"From our vantage point it was some of the roughest country that I have ever seen...”
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I may never remember whose idea it was but this is definitely one of my great adventures I will never forget.
As Hank and I talked on the phone that Friday evening a trip was planned to Suicide Lake. Now if you look in Finnes Mitchell's book about the trails and lakes of the Wind River Mountains there are very few that are talked about as briefly as Suicide Lake. The commentary says something along the lines of ..
None the less I was to meet Hank at 6:00 a.m. with my daypack, fishing pole and enough food for the two of us. Hank was to bring the survival kit, canteens, and fishing lures. With everything loaded we stopped for a quick "breakfast of champions" at the local Phillips 66 and were on our way. As we arrived at the parking lot at Elkhart Park the rain was pouring down. Whose idea was this anyway? Our preparedness and being young and dumb seemed to overshadow good common sense, so we jumped out of the truck and headed up the trail.
After several miles into our journey the downpour eventually turned into a steady drizzle and things seemed to be looking a little better. The trail was definitely harder to travel on and expended more energy than normal due to the muddy conditions. Photographer's Point was our first stop to rest and we found very little in the way of protection from the rain and even less to photograph so it did not take us long to move on. Eklund Lake was just around the corner and as we passed it by the only thing on our minds was to get off of the top of this mountain and into the canyon below. So much for fishing. It wasn't long before we were dropping elevation and my ears began to pop. Now this was not your normal skipping through the toolies downhill, but rather a slide on the seat of your pants and hope you don't go over the top of a real sharp rock cause you can't stop downhill. I am not sure there is anything harder on a set of knees than going down steep terrain, and let me tell you mine have never been happier than when we found the bottom of that mountain.
DRENCHED! That is what we were and I can not explain to you the joy I felt when a few hundred yards in front of me stood what looked like a fully erected tent. We approached it with caution not knowing exactly what to expect and shouted a friendly hello a few times hoping someone would poke their head out and invite us in. Nothing of the sort happened so we decided to make ourselves at home. Once we were inside it was obvious that the tent had been abandoned earlier in the year with definite signs of sun wrought. We were only minutes from the shore of Gorge Lake so we decided to postpone fishing while we built a fire and had some lunch. "You do have matches don't you Hank?" "Oh sure." He replied confidently as we both began to stir around in our daypacks. With my stomach growling I pulled out a feast of "beanie weanies" and canned tomales. Hank had not yet located his matches so I continued to cut a hole in the bottom of the tent with my pocket knife and gather up anything that I thought might burn. When I returned with a limited amount of dry pine needle branches the look on my friend's face said it all. He was still staring into the waterproof match container that appeared to be completely empty. Now maybe Hank thought if he kept staring at it, by some miracle, a match would appear. I am here to tell you it did not work. I am also here to tell you that cold "beanie weanies" are not too bad, but that to this day I can not bring myself to look at a tomale, whether it is canned or uncanned, cooked or uncooked.
Well why go fishing if you don't have a fire to cook them on and by the way what time is it? I never carry a watch, I guess it is just against my religion, plus I think I learned in Boy Scouts that it should be a part of every survival kit. "Hank?" There are a couple of things that make me very nervous in the world. One is driving in Orlando, Florida during rush hour and second is not knowing how much time I have before the sun goes down. Since we were both in new terrain and had an unknown amount of time to get home, it seemed like the perfect time to get down on our knees. From our vantage point it was some of the roughest country that I have ever seen and we could sure use the help of the good Lord to get home without a broken leg or skull.
Up and over, in and out, and every other way you can imagine devoured the next several hours as we picked our way through the slickest, biggest boulder slide that I have ever crossed. Just when we thought it was getting better it would get worse, but finally we could see a lake. SUICIDE! Over the past 50 years it has not changed much and Finnes Mitchell was right on the money when he said the word came to mind. Now it didn't seem far to get to the other side especially if we had a boat. "Hank?" I am sure they told us that a boat should be a part of every survival kit as well. No such luck, so we trudged on. I have never wished for wings in my entire life until that point and how handy they would have been. By now the tomales had definitely worn off and the beanie weanies were fading fast. Upper Long Lake was our next landmark and it was still a looong ways away.
It was beginning to get dark by the time we approached the recognizable Long Lake and since Hank had been here several times before it was a huge relief. Now Long Lake did not get its name out of sarcasm and there is not only one but two of them, Upper and Lower. It was well past dark as we approached the outlet of the second lake and I could have sworn Hank never lost stride. Right into the creek he went and by the time he had reached the middle of the channel the water was just under his armpits. I was definitely thinking that a bridge sounded pretty good about this time, but by the time I thought to ask Hank if he had one in his survival kit he was too far to hear me. Now I realize that I was already completely wet but let me tell you, there is a huge temperature difference between rain and glacier fed lakes. I only thought I was cold because when I hit that water my body temperature must have dropped another five degrees. I think that the only thing that saved us both from hypothermia was the 2,000 vertical foot climb that lay ahead.
I was totally exhausted by the time we reached the parking lot at Elkhart Park with two very valuable lessons learned. First, never count on your friend to bring the matches, or the survival kit for that matter, and secondly, don't waste the energy in carrying around a fishing pole and a bunch of lures if you are not going to use them.
Till Next Time .
in Pinedale area real estate right now?
Sublette County Real Estate has been very active for quite some time now. An extreme amount of interest has been seen with property having trees, water, and views, which encompass most of our high-end homes and river front parcels. Most of this demand has been caused from the Jackson Hole overflow and people who are just looking for a simpler way of life out west. Water is a huge attraction to our most recent members of the ranching community. Whether it is ponds or just river enhancement, we have seen most of our new landowners developing extensive fisheries for their private enjoyment. Since water is in abundance, the air is clean and the western ranching atmosphere is very evident in our community we will continue to see significant interest in our historic ranches and large tracts of land.
Technology has played a big role in the expansion of rural America since people do not have to work at the office near as much. Sublette County has seen some significant growth because of this. The Census 2000 information has reported that our county has grown 22.2 percent since 1990 with a current population of 5,920 people. Pinedale itself has seen a growth of 19.6 percent for a total of 1,412 residents within city limits.
Along with the growth in population, Sublette County is experiencing a drastic increase in the cost of living. Right now the cost of living in Pinedale is 6% above the statewide average making it the second most expensive place to live. Our neighbor to the north, Jackson, boasts an astounding 80% above average cost for housing and is the most expensive place to live in the state.
Opportunities are plentiful for those wishing to recreate as well as those looking for employment. Construction, oil and gas, along with several service oriented businesses provide a person with a wide array of employment options. Pinedale's only mall, The Summit Building, has been completely renovated on the exterior offering affordable retail and office spaces for rent, which is a good option for small businesses that can't afford the cost of Main Street frontage.
There is not doubt that Pinedale is changing. People find our area to be not only beautiful but relaxing and rightly so. Our pace of life is slower and our western hospitality is second to none so I hope you will check in often as I share insight into our real estate market along with a story or two of life in Sublette County "off the paved road".
Till next time……
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Click on small thumbnail pictures to see a larger version. Copyrights: Photos by James Rogers, 2001. Graphics by Pinedale Online, 2001. All content copyrighted by Pinedale Online. No part may be reproduced without permission.