I am looking forward to my return to the Wind Rivers! This trip was on my list of things to re-do, since my experience level, equipment, food options and camera gear are much improved since 1979. I've never backpacked in the same area after a several-year gap, so it will be interesting to experience familiar yet totally new sights, sounds and smells after a nineteen-year absence.
I know that I drew a lot of parallels while in the Sierra on my 1989 trip, but the ten-year gap probably had a lot to do with those comparisons. Now that I have visited the Sierra more, and only one year has passed since my last Sierra visit, AND two others who saw the Sierra first will be along, the comparisons will be far more meaningful! And although the northern part of the Wind Rivers hold a lot of attraction, the southern end will probably be more enjoyable overall. Here are a few reasons for thinking so:1. Versatility
The planned route covers about 60 miles, but opportunities are available for lengthening or shortening the trip. Day One ends with a southern detour that could be converted to a 2-hour evening hike or a half-day climb of East Temple Peak. Day Three ends at an intersection that offers a shorter lowland route instead of the high route via Moss Lake and Valentine Mountain. Day Five can extend up the East Fork Valley or beyond Shadow Lake, or both extensions can be forsaken in search of the trail's end. Several other areas could be explored if time allows.2. Proximity
Geologically speaking, the north end of the range is still under construction, with large glaciers working the east side and no trails available adjacent to the crest. The south end allows access to the glaciated cirques and peaks while avoiding one-way trails that can not be converted to a workable loop. The Cirque of the Towers is 300° of ragged peaks with a narrow outlet to the east, and other east-side destinations still have small glaciers that have retreated to the top of the large basins that they created.3. Familiarity
One advantage of the southern route is my fading memories from 1979, which should help to determine potential campsites and trail junctions. Beyond this, the overall feel of this area is very similar to the Sierra Nevada. Pine trees, granite, timberline, glacial valleys and wildlife all resemble California's high country. While 1979 provided near-perfect weather, the risks are a bit different with more northerly peaks; on the other hand, potential tropical storms are far less likely! Any Sierra veteran should feel pretty much at home in these mountains.4. Beer
I have tasted several great beers in my life, but #1 on my list was the post-hike beer at the Big Sandy trailhead. It was my first big trip, I was still fairly new to beer, and nothing is exactly the same the second time around, but I still look forward to plunging a can of Coors or ?? into Big Sandy Creek for ten minutes...