To make short, if I remember well: Lincoln and a friend were traveling in a coach, and coming upon a bridge over a river, they glimpsed a saw with her little piglets in the river; few piglets were taken away by the current and would drawn soon; Lincoln rolled up his trouser, went into the water and brought the little animals to the shore where their mother was waiting for them; Lincoln (who was already a well known politician) came back in the coach and the journey went on; Lincoln’s friend asked him: “why did you that, why did you risk to fall in the river for these animals? Is it not exaggerated generosity?” Lincoln answered: I wouldn’t have slept tonight!” Ah? Lincoln explained in fact all people were egoists, and his egoism made him have that reaction; he saved the piglets because he was scared to think of the drowning piglets and could not sleep!! Saving and helping, I praise that sort of egoism, I call this generous egoism, and Dave was a sort of that egoist I guess.
It was night since long and when we arrived in Jackson I offered a dinner at the Wind River brewery, and we departed each on his way; I arrived at the Woods Hotel at 10.30 pm, I started this morning in the Winds at 8 am.
Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.
Half an hour or so after the red Mercedes passed by, I was thinking to move to the straw stacks, and what comes there? Coming back the guy with his cabriolet; it was a 300SL, I know about nothing about cars, but this one I recognized, a car from the early sixties; the guy stopped nearby and told me, he goes to Jackson; the plate of his car was from Massachussets! Well, we managed to find some space at the back, for my backpack and there we go. . . Dave explained me he was moving to Oregon, (a modern migrant!) and his family was already there, he brought the car and few things. And, much more he told me he had bad conscience having left a guy on the roadside, late afternoon, before it gets cold on a almost desert road. We had nice time chatting a lot (me, because I did not meet many people these last days, and was interested in how New England people looked at the wild west; he, because he wanted to know about Europe, and what European think of Holy America); at one point of the conversation Dave told me the story of Lincoln and the piglets, which apparently is well known in America.
Story follows in nest tip
To make it short: I waited on the roadside from 3 pm to 6.30 pm, or so! More than 3 hours waving at the rather rare cars and trucks passing by. . . . . . After two hours I walked on the road till nearby a ranch, which I glimpsed from far; there were huge straw stacks and in case I could not get off from here I would find a place for sleeping, as I did not want to mount the tent in the area, not far from the road. Ah, I had time, to look at the clouds for instance, see the birds passing high in the sky, watching the sun setting. . . . Well; people are more and more scared to give a lift to hitchhikers, thinking they are all tramps and potential robbers or killers; when I was young, it was not like that. . (OK, no nostalgy). I do not understand when people in an empty car do not stop to give a lift, and believe me, it was before that “experience”. I always took hitchhikers in my car, in Europe, but also Central Africa, Algeria, Indonesia, and never had problems.
OK, I probably did not look very nice after this trek, was not shaved, was not wearing a suit, had a big pack, did not look “urban”. . . If you read this, think about when you see a hitchhiker, it could even be a VT’er!!
So, the afternoon was passing, the cars too, . . . a guy in a red Mercedes cabriolet shouted something to me when passing by. . . . probably some insults. . . . I was never fond of cabriolet cars, they usually reflect the mind and way of thinking of the owner.
Where is the stage coach? Heavy Eagle and the other Indian
Fort Washakie is just a small settlement on road 287 between Lander and Jackson, and there is apparently no public transportation, so I began hitchhiking; the first to stop, after a while, was Heavy Eagle, a lady (she presented herself like that), who took me for 2 miles or so, to a junction; she explained that at the junction it would be much better for hitchhiking. When she knew I was French and where from I came, she could not stop asking questions and we spent half an hour chatting in the car on the roadside. She left and very soon a car stopped, with an Indian and a cow boy (hihi), trailing a van with horses; they made space in the truck and carried me for a few miles; then, . . . . . . . I had time to look at the landscape; almost no car, and the few cars did not consider stopping for this tramp. . . . Finally two Indian going to Absaroka hunting took me to the big junction of road 26 coming from Riverton and road 287; there, I would have a chance to get a lift. Chatting with the guys I inquired about public transportation; “hey man, where you think you are?” OK, I understand there is no public transportation in many rural places of the US; I wonder how people having no car, or sick persons can move around in that country. . . . They were not sure if there was even a bus line between Casper and Cheyenne. It seems Uncle Sam prefers to use tax money to kill people in some places of the planet rather than to subsidize public transportation. . . . . At least in the past and without subsidizing there was the stage coach, and the station is still in Jackson. Well I began to wave at the cars at the junction. . . . . . . . .
