We spent the past week dancing through the fields of wildflowers in the Wind River Range while learning how to live comfortably in the backcountry. Our group quickly bonded together over burnt Alfredo pasta and understanding the importance of backcountry sanitation. Although these are important topics to discuss and learn in the backcountry, they certainly were not the main source of fun and excitement for us in the past two weeks!
The trip began with a beautiful 5-day backpack expedition through the Southern Wind River Range, exploring the Cirque of the Towers, which is known as the “Rockefeller Center” of Wyoming. Basking in all of its glory, Hannah quickly showed a knack for building fires, keeping us warm throughout the chilly evenings and providing great topics of conversation. Almost every night she was engaged with the art of fire-making, and even attempted to start one with only one match during an evening spent at Big Sandy Lake, four days into our backpacking section.
As we continued on our journey through the winds, Guido proved to have a knack for leadership, even though this was his first backpacking expedition! He consistently provided humor to our group, keeping things light-hearted when the terrain was difficult to travel through. He was consistently checking in on how others were feeling, and providing a sense of community to everyone around him.
Trekking through the Winds always proves to be a difficult challenge, mainly because of the terrain that we encounter. Scrambling over boulder fields and deepening our sense of understanding with afternoon storms, proves to be a struggle, especially for those whose first wilderness experience this was. But our group was extremely efficient in our travel, and willing to talk and learn about the area surrounding us, showing that no challenge was something they couldn’t conquer. Kate, being a previous Wilderness Ventures participant, showed great strides in her leadership skills and finding the ability to conquer any challenge that she faced!
On our third day in the backcountry, we gave a delicious map lesson right in the heart of the Cirque of the Towers. Looking at the face of Pingora, and sitting in the shadows of Warbonnet gave us a deep understanding of contour lines and the landscape surrounding us. Sam showed great detail when looking at and reading the maps, a natural ability for him. He could pick out peaks quite easily, which added a great strength to his Leader of the Day skills.
Within the first few days our group slowly learned how to cook excellent backcountry meals, and open up to the group with humor and outgoing personalities. Jo proved to be the most outgoing, from day one at the airport talking non-stop and showing great interest in everybody’s lives, wondering why they were on the trip. With her witty comments and funny jokes, she easily found a way to get the group to open up early on and become comfortable with one another.
Jo’s outgoing personality allowed Tyler to really get out of his shell, and we soon discovered that he and Alex were both the “eaters” of the group. On the last night in the backcountry, Alex used his creativity with our pita pizza meal. Bringing 5 pounds of mozzarella cheese into the backcountry proved to be a bit too much, so instead of wasting it Alex decided to grill it on the fire and make a melted cheese pita sandwich. DELICIOUS! While Alex attempted not to spill cheese in the fire, Tyler shared stories about his brothers back home and how their eating habits changed over the years, housing bags of granola. (After eating pizza!) It was a good thing that Rachel proved to be an excellent cook, to provide for these two boys! On our third second night in the backcountry, she whipped up one of the most delicious meals: fried rice with chicken and vegetables, dipped in soy sauce. There was PLENTY of food to eat, and everybody went to bed that evening with happy, full stomachs.
One of the most interesting parts of the Wind River Range is the amount of flora and fauna that you see on a daily basis. Between Pika running in between your toes on boulder fields, and walking through fields of Indian paintbrush and Columbine, there are endless topics of natural wildlife to talk about. Aidan showed a real interest in the natural surroundings, consistently asking about what the different types of flowers were, or the sounds we were hearing, or what peaks and mountains we were seeing as we hiked along the trail.
Our trip quickly excelled through scrambling boulder fields, and strides on rock faces as we met up with our Exum Mountain Guides for the second backcountry section of our trip – rock-climbing! Cam quickly became known as the “monkey” of the group, with a natural ability to climb and scramble across rock faces faster than any other person in our group. Although it was his first time climbing outside, he found an easy transition from indoor rock gyms to outdoor climbing, impressing his leaders, peers and Exum Mountain Guides.
Even though we began the trip with poorly packed packs and burnt pasta, we began to excel as a group and build a community that will forever be remembered by the end. From the two and a half hours that it took to break down camp and pack our backpacks in the morning, we soon we were able to accomplish that in an hour and fifteen minutes on our last morning. Seeing the sun set behind the Cirque of the Towers on our last evening in the Winds, and thinking about everything we learned, the thought of returning to Jackson was almost a black cloud over our heads; not wanting to leave the beautiful place that we began to call home. Tomorrow we spend the day rafting the glorious Snake River Canyon, and gorging at our banquet dinner before returning home on Friday.