GET OUT: Alcova ambling

By on September 8, 2015

Explore a land of legends, beaches and climbing

Campsites abound (left), with views and access to Alcova Lake; an old car that ventured a little too far down the path looking for a hot spring perhaps? (Photo: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

An old car that ventured a little too far down the path looking for a hot spring perhaps? (Photo: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – As winter storms make their way into the Tetons, mornings can be chilly and slightly unpleasant for those looking for an easy camping experience. This time of year, other parts of Wyoming can offer warmer environments for outdoor adventures.

After looking at the weather forecast, I chose to go to the Fremont Canyon area. This little spot is located between Pathfinder and Alcova Reservoirs on the North Platte River. Dams to provide water for irrigation and hydroelectricity created both lakes. Legend has it before they built the dams some small-sized mummies were found in a cave. Sizes of these mummies ranged from 4 to 18 inches and scientists were baffled by the presence of mummified little people in a soon-to-be flooded cave. At least one mummy was removed and served as an attraction at a car dealership and various other roadside moneymaking schemes. Currently, the location of the salvaged mummy is unknown. Its friends are likely still residing in the cave, now underwater.

Campsites abound with views and access to Alcova Lake.

Campsites abound with views and access to Alcova Lake.

Another interesting possibility this place offered was the history of a once popular hot spring. In 1891, Isaac Van Horn purchased land at Alcova with plans of putting hotels and bathhouses above the canyon walls. The river below hosted a plethora of hot water.  Unfortunately, this never happened; the dam was built between 1935-38 and a power plant was constructed in the early 1950s. After some digging around the area, I discovered all possible hot springs were likely sitting deep under the water.

So with no mummy and no hot spring, what exactly can you do here for the weekend? Fremont Canyon, accessible by road, boasts beautiful pink granite walls that lead to great fishing holes and crack climbing.  For even more dramatic views, lower Fremont can be accessed by boat. My adventure mate and I brought a climbing guidebook but given that it was about 20 years old, it was rendered useless, leaving us with our brains to figure the rest out. Those with enough drive can easily find many, many great rock scampers in this area.

Typically in places where there are climbers, there are also rules prohibiting the camping of too many crusty people in one area. In this spot, there were no crusty people or rules to abide by. From what I gathered, a predominant amount of this area lies on BLM land. This apparently means wherever you dare to drive your truck, you can, and the camping spots are glorious, scenic and filled with solitude. Beware that if you do get stuck here, your vehicle may not ever be able to leave. That being said, do not let the ease of multi-day activities deter you from the posted signs. If something reads, “No trespassing,” it really means don’t go there. I spied a lot of random bullets, shot up signs and bridges, so journeying around this area may not be the best for the illiterate curious.

After a few nights, I concluded there was no need to have rules about camping. The sheer force of nature will easily weed the ill-prepared vagabonds out. As mentioned before, temperatures were warm yet the wind was abundant. Luckily, I was with someone who grew up in Casper as a “Child of the Wind” and knew places and ways to circumvent, even embrace these gale-force breezes. So the wind, though ever-existent, was not that bad.

The climbing combined with fishing made for some great activities throughout the weekend. Low commitment, easily accessible spots allowed us to gallivant to whatever activity we desired without wasting time. The climbs themselves will likely wear the skin off your hands before your muscles get tired.

Sloan’s Gas Stop conveniently offered some delicious hand-scooped ice cream. This refreshing treat may be enjoyed in the comfort of your vehicle or on beaches of the lake that really do look like the ocean. Sandy Beach is actually sandy, unlike many of the pebbled excuses for beaches around Jackson Lake. Additionally, there are ample spots for sandcastle building.  If you feel the desire to scamper around in a warm and beautiful place, this area will bring some warmth to your bones before winter settles in. PJH

About Elizabeth Koutrelakos

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