Mountain Spirits: Hiking in the Wind River Range

Updated on March 19, 2018
Ramkitten2000 profile image

Deb thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and is a Search & Rescue volunteer and writer living in Flagstaff, AZ.

Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming
Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

About the Wind River Range

Wyoming's 80-mile-long Wind River Range forms part of the Continental Divide. Designated as a Wilderness Area, the Winds contain seven of the ten largest remaining glaciers in the continental U.S. and encompass more than 10,000 lakes. The highest peak in the range is Gannet Peak at 13,804 feet.

This is a story I wrote about my six-day backpacking trip in Wyoming's Wind River Range with five friends from Pennsylvania.

Mountain Spirits

"Can you feel the power?" Dave asked with the look of a man who'd returned to his natural habitat. "Can you see the mountain spirits?"

Six of us stood high on a massive rock, scanning the rugged landscape of Wyoming's Wind River Range. I looked in the direction of Dave's gaze for a long moment, then turned back to study his face. While deeply moved by the wild beauty of my surroundings, I was fascinated by my companions as we made our way into the epitome of backcountry, without the aid of designated trails. We'd followed moose and bighorn droppings, and Dave and Scott's acute sense of direction and familiarity with the area, picking our way further and higher into the Wilderness.

This was Dave's fifteenth and Scott's ninth visits to Lakes Louise, Hidden, Ross and beyond. The stories the two men told of climbing near vertical walls of stone without the assistance or assurance of ropes made my jaw drop. They studied the topographic map time and again, pointing first to the lines on the paper and then to the actual peaks, ridges and other dramatic features they represented. Dave and Scott described where they'd been in years past, explaining their challenging routes and delighting in the memories of the dangers and difficulties they'd overcome, as well as the rewards of their accomplishments. They shared a deep love for those mountains, and that emotion was as evident in their eyes as in their words.

We were a group spanning four generations and with a wide range of experience. Forty-seven year-old Dave maneuvered over jumbled rocks and jagged, downed trees without breaking his momentum. He knew how to navigate through those mountains as much by instinct as intellect. Scott, 35, had no fear of skiing loose shale on a steep mountainside or leaping across a deep crevice from one huge boulder to the narrow edge of another, with more than sixty pounds on his broad back. He trusted his boot soles and his skill. Thirty-seven year-old Teresa and 23 year-old Rachel were new to backpacking, yet both moved with relative ease and natural ability over the rough terrain, despite the weight they toted in packs they'd never before carried. Linda struggled some in the high altitude. At 52, she'd resumed backpacking two years earlier, having once frequented the great outdoors as a teenager.

And then there was me. At 32, I'd hiked more miles than the others combined. Less than a year before, I'd summited Maine's Mt. Katahdin, completing a six-month and more than 2,000-mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. When I returned home to the small town of Confluence, Pennsylvania, it was soon obvious my husband had told a number of people I'd hiked the A.T. Those people had told others. Almost daily for a while, someone would approach me with congratulations and questions. Scott was one of those people and probably the most interested and enthusiastic of them all. And it was Scott who'd invited me to join this trip to the Winds.

During the months before our group headed into the Wilderness, Scott sang my praises to many. "This girl's hiked the Appalachian Trail!" he'd announce, looking as proud of me as he sounded. That always made me smile and feel ever more confident about the upcoming adventure he said would be "really tough." In August, 2001, however, as I stood frozen with fear on a tallus slope of Wyoming's Middle Mountain, I felt anything but proud of my A.T. achievement or at all convinced of my abilities. Later that evening, safe in my tent--safe from falling and dehydration after many hot and waterless hours inching my way thousands of feet down to more stable ground--I felt angry at myself for having been so afraid, so nearly immobile.

Despite the miles of trail I'd walked, I continued to have the same fears. I'd hear thunder rumble in the distance, and my heart would skip a beat. The awesome, deadly power of lightning. I'd lie in my tent at night, wondering what had awakened me, and then I'd have to give in to the call of nature--to leave my nylon shelter and get the job done quickly. Fear of the unknown and unseen in the dark forest. Add falling from heights to that list and you've got my almost daily inventory of unavoidable panic attacks. Unavoidable, that is, if someone like me chooses to go backpacking. Have I mentioned how much I love backpacking?

During the days that followed my Middle Mountain panic session, I watched my friends, contemplating how they were different, not only from each other, but especially from me. Why had they not been afraid? Or at least not as fearful as I. Did they ever lie awake at night, listening? Did a distant rumble make their pulses race? From time to time, I questioned them, individually and collectively, but the most anyone conceded was having been "a little jittery" once in a while.

Sitting there on that massive rock, where Dave communed with spirits, where Scott repeated, "I love these mountains!" in his usual loud voice, where Teresa and Rachel stood on the edge of a very long way down, and Linda took great pleasure in seeing first-hand the geology she'd studied in a classroom, I sat clutching stone, my fingers gripping a narrow crack. There was no chance of falling from where I sat; I knew that. But it didn't make a difference at the moment, as I imagined I felt the earth turning. Somehow, though, as I sat there holding on while contemplating my companions, something changed. Perhaps I should thank one of Dave's mountain spirits, but I finally forgave myself my fears. I have no need to conquer them. They'll be expected companions on all my future adventures, I'm quite sure. But they won't stop me from doing what I love.

"Man, I can't wait to get back to civilization and get me a burger!" Scott shouted as we descended to camp for our final night in tents for a while.

"Me too!" Teresa chimed in.

Rachel agreed. Linda had mixed emotions about the end of the trip. Dave said nothing. And I felt content as I stopped to take in my surroundings--a sight seen by only those who are willing, able and fortunate enough to walk there.

As we neared the end of our six-day journey and approached the dusty parking area, I couldn't help but smile. I smiled at my scrapes and cuts. I smiled at sore muscles and bruised pride. I smiled at the mountains and the wind and all that was wild and unrelenting to my fears. I can't wait to go back!

Where is the Wind River Range?

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Deb Kingsbury

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wanderwisdom.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)