A friend of mine in California had decided long ago to run the inagural 100-mile Bighorn Wild and Scenic Run near Sheridan, Wyoming. (This was the tenth year for the shorter distances of the race, 30km, 50km, and 50 miles.) So, we decided this was a good excuse to spend a little time together. He flew into Denver on Wednesday and we drove up from Boulder to Sheridan on Thursday. Friday morning we made the 30 minute drive to the town of Dayton for the start of the race at the foot of the Bighorns. After the race started at 2pm, I headed back to Sheridan to finish packing for my hike.
I wanted to get back to Dayton by 4pm on Saturday, because there was a chance Matthias would finish by then. I had already decided that the major summits were impractical given the time constraints and not feeling fit enough to do a 15+ mile dayhike with significant elevation gain. So, I decided to do a moderately long "lake hike". I thought about Mistymoon Lake, but decided instead to do Lost Twin Lakes via the Middle Tensleep Creek drainage. (Both hikes are given in Hunger's "Hiking Wyoming" book.)
I was a little slow getting out of bed on Saturday morning and didn't leave the motel until after 5:30am. Also, I forgot to bring my road atlas and underestimated the drive time by a half-hour. I arrived at the large parking area above West Tensleep Lake (divided into day use and overnight use parking spots) and used the outhouse. I changed into my boots and got my gear together. I was immediately confronted with one oddity - you are required to fill out a self-issued "Cloud Peak Wilderness Registration" at the trailhead. ("One person from each party is required to complete this registration prior to entry. Keep the yellow copy in your possession while in the wilderness. Place the white copy in the box below.") Um, okay. At least it made for an interesting souvenir. The second idiosyncracy also quickly appeared; Wyoming seems to have a thing for trail numbers instead of names. This was true back in my days in the Snowy Range near Laramie. Luckily, I knew where I was going because the numbers were the only trail markers. I still ended up taking a short detour down to the creek near the beginning instead of staying on the main trail.
Anyway, the trail is good and only has a few short "steep" climbs. At times, the trail ends up right next to the scenic creek. The weather was warm and stable at the beginning. I was moving pretty well, but that was mainly because I wanted to get back to Sheridan in time for a quick shower before heading back to Dayton. Perhaps not the best way to go into a hike, but it was better than not hiking at all. There are three creek crossings and at least two of them require a little searching for a good crossing. (My memory fails me, but I think the other crossing was very close to the trail.) You will have to jump and/or cross narrow logs for this.
After the final crossing, I was faced with the major route-finding issue of the day. The trail disappears into the forest, but also disappears into snowbanks. I was a little unsure here, and after trying to skirt around the snow on the left, I ended up heading a couple hundred yards up the creek. That was wrong, too, and I was contemplating ending the hike there. But, I knew I was pretty close to the lake and still had the time and desire to reach it. So, I worked my way up into the forest again, and finally found a higher trail segment, then repeated that procedure another time or two. This finally got me out of the snowbanks and back onto a clear trail.
As you get near the lake, the trail gets harder to follow and I ended up a bit above the lower lake before descending to its shore. It was still mostly frozen over, although the shore was mostly free of snow. You get a nice profile view of the 1000ft cliff to the that rises above the strip of land separating the two lakes, as well as a face-on view of a similar cliff above the far side of upper lake. Dunno if the rock is good for climbing, but it makes for pretty impressive scenery for such an easy hike!
If I hadn't lost time route-finding, I might have snuck up to the upper lake for a few minutes, but I decided to head back down. Also, it was starting to cloud up and I figured there might be storms within the next few hours. The nice thing about the downhill hike was that I was hiking directly into the Sun on the way up and could see things a heck of a lot better on the way down. I made pretty good time and even made the slight detour over toward Mirror Lake which lies a bit off the trail at about the halfway point. Although it did become overcast, I don't think any showers or storms got going until well after my 12:30 finish time.
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File last modified: 30 December 2004