Wednesday – Saturday, August 21-24, 2019
After our first backpacking trip into the Wind River Range for The Great American Eclipse two years ago it was time that we finally headed back for a another one. Since we had some pretty good conditions on that last trip (weather and mosquitoes) we planned to go at the same time of the year. Of course, since we had already visited Titcomb Basin and Island Lake on that previous trip, this time I really wanted to check out the Cirque of the Towers. I had originally planned this trip to be a four day loop that would take us past Big Sandy Lake into the Cirque of the Towers and then over Texas Pass to Shadow Lake, but things didn’t quite go as planned and we ended up not completing the loop. It was still an amazing trip and we both really enjoyed our time spent in the Cirque of the Towers!
We left home right after work on Wednesday and started the long drive north into Wyoming. The drive ended up taking longer than I expected since we got stopped by some road construction, stuck behind some slow-moving vehicles and then made a couple of extra stops along the way, including dinner in Vernal. We made it to the Big Sandy Opening in the dark and found a campsite off the road just after midnight. We quickly got our tent set up and went right to bed. I was tired! On Saturday morning we woke up around 7:00am, took down our tent and finished driving the last few miles to the Big Sandy Trailhead. After we finished packing our backpacks we started our hike up the trail to Big Sandy Lake. The trail was easy hiking and we made it to the lake in just a couple hours, and that was with us taking our time along the way.
Diane hikes ahead of me as we started up the Big Sandy Trail on Thursday morning.
Entering the Bridger Wilderness.
The first part of the hike was along the Big Sandy River.
Hiking near Big Sandy Lake as we started to look for a campsite.
We found a great little spot at the far end of the lake.
After relaxing in camp for a while we decided to go for a hike up the trail to Black Joe Lake. When we arrived we found that we had the place to ourselves and laid down on a boulder along the shore. I think I may have even fallen asleep for a little bit. Diane spotted a few climbers high above us on Haystack Mountain, so we watched them for a while, too. On our way back we followed another trail down to Clear Lake which created a small loop.
Enjoying the view of Black Joe Lake below the Continental Divide.
Haystack Mountain is the peak on the right where we saw the climbers high above.
Hiking down to Clear Lake with Temple Peak and East Temple dominating the skyline to the right of Haystack Mountain.
A fast-moving storm was coming our way as we hiked along the shore of Clear Lake. It hit us with some rain and wind for a brief period of time.
Diane hikes through the trees just after the storm had passed and the sun started to come out a little.
A view of Big Sandy Mountain and Dog Tooth Peak after we returned to camp.
Schiestler Peak and the trail along Big Sandy Lake.
The sky above Big Sandy Lake looked pretty nice for a little while in the late afternoon.
Haystack Mountain towers over Big Sandy Lake.
After dinner I hiked up to an overlook of Big Sandy Lake for sunset and this is about as good as the view got.
I had just given up on there being a colorful sunset and was about to get into the tent for the night when this red light struck the face of Haystack Mountain.
The final glow of the setting sun.
Since I didn’t get much sleep the previous night, I fell right asleep after getting into my sleeping bag and slept very well all night. There were some storms that moved in overnight that brought wind, rain, graupel, lightning and thunder with them. These storms kept Diane up but I was so tired that I slept through most of it. I woke up to photograph sunrise, but there were still too many clouds in the sky and it was pretty much a bust.
We wanted to get an early start hiking over Jackass Pass into the Cirque of the Towers in case more storms were on the way, but our tent’s rainfly was soaked and there was no sunlight out to dry it quickly. Luckily, I usually keep an extra garbage bag in my backpack, so we were able to pack the rainfly into that so it wouldn’t get the rest of my gear wet and were still able to get that earlier start. The weather remained windy and cloudy for most of the day which made for some beautiful conditions, and there would be no more rain or storms. It was a gorgeous day for hiking!
There were nice clouds in the sky as we left Big Sandy Lake behind and started our climb up to Jackass Pass.
Spotlight on War Bonnet Peak
War Bonnet Peak over North Lake
Looking back at the Sundance Pinnacle over North Lake.
Following the trail toward the pass.
Our first views of Pingora Peak and part of the Cirque of the Towers over the ridge ahead of us.
The higher we climbed, the better the views became!
The view from Jackass Pass on the Continental Divide was amazing! It was also very windy!
A spectacular view of the Cirque of the Towers!
Spotlight on Pingora Peak.
There was an amazing view over Lonesome Lake, too.
Following the trail down toward the lake. We didn’t actually go all the way to the lake, instead we got off the trail to search for a campsite with a good view higher up in the cirque.
It was a little tricky finding a campsite since there were plenty of places to pitch a 1 or 2 person tent, but not as many spots that would fit our 3-person tent, but we did end up finding an awesome campsite with a 360 degree view.
This flat rock at camp made the perfect place for us to sit and watch the clouds and light change all afternoon.
After relaxing for a while we went on a short hike over to this waterfall that was nearby.
Diane enjoys another view from camp.
Later in the evening I climbed up to the ridge above our campsite to see Arrowhead Lake.
I wonder why they called it Arrowhead Lake?
Evening light on War Bonnet Peak.
We had a nice view across the valley to Lizard Head Peak.
Texas Pass was our original destination for the following morning.
Our tent nestled between the boulders and trees below War Bonnet Peak.
Light and shadows on Mitchell Peak.
Last light on Lizard Head Peak.
After sunset the clouds above turned a beautiful shade of magenta. It was a great way to end an amazing day!
On Saturday morning we woke up to watch the sunrise together. It was a decent sunrise but certainly not nearly as nice as sunset was the previous day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling too well this morning and decided that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to try and climb over Texas Pass like we had originally planned and instead we should probably head out the same way we had hiked in. So that’s what we ended up doing and we cut the trip a day short. Since we both had an amazing day in the cirque on Friday we weren’t too upset by this last minute change of plans.
Golden light on Pylon Peak and the Watch Tower.
Morning Light on Pingora Peak
One last view of our tent in the cirque before we packed it up and headed out.
Nice clouds above the Warrior Peaks.
Leaving the Cirque of the Towers on the ‘Climbers Trail.’ Even though we were heading back out generally the same way we came in, we were able to take a couple alternate trails to change things up a little.
Temple Peak reflected in Arrowhead Lake.
Scrambling through boulders to get around Arrowhead Lake.
We stopped to rest near the point of Arrowhead Lake and this little pika joined us for a bit.
Approaching V Lake as we took a slightly different route back to the trailhead.
One last view of V Lake before we finished the hike back to the trailhead and started our drive back home. It was another amazing trip to the Wind Rivers!