Summer in the CPW- September Pt. 1

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Jan 4, 2014
With the coming of September and the end of my scheduled patrols, it has become a little hard to organize my time outside. So I’m going to just lump September as one thing and split up what has gone on during my summer in the Cloud Peak Wilderness.

Sept 5-8

With the snowy weather we’d been having, it became a priority to get our base camps out of the wilderness. We’d already lost a tarp to severe winds, we didn’t need tents being crushed by snow. On the fifth myself and another ranger hiked to our base camp on the east side and packed it out. Sadly I didn’t bring any camera to document how awesome we looked with our whole base camp tethered to the two of us somehow. Pretty gypsy.

The next day all four of us wilderness rangers went up the West Tensleep trail with a couple horses to pack out that base camp and complete a couple projects. The first day was pretty much eaten up by dealing with the horses and hiking to our camp. I must say, either our horses are horrible or I will never understand why people like horses. The two we had were buttheads and way more hassle than they were probably worth.

Right below Lake Helen I came upon two moose eating away. Moose haven't lost their luster as "cool animals" yet.
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The expected Lake Helen view, beautiful as always.
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That evening included a bit of fishing. This Brookie is the prettiest I've ever caught
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I stopped fishing when some squishing sounds behind me warned me of an incoming moose. She sure didn't seen to care that I existed.
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With all of us rangers around and talking I stayed up way past my bedtime and finally got to see some CPW alpenglow. With a full moon none the less.
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The day after saw myself and the other new ranger of the crew Brian going to Florence Lake to collect our end of season water sample from it. We also were tasked to do some wilderness surveys of the fish populations in the lakes around Florence Pass… so yes I was paid to fish. The weather was threatening so after getting the sample we quickly headed to a lake that we were most eager to check out. On previous trips past the lake we had noticed what looked like huge fish very close to shore and according to our records the lake had never been formally stocked so these fish were an unknown. We proceeded to have one of the best fishing experiences of my fishing career, pulling out big trout one after the other. We kept five for dinner that night and caught and released a good twenty more after that. It was pretty epic and the weather never went sour on us. I won’t give any specifics, because we like to keep the fishing experience in the CPW unguided.

Florence Lake
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The five fish, all ready to be gutted. A person that wanted to could easily ID them probably.
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Then the next day we hiked out. The horses were even bigger buttheads, even running off at one point but we made it. Almost sadly, it was probably the best day weather wise of the whole summer. It’d been snowing just the weekend before!

Sept 9-11

My friend Richard from SLC and his family were going to be in Wilson WY (just outside Jackson) for a week and I had a couple days off. A desire to see my old stomping grounds from a couple summers ago and an open invite saw me driving across Wyoming after getting back from West Ten.

Driving through by the Tetons with the full moon was too much. I just had to stop and try some photography.
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The ninth had us canoeing on the Snake River below the Jackson Lake Dam to Pacific Creek. I’d only canoed a couple times before on lakes so was a little apprehensive but it was a great time. Waiting for groups to do the stretch was full of talk, cheer, food and beer and then the trip on the canoe was a blast. We ran into a family of river otters, which I’d never seen in the wild before (so awesome!), a couple bald eagles watched us from the trees, and elk bugled in the hills nearby. Being on the water I left my camera and phone behind but the mental memories are there.

On the tenth we made the trek to Yellowstone, made longer by Craig Pass being closed. While it made the Bliss family a bit more frantic about the drive and hiking options, I didn’t mind because I’d get to see more of my old home. All the way around to the Midway Geyser Basin we went to hike from Fountain Flats to Fairy Falls. I’d never done the whole hike before, just portions because there were too many other options while I was working in the park so I enjoyed a new experience.

The Tetons were sure pretty as we drove by (and sat in construction traffic.)
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I must say, I really enjoyed how my Yellowstone water pictures turned out. Much nicer than I remember them from a couple years ago (maybe this would be a good time for me to look at those again.)
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One fun thing about this hike is that you can see Fairy Falls the whole way. Once the sky got ominous the photo op was perfect.
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Imperial Geyser
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Fairy Falls
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The Grand Prismatic. Playing with the photo sure made the colors pop
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Then on the eleventh I had to drive back to the Bighorns. A brutal winter storm had somehow descended to northern Wyoming so I drove in snow and sleet the whole way. Forecasts said the worst was going to be on my mountains, and that was correct. I found my cabin covered in a foot of snow and luckily heated because I’d never turned down the heater in my bedroom.

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Sept 12-15
The snow across the Bighorns threw an interesting wrench in our plans. The snow had definitely not fallen equally and the forecast showed a drastic warming up (it is still summer after all) so we optimistically headed for the northern end to do a couple projects and collect our water sample from Emerald Lake. We were encouraged by no snow existing in Sheridan, a little less encouraged by snow equivalent to what fell in Buffalo near Burgess Junction, and were fairly worried about our plans when we got to Shell Ranger Station. The drive out to Paintrock had luckily been blazed by a couple brave souls so we got to where we wanted to base ourselves for the weekend but the amount of snow made doing much of anything without snow equipment impossible. We fled to Tyrell in the West Tensleep corridor for the night.

The snow turning off onto the road to Shell Ranger Station and Paintrock
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Snow at Paintrock and the Edelman Trail to Emerald Lake. Yeah... we weren't going to do that this weekend.
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On the next day we patrolled up to Mirror Lake. The snow had definitely cut into the amount of people venturing out as the trailhead parking lot had only one overnight vehicle in it. The trail wasn’t bad though with only a couple inches of snow on it (although it was a muddy mess on the hike out.)

Middle Tensleep Falls
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Snowy views and ice
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Mirror Lake
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On the next day, Brian and I hiked a new trail junction sign out to Trigger Lake in Circle Park. We were definitely the first ones to walk the trail in a couple days, leaving fresh footprints in a few inches of snow. After posting the sign we went out to Lame Deer Lake for some campsite inventory and more fish surveys. Intense winds and small flies gave me no luck but Brian got four nice sized fish including two that we’re thinking are mutant brown trout. They were WEIRD to say the least.

Old Crow View
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Lame Deer view
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And finally on the 15th, Brian and I took ATV’s to the west side again to go inspect the wilderness boundary on Bald Ridge. Once the snow really starts falling the area will be a snow mobile heaven and we have to make sure people don’t wander too far. The downside to this though was that Bald Ridge still had a few inches on snow on it, covering up any markers that had fallen over. So we did the best we could fixing up the markers we could find and then rode all the way out to Lily Lake and back to the road near Battle Park. This being my first summer with significant ATV experience, the stretch between Bald Ridge and the road freaked me out in a couple places, but I made it and the country was pretty enough that I’d do it again any day.

Views from Bald Ridge
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Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
May 15, 2013
I'm jealous as always. solely based on your photos and stories I NEED to get to the CPW.


Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Jan 4, 2014

Nope. Supposedly they're up there but the lakes where I've heard they've been stocked in were all horrible fishing this summer. I think those lakes froze pretty bad this winter and the population took a bad hit along with it


Adventure Guru
Jan 20, 2012
Ok- just wondering. Winterkill can be a bear, but it can be your friend too. Hit those lakes in another 3-4 years and there would likely be some decent fish in there if it was only a partial winterkill.
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