As inconvenient as the exploding tire was, the BANG could have come from something much worse. It could have come from the gun that I might have used to shoot the marmot who ate two of my dinners. It could have come when Lance hit the bottom of the snow field that he slid down after making a snow angel. It could have come from the rocks some people in the group wanted to throw at me when the hike got long (LONG) and hard (HARD). Yep. All things considered, the BANG we experienced was not all bad, especially when it cost us only $45 to buy and install the new-to-us tire that got us home.
This week’s trip, the one that ended with a BANG on Friday, started Monday when Joe and Michelle Drago, Michael and Mikayla Drago, and Lance and I headed to Kemmerer, WY to “rock fish”, i.e. split rocks in a quarry, hoping to find fossil fish. The men also hoped to find fresh fish in a local reservoir.
The rock fish hunt was much more successful than the hunt for fresh fish. Lance was the only one to hook a fresh fish; all of us found multiple fish fossils, most of them 2-4 inches long. Joe was particularly successful; he unearthed an 8 inch monster. Lance estimates it could be worth up to $1000. Nice!
After a couple days in Kemmerer, WY we headed back to UT where we backpacked into Henry’s Fork Basin. I was giddy with excitement; I truly love backpacking. Also, for over a year I’d been telling the men about the fish in Cliff Lake. When Mark Housley and Miles fished Cliff Lake they had an amazing experience. Amazing. Big, big fish. And lots, lots of them. A bite on almost every cast. I wanted Joe and Lance to experience Cliff Lake, which is the whole reason we chose to backpack to Henry’s Fork Basin this year. I am the only one in the group who enjoys backpacking. Mikayla hates it but loves Michael. Michael does not hate it but does not love it either. Michelle is a good sport and is up for anything, but she much prefers going places with showers. Joe and Lance both hate backpacking but love fishing. I lured them on the backpacking trip with promises of amazing fishing at Cliff Lake.
The fishing was not amazing. First, we lost Cliff Lake. Though I had printed 4 maps and Lance downloaded one, we ended up at a puddle lake at the bottom of Anderson Pass and had to go around Henry’s Fork Peak and scramble up to Cliff Lake. It was incredibly beautiful. It was also windy. The water was choppy and the fishing nothing to write home about; Lance and Joe caught 3 each. Michael was fishless.
There is not an established trail to or from Cliff Lake. We were in a high-altitude basin, miles wide and miles long and had to find our way home. We knew approximately where we were camped but not exactly. We navigated around bogs, streams, and brush patches, followed ridges, and stumbled (literally because bushwhacking bushed us) onto a whisp of a trail that led us to a log cabin. Whaaa-whooo! We were happy to see the symbol of civilization and even happier to see a well-worn trail going from the cabin in the general direction that we were camped. Turns out the trail went under the ridge we were camped on top of. Blessedly, Lance recognized some landmarks, so he and I ascended the ridge and found ourselves next to our tents. Nice.
Not so nice was the mess Michelle found when they returned to camp (before us). I made a rookie mistake; one I frequently warn my students against. I left the bottom of my backpack unzipped and an opportunistic marmot feasted on my Mountain Man meals; two dinners, two servings each. We also saw antelope, white-tailed deer, a baby moose, and a bald eagle. The marmot was the only critter I shot….with my camera.
Mikayla hiked out twice as fast as she hiked in; five hours vs ten hours. It took Lance and I about six hours. I love the mountains. Love. Love. Love. The sights, sounds, and smells of the wilds fill my cup in a way that nothing else does. And I love pushing my physical limits. There is a certain sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, even joy that comes when I take myself out of my physical comfort zone. And this was not comfortable. Very NOT comfortable. I was very glad to see the parking lot at the end of the trail. Very glad. So was Lance.
We thought our adventures were over; we’d have a nice lunch in Mountain View, WY and then an uneventful ride home. Nope. On the dirt road leading from the national forest the back tire on our van exploded. We put the spare on, a do-not-go-over-40 mph-or-100 miles doughnut-type tire and limped into town. We did have a nice lunch in Mountain View, but the uneventful ride home did not start until after we had gone to Lyman, WY to get a new-to-us tire.
All in all it was a great trip, though I sense that if I suggest a backpacking trip again in the near future the adventure will start and end with a big BANG….when someone hits me on the head with a rock!