The photo on the right was taken in the early stages of what will be recounted here in Part II, by yours truly. Fortunately for what did follow in Part II, there are no photos. That too, will be 'splained in due course ;-)
What you're seeing here is "the ford", at the base of Long Lake, Wind River Range, Bridger Wilderness Area, NW Wyoming; just yards to the left of this photo, the waters narrow and accelerate into white water, that runs for nearly a mile to the next lake downstream. Water that was a bit player in the true story about to be told.
This story goes back to 1984, a year after Jose Cuervo was left on the opposite bank and downstream. We had no intention of going after him just then (that would be for later...MUCH later). The same trio -- myself, Murf and Brock -- and a fourth party from our place of employment, determined to have a return engagement with the wilderness area across the ford.
The route we'd taken in '83 we now knew to be impractical. And this time, we were determined that the 'ford' -- whatever the depth of the water -- had to be negotiated. Yet we weren't worried. In fact, we were looking forward to the return to the area, as I'm sure Murf's wife was looking forward to a week to herself, to "recharge her batteries" for our return.
We began with the now-familiar 8 hour drive from Denver, Colorado, to Pinedale, Wyoming, a short distance from the Elkhart trail head that would lead us to the ford. Four guys in two vehicles, rolling along with a week of hiking, camping and fishing in mind, and little else.
But the lonely road held a harbinger that we were slow to grasp the significance of: on I-80, about 90 miles east of Rock Springs, Wyoming, we received a sign. My vehicle was leading, with the other, an Isuzu SUV, following. As I was coming up to pass an 18-wheeler, a grouse did the neatest little maneuver to avoid becoming pate on the grill of the barreling Kenworth.
Then it's luck ran out with us. Or more specifically, my roof-mounted CB radio aerial. With a distinctive BWANG, a significant part of the grouse, now in a plural form, went on to obliterate visibility for the following Isuzu. It was a sign; problem was, none of us could read it through the goo.
With a stop for a little quick visibility rectification, we more warily pressed on, arriving a couple hours later in Pinedale. After plucking the SUV and a quick meal (in a restaurant, not of the grouse...), we moved smartly to the trail head, and geared up for our 2 mile, 1,500 foot descent to the ford, determined NOT to relive the comedy of errors that left a full bottle of Jose Cuervo abandoned in the wilderness. Our packs were slightly better arranged than before, though it'd make little difference when it came time to exit the valley below.
There was time enough to worry about that.
At the ford, we were confronted by the stream, which was about 200 or so feet wide, swift-moving and bone-chilling, snow-melt cold. Once there, we examined it closely: there was supposed to be a rock in the middle of the ford, serving as a landmark for where to cross. The rock was, at that moment, conspicuously absent.
Aka, under water. That damned grouse tried to warn us.
Three of us knew what the alternative was, having done it the year before. It was readily decided: we're going across at the ford. We're guys. 'Nuff said.
Murf and yours truly decided to cross first, and point the way for Brock and 'Ray'. The temperature of the water was sufficient to cause me to think that, by the time the water was at my waist, my family jewels had just ingrown, never to emerge again. And the current...was more than I'd bargained on. By about a third of the way across, my pack was largely water-logged, and I was hoping for that grouse to be rotting in Hell. Murf wasn't expressing anything at that moment; his iced-over gaze was intently on the opposite bank and shedding the shade of blue he was turning.
Until about half-way: Murf found a spot that allowed him to take a scuba lesson, and get a fish-eye view. One moment, he was ahead and slightly to my right; the next moment, no Murf. With only my head above water at this point, I grabbed Murf's shoulder and navigated him to a spot in front of me that put his head back where he could see the objective, all the while sputtering expletives about a fish named Wanda.
The other two were watching this from the bank with rapidly diminishing enthusiasm.
Finally achieving the opposite bank -- only to be set upon by a horde of deer flies, having lost our insect repellent in the icy stream -- I waved back at the other two, and in my best Madonna imitation yelled, "just stay below where we were!"
It didn't help: I wound up having to go out and grab the first one, when the icy waters collapsed his right knee; then the other, when his sodden sleeping bag kept flopping over his head in the forceful current.
We were one sodden, sorry-looking foursome at that point; but at least we were across.
We spent the rest of the day drying out equipment, reacquiring circulation and setting up camp. Despite the inauspicious beginning, the next few days went reasonably well, other than a run-in between one of our party and a butt-craving tick, and one day of endless hail/thunderstorms. That put us to thinking again of recrossing the ford -- probably running even deeper by now -- and considering various options to avoid repeating Day 1. Like going home in August (a month hence). *Buzzer*. Supplies, work and Murf's wife would never stand for that (well, maybe two out of three). The three of us who'd experienced the 'mountain goat country' to our south gave passing thought to trying for the bridge downstream; the memory of the ground between us and it was enough to scotch that idea.
It was the ford, or nuthin'.
Meantime, our newbie -- not a part of the Jose Cuervo debacle a year before -- was silently formulating a plan of his own. One, when he sprung it on us, he asserted would make the crossing "a lark".
Next up, the execution of that plan, and the exciting* conclusion of the Poseidumb Adventure.
* humiliating...laughable...Darwinesque...idiotic, typical-guy-thang