver Park, Square Top in background
(Click the image for a full-size view)

    I ride back to Idaho Falls with Tim and Betsy, and, after reorganization of equipment, and goodbyes to my lovely Mother, I continue on to Smog Lake and, argh, work the next day. I am happy to say that I am two days late returning to work, noting to myself how work interferes with life...a discommode of zen :-)

Sadly, yet predictably, given our rush toward 7 billion people, already or aspiring to drive SUVs and live in large (luxury or abattoir?!) homes, even the wilds of the Winds are unsafe for living things. I recently read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune about how Bighorn Sheep are struggling due to acid rain in the backcountry.

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