The Temple - Wind Rivers


Aug 9, 2007
I've really been slacking on getting a trip report up for this. Here I am getting ready to head out on another trip to the Winds and I'm not even done processing photos from the last! I guess I've been slacking all around on BCP lately. We just finished a 3+ month renovation on our house and now that the contractors are done, we're coming to the realization it will probably take another 3 months to actually get it all fine tuned to how we want it. The joys of being a home owner. But on the bright side, we just doubled the size of our livable space. If you're friends with me on FB, you can see some pics of the carnage here. And if you're not friends with me, friend me! :)

On to the goods... A couple of weeks ago, over the 4th of July weekend, I went up to the Wind Rivers with @Ndheiner and @neiloro for 4-days of backpacking out of the Big Sandy trailhead. With the 4th being on a Thursday, it made it pretty convenient for a 4-day weekend. It also just so happens that my birthday was on the 7th so I always try to do something fun in the high country and the timing was perfect. I was not disappointed.

We headed out from Salt Lake on Thursday night and made our way into the vast, boring desert of southwest Wyoming. I had just purchased a new truck that week, giving up my trusty Tacoma for a shiny new Tundra Rock Warrior. A nice ride for sure, but it was new so I didn't have anything to cover the bed just yet. This became a problem as the monsoon pattern started beating down on us as we headed to Big Sandy. First a bit in Evanston, then as we passed through Farson and onto the dirt roads, it really started coming.

We had planned to camp in the desert between Farson and Big Sandy, but the rain was coming down so hard that we couldn't leave the road. We tried in one spot and realized that the native soil in the area was a sloppy mess. We were totally out of control the moment we left the road. I'm actually pretty surprised we made it back onto that graded goodness.

With nowhere to setup a tent and lightning crashing down upon us, we decided to keep going and camp closer to the Big Sandy Trailhead. This stretch of road was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I don't have a single photo of it, but it is burned into my brain forever. It was just after dusk. Dark storm clouds all around but still enough light to give good contrast. The Wind Rivers on the horizon... layers of jagged granite peaks shrouded in distant downpours. Light shooting up into the most unusual places. Lightning literally crashing down 360 degrees around the truck as we barreled down the road. The ditches along the road created by the grader were full and flowing. It was EPIC.

We continued up onto the flanks of the Winds in hopes of finding a more sheltered campsite. Perhaps some place where the ground isn't made of clay with mud 6" deep. What we found didn't ease our minds. Is that snow? No. That's nearly a solid inch of hail. On we go.

About half way up to the trailhead, we took a small spur road and managed to find a little fire ring off in some trees. The rain and hail and mostly stopped but lightning was still crashing down all around on the horizon. Reluctantly, we started unloading and got a fire going. Amazingly, the rain stayed away most of the night, always on the horizon but never giving us more than a little sprinkle. Were it not for the printout of the weather forecast for the weekend that Nate had brought, we probably would have thought we were in the clear. When we woke in the morning, it was overcast and threatening. The forecast called for even worse weather the rest of the day. But hey, we just drove four and a half hours to get here. Let's go hiking!

By the time we got to the Big Sandy Trailhead around 9am, the sun was starting to peek through the clouds and we were feeling optimistic about at least getting a few miles in before getting pounded by the storms. And wouldn't you know, the clouds almost all burned off and it was blue skies and beautiful for the entire 5 miles to Big Sandy Lake.

We stopped at this little cascade just up the trail from the V Lake cutoff for our first break. It was nice knowing that we didn't really have any place to be at any certain time.

Approaching Big Sandy Lake. The wildflowers were great. So great that smell was strong just walking through. Even better when bending over though.

We took a break at Big Sandy and talked about where to go next. Our original plan was to do a clockwise loop through the Cirque of the Towers via Texas Pass and Shadow Lake. But with the terrible forecast and worries about snow on Texas Pass this early in the season, we decided to head in this way and do it counter-clockwise so that if we ended up blocked by snow or rain, we'd still get into the cirque.