Now the road goes down and the walk is easy, except the pack on my back, which I feel heavier than at the beginning of the trek. The golden flakes of the aspen in the woods help to endure that weight. . . The landscapes north are wide open, and I go up the geological times, looking only at the strata from far in the landscape; I recognize several formations I have seen few days before. It is a strange feeling to know that a trek will come to an end, even it was a short one, on one side I am happy to think about going back to my fellow humans, have a chat, drink a beer, have “normal” food, and on the other side, I already know I will miss the solitude, miss the wonderful landscapes, miss the contact with nature. Ah, best things have an end! I heard a car coming from my back and turned to look at the car; it was what they call a truck in America, with a platform at the back; the driver was alone, so I waved and he stopped; the driver (I do not remember his name, if he gave me. . . ) first cleaned the seats, there was ammunition for his gun, food, beer cans, clothes, a real mess, but a nice guy who took me with him in his car. When we arrive at Fort Washakie, he leaves me at the junction, he goes to Lander.
One thirty pm: I will do it back to Jackson today! I decide this and after having purchased a small bar of chocolate at the local shop, I proceed to the other side of the road and decide to wait for the stage coach. . . . . .
And now I enter in the Indian reservation; there is no guard at the boundary, hahaha. Well, I should have applied for a permit before entering, but there was no office around, and seriously, if it should have been done before I begin my trek, it is always possible to buy the permit later or to pay a fine! So I keep walking on the road, now again in forest, then again in open land, changing landscape all times, never boring, and nobody on the road, the sign only. I wrote a little bit about Fort Washakie and Indians in my Wyoming page.
And here (picture 2) is Bald Mountain, where you can see the rocks are strata (infra Cambrian), deposited on the old core; one billion years gap between the two formations. Looking now East or West the general shape of the mountain has changed, they are plateaus, horizontal or dipping (best seen on picture 4); this means to me that my trek will finish soon when I will go down to Fort Washakie, but it is a long way to walk down, and it is less fun than in the remote wilderness: one car went up the road, civilization (culture is more appropriate, car-culture, I would have liked to see Indian riders now. . . . . ah, still a kid!) is showing up. On the fifth picture is the Wind River Basin where I traveled by car a few days ago.
I left Dickinson creek camp quite early and walked on the dirt road to the North in the bright morning light. It was still cold, but with the sun, it would soon warm up. There was little snow on the meadows and the mountains to the west (Bear’s Ears mountains) (Main picture) were bright in the sky. It was beautiful, all around (picture 2, to the south East), and I walked with good mood. I had a look at the little stream not far from the road and shivered retrospectively when looking at the ice sheet on the running water (Picture 3):It must have been really cold to get this running brook frozen; ah, you may notice that I write a lot about cold, no complain, only reminding that cold is an enemy of the trekker, to me, worse than heat, and I know a bit the Saharan desert!. Ah, a bit geology, even it is cold; on picture 4 are typical boulders formed from granite weathering, I am still in the old core of the mountain, and I will soon leave that core for much younger rocks (“only” 550 million years old!), very soon,, I already can see them on picture 5, the long cliff (Bald Mountain) above the more soft landscape of old rocks.
It began to snow when I rigged up my tent under the trees on the campground; useless to say I was the only camper there. It did not snow long, but the wind began to blow; he was quiet all day, but now, it began seriously to bend the trees. I checked the herrings of my tent and went to sleep, as I had not a lot more to do, and I was tired. The wind blew strongly a big part of the night, but I guess that in open terrain it has been “worse”, than here under the trees.
