Chickens to Jackass Pass - Day 4

Troop 24 Kickass Trekkers
2001 Bridger Wilderness - Wyoming Hike

by Cascade Bill Mooseker

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Day 4: Valentine Lake to Grave Lake

Cascade Bill at Ranger Park


We got off to our usual slow start and headed back up to the Bear’s Ears trail. After crossing the outlet stream from Valentine Lake, the trail traverses west for a short stretch and then turns north following a shoulder down to a big switchback (10250’-.5mi.). The trail continues down through forest and breaks out into the meadows of Ranger Park (10100’-.9mi.) There are good views to Mt. Washakie and the Continental Divide to the west.

Back into the forest, the trail heads down to the valley floor where the Little Wind River placidly winds its way. The crossing is a boulder hopper, and Shelby throws a stone or two in for me. A few feet from the river is the junction with the Washakie Pass Trail (9960’ – 1.2mi.). We take a break and enjoy the view of Payson Peak, looming above us. A couple of hikers pass by and take a group picture for us and we return the favor for them.




Kickass Trekkers - Payson Peak
At Crossing of The Little Wind River




The way down the Little Wind River valley is a pleasant stroll through open meadows and occasional stands of evergreens. I look back every once and a while to see Payson Peak receding in the distance. The trail leaves the valley at the junction of the other end of the Moss Lake Trail (9980’ – 2.2mi.) We meet a family resting at the junction, and they tell us about good campsite at the upper end of Grave Lake. Thanking them, we head up the trail, which climbs through the forest up the western side of the valley.

The trail reaches a high point (10220-2.9mi.) along a ridge between the drainage of the Little Wind River and the outlet stream from Grave Lake. Winding its way down it passes a pond (10160’- 3.2mi.) and switchbacks sharply down to a creek (9990’-3.5mi.) from Lake 10490’. After crossing the stream, the trail descends some more, then goes up a dry ravine which ends up at the East end of Grave Lake (9970’-3.8mi.)


Shelby & Austin
Relax in Grave Lake






There was a nice beach there, but the guys were waiting up around the bend. I made them come back to the beach so we could have lunch. The view up the lake is spectacular.

It wasn’t long until Roger and Shelby were in the water. Austin put his lawn chair out in the lake and soaked his feet. Danny and Peter had a serious swim out in the lake. I just sat and enjoyed the view.

Grave Lake is a huge lake, and we still had a ways to go before setting up camp. Heading out, the trail follows the lake and then goes down the outlet stream a ways, where a bridge takes us over the outlet with dry feet.



Trail Along Grave Lake
Near Jnct. of Onion Meadows Tr.




The trail stays close to the northern edge of the lake, passing the junction with the Onion Meadows Trail (9965’-4.4mi.). We see some horses picketed off to the side of the trail – the first we’ve seen on the trip. The guys head on out ahead, with Fred and I bringing up the rear.

We meet an old cowboy with a fishing rod walking down the trail. He told us he had been coming up here since he was a boy. Those were his horses back aways, and he was making a trip with his sons. He wondered if the guy with green hair (Roger) was with us, and we had to admit that he was.

His expression spoke volumes about a generation gap spanning from the early 1900’s to the present. He didn’t have to say that if someone had shown up like that when he was a kid, they probably would have taken them out behind the barn and put them out of their misery.

The walkie-talkie squawked and we had to cut our talk short as the guys were getting impatient waiting for us. We told them to go on ahead and get us a campsite. As we were saying our good-byes to the old cowboy, a man and his wife with a fully loaded mule came by. They had been camping at Baptiste Lake. I should have asked them, but they looked an awful lot like a similar couple with a mule we had seen in the Sierra’s two years before. I’ll never know now.




Upper End Grave Lake
From Pilot Knob





Fred and I missed a turn of the trail and wound up on a fisherman’s trail along the lake. The Bear’s Ears trail leaves the lake and climbs about 360 feet up Pilot Knob to avoid an impassable talus slope strewn with huge boulders. Fred and I soon realized our error and made our way back and found where we had gotten off the trail.

It’s a pretty stiff climb up Pilot Knob, and not a welcome one knowing that you will be dropping down to the lake again. But once you’re up there (10325’- 5.4mi.), you might as well enjoy yourself as the views up and down the lake are spectacular. We could see the guys on a sandy spit way below us, looking like ants on an anthill. Fred and I made our way down to a fine campsite at the western end of the lake (9965’- 5.9mi.) The guys wanted to sleep down on the spit but I made them stay up on the grass away from the lake.

It had been a short day and we got into camp early. The guys did some swimming and sun bathing. Fred and I tried our luck at fishing. Or rather, we tried our "no-luck" at fishing. I missed them but the old cowboy’s sons had come through camp and told them that they had gotten a few.



Camp at Grave Lake





Supper that night was special – Freeze dried Hamburgers! Back in the 70’s and early 80’s freeze-dried meats were readily available – hamburgers, rib eye steaks, pork chops – you name it. In the 90’s you just couldn’t find them anymore. I had found a Canadian supplier who carried the hamburgers and we were all looking forwards to them.

The hamburgers were a huge success. We had them on a bagel with catsup packets that Austin had filched from a McDonalds along the way to Wyoming. Life is certainly grand.







Chickens to Jackass Pass: Photo Album

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Chickens to Jackass Pass: Day 3
Chickens to Jackass Pass: Day 5
Chickens to Jackass Pass - All Days