Mid August a friend from our hiking group planned a backpacking trip to Titcomb basin in the Wind River Range, WY for the Labor Day weekend 9/3 to 9/5 2016. I signed up immediately, pretty excited on reading about the area and looking at some (probably photo-shopped?) pics on google. A week before, my right foot got a huge deep blister and i was worried whether i’d be able to make the trip. I monitored it (frequent cold water washes, Vit-E caps and full rest) and by Wednesday it had crusted but still a little pain underneath. I decided to go. Over the week, the number of people signed up was also fluctuating- it started with 5 or 6 at the beginning, went down to 2 a couple days later, and then back to 6 but we ultimately ended up with 3 people going, me included.
We started the 7 hour drive from Boulder at around 3:30pm Friday. The drive was pretty uneventful we talked about the usual random things. Boulder news, little bit of tech, medicine and hospital treatment in the U.S and abroad and also reminisced about or last trip to the Wind River Range, exactly 2 years ago on Labor day weekend. We arrived at the road leading to the trail around 10:30pm and drove around a bit looking for an open camp spot. Finding one we setup and slept immediately. At around 1:30am each one of us was awoken by loud thunder and strong lightening and rain. It was one of the strongest lightening ive ever experienced. Some of the flashes were extremely bright and lasted for over 2 seconds. In our drowsy state it was easily confused with actual sudden daylight. In the morning, we woke by 7pm and got ready and drove 20mins to the Pole creek trail head in Elkhart park. The parking lot was already pretty full, lots of groups going fishing, hiking, backpacking and climbing. We parked, packed, i bandaged my blister, and were off by 8:30am.
The trail starts off gradually in pine forests. We covered the first 2-3 miles at good pace, and soon reached the junction of Miller Lake trail. Here we took our first break as it was the first open meadow after a long time in the pine trees. We could also see the peaks far off in the distance to our left then continued further and went through pine trees again.
Our next stop was Photographer’s point. Here we had a nice stop, took in the views and plenty of pics.
After photographers point the trail begins it rolling up and down nature for the rest of the day. It rolls down slowly from now for a while then opens out into a meadow and the climbs gradually again through pine forest. Our next target was Seneca Lake about 3-4 miles further. We stopped by a quaint stream crossing for lunch at about 1:30pm. Here it started raining suddenly and we had to take cover. After waiting for about half and hour we continued onward. The trail climbs again gradually and descends suddenly to hobbs lake, then is flat for a while and then climbs again through pine towards Seneca lake. We were soon approaching our 8-9 mile mark. Its only on reaching Seneca Lake that the trail actually “opens up” leaving the kind of boring pine forests behind.
We took a photo stop on the seneca lake overlook and continued on the rocky trail alone the lake shore. Passing the final small section of the seneca lake we reached the lost lake trail junction. We continued on counting down the miles few feet at a time. Then past the small greenish lake, on the right, we continue then get past another small lake and ascend on the rocky unnamed pass. Up the pass the views in the distance are quite amazing. Just vast backcountry wilderness with a backdrop of pointy peaks.
Phew! We still had 2-3 more miles to get to Island Lake, our destination for the night. We completed the miles in silence in the evening sunlight and breathed a sigh of relief on getting the first peek at island lake. We descended slightly down the trail, and began looking for campsites to the left, as we dint want to go too further so it would be easy for us to leave while departing. We setup our tent, laid out our sleeping bags, took our food stuff and went to the edge of the gentle rolling slope overlooking Island lake. We had a gorgeous view of the lake and the Titcomb basin beyond it. We ate in the setting sun and took in the views and relaxed. It was blissful and time flew by.. After sunset, i retired to bed by around 8pm.
Again overnight we had heavy rain and very light hail. Next morning we awoke to low hanging clouds surrounding all the peaks shrouding everything in fogginess. The weather looked thunderous and not suitable to head into the basin. I was sound asleep, and looking at the weather i decided to just stay at camp and chill and rest my leg. The other 2 left camp at around 11:30am and were hoping for the weather to clear. By around 1pm the weather turned for the worse. There was an intense hailstorm, soon it was snowing. I was snuggled up in my sleeping bag thinking about the other guys stuck in this weather. By 2:30pm the storm had passed by and soon they arrived and shoveled the snow form around the tent. We decided on what to do. The weather was clearing, and to avoid a long hike on our last day back, we decided to pack and head out our destination being the campsites near Seneca Lake.
In the clearing weather, we say snow capped peaks which yesterday were totally barren. The snow on the ground, on the peaks and the colors made everything look very pretty. We hiked on, looking back to the peaks and Island lake occasionally. Just before our assent to the rocky unnamed pass, it started to hail again. Seeing no thunder clouds or lightening, we continued on bracing ourselves against wind and hail. Over the exposed pass, with no cover what so ever, and on the other side, we battled rain and hail and traced our steps back to Seneca Lake. The ground here was covered in a light layer of snow (1 to 2 inches easy) We setup camp, ate by the lake in the setting sun and slept.
Overnight again there was snowfall, much heavier than the previous afternoon. We awoke to many inches of snow around our tent. It was cold. We ate, packed and started our return journey. I stopped by the Seneca lake shore to refill water and continued on. The trail was snowy and easy. We covered the miles at a good pace, and soon were retracing our steps, past the downhill section after seneca lake, into the meadows, unnamed lakes, hobbs lake, and were into the pine forests again .Here the trail was very slushy, muddy and wet. After the last meadow our next stop was photographers point where we would have an early lunch by around 11:30am, but not being hungry and eager to complete our day, i continued on into the last leg of the hike, the gradual downhill section through pine forests. I covered the last 4-5 easy miles at good pace, and was at the trail head at 1:40pm sharp! The others arrived after a while as they had stopped for a break at Photographers point.
Soon we were off back to Boulder. The return journey was ok too, we listened to some interesting podcasts on a variety of topics, and by 10pm were back in Boulder, feeling accomplished on having completed another awesome trip to the Winds, and like last time, got to experience a variety of weather.
Until next time…