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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Weekly Post, High and Wild: Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers

High and Wild: Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers
by Robert Glenn Ketchum

After receiving my MFA from CalArts, I was invited by Bill Lund, Sharon Disney’s husband, to come stay at the families' Diamond-D Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming. Bill thought I might like to photograph in the nearby Wind River Mountains, which I did, backpacking through them extensively over the next three summers. Welcome to a world of big granite walls and huge alpine lakes!






Thursday, January 18, 2018

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #21:
Wind River, #21:  Following the path up onto the granite bench, we literally change our environment in a matter of minutes. The trees do not disappear, but now they are just here-and-there, growing out of the granite boulders, and surrounded by blooming alpine meadows. This looks like what we were hoping to find - a granite, high-alpine terrain, that hopefully offers lakes, camping, and fishing. Water trickles down the surrounding rock faces in many places, and the meadows are buzzing with insects. As we stand here to take this all in, I note that everything seems oversized, bigger in dimension than other ranges in which we have hiked. In particular, it is clear that if you choose to go off trail and wander in the granite, the abrupt sheer faces of various boulders, and walls require some intelligent navigating to get around. Boy, will that idea become more clear as the day wears on.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #20:
Wind River, #20:  Farther along the Clear Lake Trail, it continues to ascend and the river becomes increasingly dramatic. We finally reach a point where the trees thin, and much more exposed granite defines the landscape. A rather ominous “fang” also appears on the horizon. I am not sure if it is part of Flat Top Mountain, or perhaps some adjacent peak, but it quite impressive, AND it is all granite. We ARE getting excited because we have been camping and hiking in Wyoming for more than two weeks now, and FINALLY we are seeing an environment that looks like the alpine terrain that we have been hoping for. For perhaps another 1/2 mile, we wander through diminishing stands of trees, and then come to a very steep part of the trail that takes us up over a large granite bench.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #19:
Wind River, #19:  Chris, Cathy, Belle Star, and I sleep well enough but wake extremely sobered by last evening’s storm. There is more weather rolling through today, but it is not storming, and it is warming up. After a leisurely breakfast, we agree that it “feels” safe enough to proceed up the trail without further weather worries, so we pack lunches, shoulder our day packs, and start off,..and UP. Shortly after passing out of the meadow and into the trees, the trail begins to climb, and the river begins to be noisy, as there are more cascades and pools. At the moment, we are not exactly “in” granite, but we seem to be getting closer with every step.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #18:
Wind River, #18:  By late afternoon the weather is getting worse. Once we start up the Clear Lake trail, it opens into a very broad meadow, and the our path parallels the river coming down from Clear Lake. The meadow is bordered by trees, but there are only a few growing out in it. By the time we reach the other side of the open expanse and re-enter the forest cover, we know it will still be a good walk to reach the lake, and we are not sure if campsites can be found there, so we decide to stop where we are, have dinner before the weather gets worse, and we will daypack into Clear Lake in the morning. We set up and eat, and after dinner we are sitting on a log enjoying the low, late light that has turned the meadow golden under the dark clouds. Across from us, the steep walls of Flat Top Mountain rise up into the sky, and beyond that we can hear a lot of thunder and see the glow of lightening flashes, even though we were sitting in sunshine. Within a few startling seconds, however, all of that changes. VERY suddenly a massive dark cloud just rolls over the top of the mountain, and we can see sheets of rain working down the slope toward us. Then there is a deafening thunderclap, and lightning strikes a tree in the meadow right in front of us. My dog, Belle, goes first, but we all bolt for cover, actually abandoning our tents and gear and running into the forest of trees closer to the river. The storm rains, hails, and thrashes us with lightening so intense, I have my eyes closed, and I can still see different flashes have different colors. Then, as quickly as it came, the storm is gone. Wow! That was real!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #17:
