Thursday, August 30, 2018

Backpacking to Mt. Hooker, Wind River Range

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Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Mt. Hooker (12, 509ft) is located in the Southern end of the Wind River Range in Wyoming, and is home to a popular climbing route. The face of the wall is a sheer 1,800 ft granite face - it's one of the tallest and steepest vertical cliffs in Wyoming, and also 16 miles from the nearest road. Mt. Hooker is named after Joseph Dalton Hooker, a prominent British botanist and explorer. The granite face was first climbed in 1964, which took over 3 days to complete. The climb is rated at a 5.14a. Mt. Hooker towers over Baptiste Lake, a very deep and clear alpine lake which offers great camping sites and fishing.


One of the reasons we chose to backpack here was for my partner, Ian, to check out the wall for a possible climb for him, and to explore this area of the Wind Rivers in general. We first learned about Mt. Hooker in 2015 when Tommy Caldwell and Adam Stack completed a car-to-car ascent of the main route, Jaded Lady (5.12a). Since we learned about this area, we knew we had to get there.

The past two years we've gone to the Wind Rivers for a week at a time, and this year we chose to go there for a 3rd year in a row. We just can't get enough of this mountain range. Amazing views. Few people. Great for dogs. Much cooler temperatures (even in summer, typically). Wildflowers. Alpine lakes and passes. You name it - the Wind Rivers have it. 

Backpacking this range is quite rough - the trails are very rocky, there's a lot of elevation change, several passes, quick changing weather, etc. A lot of what makes this area is special is that there's so much to explore and not always a trail. There's a trail to get you around from lake to lake and whatnot, but to explore any basin you'll need to hike off trail. At the high elevations its fairly easy in that there's no bushwhacking - you're typically above tree line, or able to cut through forest quickly. Plan to spend a minimum of 3 nights when going to the Wind Rivers.


Head east on I-80 and take exit 83, heading north on WY-372. Drive  27 miles then turn right on WY-28 towards Farson, WY. At the 4-way, continue straight past the Mercantile and gas station. This is your last stop for gas, snacks, water, etc. Drive 2 miles and turn left on 4th East Road at a large tan building on your left. The road now turns into a well-graded dirt road. Stay on this road for 20 miles until you reach the 3-way intersection for the Elkhorn Cutoff Road, and turn right. Drive 7.6 miles, until you see the large brown sign for the Big Sandy TH, and turn left. Drive 10 miles on a now rougher dirt road, until you reach the TH. Small, passenger cars should be able to make it. There are several potholes and washboard sections of road, but they should make it. An SUV or larger is a better option in case the road gets muddy or super rutted out.

Here is a driving map.

Distance: 16 miles to Baptiste Lake & Mt. Hooker
Elevation gain: 3,044 ft
Time: 1.5-2 days
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash (see notes below)
Kid friendly? Maybe (see notes below)
Fees/Permits? None


When is the best time to visit?
Typically the best months to visit are late July, August, and early September, but it all depends on snowpack. Some years when snowpack is high, you may not be able to access the trails until August. In low snow seasons, you can access the trails as early as June. Call the Bridger-Teton Forest Service to check on snowpack levels when planning your trip. Thunderstorms and afternoon showers are common during summer months in the Wind Rivers. There is also a year round possibility of snow at this elevation, so pay close attention to weather and be prepared for any change in conditions.

How difficult is it to backpack in the Wind Rivers? Is this good for kids?
This depends on your experience, fitness level, pack weight and weather. There are no technical areas of the Wind Rivers, but climbing over passes are required, depending on your route. You should have a few backpacking trips under your belt, and be comfortable carrying up to 30-40 lbs for hours on end. As always, the lighter your pack, the easier your hike will be. 
More weight = harder hike. 

Can I bring my dog?
Yes, dogs are allowed off leash. It is a good idea to always have a leash handy, in case you come near wildlife. Dogs should be able to hike for long distances and over rocky terrain. Dog poop is not required to be packed out. Note that this is designated grizzly bear habitat and food storage regulations apply for backcountry users, including dog food. Learn how to Get Your Dog Ready for their First Backpacking trip and make sure they have their own Doggie first aid kit.

What's the elevation gain like?
It depends on your route and how many miles per day you backpack. The low point is at the Big Sandy TH, which is at 9,100ft, and our high point was roughly at 11,600 ft.
  Elevation sickness is a real possibility, so know and understand the symptoms.

What are the regulations for backpacking here?
Group of 15 or less
No camping within 200 ft of any water source or trail
No biking
No motor vehicles
No fireworks
Food Storage is required
No permit is required to backpack

Are there requirements for food storage?
Yes, as of 2017 the Bridger-Teton National Forest has a Bear Safety and Food Storage Order in place. You must either hang your food properly or use a bear canister. It is also wise to carry Bear Spray with you at all times.

What about water?
There is plenty of water along the trail, from lakes and streams. You will need to carry a water filter such as the Sawyer Mini or Platypus Gravity Filter.

