Wind River Obscure Route

When dinosaurs roamed the earth,  a person simply went backpacking.

A set of maps was grabbed. A route was plotted out. Some adjustments were made on the fly due to pace or weather. And some time was spent outside.

It was good.

Now, well, it is perhaps not enough to mainly backpack.

It has to be a set goal.

With a name.

Something that gives validation to the simple art of taking a walk for a vacation.

But I am getting lazy as I am getting older.

I just want to walk. With a set of maps versus a Map Set. Some place where I don’t get care about a defined route or a catchy acronym.

Or to quote a pioneer of outdoor recreation: I want to walk. To see. And to see what I see.

And so I did.

But since we all need a name in 2016 to define any outdoor trip, let’s just call what I did the Wind River Obscure Route.


On this trip, I would be joining Aaron of TrailGroove Magazine. My “boss” of sorts if you will. 🙂

I made my way to Lander, WY after work. And on Saturday we picked up a permit for the Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR) lands.

It is now official. 🙂 #wyoming #backpacking

A photo posted by Paul Mags (@pmagsco) on

The original trip planned involved trail less ridge walks, high alpine passes, some obscure lakes and lesser known peaks.

A majority of the trip would be on the lesser explored WRIR.

The WRIR has “trails” that have not been maintained in decades, has washed out bridges, and the trails often blur into elk paths.

A seldom visited area.

And perfect for our needs.

We parked in the USFS lands and made our way up to a pass.

The flatlands of Wyoming could be seen.

And a splash of fall color could be seen up high.

We pushed further into the mountains.

The following day the lakes the Winds are so well-known for were in abundance.

We then crossed into the WRIR proper.

The fall colors were really popping.

Another amazing lake was arrived at just below a high pass.

Alas, the weather changed quite a bit overnight!

A plan was made to go over the pass and then stick to a lower, more sheltered route. Not a good day to be above treeline.

Still much beauty to be found even in this weather, however.

In the woods, the “trails” became obscure. It was no longer about miles per day covered, but about hours per day hiked.

Even in the woods with the rain, sleet and mist,  the Winds are wonderful.

We made our way further into the WRIR. The weather did not lend itself to leisurely walking.

Many old bridges were washed away. I could only imagine what the crossing would be like in the early summer with the snow melt at its height.

Or grabbing on a cable…

At times I felt I was in Oregon or Maine…not the Rockies!

We later hooked onto some jeep track to reach another part of the WRIR.

Once “trails” were reached again, we entered an even more obscure area. It would take us seven hours to go seven miles.

A major payoff was reaching a river that looked like something out of fishing magazine as Aaron said.

The bridge was long gone so we needed to ford the stream. Again, I can only imagine how dicey the crossing would be in the summer.

After the river, we had more navigational challenges. But the payoff was again worth every (mis)step!

Here and there were remnants of long gone times in the WRIR.

As our trip winded down, and we reached relatively more popular lakes, the markings became more prominent.

Easy to see why this part of the WRIR receives more use.

One last lake was reached near dusk.

We walked along a dirt road in the nearly full moon to reach my vehicle.

At 9:30 or so, the vehicle was reached.  Thoughts of food and beer were on our mind.

We made our way down the windy dirt road. Enjoying the simple act of doing nothing after such a wonderful, if intense, trip.

As soon as we reached pavement and sped up to ~50 MPH or so, this happened:

On the side of the road, the tire was changed. Oddly enough, I had planned on replacing the tires THIS week.

So it goes.

We made it to the local Safeway just in time to grab a take-and-bake pizza. Not so bad, after all. 🙂

While walking around great Lander waiting for my new tires, my gear was placed on the dry cycle.

Tires now on the Kia, gear dried out and thanks said to Aaron, I made my back to Colorado.

Upon reflection, it was not trip planned or expected.

But it was a still a wonderful trip. And a very satisfying one.

My vacation was wrapped up by  attending a volunteer meeting in Golden, CO this past weekend.

How about 20 of us are spending the weekend @cdtcoalition

A photo posted by Paul Mags (@pmagsco) on

I am on call this week. Leashed to a phone and wifi connection.

But I already know what my NEXT trip is going to be. 🙂

All the photos…

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Andrew Skurka
Andrew Skurka
7 years ago

I understand your POV on “alphabet hiking.” But I think your focus on it undercuts the merits of your own hike. You should let your hike stand on its own, rather than presenting it within the context of established routes in the Winds and elsewhere. Also, I think you need to give alphabet hikes more credit. You are a very competent backpacker with a lot of experience and with a willingness to research out-of-the-way trails and routes. This puts you in a unique position to plan awesome trips on your own. Most backpackers are not in this situation. They don’t… Read more »

Drew Smith
Drew Smith
7 years ago

Nice TR, it can be liberating to go hiking without much of an agenda. In my teens and 20s I practiced a form of trip “planning” where I would purchase a map at a gas station (yeah, this was long ago) and hike between two highways by an indeterminate/non-existent route for an unspecified period of time. I think I got the idea from an Ed Abbey essay. It drove my Mom nuts: “where are you going” “Wyoming, maybe near Gardiner”; “when will you be back?” “Hard to say”. I’m much more responsible today of course, and have been hiking more… Read more »

7 years ago

Great report, photos, and trip! I think the beauty of The (this) WROR is just taking the maps you need and choosing your own adventure along the way – seemed like we often came up with a new plan at each turn. In my view the Winds are perfect for this type of approach. Not that there are many bad ways to explore the range, but going with the flow in this manner, and creating a unique route is I’d argue among the most rewarding and especially here. With a starting and end point (or maybe just a starting point!)… Read more »

Ken "Nobody" Steinhoff
Ken "Nobody" Steinhoff
7 years ago

Great trip! So I guess you hold the FKT for the WROR? 🙂 I love the wandering philosophy. It makes me long for my youth when I had time and no money. Sometimes a memorable “find” can make a whole trip worthwhile. And the attitude is different. Now, with enough money, yet little time, I have to rely on the pre-packaged ABC route research to help squeeze in some intense experiences while preserving a sense of exploration. Its not so much checking a route off a to do list than using limited time to get a “full(ish) experience” of say… Read more »

7 years ago

Always nice to see the more quiet corners of the backpacking world getting some love…

Another point – planning and executing your own route is far more fulfilling, IMHO, than executing the route that somebody else has planned. Not to mention, if I’m not competent enough to plan it, I’m probably not competent enough to hike it.

7 years ago

Love the recreation stamp! First snow of the season?

7 years ago

I love the pics of the washed out bridges, VB makes me happy for some reason, probably because it indicates a lack of people in the area 🙂

Nice report