PrologueOur usual hikng group (Scott, Brian, Shawn, Tay, Jimmy G, an Jimmy P; see my TR: Zion Slots) converged on SLC to do a trip to the Winds, an area Scott had visited in college. We all met at the SLC airport, I arrived last. We went to REI to get some white gas and I'm not sure what else. Our group then proceeded east on the interstate. Our first stop was Evanston Wy for food and whatever else we needed. We drove trough Rock Springs and north on US 191, toward Big Sandy. It was late and we had difficulty navigating. We thought we were on the correct road when at 2 am we chose to stop and sleep in a field, too tired to drive any further.
In the morning we were awakened by cows wandering through camp. We drove a few miles up the road to the Big Sandy TH and had a bite to eat. At the TH there were many cars from all over the US; from Alaska to Maine to Florida. We eventually got equipment straight, stowed, and headed up the trail to Big Sandy Lake. The forest was typical dry Rockies, little undergrowth, big pines.The secenry was really impressive and different from the other big mountains of the west.
Days #1-2 Big Sandy to Shadow LakeWe slowly made our way to the lake and up toward Jackass Pass. Unfortunately a thunderstorm came through near the crest of the pass and we huddled together; east of Arrowhead Lake, sitting on our packs under a small plastic tarp, as the hail poured down and thunder clapped. As I've said before, I hate hiking in thunderstorms. After the storm we crossed over the pass and into the Cirque. A photo cannot capture the might of this valley. Hearing some noise we looked up and could barely make out a haul bag being pulled up Warbonnet, a 1000 feet up from the pass. We headed down and made camp in a sheltered area SW and about 400' above the lake. While camp was set up and dinner cooked, I made my way down to the lake to get water. I rinsed off and carried about 4 gallons up the hill. As I remember it was fairly cold that night. We sat around and played some cards. Later we looked up and saw lights descending Warbonnet, I suppose the same climbers hauling the bag up earlier that day. As usual, the western night was bright and clear, the stars everywhere
The next morning, Jimmy G had to drive back to SLC. We ate, broke camp, and parted ways; Jimmy to the Big Sandy parking lot, myself and 4 others to make our way over Texas Pass. We hiked down to Lonesome Lake and sat on the rocks; Tay even fished a few minutes. We finally shouldered the packs and began to long climb to Texas Pass, 1200+' above. It was a slow climb up the boulder field. At one point we heard the clinking of climbing gear. We looked up and around but could not find the climbers on one of the big walls. We passed Secluded Lake and finally crested the pass. We took a nice long break and enjoyed the sun. Amazing views to all around as we stood on the continental divide with the divide snaking in front and behind us. The Cirque was impressive, Warbonnet, the Warriors, Pingora and the others. Eventually we decided we should get going and we headed north and steeply down toward Texas Lake. There was somewhat of a trail in the loose scree and rocks. Past Texas lake we sauntered past Barren and Billys Lakes and camped below Shadow Lake. Here we could chill out and Tay could fish. It was an easy day.
Days #3-4 Shadow Lake to Big SandyToday was a big day, a long dayhike and then begin the journey back to the TH, maybe 15 miles. Scott and I thought our group would be able to hike down Washakie Creek, up to the namesake pass, down to the lake, up Illinois Pass, then down and around to our campsite. Tay decided to stay in camp and fish while we hiked. We had great weather as we started down the creek. We passed a horsepackers camp, right onto the Pyramid Lake trail, another right onto the Washakie Lake trail and up to Washakie Pass (11611'), a total of 1500' vertical. A long walk up though not exceedingly steep. It would have been nice to climb Mt Washakie but I didn't think we had time. We took another long break though it was little cold with the wind. After awhile we began the long descent to Washakie Lake (10363'). At Macon Lake (10771') we cut ESE and down to the SW corner of Washakie Lake where we took another break before beginning the long hike back up.
The hike around the south side of the lake was a long scramble over a huge boulder field and we finally made the creek that drops from lake 11140.We took a few breaks but finally made Illinois Pass (11400'+) with more great views (The topozone link is the continental divide at Illinois Pass.Another long break preceeded our scramble down to Barren Lake, 700 vertical in 0.3 mile. It was a steep boulder field that worried me if someone were to have dislodged a rock and been injured. We finally made Barren Lake and shortly thereafter our campsite. We were all ready to stay in camp but Scott and Tay were flying out tomorrow so we needed to get to Marms Lake. Reluctantly we packed and hiked 4 miles over to our next camp. Brian and I treated ourselves to a nice cool off in the fridged waters of the lake. We all ate, sat around, looked at the starlit skies, told lies, and finally went to bed.
Our last day in the Winds was a little disappointing, we were leaving and would be in the woods for the first time in 3 days. The walk to the TH was slow and peacful; past Dads, Mirror and Mystery Lakes. We arrived at the cars, said goodbye to the jagged, granite peaks and drove off to Rock Springs.