The Wind River Mountains (the Winds for short) top the list of CDT hikers’ favorite sections and I can definitely see why. Not since Glacier National Park have we seen such rugged peaks. But unlike Glacier, we had 90 miles of pristine wilderness unspoiled by roads.
The first couple of days leaving Togwotee Pass were completely unremarkable except for the utter lack of trail marking. I guess they had to do something to keep us awake. Near the end of the second day though we topped a pass and got our first taste of the beauty that is the Winds. We camped in a long valley where each side had steep walls. The next morning we saw moose feeding in green meadows framed by towering peaks thousands of feet above. Such beauty is not without its hardships and so we spent much of the day climbing into the high alpine country. One weekend hiker suggested we needed crampons to safely navigate the snow fields still remaining. We had to laugh when we saw them as you could simply walk across unaided. It was a great reminder that snow just really freaks out many people.
The next three days were spent on high alpine plateau – much of it above 10,000 feet. Lakes of all sizes dotted the terrain. The trail itself was difficult to walk due to all the rocks. For such a remote section we saw lots of people. These people were not annoying like in the national parks as they had put in the same effort we had to be there (sometimes much more as their packs were huge).
The highlight was the last day up high when we circled the Cirque of the Towers. It was an incredible line of peaks enclosing a narrow valley and lakes. Some of the peaks looked like towers straight out of a Tolkien story. The way down required almost a mile of scrambling over boulders – some the size of semi trailers.
The final day had us sadly dropping back down. As we looked South, we watched the mountains disappear into rolling plains. Next week looks to be 100+ miles of scrub brush “fun.”
Ever since Yellowstone I’ve been nursing a sore foot. At Togwotee Pass it was at its worst when it swelled up like a balloon. The ruggedness of the Winds didn’t help things and I made it through with Ibuprofen and stubbornness. Today it was finally better thanks in no small part to the ease of the tread. A week of flat jeep roads might be boring, but it is probably the best thing for my foot.