GET OUT: Land O’Lakes and bombers

By on May 28, 2013


Now that everyone is back from a Memorial Day camping weekend, here is where you should have gone.

Sheepeater petroglyphs near Torrey Lake. (Jake Nichols)

Sheepeater petroglyphs near Torrey Lake. (Jake Nichols)

The Torrey-Ring-Trail lake circuit just southeast of Dubois is a spectacular place to spend a three-day weekend camping. It’s got everything: fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, climbing, petroglyphs, and an opportunity for the adventurous to really get into the backcountry.

The numerous camping opportunities around the tri-lake area provide a handy jumping off point for some serious exploration of the upper Wind River Range. At night you will be cooled by the breeze that blows across some of Wyoming’s most notable glaciers: Continental, Downs, Connie, Sourdough, Grasshopper, Dinwoody and J. Monster ice fields that haven’t thawed in millions of years and steadily feeding cold, clear mountain lakes you can drink from they are so pristine.

In fact, Gannett Peak – Wyoming’s tallest at 13,804 feet – is just 15 miles away as the crow flies. To get there, though, you’ll have to hike up Torrey Creek, stay on the east fork and jump up and out just before Bomber Falls – but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Let’s start easy. Beginning at any of the campgrounds in the Ring-Torrey-Trail lake area, head for the end of the road at the Torrey Creek Trailhead. Your destination is Lake Louise, a 2.2-mile hike with an easy 850 feet of elevation gain. The trail is well marked and heavily used in the summer. The lake comes into view only at the very end. A trail leads down to the water.

You are at 8,382 feet. At this time of year Louise will be frigid but if you’re hot enough or crazy enough, go for it. Beyond Louise is Hidden Lake and then the immense Ross Lake. There is no trail to these lakes from Louise, though, and bushwhacking is near impossible. To access these lakes, you’ll need to jump on a trail back near the trailhead that skirts Whiskey Mountain midway up and dumps you out at the north shore of Ross.

For you rugged backpack hikers, make a left off of the Lake Louise trail and slip into the Fitzpatrick Wilderness via Bomber Basin (Trail #801). The basin was once known to old-timers as Henton Valley. For a more gradual climb, a glacier trail begins back at the Torrey Creek Campground. Both trails meet just past Williamson Corrals.

WWII crash

Aug. 14, 1943, nearby ranchers saw a “fire ball” in the sky go down “just the other side of Trail Lake.” A forest fire started soon after. According to newspaper accounts, a four-engine B24 bomber with a crew of 11 crashed into a mountain peak on the South Fork of Torrey Creek (now known as East Torrey) between Hidden Lake and Lewis Lake (now renamed Bomber Lake).

“The bodies of the men were badly mangled and burned when the bomber exploded as it hit, starting a forest fire in that location,“ a newspaper reads.

The fact that the bomber had crashed wasn’t known until firefighters, under the direction of Forest Ranger C.S. Thornock, found the wreckage. A major rescue/recovery mission was then launched. Military officials said the plane was far off course.

In 1989, Jane and Scott Maller were bighorn sheep hunting in the area and came across a dog tag belonging to one of the crew members. Forest officials have since renamed the basin, falls and lake associated with the drainage.

On top of Wyoming

Trail #801 is an epic 22-mile route winding through the scenic Dinwoody area and across the Gooseneck Glacier before officially ending at 12,245 feet. From there, scramble to the top of Gannett Peak and view most of the state including a peak at the Tetons far off to the west.

About Jake Nichols

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