June 30: Day 13 (1736- 1761) Wind River Range: 15 miles
The night before we tried to have a fire, but it started snowing on us so we retreated to our tent. When we awoke it was snowing lightly, just like the night before.
Nothing was or had really stuck to the ground. Considering we had a river crossing the evening prior, our shoes and socks were NOT dry. They weren’t even warm. As it was really only ice crystals, we dressed for rain seeing as we were going to be descending in elevation throughout the day.
The trail markings were sparse and we had a hard time following the trail. After an icy thigh deep river crossing, things got dicey. I left my water bottle on the other side of the river…and rather than cross the river two more times, I decided to go without (I had two more). No sooner did we cross the river, but the trail disappeared. This required a bushwack through dense vegetation and a muddy bog. To add another degree of difficulty we really couldn’t feel our feet just yet from having crossed the glacier cold river.
And just when we located the trail using Guthook, it began to snow. Medium size flakes began to fall upon us and the trail. In some ways we were happier with the snow, as we didn’t have to worry about becoming fully soaked. Our feet were enough. Medium flakes turned into big fluffy flakes falling at an alarming rate.
The sense of urgency to keep moving and descending was building. We didn’t want to lose the trail or get stuck up here in the event it dropped more than a couple inches.
A couple hours into our trek, it became cold enough that the snow was now sticking and starting to cover the ground and foliage.
What day was it, we joked. Have we been out that long that we were already into November? For nearly 8 hours it did NOT stop snowing. It only oscillated between big fluffy snowflakes and bean bag sized snow pellets. At times the sun would peak through the snow filled clouds and we’d stop and “thaw” ourselves.
We started to make an alternate plan, in the event the snow did NOT stop as we descended elevation. The plan was to exit at Sandy Lodge if the storm got worse.
Eventually the snow slowed and came to a stop as we approached another thigh deep river crossing. Here also, we needed to collect some water. We figured it’d be a better idea to take the time to collect our water first, before we crossed, and were uncomfortably cold…again. Just as we finished getting our water, the snow spigot got turned on once again…full throttle.
We retreated under a large pine that sheltered us from the snow. We sat there for nearly an hour watching it snow. Paul used his umbrella to shelter him further while I had to use our tyvek ground cloth. Earlier, most likely when we did our obligatory CDT bushwacking, I lost my umbrella AND hat. They must have gotten stripped off my pack. I hope someone finds and enjoys them both. Maybe it will be a bit of “trail magic” for them.
An hour passed and the snow abated. At least here we took the time to have a snack while we waited as we hadn’t eaten, except for breakfast. Try as we might, we couldn’t find a dry way in which to cross this deep, swiftly moving creek. Rather than take off our rain pants, we rolled up the legs, thinking that it couldn’t be deeper than our knees. Oh, it was. That’s the problem with clear water. It’s hard to tell the actual depth. Mid thigh it turned out to be. We should have taken off our rain pants . Now we were going to be walking in frozen wet shoes AND pants. Nothing to do but walk ourselves warm and hopefully dry.
We neared the trail head to Sandy Lodge. We considered taking that route, but opted not to as the sky appeared to be clearing, and our weather app indicated that the next 2-3 days should be no precipitation. Onward we trudged, almost dry and warm now.
Our 15 miles for the day put us at Meeks lake. We took the side trail off to Meeks lake and had it all to ourselves. A slight breeze off the lake allowed our tent, rain fly and sleeping bags to dry fully before we retreated into them for the night.
We had no problem falling asleep this night. We hoped our weather app was not fibbing.