How bad are the mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes will be the worst until Mid-August; after that, they tend to die out, but it all depends on water level each year. Be prepared to carry 100% deet. I also recommend using Permethrin by Sawyer on your clothing as an extra precaution from getting bites. Permethrin should not be applied while wearing the clothing - apply outside, while clothes are hanging. I applied two coats - let each coat dry before the next application.

What guidebook or map do you recommend?
We used "Wind Rivers Topographic Map - Southern Half", which is a great, detailed map.
Day 1

Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Ready to start hiking! Since the drive took us about 5.5 hours, we didn't start hiking until around 3:30pm. We knew we'd still be able to make it to either Dad's or Marm's Lake for our first night, 7.5 miles in, before it got dark. Our packs were pretty heavy - mine was at 39 lbs, and Ian's was 46 lbs for 6 nights/7 days. WOW! I haven't carried that much weight in probably 2 years since backpacking the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon (back when I had much heavier gear). See a full list of my backpacking gear here.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
We were hoping to escape the smoke and haze from the SLC area, but this summer has been pretty bad for the California fires, and the smoke was still present even in the Winds.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Our first major trail split. Heading left for Dad's Lake. Hiking straight at this trail split will take you towards the Cirque of the Towers.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
The first few miles are really green and forested.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Eventually the views open up, and you will hike through several pretty meadows. We were still feeling good as we approached Dad's Lake, so we kept moving, even as a small rain storm moved through.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Made it to Marm's Lake our first night!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
We found a nice, secluded campsite at the far end of the lake.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Charlie, the water guard. For filtering water we use the 4 liter Platypus Gravity Filter. I've had it for about 2 years and love it!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Every backpackers big question - "What did you do for food?"

Ian and I always try to eat "real" food while backpacking. We can usually get real food to last up to 3 days. On the drive to the TH we keep it in a cooler, then we transfer it to an insulated pouch, and always keep the food in one of the packs (where it's darkest and coldest). A lot of our weight was due to our food. Here's what we carried in for 2 people over 6 nights, 7 days.

Breakfast
2 lbs applewood smoked bacon
1 dozen eggs
coffee/hot chocolate

Lunch
We never stop to eat lunch, so no real food for that

Dinner
8 Aidell's Chicken sausages
2 steelhead fish filets
2 trout fish filets
2 filets of dry aged New York strip
2 bunches asparagus
1 medium sized sweet potato
2 sticks salted butter

That food lasted us 3 days (4 days for the bacon & eggs), and the other 3 nights we ate our dehydrated meals, so we had 6 dehydrated meals, plus 1 dehydrated berries & granola, and 1 dehydrated Dark Chocolate Cheesecake for dessert our very last night backpacking.

In addition to this, we also brought along dehydrated bacon (2 packs), Creminelli salami (1 to share), pre-made trail mix (next time we will make our own), several RX Bars & That's It fruit bars, and 6 tuna packets. We got all of this food from a local grocery store (Harmon's). We carried two of the medium sized fuel canisters for all this. So you can see a lot of our weight other than gear was food-based. We ate really well!

Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
The next morning was kind of chilly, so we wrapped up our little babushka in his bed, the Double Black Diamond Packable Throw. CostCo usually starts selling these in the Fall for $20/each. They are a bit more expensive online. These blankets are awesome because they double as a dog bed, and a blanket for me if I'm cold, they can be thrown in the machine washer, and they are very lightweight. Charlie has yet to tear this blanket with his paws too!

Day 2
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Day 2 we started towards our main destination, Mt. Hooker and Baptiste Lake. Finally, we were starting to see real mountains!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
We passed Skull Lake, then found our trail split for Hailey Pass. This is hiking above Mays Lake.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Hiking towards Hailey Pass, which you can't quite see yet.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Stopping to check out Twin Lakes, just below the pass. 
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Approaching Hailey Pass.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Yahoo, we made it to Hailey Pass! It was really cool to see the large wood sign for crossing over from the Bridger Teton Wilderness into the Popo Aggie Wilderness. This is looking South.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Hailey Pass, looking North.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Ian and Charlie start making their way down the other side of the pass. It was pretty steep on this side.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Not that surprising that we crossed several snow fields. I was SO happy to be hiking down - Hailey Pass was tough for me with my exercise-induced asthma combined with my heavy pack.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
 Whew, that is COLD water! But we had to cross the stream to get to our last trail split for the day to Baptiste Lake.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Finally, a first good view of Mt. Hooker! Almost to Baptiste Lake.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
We quickly set up camp, and changed out of our sweaty hiking clothes.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Oh yes, we did. We made steak and sweet potatoes for dinner. This trip we brought Ian's MSR Reactor stove system. We don't have the pot holder attachment, so we usually build up rocks around it to set the pan on and fuel underneath to cook it, so we don't have to always hold the handles. Works great!


Days 3 & 4
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
 We originally planned on only staying 2 nights at Baptiste Lake, but it quickly turned into 3 nights. We had an amazing campsite with this view of Mt. Hooker, decent weather considering our elevation (it rained every day in the Wind Rivers, and was often windy), we really enjoyed the views, hardly anyone else was there, and wanted two full days to explore the basin. The temperatures definitely got chilly at night, but we had amazing light!

