Lost in the Winds

by Harriet Greene

 

Howie WolkeWind River Range, Bridger Wilderness, Pinedale, Wyoming: 
The West was drier than it had been in years. Two nearby fires were almost under control. Elkhart Park was closed as well as the south entrance to Yellowstone, nowhere near our direction. After thirteen hours on the road we arrived at our friend’s home in Jackson Hole where we would spend the night. Our gear was unloaded, our food figured out, our backpacks packed and our age-old list, checked off, making sure everything was in order for an early departure in the morning.
 
In Hoback Canyon, ten miles south of Jackson, fire-fighting camps lined the highway  and heavy smoke obscured the landscape. As the haze cleared, two sandhill cranes materialized in a meadow and watched us drive by, unconcerned at all the activity around them. 
 
The day was clear, warm and slightly windy when my daughter parked the car in a meadow where cows and their calves watched as the two of us started hiking up the ridge on an unmarked trail until it disappeared; making our way through an old burn, a stop for a snack on a deadfall pine before picking up the path only to lose it again. The going was extremely difficult, climbing over fallen trees and struggling through underbrush, balancing our heavy packs, getting very tired and dejected because the trail couldn’t be found. The two of us pressed on until hours later we arrived at our destination, Lake Jacqueline. Roanne found a beautiful spot ringed with trees, already in shadow. It took minutes for our tent to go up, then much longer to hang our heavy bags of food. My university physics came in handy as I moved up the hill, so the angle wasn’t so acute, and while she held the bag and gave it a final heave, I pulled it up.
 
It was twilight when she heated water for tea after devouring the leftovers from lunch. Our sleeping bags warmed our chilled bodies as we stretched out, thankful to be where we were. My shoulders were sore, my calves scratched raw, and tender hip bones kept me on my back while I experienced a condition well beyond exhaustion. Roanne fell asleep while I listened to the sounds of the wilderness.
 
Suddenly, a far-off rumbling shattered the serenity. I lay still and listened. There it was, a bit closer. It wasn’t long before lightning lit up the tent and the first drops sizzled on our rainfly. Thunder ripped the air, crackled, groaned and boomed overhead while lightning never let up. It rained for about a half-hour, welcoming us back to the Winds and outdoor life.
 
The days passed slowly. On day six at 10:28 a.m. the first jet broke the sound barrier as the two of us roamed over smooth, amoebic rocks around the lower lakes of vast, barren, rocky, wild, 10,840-foot Bald Mountain Basin. The skies were busy thoroughfares as the jets continued hauling humans to and fro across the continent. Oblivious to the momentum of the multitudes outside these wilderness walls, I was amazed one could climb into the backcountry and stop time, or slow it down enough to enjoy the minutes and hours that made up a day.
 
As I sat sketching the fire pit along the trail, the creek sang behind me, the birds called in the trees, the clouds sailed overhead, the sun shone intermittently, the wind changed direction, and the jets continued. Fourteen planes so far. This was jet-counting day, confusing the illusion of where I was; six more jets over dinner, three as our dishes were washed, and two more while doing yoga as the sun sank, leaving the Angel’s wings straddling 11,600-foot Angel Pass etched against a slate sky. A slight smell of smoke drifted south from a fire that had started a few days ago at Green River Lakes. While in our sleeping bags playing gin rummy, four more jets passed. 
 
Having been outside for eight days, I felt weathered - parched, burnt, strong, vibrant. I didn’t experience my usual early morning stiffness and wondered if it was the yoga, my diet, or the vigorous outdoor living that kept my blood pumping at a difference pace, feeding the tissues and cleansing the toxic elements of a sedentary life.
 
The first vaporous contrail appeared over Angel Pass and moments later the thunder of the jet’s engines could be heard. Living from moment to moment, aware of changes in weather, the need for clean water, warm food, warm clothing, the ability to alter well thought out plans, made for a full-time occupation. Here the hours pass more slowly - doing nothing but strolling amidst the rocks and lakes of a ridged landscape, reading in a warm tent, or drifting off into another dimension with a back-drop of chirping birds, a flutter of wings, a distant call of a hawk, the whisper of the wind around a canyon wall or the rainfly - all these pleasures reminded me that life was wonderful, that rest and relaxation were vital, and that simply keeping busy wasted our lives in accomplishing nothing of importance. Our reason for existence is all too often over-looked for a false sense of security promised by societal demands for accomplishment and the accumulation of things. We need so little and acquire so much and in the process miss the wonders of the natural world; the birds actually make music, the wind soothed a troubled brow, the sun warmed us, the moon moved our emotions, and the mountains’ massive presence provided security which we strove for all our lives. Nature provides all if you’re willing to take a risk.