Wind River, #17:  If we were lucky, our hike reached a point slightly to the left of Squaretop Mountain. We could see granite UP THERE, but it did not appear to support the “vast alpine terrain and lots of lakes” that we were hoping to find. It also seemed you would need to do technical climbing to summit. As I previously posted, naively we had come here to hike without topographic maps, so we really had no idea where anything was,..YET! The night remains warm and very buggy, so we spend the evening moving around a lot and just generally goofing, as you see Chris and Cathy doing here. That is MY hiking companion Belle Star, standing there with them. After dinner, we agree that this river valley is not exactly what we came for, so I suggest we move camp. I feel we should backtrack down-valley to the point in the trail beneath White Rock. At that juncture, trail signs indicate two other trails we have not explored, and both appear to go UP. One leads to Slide Lake and the other leads to Clear Lake. Once there, we can then chose one of those for our next camp. Chris and Cathy agree, so next morning we break camp, but by the time we are on the trail, weather is starting to roll through again. Upon reaching the place where our path begins to ascend, we stop for some lunch, and a last survey of the valley floor. Afterwards, we head for what we hope might be alpine terrain. At the base of White Rock, drawings on the trail sign indicate mileage distances to the two different lakes. Slide Lake, the closest of the two, is up much higher and the drawing suggests the trail has a lot of switchbacks and NOT much camping terrain around the lake. Clear lake is a bit further away, but appears to be larger, and in a larger basin, so we speculate there are likely more places to camp there, and head that way.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #16:
Wind River, #16:  We establish a pleasant camp, the weather passes, and except for too many mosquitoes, the evening is quite nice.The next day dawns sunny and warm with no weather showing as yet, so we shoulder daypacks and continue to explore the trail we have camped near. Surely if we follow it we will eventually find the famous Wind River granite alpine terrain. We walk some miles, however, and the trail remains relatively flat, and DOWN on the valley floor. It has become much warmer, and weather is now appearing, so we stop for lunch, and Chris breaks out his rod and reel to chase those also-famous Wind River trout. At this particular moment, he is “sneaking” up on an undercut bank where something might be hiding. There are fish, and he does catch them, but none of them are trout, they are all whitefish, and Chris is VERY disappointed. After his numerous attempts, we decide it isn’t getting any better, so we retrace our path to camp, and settle in for the evening, enjoying the fact that the weather of the day never got worse. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes did not go away!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #15:
Wind River, #15:  After a really pleasant day atop White Rock surveying our surroundings, we wander back to our car camp at the bottom end of the lower Green River Lake. We do not have an afternoon storm, so we have a pleasant dinner with Gordon around a campfire,..and then he departs for Idaho, because he needs to be back for his job. Chris, Cathy, and I, send him off and slumber early, as we intend to backpack into the depths of the Green River Valley in the morning. The day breaks hot, with early weather coming in, so we get moving early as well. We follow the same trail from our day hike yesterday to the junction with the Clear Lake trail and the base of White Rock. Then we continue along it as it wends its way back down through the trees and onto the valley floor adjacent the end of the upper lake and the beginning of the river. It is a far more tiring hike today because we have full multi-day backpacks, and because it is hot. Hot enough to storm, and so it does. At first, the rain is refreshing, then it intensifies, and we can hear not-so-distant thunder. We are glad to be down in the valley when the storm rolls over us because the lightening is fierce and the thunder deafening. Some claps directly above us, make the ground shake. It is frightening, and we huddle in trees to ride it out. When it finally passes, we walk on a few more miles, and decide to camp at a very nice spot we find overlooking the meanders in the river. Dinner is uneventful, but we all agree, the storm was sobering, and it must have been REALLY scary if you were up higher in open granite.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #14:
Wind River, #14:  Looking off the summit of White Rock, this is the valley and upper end of the upper Green River Lake. We are car camped at the opposite end of the larger, lower lake, and from there the view is quite different (post #11). Now we can see the continuation of the river into the backcountry, and also the trail that follows, coming in from the lower right. Chris is especially excited because he wants to fish, and we have been told the lakes in these mountains host fantastic trout fishing, so this looks like the place. On a crude wooden trail map we passed along the way, I noted that there is a Clear Lake trail and also another to Slide Lake and it seemed as though we might be able to see them from up here, but we cannot. You might say, “why not look at your topo maps?”, but unfortunately, when we have backpacked in the company of our DFC&FC colleagues in Idaho, we are in the company of those who know where they are going, so we do not use maps. Now, here in the Wind Rivers, maps seem like a good idea whose time has come, but our trip has already started without them, and it is too late, and too far to go get some now. Our learning curve is going to occur in another way.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #13:
Wind River, #13:  Following Gordon Williams' suggestion that we try to summit White Rock for a look around, we leave the marked trail at the base of the mountain and begin a long, slow ascent through meadows and boulders. It is surprisingly easy going, but even though we are not in granite, we are at serious elevation, and we all feel the altitude and are breathing hard. We are also amazed that we are as high as we are, and we are still walking in boulder-littered meadows with flowers. We can SEE granite spires, but none of them look particularly approachable without serious climbing, so we are still not clear about where the vast domain of granite in the Wind Rivers really is? One thing is clear, however, this is a much bigger realm to wander in than the Sawtooths or Pioneer mountains of Idaho. It is also much higher. Gordon has just discovered the views are sweeping as well. If you will look back at post #11, you will see White Rock in the spot of sunlight on the left side of the lake. Note the steep, striated walls that cascade down to the lake. Our hike today has taken us high into the trees you can see on the left, and then up the sloping backside of White Rock, where, now near the top, Gordon is looking off of the steep face, down onto the lake and valley below.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #12:
Wind River, #12: The morning is crisp and cool, more like a fall day than a summer one, so we rise early, eat, pack, and are off. We decide to walk the trail on the east shore of the lake which will bring us to the foot of White Rock. From there the trail divides. It rises into the forest toward Clear Lake, and it also continues back down to the valley floor, following the river to further, smaller Green River lakes that lie beneath the distant granite spires. Our walk gives us a much better sense of the granite domain above us, and we also begin to realize how large the lakes and valley are, in which we have camped. Still, we are not IN granite, mostly forest, and it is clear to us now as the day wears on, that we are NOT going to reach any granite on this hike, so Gordon opts for the next best thing - “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get,” the motto of the DFC&FC advises the day, and he thinks we should summit White Rock to have a better look around.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #11:
Wind River, #11: In a matter of a very few miles, I change my mind about the appearance of the Wind Rivers. The road we are on draws close to the narrowing river and leaves the rolling sagebrush to enter the forest. Shortly thereafter, we encounter the Green River Lakes campground, which is half-empty, so we secure a nice spot, weather a passing thundershower, and decide to take a walkabout. We have yet to explore where we are, so there is quite a bit of squacking when the campground trail to the lakeshore reveals this. We are looking across the largest of the Green River lakes, and the sloping, sunlit summit to the left is White Rock - while it IS rock, it is NOT granite, BUT the profile of the angular summit in the shadows to the right, Squaretop Mountain, is definitely ALL granite. It seems to us that we are indeed at an entrance to that world, but as yet we have some elevation to gain before we are actually IN it. Our DFC&FC friend from Idaho, Gordon Williams, arrives before dark, so we dine, enjoy the evening, and retire at a respectable hour, because we plan to do an all-day hike on one of the lake trails in the morning.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #10:
Wind River, #10: Chris, Cathy, and I, leave DuBois and head for the west side of the Wind River Range, where most of the trail access to the high country of granite is to be found. Our drive takes us, past the Tetons, and through Jackson Hole, south through the Hoback Valley, and up, onto the high plains at the western foot of the range, to the small town of Pinedale. We would eventually learn that many hikers/climbers come here and stay for a few days to acclimatize before going higher into the Winds. For us, however, this is a gas and grocery stop. The closest trailhead is Elkhart Park, just above Pinedale, but it is the most-used access point, and offers no car camping, so we are going to drive up, into the Upper Green River Valley, and approach the peaks from the Green River Lakes campground, where we are also hoping to meet Gordon Williams, our DFC&FC colleague from Idaho. Most of the road we take is dirt, following the Upper Green River Basin back into headwater streams. We see a lot of rolling, sagebrush covered hills, an occasional antelope, and a cow or two. As was my impression of the Wind Rivers from the east side, my first view of the range from this side is also underwhelming - MOSTLY BECAUSE I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM LOOKING AT! I can see a peak-less, alpine terrain with some snow, but where are the 14 tallest summits in the state, the 40 summits above 13,000ft, and the ferocious climbing walls with exotic names? What I DON’T understand yet, is the vast scale of this alpine terrain, and what I DON’T process is that it is snow-covered in August! Our weather is pleasant for the drive, but as with most afternoons since we have been in Wyoming, there is a daily build-up of heat and clouds, usually ending with some hours, or minutes, of passing thunderstorms, and that pattern appears to be progressing as we get closer to the campground.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #9:
Wind River, #9: Not quite sure exactly where the actual Ramshorn is, we scramble up really steep meadows of small flowers and tiny grasses to emerge here. As it turns out, we are on Ramshorn Peak, but NOT the actual Ramshorn, which you can see, poking up at the sky in the middle of this picture. These are truly strange mountains as this image reveals: the faces of these summits look like a layer cake, that we now know to be composed of conglomerate boulders and compressed mud; the backsides are not even mountains, they are 11,000ft meadows - and not a solid rock face to be seen anywhere. Our weather holds. We have a cool, dramatic-sky day with a stunning view of the Badlands, the Du Noir Valley, and to the west, the sloping shoulders of the Wind River Range. Our walk down, is a stroll, we have a beautiful evening in camp with a 3-D, full color sunset, but no storm. All is good. No badgers! We sleep well, wake to a warming day, pack up, and head down. The hike is hot, summer has returned, and buy the time we reach the car, the afternoon build-up to thunderstorms has begun. We dump our gear in the car, and race down to the highway to get off the grease-mud before the rain starts. The first burst comes with major lightening nearby, literally making the weird formations of the Badlands glow, then the road gets REALLY slippery, and we slither our way the last 1/2-mile to the paved highway and safety. By the time we reach the ranch house at the Diamond-D, the storm is over, and the sun is returning. We, on the other hand, are NOT going back into the Du Noir. Our plan is to access the Wind Rivers through one of, what are know to be, their “popular” (read easy) entrances, the Upper green River Valley and Pinedale. The Upper Green River has a campground that is supposedly quite beautiful and dramatic, with numerous trails, AND it is portal to the GRANITE domain of the Wind Rivers. We also call Gordon Williams, our DFC&FC friend from Sun Valley, ID, and tell him he should join us at the campground. He agrees, and thus we all set out for the Upper Green River Lake campground.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #8:
Wind River, #8: The morning dawns cool and breezy, and we wake to the sound of the wind blowing through the stands of trees. Weather is pouring over us in the form of small, puffy cumulus clouds, but they are NOT building up, they are blowing through - at least at the moment. It feels like a fall day, more than a summer one, and we all agree to proceed with our plans. Breakfast, daypacks and cameras, out on to the trail, and into Ramshorn Basin. The “basin” begins as another expansive pitch of meadows with tree stands, but it rises more steeply. The constant breeze increases as we ascend, and then becomes wind storm, as the tree stands sheltering us somewhat, cease, and our walk continues through a big, broad meadow that is totally exposed. These meadows are not as lush or as tall with flowers as those where we have been, but they are still completely covered with tiny alpine blooms that are hugging the ground, and staying out of the cold breeze as much as possible. At the head of the basin, we find numerous snow patches left from the previous winter, even though we are in the heat of August. The terrain is very spare, but quite weirdly garden-like with flowers popping up anywhere there is supportive soil. To us, strangely, summiting is a meadow walk-up, with the only rock we encounter being the rubble where no meadows are growing. Note also that it is hard to tell from here which of these is the actual Ramshorn.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #7:
Wind River, #7: Our path leads us through several broad meadows filled with flowers, that are punctuated by stands of trees. The expansive terrain at this elevation is really surprising to us, as it was invisible from below, and although we are “alpine” at about 9,000ft. by all description, this does not look like the alpine we know from hiking in granite mountains. Were these alpine meadows and lakes as we knew them from adventures in Idaho ( dfc7fc), we would be surrounded by rock at this point, the lake would be jewel-like, set in that rocky terrain, and the “meadows” would be small and intimate, in many places only supporting space for a single tent. Right now it feels to us like we are still walking in the the trees and meadows of the forest floor, that is now several thousand feet below us. AND, where is the lake? Then the trail rounds a bend, and this appears. With room to camp an army almost anywhere, we pick a nice viewpoint of these summits, and settle in. The trail goes on past our site, so after we set up and square away camp, we return to it to see where it leads. In this image, we have come in from the left, and the continuing trail goes to the right, through that spot of sunlight on the other side of this POV. What we discover is that it winds around BEHIND the cliff faces that form the front of the range and lie before us here. We ARE at the heart of it all, for sure, as we hoped to summit, and preferably Ramshorn Peak, 11,800ft.. What we do not expect is the trail takes us to Ramshorn Basin, where we can approach these mountains from their backside. Knowing the basin is our ascent point, we scramble in the nearby crumbling ledges for the remaining afternoon, gaining some treeless elevation so we can watch the afternoon storm build over the Du Noir Valley. With weather past, we descend and head back to camp for the evening. Enroute along the trail, we encounter (at a good safe distance) a MONSTER badger prowling around, so after dinner we have a new food storage protocol involving really tall trees, then - sunset, star show, lights out! Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will take in new views and breathe a much thinner part of the atmosphere at 11,000+.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #6:
Wind River, #6: Our hike through the trees brings us right to the base of the steep, layered walls, and then the trail runs along them for awhile, until it comes to a stream tumbling down a verdant and flower-filled ravine of boulder rubble. Turning rather steeply up the ravine, our trail ascends through a scree of small rocks, and bridges various rock band layers as it climbs. Progress is slow because the rubble makes traction difficult. We get some rain as we slog upward, but nothing that makes life miserable. Although these are NOT the kind of mountains we expected to hike in, they are strangely beautiful at the peak of their summer bloom. As quickly as our ascent began, it ends, leveling off once again into a broad meadow of grass and more flowers. It is clear we have risen considerably higher, and all of us can tell we are exercising at 7,000ft. or more, because we work harder to breathe, and stop more often to catch our breath. What surprises me now, is how expansive this new meadow is. From below, none of us had any sense that there were pockets of terrain this size, so far up the slopes of these strangely configured mountains.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #5:
Wind River, #5: Our trailhead/car corral does not seem very alpine to us. The path wanders off through a broad flat basin filled with flowers and grasses, and hardly seems to climb at all. This particular trail supposedly goes to a “high” lake affording access to several summits, but from where we are, it is still unclear where that lake might be. The afternoon weather has started to roll through, but the day is quite hot, so we are not really concerned if it rains, and we walk on. We finally enter some forest and draw closer to the sheer faces of the cliffs. When I put on my telephoto to study them, I see how truly odd they are. This is NOT big granite. These mountains look like layers of hardened mud and conglomerate rock that poke weirdly shaped spires skyward, like goofy sand drip-castles that you make at the beach. According to an occasional trail sign, we are not far from the lake of our intended destination, and it is several thousand feet higher, but I am still skeptical because it sure does not look like there is any place for an alpine lake in the image to the right.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #4:
Wind River, #4:  Weather over the Du Noir Valley and Dubois has included thunderstorms and rain every day in the late afternoon. Bill Lund has warned us not to be on the backroads of the badlands (previous post) if they are wet because they become “grease-mud,” so Chris, Kathy, and I, get an early start on our first backpacking adventure in Wyoming. The dirt track we follow winds through the desert-like badlands, past colorful mud mounds, and across occasional washes that clearly fill with flash floods when it storms. Then the road begins to rise, and our view changes dramatically. What was not visible from our previous position in the valley, were the foothills beneath the ridge of peaks we hoped to summit. View of them had been blocked by the badlands, but now that we are here, the scale of things is much larger, and there is an entire forested woodland we must still work though before we arrive at the trailhead. I think all three of us are taken aback by this unanticipated change, but the meadows that are around us now are filled with flowers, there are streams everywhere, and although the afternoon weather has arrived, we are no longer on “grease-mud”, so we forge ahead. We continue to wind through relatively lush woodlands, and finally come to a “car corral” that marks the starting point of the trail.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #3:
Wind River, #3:  Awaiting the arrival of my friend Chris Korody and his girlfriend, Kathy, I explore the area around the Disney ranch, where I am staying. I am amazed that the tallest range in the state barely shows any summits, but rather just long, sloping, heavily forested hills and valleys. What I learn is that I am on the eastern side of the Wind Rivers, and the granite summits are more visible from the abrupt western faces. On this side there are few hikers into the high range, because it is 18-20 miles up one of these valleys just the leave the treeline. Over here, cattle are grazed in those high valleys, and hunters and cowboys do everything from horseback. It appears the most direct approach to the heart of the Wind Rivers is from Pinedale, WY on the other side of the range. When Chris and Kathy arrive, I explain what I have learned to them, and we decide to do something around Dubois first, just so that they can acclimate to our elevation, and Kathy can become more comfortable with backpacking, which she has only done a few times. Bill tells us that the Du Noir “backcountry” is supposed to be beautiful, with many lakes, and it all can be accessed from roads through the badlands. With Ramshorn Peak, so prominently on the skyline, I suggest we should try to camp near it, and summit if we can, to which all agree. Now, to avoid any grease-mud incidents...
