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Thread: TR: Green River Lakes, Wind Rivers, WY

  1. #1

    TR: Green River Lakes - canoeing, camping, hiking

    Headed to the Green River Lakes area in the Wind River Range this past weekend. August is usually great in my past experience because days are still relatively warm and mosquito start to die down. You can drive right up to the lower lake where there is an established campground. I visited this area last in 2007 and it seems the bark beetle has done a lot of damage since then. The campground was clearcut as they removed the dead trees for safety reasons, leaving only baby pines.

    This one of my favorite canoe camping trips. Relatively low crowds, beautiful scenery, easy water. All the water we covered could be done as an out and back in one day, but we camped out two nights above both lakes. You paddle up through the first lake - about 1.8 miles; have lunch on the shores.

    Canoe camping is awesome because you can bring so much stuff! My birthday present from last year: Plus pillows!

    Then there is about 1 mile of stream connecting the two lakes. We usually pull the canoe upstream while walking on the banks. The banks are flat, easy meadows. Adding a rope to the back helps to "kick out" the canoe so it doesn't nose dive into the shore. The entire river is very wadeable so you could even walk in the river and pull the canoe if needed. Flows were low.

    Paddle up through the second lake (about 1 mile) which is a lovely teal color. From here you can pull the canoe up the main channel however far you want. We ended up paddling upstream via one of the side channels because the current was slow enough. It ended up getting kind of narrow so we found camp.

    Initially we picked a tent spot in the meadow. My logic was to have 360 views of grizzlies coming at me. But after some lobbying, my boyfriend convinced me we'd be better off in the trees with a steep mountain side and lots of downed wood that bears probably don't want to climb over. We found some scat in the meadows we that we assumed was grizzly - verdict is still out. In mid July a grizzly was getting into some food of some campers and the FS closed all overnight camping within 5 miles of the trailhead for a week as a precaution. We later learned from the outdoor shop owner in Pinedale that these people camped only 50 feet off the trail right in a meadow and didn't hang their food or bear box it. I felt much better because we did bear box the food and toiletries, and camped in the trees where there was lots of downed logs. We also carried bear spray. My dog did not come with us which was good as I was already worried about bears as is.

    The goal of the trip was to hike the backside of Square Top. We used the Finis Mitchell book (really old!) and the Kelsey climbing book which has hikes in it too to help us figure out how to get there. There is no established trail so there was some route finding. We ended up not figuring it out and didn't feel up for straight uphill bushwhacking either, so we just did a 12 mile hike instead near the headwaters of the Green River instead. The third day we had planned to hike up to Slide Lake, but the skies were looking ominous.

    We were 1/3 of the way back to the car on the lower lake and winds were picking up and skies were darkening. Waves were nearly pouring over into the boat. It was quite exciting! We hunkered down under a rock wall and waited out the rain, thunder and lightening for about 1.5 hours. Then it finally let up enough that we hightailed it as fast as we could back to the car.

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  4. #2
    Excellent report and photos! I was already thinking hard about doing something like this up there so the trip report is very helpful. Maybe I'll actually make it this year. Question: are there places to rent a canoe at or near Green River Lakes?

  5. #3
    The Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale looks like they rent canoes. They are open late too (9pm) which is a plus! We rented the bear boxes from them. Otherwise there are no shops at the lake. Pinedale is about a 1+ hour drive from the lakes (including 22 miles of grated dirt road).

  6. #4
    A couple more questions if you don't mind. I haven't camped much in grizzly country. Do you just put the food in a bear vault and leave it out on the ground or do you have to still tie it up into a tree? And do dogs actually attract bears or were you just worried about your dog specifically?

  7. #5
    ephemeral excursionist blueeyes's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    busting my ass
    Nice report Shan!

  8. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ibenick View Post
    A couple more questions if you don't mind. I haven't camped much in grizzly country. Do you just put the food in a bear vault and leave it out on the ground or do you have to still tie it up into a tree? And do dogs actually attract bears or were you just worried about your dog specifically?

    I do what they say in the books. There's the "triangle" they refer to - your tent, your cooking area, and your food storage area should make a triangle with 100 yard sides? (or count 100 paces roughly). If no room for a triangle just make sure stuff is far apart.

    Bear containers - we just placed on the ground away from the tent. No need to hang. Finding the perfect tree set up for hanging is sometimes tricky. Also if you are above treeline, bear containers are the way to go. We also changed our outer clothes for sleeping. Clothes we cooked in were hung in a sack over by the bear containers (not enough room in the containers). Super precautionary, but it was no big deal since we brought layers. Toothpaste, chapstick, sunscreen, trash, beer cans went with the food too. Nothing odiferous in the tent except our bodies.

    I have read and heard a few things about dogs in bear country. Some say that the pure smell of dogs will ward off bears. Others have reported that the dog goes wandering off or hiking ahead of you around a bend, finds a bear and runs back to you for protection with a bear en route. Some think that upon meeting a bear, the dog barking will scare off the bear. But in ANY attack involving a bear, the dog is going to lose most likely. While I have no real proof that the smell of a dog is enough to keep bears away, I would feel really, really crappy if something happened to my dog. Really awful, as in never forgive myself. So my dog spent the weekend at the new pet hotel and had fun. I had one less thing to worry about and enjoyed my trip. I would take her to the Uintas or Sawtooths though. It's just that with the reports last month and that area being "Federally Designated Grizzly Habitat" I just wanted to be safe.

  9. #7
    Thanks for all of the info Shan, much appreciated.

  10. #8
    Also, we'd talk, sing, clap intermittently when we'd go get the canisters and when hiking. It felt a little sketch!

  11. #9
    Yeah, I do that when I'm by myself in non-bear country too. I also like to whack rocks with my trekking poles as I hike to make a little extra noise. Mostly because of the fear of surprising a Moose. Having a dog makes me more afraid of them than I probably should be but one day I did a google search for 'moose attacks dog' and I've been ruined ever since.

  12. #10
    Awesome. One of these days I've got to get up there.

  13. #11
    That's looks epic. I would love to do that!

  14. #12
    That looks sooo awesome! I think I am going to plan it for next year. Thanks for an awesome TR

  15. #13
    I've done literally hundreds of miles in the Winds, backpacked them end to end, and side to side. They are my absolute favorite wilderness area. I've done this same trip a few times and its one if my favorites.

    As far as dealing with food at night, we put all the food in one of our canoes, tow it out into the lake a ways, and drop an anchor (a piece of cord with a big rock tied to it). The upper lake is actually relatively shallow along its north and east shores. You can get out about 100' and inly be in 15' of water. Of course, you have to have 2 boats to do this but as far as I'm concerned, it's the most effective way to keep curious critters out of my grub

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