 

Bridger-Teton Wilderness


Harriet Greene, graduate of McGill University in physiotherapy, moved to the US in 1970; hiked the Long Trail in the Green Mountains of Vermont and Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire; a trip West convinced her to move to the Rockies where she fell in love with the Grand Tetons and Wind River Range. She found a small log cabin in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and settled in for twenty years. As an avid hiker, backpacker, author, stone sculptor and marble stonecut printmaker, she feels most comfortable in the alpine with a backpack, lost in some deep remote canyon with her youngest daughter. She has published six books, her latest, “Crossing the Boundary: A Return to the Wilderness and Freedom.”

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Comments 53

Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:34

Hi Deborah Williamsoon,
Thank you for your comment.

Harriet

Hi Deborah Williamsoon, Thank you for your comment. Harriet
Guest - Thomas H Small on Thursday, 15 July 2021 18:44

I have read this truly beautiful post about Wind River Range, Bridger Wilderness, Pinedale , Wyoming
from what I have seen on the photos, it looks like truly beautiful country up there in the Rocky mountains.

I have read this truly beautiful post about Wind River Range, Bridger Wilderness, Pinedale , Wyoming from what I have seen on the photos, it looks like truly beautiful country up there in the Rocky mountains.
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:32

Hi Thomas H Small,
It is truly beautiful and would take your breath away. A must visit.

Harriet

Hi Thomas H Small, It is truly beautiful and would take your breath away. A must visit. Harriet
Guest - Denis Tidrick on Thursday, 15 July 2021 18:07

I spend time outdoors. I particularly like the Ozarks (Arkansas and Missouri) and Big Bend in Texas. I also like scuba diving or snorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico. Age and COVID-19 are now the limiting factors. Go out, engage, and enjoy!

I spend time outdoors. I particularly like the Ozarks (Arkansas and Missouri) and Big Bend in Texas. I also like scuba diving or snorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico. Age and COVID-19 are now the limiting factors. Go out, engage, and enjoy!
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:29

Hi Denis Tidrick,
Thank you for your comment. I agree.

Harriet

Hi Denis Tidrick, Thank you for your comment. I agree. Harriet
Guest - Thomas Miller on Thursday, 15 July 2021 13:49

Harriet you're the greatest!

Harriet you're the greatest!
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:28

Hi Thomas Miller,
Thank you for your comment. It made me smile.

Harriet

Hi Thomas Miller, Thank you for your comment. It made me smile. Harriet
Guest - Frank Myers on Thursday, 15 July 2021 13:30

Back in the 70’s or was it the 80’s, my son & I flew in a small plane (an adventure in itself) from Wisconsin to Pine Bluff, WY, got a ride up to the trail head and started the climb up onto the wilderness. By the time we got to a spot to camp it was snowing (in August). Somewhere we had lost one of our gloves, and by the time we got the tent up our fingers were close to frostbite. But we slept the sleep of the exhausted, and tho our tent was covered with snow in the morning, the rest of our days were glorious. The ultimate memory was the cramps in our legs from the hike downhill.

Back in the 70’s or was it the 80’s, my son & I flew in a small plane (an adventure in itself) from Wisconsin to Pine Bluff, WY, got a ride up to the trail head and started the climb up onto the wilderness. By the time we got to a spot to camp it was snowing (in August). Somewhere we had lost one of our gloves, and by the time we got the tent up our fingers were close to frostbite. But we slept the sleep of the exhausted, and tho our tent was covered with snow in the morning, the rest of our days were glorious. The ultimate memory was the cramps in our legs from the hike downhill.
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:27

Hi Frank Myers,
It always snows in August. It wouldn't be the Winds if it didn't snow.

Harriet

Hi Frank Myers, It always snows in August. It wouldn't be the Winds if it didn't snow. Harriet
Guest - DAWN Owen BROADBENT on Thursday, 15 July 2021 13:03

Thank you for all that you do for the environment ❤.

Thank you for all that you do for the environment ❤.
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:24

Hi Dawn Owen Broadbent,

Thank you for your comment. Wish I could do more.