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #2:
Wind River, #2:  Bill Lund, Sharon Disney, and their extended family and friends are all happy to see me when I arrive at the front porch of their Diamond-D Ranch near Dubois, WY. I have a lot of gear, and they have a lot of family, so it is mutually agreed that I will sleep, and spread out, in one of the cowboy bunkhouses that is not being used at the moment. Over the next few days, I explore the area, sometimes riding around the property on horseback with Bill. One evening, on one such ride, this view offers me a much greater sense of where I am. I am looking east, out over the Du Noir valley and into the colorful, desert-like formations I passed driving in. I can now see that they are the foothills of taller summits that Bill says are part of the Du Noir Wilderness Area, and that especially pointy peak is Ramshorn, the tallest in the range (11,800ft.) He also refers to the desert foothills as the “badlands,” and warns that if I go exploring the roads in them with my van, I will need get back to the highway if it starts rain, because the dirt turns to grease mud, “and you will simply slide off into a ditch.” Those formations ARE, literally, mud mounds melting down.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

High and Wild:  Three Years of Wandering in the Wind Rivers, #1:
Wind River, #1:  I receive my MFA from CalArts in 1974, at a time when Bill Lund, the husband of one of the school’s founders, Sharon Disney, is serving as the school’s President. My graduate show attracts a lot of attention from him and the board of trustees, and Bill and Sharon invite me to visit them during the coming summer at the Diamond-D, a large ranch they own, outside of Dubois, WY. The ranch lies in the Du Noir River valley on the eastern slope of the Wind River Range, a very tall part of The Continental Divide. In climbing lore I know the range has a lot of granite, with famous faces and specific summits, that bear some unusual names: The Cirque of Towers; Pingora; Wolf’s Head; Haystack Mountain; Warbonnet, AND it has more than 40 of the tallest peaks in WY, although most people mistakenly think those are The Grand Tetons. I have hiked and camped in Yellowstone and the Tetons, but I have never seen the Wind Rivers, so I am not exactly sure what to expect. Hoping to have some company, I ask my Decker Flats Climbing and Frisbee Club friends in nearby Sun Valley, ID, to consider joining me, and I extend the same invitation to my friend, Chris Korody, who in previous summers, has been one of the teachers in the photography workshop program, I have helped to found at the Sun Valley Creative Arts Center. For reasons of employment, no one from the DFC&FC can join at the moment, but Chris has a blossoming relationship with Kathy Schleussner, a girl who lives next door to my family home in LA, and he and she offer to come. Driving to the Dubois highway junction from Sun Valley gives me a view of the Tetons to the west, and the Gros Ventre to the south, but I cannot see what are supposed to be the sky-piercing summits of the Wind Rivers. The road to Dubois then passes over a low divide and begins to descend into a broad valley with evergreen forests and big pastures on one side, and a strangely colorful desert that looks like mounds of mud melting down, on the other.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd

Follow Robert Glenn Ketchum's Photographic Activism Online:
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