Total Miles: 1419.4
The day’s writing done, my light went out and was immediately replaced by starlight. Even from among our sheltered stand of trees, there was enough of a clearing to stare up at them from the comfort of my hammock while I listened to the breeze run through the tips of the pines. It's the way you dream of days ending.
As my eyes began to give in to sleep, they were jolted open by a curious commotion in the dark. Out of nowhere, a train of pack animals was clambering up the trail under nothing but the starlight. The leader of the train said hello and that they were just passing by but even without my half-asleep dizziness, it would have still been an odd exchange given the time of night. The sound of their hooves slowly clacked away up the switchbacks above us and finally dissolved into silence.
At some hour later in the night, I awoke with a start at the heavy sound of wood snapping and the understory being pushed aside. Steps away from our hammocks, the sound came to a pause before turning uphill and lumbering away, breaking through whatever else was in its path. Given that bow hunting season for elk is open and the possibility that the late night pack train could have been carrying an elk kill out of the wilderness, it made me wonder—could this second late night visitor have been a bear following the scent?
When we climbed away from our camp, the clear skies we'd taken for granted the past few days were gone and a sky thick with a smoky haze had taken center stage. Thick enough to smell, we still guessed that the smoke was not from any local fire but, rather, coming in on the breeze from wildfires in Oregon and California, a suspicion that was later confirmed.
The main task for the day was to stop by the remote Brooks Lake Lodge for our next resupply package before continuing on down the trail. Exiting the Teton Wilderness and into a wide meadow leading to the lodge, the scenery was stunning. Unfolding before us, a golden sea of grass prying apart two parallel ranges of jagged rock, one of which being the Continental Divide.
Horseback riders and day hikers coming from the lodge passed us by, as did a pair of elk hunters who'd been spooked from their camp when a grizzly bear decided to make their acquaintance overnight.
We made our way to the opposite end of the meadow and up to the lodge where our resupply box was waiting for us. An old rustic lodge with several equally rustic looking cabins behind it, the inside is nicely appointed without being too upscale. Big glass windows place the scenery squarely in the spotlight while a fire crackles in the fireplace at one end of the great hall dining room. The sweet smoky smell of the burning fire mixes with the slightly dusty, musty smell of an authentic log cabin that is more about utility and history than about luxury.
Our packs fully loaded for the next five days, their newfound weight is offset by the anticipation of what lies ahead. Armed with a rosy forecast, the next stretch leads us into the heart of the Wind River Range and the peaks that I've anxiously awaited since long before this hike began.
Leaving the lodge behind, we set out into a mixture of dirt road walking and pure x-country bushwhacking, crossing the Wind River itself along the way. It all ends right where it began, hanging beneath a blanket of stars.