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Day 5: Valentine Lake to Hooker Valley, 6.0 miles
We seemed to have hit the jackpot with weather in the Winds. We met several groups of hikers who told us this was the best time to be there, just after school started and before the September snows. We both had a great night of sleep and woke up happy and rested and snuggly and decided to try something new- helping each other with tasks instead of each of us manning our own. It was much better and we enjoyed our favorite breakfast of pancakes and bacon and made it out of camp in 2.5 hours instead of our usual 3. We are not get-up-and-goers. We’re there to relax and enjoy our coffee and the beautiful mornings.
We crushed it all the way up to Grave, but then the trail got steep and hot around the lake. I found a great camp site right near this waterfall but Lord Campfire could not possibly ever take it upon himself to settle for the first site he sees, so I sat by the waterfall to protect the site and he went on to find a better one, as he always does. This is just a part of marriage, I suppose.
Greg: Why don’t you find us a good place for the tent?
Me: Here’s a nice flat spot with killer views.
Greg: Yeah, that spot’s okay but mine is better.
Me: Why do you even ask me?
This isn’t an exaggeration, this is what happens literally every time we camp, front country or back. Once, in the middle of the night, Greg circled a completely empty public campground twice looking for the best spot. I’m talking like 2am. No one else there. We were going to pitch the tent and leave first thing in the morning and he still had to find the best spot. Quirks. We all got ’em.
After half an hour I still hadn’t seen Greg so knowing in my heart he had been eaten by a grizzly or fallen off a cliff or had been mugged and left for dead by the two sweet old men we had passed earlier, I set out to look for him. He was alive and well, and coming back for me from “the perfect campsite”. Of course.
We were to be hiking up and over Hailey Pass the next day and I was still on my 100 steps and rest plan so I went to check the pass out before supper. There were two young men coming down from her so I asked them what she was like. One of them said “I dated a Hailey once and I know why they named the pass that; they’re both real bitches.” But they had come all the way in from the Big Sandy trailhead that day, over 15 miles all the way up, and they still had another three to go to meet their dad at Baptiste Lake. Still, they were young and fit and our guide book described the pass as “not backpacker-grade” so I remained a little nervous. Not because I didn’t think I could do it, but because I knew I would be sad and weak and winded actually doing it. A chilly, windy night and we retired soon after supper.
Day 6: Hooker Valley to Dad’s Lake, 9.75 miles
Seriously, this weather. We camped at the edge of Hooker Valley, home of Mount Hooker and Hooker Glacier. Next time we stay here we’re dayhiking up the valley, as well as to Baptiste Lake. I made us a Hailey-worthy breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs with cheese and Taco Bell sauce for the big charge.
We camped just under two miles from the pass and we were at the top in 47 minutes. I friggin’ killed it. I told my body it was good enough, it was strong enough, and by God it had all that protein for breakfast. I went from 100 steps and rest to 900 steps from the bottom to the top- the last 300 on my tiptoes- without stopping. Greg didn’t know what had gotten into me. A hearty breakfast, 4 ibuprofen, a pain patch on each shoulder, and my shoulder and chest straps loosened so I could breathe. Seriously, going up Lizard Head we talked about getting me a full cardiac work-up I had such a hard time.
At the top of Hailey I felt like I could do anything, which just goes to prove the Warckens’ theory “The only way to get in hiking shape is just to keep on hiking.” I had a protein bar in my pocket to eat right after the pass, and I think that’s the key: constant protein consumption. Is this common knowledge? Am I just a simpleton? Hailey was supposed to be our toughest day but it ended up being our best. I noted in my journal “Never thought life with someone else could be so good.”
We were feeling so good we debated hiking the whole 15 miles out, but in the end we spent our last night at Dad’s Lake where Greg had a swim in the murky water, then chopped an insane amount of firewood for our last rager. It was a great night.
Day 7: Dad’s Lake to Big Sandy trailhead, 5.5 miles
It was so smoky the last day we could hardly see the mountains. It was hot and dusty and we hiked out in record time. No matter how long or short the last day is, it’s always the worst. The only thing that gets me through is thinking about what I’ll be shoving down my gullet once we get out.
In our case, it was big greasy burgers and sweet potato fries at the Wind River Brewing Company, which we would highly recommend if you’re in the area. Some final notes from my journal: “So many awesome peaks and side trails- a lifetime of hiking and climbing adventures in the Winds. We are most impressed. Can’t believe this isn’t a national park and happy it’s not… a really lovely time with my husband and can’t wait to do it again.”
Now get in there and see for yourself. Go on… get.
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