Well somehow that turned into me and Nate telling Nilauro how awesome the Temple Lake loop is. We'd been through there a couple years earlier as our first Winds trip and it was just fantastic. So we decided to abandon the loop via Texas Pass and revisit The Temple as well as an out and back into The Cirque.

As we neared the north end of Big Sandy Lake, threatening clouds were moving in so we decided to head to Black Joe Lake and do our Temple Loop first and then head up to The Cirque to finish the trip.

The climb to Black Joe felt longer than it should have been, but soon enough we were there. The storms were still threatening but we still had enough time to get in a quick swim before we were forced into our tents for an afternoon nap. Notice the awesome waterfall across the lake.

After the storm, we got up and cooked dinner. It was overcast but I was telling Nilauro that overcast isn't always bad up here. We might still get some color! And sure enough, we did. I didn't try very hard to capture it, but here's a bit with the clouds raking through the rocks above Black Joe Lake.

The next morning, looking up towards the other end of Black Joe. It's a really long, narrow lake that we didn't really see very much of.

We went back down the Black Joe trail for a bit and crossed over the ridge to Clear Lake. Anyone visiting Black Joe should absolutely use this route either on the way in or back out. There's a nice social trail connecting the two. Just keep an eye out as you pass along the ridge between the two.

Nate hiking along the shore of Clear Lake with Haystack Peak backlit by the morning sun.

One of the finest hiking experiences I've ever had is between Clear and Deep Lakes. The last time we were here it was solid overcast all the way through - even during the part where that babe was skinny dipping for us in Deep Lake (no joke, see previous trip report). So I was beyond thrilled to actually have some nice light this time around. This is looking back towards The Cirque along the way. Notice Nilauro in the bottom center right for scale.


It's like the water just started flowing down this rock yesterday.

Deep Lake - should have been named Infinity Pool Lake. Lost Temple Spire on the left, then East Temple Peak then Temple Peak on the right. This is 'The Temple'. I love this place.

Much better light than last time but much less nude women in the lake. I guess I'll take the light...

It was only about 10am but we decided it was swim time. That water was much colder than over at Black Joe.

It's hard to describe just how awesome the hike up through the Temple is so I'll just shut up now and post some pictures.





We took a long break at Temple Lake. As we started moving again, the big mean looking clouds started moving in. We were planning to camp at Miller or Rapid Lake and this gave us some motivation to get a move on and get down to the trees before the rain hit.

We made it down to Rapid Lake and setup camp with the storm still threatening. But then it broke. By this point it was a little after 2pm so we had hours to spend exploring around the lake, fishing, swimming, drinking, relaxing.

Later that evening, we were back in camp, cooking and eating dinner. I saw something move behind Nilauro. It was a deer. We all zoned in on it and it zoned in on us. We expected it to take off but instead, it stayed close, circling our campsite almost. It was strange. And then it did it again, and again, and again. This deer literally circled us 5 times before I even bothered to get my camera out (I was eating!). It just kept getting closer with each pass. Nate named her Susie.

A wide angle shot on the 5th or 6th pass. I was sitting on the edge of the log in the foreground and Susie just didn't care at all.

Susie hung around in the forest near camp for quite a while but eventually moved on. After dinner, we moved down to our rock to watch the sun set.

Just as we were really enjoying the golden light from the late evening sun, some clouds moved in and blocked it out. Nilauro was off taking photos so Nate and I just sat on our rock and chatted. I remember thinking it was almost so dark that I needed my head lamp and that we should head back when I looked up to see a little color in the sky.

I popped up from our perch on the boulder to see that East Temple and Temple peaks were deep red with alpenglow. It was a beautiful experience to see conditions change so fast. After about a minute, it all went out. About a minute later, a storm moved in and slammed us with big winds and rain. We dashed back to camp and hid next to a boulder for about 20 minutes until the storm subsided. Never a dull moment in the wilderness.

The next day, we would continue on to The Cirque of the Towers. To be continued....

UPDATE - Part 2 is now up:

Part 2: The Cirque

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Awesome write up and even better pics!! Can't wait for part 2!!