Beanie is made by Cedar Ravine! Love these super soft, lightweight beanies for cool (not cold) temps.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Musembeah Peak
Great view of Musembeah Peak above Baptiste Lake!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Exploring the basin, great views of Mt. Hooker all around!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Musembeah Peak
Unnamed pond under Musembeah Peak.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Ok Wind Rivers, you win. You've outdone yourself for a 3rd year in a row! What a view!!!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Charlie waits for his dad to call him over.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Musembeah Peak
Just want to emphasize there are no trails here - making up your own routes are part of the fun in this area. There's so much to explore! I was super excited when I came across Elephant Ear flowers, since they are very common in the Uintas where I mostly go to backpack. Also, doesn't that boulder look like its about to roll off?!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Musembeah Peak
Wow, I was super impressed with Musembeah Peak. If you have the skills/gear/motivation, it can actually be climbed. Check out this link for climbing info.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
More exploring!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Musembeah Peak
Ok Charlie, stop showing off. You're too cute.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Musembeah Peak
Time to get the Alpaca Raft out! We have the Scout raft, and including oars it weighs a mere 3.5 lbs. It's been really fun having this along for lake/backpacking trips.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Musembeah Peak
My co-captain. Charlie does really well in the pack raft. The material is pretty thick, but even so, I always make sure he is laying down, or his paws when he's up like this are partially on my lap or legs. We do everything we can to prevent him from popping it. He loves his rides with us in there.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Musembeah Peak
Back on main land, enjoying our views while Ian was now out on the raft.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Can you believe I actually caught this guy!? I was too chicken to actually hold it, so I had Ian take out the hook, and hold him long enough for me to grab a photo. He was close to 18 inches! I was pretty proud of myself, as I've started to learn how to fly fish. We didn't eat any of the fish we caught, we just tossed them back in.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
Almost every morning we saw these clouds come in, swoop down towards Grave Lake, and fill in the canyons. It was so pretty! But as each day went on it kept getting windier, and windier. One of the evenings it was so cold and windy, that I ate my breakfast inside the tent just to escape the wind. The Wind Rivers sure live up to their name!

Day 5
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
After 3 nights at Baptiste Lake, it was time to move on. We made our way down towards Grave Lake, now on the Bears Ears trail, and we passed this cool waterfall.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Grave Lake
Passing under Pilot's Knob and by Grave Lake.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
At the far end of Grave Lake you will cross this bridge, if heading towards Washakie Lake.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
What a fun surprise, another waterfall!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
By now we were only 2 miles away from Washakie Lake. We lost a lot of elevation, but that meant we now had to climb back up to the lake to reach 10, 600 ft.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Washakie Lake
We found a sweet campsite at Washakie Lake. This was the first night we also made a fire, but it was also the windiest evening yet. It was so windy we couldn't even really fish, the lake had waves. Here are 6 Tips to Keep Your Dog Warm while Camping

Day 6
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range
 One night at Washakie Lake came and went, and it was time to hike up the last uphill towards Washakie Pass.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Macon Lake
 Passing by Macon Lake, and a great view of Washakie Lake. We had to hike up all that?? I kept telling myself, "Don't worry, you got this. This is your last uphill, then it's all downhill from here." I was soooo slow.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Washakie Pass
 As we got closer to the pass, a large remaining snow field blocked the trail, so we skirted around it and actually found another trail. This snowfield must be here often if there are two trails to get to the pass.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Washakie Pass
The winds must have been close to 50 mph, with gusts at least 60-70 mph. It was insane - snot was flying out from my nose to the side of my face LOL!
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Washakie Pass
Whew, finally at Washakie Pass! Braving the winds were tough here. I don't think I've experience anything like it before. I've camped in pretty bad wind, but never had to hike over a huge pass in those winds with a heavy pack on. Definitely challenging.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Washakie Pass
 As we started down the south side of the pass, I immediately felt better. Downhill, a little warmer, and great views.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Dad's Lake
 We decided to switch it up and instead of camping at Marm's Lake again like our first night, we found a great campsite at Dad's Lake. From here, we'd only have to hike out 6 miles the next day.
Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range, Dad's Lake
 Hanging our food & Charlie's dog pack one last time. We don't own (nor do I want to get) bear canisters. They fit weird in a pack, and weigh more. It's easier, cheaper, and lighter to just hang food. Just make sure you know some really good knots!

Day 7
We hiked the last 6 miles to the car! YAY, we made it!




My day hike routes are not shown on here. That's what part of the fun - make your own route!


 

Backpacking to Titcomb Basin, Wind Rivers


Backpacking to the Cirque of the Towers, Wind Rivers
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Backpacking to Mt. Hooker & Baptiste Lake, Wind River Range

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an awesome trip! Sounds like it was almost perfect, except for the wind. Charlie is so cute in all his camping photos.

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