In my approximation, there are exactly two types of trips.

There are the fun trips. Where the only thing that matters is a few empty days on the calendar. Those trips when the destination isn’t nearly as important as the crew along for the ride.

And then there are the real trips.

You know.

The ones you spent a year planning, poring over topo maps, plotting the perfect route, meticulously counting every ounce of food so you have enough calories to squeeze every last mile into that epic long-distance backpacking trip you scheduled to perfectly coincide with your last few days of vacation, two weekends, and Labor Day.

Trips like this one.

Day 1 was short and sweet, capped off by this beautiful sunset over Squaretop Mountain and the Green River.

The plan was really pretty simple.

Hike the length of Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains in a single push, connecting a whole bunch of dots on and off trail. I pitched the idea to a couple folks.

“Too long.”

“Too much suffering.”

“Dude, that’s a shitty vacation.”

In a last ditch effort, I half-assed the idea to my brother.

“Sounds rad. I’m in.”

He didn’t really care about the details, he just wanted 9 days of adventure.

Oh, that’s easy. Trust me.

The first few days started well enough, making quick progress under bluebird skies, and gorging on some tasty alpine sunsets.

Night 3 – Camp in upper Pole Creek drainage.

But on Day 4, the fun got real.
A storm rolled in, and we needed to clear a big pass to make our miles and stay on pace.

Crossing Bald Mountain pass in a light rain that never seemed to stop.

Two years earlier on the PCT I developed a chronic shin splint in my right leg that regularly warns me it’s time to take it easy. But trying to make big miles in the rain, I didn’t listen.

By nightfall I knew we had problems. It was cold, rainy, and I had pushed too hard.

I woke up barely able to move my leg, and just like that, it was over.

Suddenly the priority was simply to make it out.
After a fistful of ibuprofen and a quick look at the map, we started trudging for the nearest road…

12 miles away. And over 40 miles from our car.

If the story ended here, what a shitty story it would be.

I was crushed, could barely walk, but somehow we eventually made it to a road. With no cell phone reception and no ride, our only hope was a random hitch back to somewhere Wyoming. Which as it turns out, is really damn hard from the middle of nowhere.

The bitter taste of defeat stayed with me all winter. I was pissed off. And maybe a little embarassed.

But by summer I had new resolve. Unable to convince my brother to join me a second time, I decided I was going back regardless.

Even if it meant solo.

Night 1 of the second trip – Deep Lake, looking north back toward the Cirque of the Towers.

Going solo requires a different mindset.

The margin is a lot smaller if something goes wrong, for sure. But more than that, you prioritize different experiences than when you have a crew. Every decision is completely yours, and that freedom feels pretty damn good.

Day 1 started off with a bang – killer sunset over Deep Lake, East Temple, and the Cirque of the Towers.

The plan again was 9 days,

with an aim to connect my footsteps to where I bailed the previous year. The route would tie together a few locations I had been to before, some multiple times, as well as a couple more obscure spots I hadn’t.

And just to keep things interesting, I carried a full DSLR kit and tripod,
even though the gram counting nerd inside me screamed out in protest.

Dramatic skies over Cirque of the Towers, had me worried that another big front was on it’s way.

Making a lap around the Cirque of the Towers, with sunset at Arrowhead Lake. Route continued over Texas Pass and on to Shadow Lake.

This leg would be neither fast nor light. My camera gear alone would weigh more than my sleeping bag and tent combined. Sure, I wanted to make miles, but more than that, I wanted to make some photographs along the way.

I think the extra weight was worth it.

Night 3 – Shadow Lake and the less famous but equally impressive view of the Cirque of the Towers.

Day 4 – The remote and rugged Desolation Valley below Mt Bonneville.

In the end, an original 90 mile idea eventually became two,
and 130 miles of wandering finally bridged the gap.
If there are two types of trips, then this was both.


Day 5 – Bonneville Basin

Middle Fork Lake reflecting the major peaks of Nylon, Pronghorn, and Bonneville.