I just LOVE that section from Clear Lake to Deep Lake. It's probably one of my top favorite places in all of the Winds!!

I've never seen that waterfall at Black Joes, it's always been dried up when I've been there (mid-late Aug.). That was cool to see!

And yes, that water at Deep Lake is FREEZING!!! You guys are animals! I tried to take a dip in Deep Creek just above Clear Lake and I couldn't get myself to go fully under, it was too cold! :cold:
Here are some more shots, to augment @Nick's set. I'm mostly skipping stuff that overlaps what he's already posted.

This is a shot from the car window, so no lightening bolts, etc, but it gives you an idea of what the sky was like on our way in.

This was where we tried to camp, but were sliding all over the place when we got off the road.

@Nick's new ride, fresh off the lot.

@Ndheiner taking a brisk swim up at Black Joe Lake.

Nick was right, the sky did shape up at sunset that first night at Black Joe Lake.



Camp that night.

Whaddayamean, no skinny dippers at Deep Lake? Oh, wait, I see some shorts in this shot.

Looking out over Temple Lake



There's a little lake/pond just before you get to Temple Lake.



War Bonnet in the background - that's part of the Cirque.


Killing time at Rapid Lake.


There are some nice cascades where the water escapes Rapid Lake.

Suzie, as seen from camp.

I'm not sure this was Suzie, but she took a while eating flowers off this little knoll in the river.

Sunset, as seen from the other end of the lake from where @Nick and @Ndheiner were. One minute it was amazing, and the next minute a gale wind almost blew me right off the 15 foot rock I was perched on. A minute later again, and the rain was coming down hard.

Nice pics... looks to have been a good trip. Haven't been in that portion. Should go this year but.......
I can't believe I haven't been up there yet. I'm getting extremely excited for my trip mid-august.

Thanks to both of you for sharing.
God's Country! if there is one.... One of my favorite places in the Winds and, in the World. Thanks and great photography guys!
@HomerJ taking a brisk swim up at Black Joe Lake.

Sunset, as seen from the other end of the lake from where @Nick and @HomerJ were. One minute it was amazing, and the next minute a gale wind almost blew me right off the 15 foot rock I was perched on. A minute later again, and the rain was coming down hard.

I'm must have been pretty wasted as I don't remember going on this trip! ;) Looks like I had fun!
Many people call The Winds their favorite. Your pictures
show why.Thanks for great report and pictures.
Absolutely amazing. I'll say it again, the Winds NEVER disappoint! The water there is also the coldest (outside of Alaska) that I've ever swam in. Thanks for the stellar photos and the great TR.

spectacular! amazing photo's fella's!
Are there any good campsites at Deep Lake, or is it too much above tree line?
Are there any good campsites at Deep Lake, or is it too much above tree line?

Sure there are but not if you need to camp in the trees. There are some krummholz trees around and also around Temple Lake and it's partner lake just down it's drainage. If Nick doesn't get around to giving you some ideas pm me and I will send you some GE placemarks.
The only decent place I can think of would be on the South/East corner of the lake. We hiked up to the cirque below East Temple to a small lake just below it. There were trees there and I think you could find a flat spot to through a tent pretty easily. There were a lot of climbers camped on the east side of Deep Creek, might find something along there as well...

Above Deep Lake looking north
Are there any good campsites at Deep Lake, or is it too much above tree line?

It depends on your needs. Knowing you, There are some spots right near the outlet that would be amazing. Not the best shelter but sort of okay. No chance of having a campfire which is no biggie for you. Views to knock your freaking socks off. It is officially on my bucket list to camp at the outlet of Deep purely for the late evening light show. DO IT. ;)
I camped a few 100 yards above Clear Lake one year, in a group of trees here. Probably one of my most favorite campsites ever as you can see easily out of the pines down to Clear Lake and across into the Cirque! Not quite as good as the view up at Deep Lake, but it's definitely close enough to Deep Lake to run up to Deep for sunset and hike back down in the dark.