Harriet

Hi Dawn Owen Broadbent, Thank you for your comment. Wish I could do more. Harriet
Guest - Gary Vesperman (website) on Thursday, 15 July 2021 12:16

I wrote a Wind River Range guidebook which is at https://www.amazon.com/WIND-RIVER-RANGE-Lizard-Adventures/dp/1930096003/ref=sr_1_10?dchild=1&keywords=Vesperman&qid=1626372462&s=books&sr=1-10

On the back cover is a photograph of Titcomb Lakes basin which looks similar to Harriet's photo. I hiked maybe 5 trails into the Wind River Range. One of them is featured in my "All-Time Favorite Hikes" near the bottom of http://padrak.com/vesperman.

I wrote a Wind River Range guidebook which is at https://www.amazon.com/WIND-RIVER-RANGE-Lizard-Adventures/dp/1930096003/ref=sr_1_10?dchild=1&keywords=Vesperman&qid=1626372462&s=books&sr=1-10 On the back cover is a photograph of Titcomb Lakes basin which looks similar to Harriet's photo. I hiked maybe 5 trails into the Wind River Range. One of them is featured in my "All-Time Favorite Hikes" near the bottom of padrak.com/vesperman.
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:23

Hi Gary Vesperman,
Thanks for your comment. Loved the Bears Ears trail to, I believe Valentine Lake, and Lizard Head climb, and the Popo Agie valley. Titcomb Lakes was a favorite and I and my daughter visited there often. Stunning. We even were able to approach it from Peak Lake and Knapsack Col because there was little snow that year. The photo is Wall Lake at the end of Cook Lakes, a nice hike to the Divide.

Harriet

Hi Gary Vesperman, Thanks for your comment. Loved the Bears Ears trail to, I believe Valentine Lake, and Lizard Head climb, and the Popo Agie valley. Titcomb Lakes was a favorite and I and my daughter visited there often. Stunning. We even were able to approach it from Peak Lake and Knapsack Col because there was little snow that year. The photo is Wall Lake at the end of Cook Lakes, a nice hike to the Divide. Harriet
Guest - William D Zinn (website) on Thursday, 15 July 2021 12:00

sounds like it was a great road trip with adventure included.

sounds like it was a great road trip with adventure included.
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:12

Hi William D Zinn,
Thank you for your comment.

Harriet

Hi William D Zinn, Thank you for your comment. Harriet
Guest - Loretta Tiefen on Thursday, 15 July 2021 11:43

That phrase really resonated. ‘all these pleasures reminded me that life was wonderful, that rest and relaxation were vital, and that simply keeping busy wasted our lives in accomplishing nothing of importance. Our reason for existence is all too often over-looked for a false sense of security promised by societal demands for accomplishment and the accumulation of things’. We are human beings not human doings! It’s ok to just be. Thank you for the reminder. Our American society can make us feel guilty for it.

That phrase really resonated. ‘all these pleasures reminded me that life was wonderful, that rest and relaxation were vital, and that simply keeping busy wasted our lives in accomplishing nothing of importance. Our reason for existence is all too often over-looked for a false sense of security promised by societal demands for accomplishment and the accumulation of things’. We are human beings not human doings! It’s ok to just be. Thank you for the reminder. Our American society can make us feel guilty for it.
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 22:10

Hi Loretta Tiefen,
Thank you for your comment. It is ok to just be....I have to remind myself of that all the time.

Harriet

Hi Loretta Tiefen, Thank you for your comment. It is ok to just be....I have to remind myself of that all the time. Harriet
Guest - Jim Breezely on Thursday, 15 July 2021 10:36

A good read, Harriet, thanks. My five days in and around the Alpine Lakes area of the Winds in 2015 is still sharp in memory. It was July, but wet, cold, and austere. The potential for hypothermia was my only companion, though I managed to always keep it a few paces behind me. Magnificent, convoluted country, for sure. America's true backbone.

A good read, Harriet, thanks. My five days in and around the Alpine Lakes area of the Winds in 2015 is still sharp in memory. It was July, but wet, cold, and austere. The potential for hypothermia was my only companion, though I managed to always keep it a few paces behind me. Magnificent, convoluted country, for sure. America's true backbone.
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 21:58

Hi Jim Breezely,
Thank you for your comment. I have never been in the Wind Rivers in July/August when it didn't snow. Cold and miserable in my tent I was always grateful to be alive in the morning.

Harriet

Hi Jim Breezely, Thank you for your comment. I have never been in the Wind Rivers in July/August when it didn't snow. Cold and miserable in my tent I was always grateful to be alive in the morning. Harriet
Guest - Laura Lou on Thursday, 15 July 2021 10:29

Thank you for taking me there.

Thank you for taking me there.
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