I’ve been lusting after this run for years and it only took the Great American Eclipse to get me out there. I had backpacked into Wyoming’s Wind River Range about 8 or 9 years ago and was absolutely devoured by mosquitoes. Albeit beautiful, that trip was one of the most miserable experiences of my life and I vowed to return under brighter circumstance and with DEET.
We made camp literally across the street (yet an hour’s drive) from the Big Sandy Trailhead in the Oregon Buttes Wilderness Study Area. I stumbled upon this area coming home from a trip to Lander last summer and wanted to return and explore. Turns out these buttes marked the beginning of the Oregon Territory for Oregon Trail travelers. Camp spots lined the cliff pictured above and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and sunrise despite the smoke-filled skies. Wide open nothingness makes me feel so alive!
After making coffee and gigantic breakfast burritos the following morning, we made the hour dirt road drive to the Big Sandy trail head slowly watching the thermometer fall and arriving just as it dipped to 39 degrees. The parking area was PACKED and the forest service pit toilet cleaner guy said he counted 280 cars in the parking lot. Nothing he had close to seen before, but not unexpected with the totality of the eclipse just 10 miles from the trail head.
We took off towards Big Sandy Lake on the smooth and relatively flat single track trail. It is a little over 5 miles to the lake and we ran the entire way breathing heavily from 9,000 to nearly 10,000 feet. Just above Big Sandy Lake the flowers were spectacular considering it was mid-August and I hadn’t seen a single mosquito. It can’t get much better than this and then BAM our first view of the cirque.
The Winds were so much more spectacular than I had remembered. We hit the Cirque of the Towers with perfect lighting and a few fluffy clouds rolling in offering unbelievable ever changing views of the cirque. Despite all the cars at the trailhead we only saw a handful of hikers on the trail and nearly had the cirque to ourselves, well except for a moose that is.
The return trip was just as glorious with the afternoon lighting beginning to light up peaks to the northeast. I counted my blessings for perfect weather, an unexpected wildflower bloom, fantastic company, and my ability (and Roo’s too!) to cover 20 miles without much difficulty in a single day. This was Roo’s biggest day yet made possible by cool temps and plenty of lakes and streams to splash in.
A few miles from the car I allowed myself to start thinking about waffle fries at the Lander Bar, quite possibly my favorite place on Earth. I was nervous that Lander would be overrun with tens of thousands of people there for the eclipse and the bar would be over capacity and subsequently out of fries so I was absolutely delighted (I never get to eat fried food!) to find the food line no longer than a regular summer weekend night. We cheersed with margaritas on the patio, caught some live tunes, and gushed about how absolutely perfect our day was.