When I awoke, all was quiet, daylight was there, and I decided to fetch some water for my coffee and oats; it was COLD outside, really cold, my watch indicated 2970 m elevation and minus 10 centigrades . I put on all clothes available and went to the stream 400 m away to get water; I had to break ice to get the water. Coffee, Oats, cereal bars, (breakfast with gloves on hands!) and I needed to move, could not stay without movement, so folding the tent (easy, the snow on the tent was ice, it could be removed easily, all my stuff was dry in fact, and it was better to do so before the sun would melt a little bit and make it stick on the tent cloth), packing all my stuff and think of the last stage of my strip. I would follow a dirt road, and if somebody shows up, ask for a lift to go down to Fort Washakie, still 25 miles away.
I did not really experience the blizzard, I was lucky to have rigged up my tent before it began to blow, with the snow; I listened to the wind inside my sleeping bag, in the tent. . . . . . .
What is good with the wind is that it cleans the sky, so: nice weather in the morning; the snow was like small cotton flakes on the young pines; the meadows were covered with a thin sheet of snow, blown away from the dirt road; in the camping ground, the rising sun plays with the light and shades; before the sun arrives, I will fold the tent, where the snow was not blown away (it was “warm” inside, and the crystals penetrated in the cloth, but, they broke easily when shaking, to clean off the snow).
I finally ended on top of the ridge, and had a look at the map: for the rest of the day it would be flat or slightly down. I was in another river basin, the landscape was different from before, and I began to walk in a dark pine forest; the pines here were different. Ah I began to feel better on almost flat terrain, in the dark forest, looking at the trees, always surprised by this wilderness forest; in Europe, real original forest has almost disappeared (except in high mountain), and here it looked wild, with the dead wood as much as living wood, the strange illness of some pine trees (the same are used to make pillars in construction, to give a rustic or decorative effect in the area, see Jackson, fort Washakie. . . . ). Ah, I wanted to arrive soon, the sky was getting grey, it would snow soon. After a short hour I went out of the forest and arrived at the Dickinson Park meadows which I traversed to reach Dickinson Creek campground.
When I crossed the meadows, I heard two shootings: there is game in the area, and also hunters. I walked fast. . . . . . .
Campervans and horses were a bit further north, hidden in the trees, but it was late to go there and say “hello” to the Indians who camped there.
The strange pines on the Main picture; pictures 2 and 3 show the landscape seen from between the trees on top of the ridge (this ridge has no name). picture 4 and 5: Dickinson Park meadows seen from south.
And climbing slowly, sweating, in poor mood and spirit, I heard suddenly horses not far, the characteristic noise of the hoofs on the soil and rocks. Few seconds later, two riders on their horses appeared in front of me, and stopped beside me. They wore orange jackets (to be seen from far, because it is hunting season), were very warmly clothed, had long rifles on the side of their saddles, and looked at me interrogatively. They ware a man and a woman. I could not distract my eyes from their horses. . . . . They did not tell me where they were heading for, just told me, as they noticed I was not far from being exhausted, “the summit is not far, a few turns, and there you are”. Thanks, and we went each our way. I looked jealously, with strong envy at the horses: what wonderful animals! In the present circumstances I would so much have liked to be on a horse, riding slowly up; in Shakespeare’s theater piece, King Richard III had probably more trouble than me when he was ready to give his kingdom for a horse, but, really, I found these animals the most wonderful animal to have at this very moment!
Well, I had to proceed, and, in fact of a few turns, there were so many, endless, in my souvenir, walking up this (easy in fact, as horses can walk on it) trail, was very long, a nightmare! I decided at that point to learn horse riding soon when possible.
