Seneca Lake, Island Lake & Titcomb Basin
Thursday – Monday, August 17-21, 2017
The plans for this particular trip started to come together well over a year ago when I first learned about The Great American Eclipse happening on August 21, 2017. The last total eclipse visible from the United States was before I was born, so I really wanted to make an effort to experience this one. After looking at a map of the path of totality, I saw that this one was going to be visible right over the Wind River Range in Wyoming which is only about a six hour drive from home. While I had briefly visited the Wind Rivers outside of Lander about ten years ago, I’ve wanted to go on a backpacking trip into the Bridger Wilderness for a pretty long time now and figured that this would be the perfect opportunity. Early in the planning stages I set my sights on backpacking into the Island Lake and Titcomb Basin area below Fremont Peak from the Elkhart Park Trailhead near Pinedale. I figured that this popular and beautiful area would be a good introduction to backpacking in the Wind Rivers. As the date of the eclipse got closer and more and more people learned about it from social media, I figured that this area of Wyoming was probably going to be much busier than usual, but I decided against changing our plans and was willing to make that sacrifice for this possible once-in-a-lifetime event.
Our final plans were to drive up to Pinedale after work a few days before the eclipse and hike into the Island park area for a couple of days. Then we would hike out on Monday morning before the eclipse so we could watch from the trailhead so I wouldn’t have to carry my heavy long lens and tripod the entire trip. Then we would start driving home right after totality. I was concerned that we might get caught in heavy traffic on the way home, so I made sure to bring plenty of food, drinks and extra gas along so we would be completely self contained, just in case…
We left work on Thursday evening and drove straight to Pinedale with only one stop in Vernal for a quick dinner. Earlier in the year I had reserved a site at the Half Moon Lake Campground, which is on the way to the trailhead, since I knew we would be arriving late this evening. It was dark out when we arrived and getting late, so we quickly setup our tent and went right to bed. We woke up with the sunrise on Friday morning and packed up our tent again so we could finish driving to the trailhead. It’s a shame we didn’t have the time to stay at this campsite longer because it was a very nice one right on the lake with it’s own little private beach. We might have to stay here again next time we come up this way!
Finally seeing our campsite in the light for the first time on Friday morning.
Diane’s view from our private beach at the Half Moon Lake Campground.
It’s a good thing we arrived at the Elkhart Park Trailhead early since we were happy to get one of the very last parking spaces available in the parking lot. It completely filled up a few minutes after we arrived. We spent a little time organizing our gear and making sure we had everything we needed before taking off the the Pole Creek Trail with hopes of making it to Island Lake. I knew there was going to be some ups and downs along the trail to Island Lake, but there was a little more elevation gain than we anticipated and it really wore us out, so we ended up only hiking to Little Seneca Lake before finding a spot nearby to setup camp.
Hiking past Seneca Lake.
Diane rested in camp near the lake for the rest of the day while I spent the evening hiking to an overlook of Island Lake. While on my way to Island Lake I met a nice thru-hiker on the Continental Divide Trail from Germany. His trail name was the ‘German Mormon’ and we hiked to Island Lake together and chatted for a little while until he had to get back on the trail to get a few more miles in.
A nice overlook of Island Lake on Friday evening.
We were pretty exhausted from the drive on Thursday night and the hike in on Friday, so we slept in later on Saturday morning before going on a day hike into Titcomb Basin. We took our time and spent all day hiking into this beautiful area before returning to camp shortly before sunset. On our way back we had dinner overlooking Island Lake. We did notice that there were a lot more people hiking into the area and camping around Island Lake today. The place was getting pretty busy.
Fremont Peak (13,745) and Jackson Peak (13,517) over Island Lake. I had hoped to climb Fremont Peak on this trip, but my legs were not feeling up to it after hiking in on Friday.
Along the shore of Island Lake.
Diane following the Indian Basin Trail.
Hiking below Fremont Peak into Titcomb Basin.
The rugged peaks surrounding Titcomb Basin were just amazing! Such a beautiful area!
Mount Lester (12,342)
Leaving Titcomb Basin…
As we were leaving Titcomb Basin, we noticed there was a little smoke in the air from wildfires that had blown into the area. Thankfully, it wouldn’t stick around for the eclipse.
A view over Island Lake to Indian Pass.
Hiking back to our campsite.
Back to Little Seneca Lake.
On Sunday morning we woke up with the sun, packed up our campsite and started our hike back out. As we were packing up camp some clouds moved in and there were a couple sprinkles of rain. We had nothing but clear blue skies the previous days, so it was nice to finally have a few clouds in the sky this morning, even though they didn’t stick around for more than a couple of hours. Today we passed a lot of people coming up the trail who were on their way to join the already busy area between Seneca Lake and Island Lake. I was actually a little glad that we were leaving that area behind. Our plans were to hike most of the way out and then find a campsite so we would have a short hike to the trailhead on Monday morning. We had all day, so we took our time hiking and enjoying the scenery.
Morning at Little Seneca Lake.
Hiking back towards Seneca Lake with clouds in the sky.
The view from Photographers Point.
For some reason I thought it might be a good idea to see about camping near Miller Lake, so we took a side trip to the lake in search of a campsite. Unfortunately, the lake was already too crowded so we decided not to camp there. We filtered some water and then headed back to the main trail again. We ended up finding a nice campsite about two miles from the trailhead near an intersection with the old Surveyor Park Trail. I was expecting this area to be crowded with people wanting to camp near the trailhead like us, but we saw no other people nearby at all!
Getting late along the Pole Creek Trail.
Our campsite on the last night of the trip.
Since we had a short hike on Monday morning and the total eclipse wasn’t until 11:37am we were able to sleep in late yet again. This is very uncommon for us, but it was nice on this trip to take things easy. I was a little concerned that when we returned to the trailhead we were going to find hordes of people and cars parked everywhere blocking the roads. Thankfully, that wasn’t even close to the case! Yes, the parking lot was completely full, but the Forest Service had closed the road when the lot filled up so there were only about a dozen other people around waiting for the eclipse. I’m sure it was less crowded here at the trailhead than it was at Island Lake this morning! I got my camera and tripod setup and then we waited for the magic to happen. I wasn’t really planning on taking any photos of the partial eclipse since I took some in 2012 during the Annular Solar Eclipse near Shiprock, New Mexico, but I ended up taking a few anyway as we waited for totality. As the total eclipse got closer the light around us started to dim and got weird and the temperature began to drop.
Diane watching the partial eclipse from the Elkhart Park Trailhead.
The beginning of the eclipse…
I have to say, the total eclipse was a pretty amazing experience! It got dark out, similar to the light about 15 minutes after sunset, but it was a weird and eerie light. The temperature dropped even more, we could see some of the brighter stars and planets in the sky and the birds stopped chirping so it was pretty quiet out. Totality was only going to last about two minutes, but it sure felt like it was shorter than that. It was over so quick! It was definitely an experience that I will never forget and I’m glad we were able to experience it!
The Great American Eclipse – August 21, 2017
My very first Total Eclipse!
…and just as quickly as it started, it was over again…
After the total eclipse was over, I took a few more photos of the sliver of the sun that came back out and then we were the first ones to leave the parking lot about ten minutes after totality was over. As I mentioned before, I had brought along extra gas and food in case we got caught in the heavy traffic they were expecting after the eclipse, but we didn’t hit any traffic at all on our way back down to Pinedale. Since we had everything we needed we kept on going to Rock Springs, and then through Flaming Gorge to Vernal where we stopped for the first time and had a little dinner. We hit absolutely no traffic at all on the way back home and everything I had planned for this trip had worked out perfectly! It was a great time we will never forget!