After my rest at Sanford Park I resumed walking, a bit at high pace as I wanted to reach Dickinson Park in time to make my camp there; I had to leave the Popo Agie Valley and across a ridge, reach the Little Wind River Basin; so, a climbing trail again. Climbing in the pine forest was not difficult, the trail well marked, the views beautiful, but. . . . . was it the brain? The body? I do not know, but I had the feeling I did not make progress; every step was difficult, my backpack was so heavy, each little stone on the trail hampered my progression . . . . I had the feeling it was long, so long to get up what in fact was a little hill, nothing to compare with where I was two days ago. Sometimes your body tells you he is fed up of walking. . . difficult time for the trekker; a little bit of will is necessary in those cases otherwise you may put yourself in danger to be stranded in a place where it is not possible to camp, the concentration diminishes, danger of wrong decisions increases, etc. . . I fought against myself, sweated a lot and kept walking ( at slower pace!). Walking up the ridge offered again nice views over the valley (Three first pictures). In the woods few gold flakes of aspen trees added to the beauty of the walk, and may be made it more easy (picture 4), and it should have been easy, the trail was well marked and easy to walk (picture5)
When I walk, like most of people I look where I put my feet, and I also try to look around, and my other senses are awake, I listen to the birds and other animals (The squirrels are very noisy!), and some very small unexpected animals are also on the trail. I was very surprised to find this very anonymous (to me!) butterfly, here at 2600 m elevation in October; a little bit of sunshine, and they have energy to fly and to make sure they have descendants. And these colorful caterpillars! Just discovering these animals I never have seen before made me in good mood for the few coming hours. This little squirrel watched me for some time and was kind enough to wait I had my camera ready! I am sure that in summer there must be hundred of little animals to be seen in wilderness.
I camped that night in the forest after having crossed the river, not far from the shore under pine trees which looked healthy; there was still a bit snow here further down in the valley but the weather was not threatening. I slept very well until. . . . . . I was awaked by a strange noise (a sort of repetitive grunting) coming from the area where I had hung my food. “HAH, here you are, my friend!”, I thought, but in the same time I found it too repetitive; should I go out and have a look? After hesitating, I put on my headlamp, and, the ice axe firm in my right hand, laced at my wrist, I went out. . . . nothing, nobody. . . the wind, in fact, played with the trees, rubbing a tree or a branch against another, the bending trees were doing that noise. . . . Ah, I was hoping too much! I went to the river, had a look at the stars and the few clouds running in the dark sky, and went back to sleep before I got cold.
The next morning, there was still snow on the trail, and walking down, the valley soon opened widely, allowing great views of the mountains, upstream, downstream and on the sides. The pictures have been taken from meadows called Sanford Park after a turn where the river flows now to the North East. After a few hours morning walk, it was a perfect place for a rest in the grass, have a hot tea and look at the mountains and the sky.
You are not surprised at the force of the storm
Rainer Maria Rilke
I like good food, but on a trekking tour I forget about; if I am out for a few days, I try to carry as light as possible, and lyophilized food is the best solution; hot water, wait 5 minutes, it is ready. For a few days a normal person can stand it out (astronauts are exceptional people, eating lyophilized stuff for weeks long. . . . ), but I like real food the most; I am not a hunter, but grilled meat at the camp would have made me happy; I found some mushrooms during my walk, but if I know a bit about the ones who grow in Europe, here I was not at all sure if they were edible; I dreamed a bit about cooking them, but if not deadly, they could have given me some very bad stomach pain; next time I will look for information about North American mushrooms: live on what nature offers!
Usually the trails follow the easiest way to proceed on the field, so it is wise to keep on, and when it crosses rivers there is a reason; here it is the meanders of the river when going against cliffs, or boulder fields; so the trail tries to follow the flat banks as much as possible and to do so, the river has to be crossed at some fords. On the part of North Fork trail I followed, I had to cross the river three times; I had been warned when reading the Kelsey trail descriptions; he writes:” a few of the crossings are hazardous when the water is high. . . . “. High water was not the real problem, COLD water was the problem for me. . . .
On the first crossing I could choose between hopping from one boulder to another, or wade in the ford a bit further downstream. . . . . If you have a close look at the Main picture, you understand why I chose the second option. . . . it was already afternoon, but the water spray in the rapids was frozen on the rocks and jumping on these with a backpack (even without, anyway!) would just have been suicide! So I rolled up my pants, took off the boots and dipped my right big toe in the water. . . I jumped back! The water was REALLY ICE COLD! So, wait here for the next summer? For an improbable hard ice sheet forming in January or February? Haha. So I “took my courage with two hands” (French saying) and dipped one foot, then the other, and walked across, as quickly as possible, but carefully on the pebbles, and came across, sat down, dried my feet with my keffieh and put them back quickly in socks and boots. . . ! FFFFFHHHEEEWWWW!
The two next crossings were easier, as I was prepared, and even I took a few seconds to make some pictures from the middle of the river. A good thing is that this sort of exercise awakes the brain and body!