Backpackers Tokyo

Choosing one trip out of the nearly endless options within a five-hour drive from Salt Lake City has been feeling like a daunting task lately. Every time a string of free days approaches, I’ve been waiting until the very last minute to nail something down because nothing exciting has been jumping out at me. First-world problems, I know. But if I’m going to be taking several days off from work, I want the intention behind a trip to make me feel like every moment is worthwhile.

I considered the same old loops. I could head into the Uintas again and meander between familiar pines and emerge at familiar lakes in familiar bowls where moundy rock lifts up on all sides. But that just wasn’t going to cut it for me this time. I could head south and hop on a river, but the 100-degree heat in the Moab area made this look pretty unappealing. I imagined hauling a packraft out of the Colorado River, maybe up Red Lake Canyon, where it’s often 10 degrees hotter than the surrounding areas. Nope.

a man floats on a packraft with a squared off mountain behind him in the background An iconic Green River packrafting view.

I started looking at maps of the Wind River Range but despite the obvious beauty nothing was really jumping out at me there either. I had been to the Cirque of the Towers area as a Boy Scout, somehow singeing my hair with white gas, leaving plenty of trace by rolling rocks down scree slopes, and then managing to get lost on my way back to the car. So I guess it had been a while and a world ago since I’d experienced that area. I started looking at a Wind River high route and felt more excited with the prospect of an ambitious thru-hike, but there wasn’t time to plan that as I would be leaving the very next day.

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By Ben Kilbourne

Ben Kilbourne has been backpacking since his days in the womb. Once born, his explorations have taken him all over the west, but especially the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau. The geography of the west has become familiar to him. He has developed a rudimentary understanding of its geology, and an awareness of the subtle changes in flora and fauna due to soil, elevation, aspect, and precipitation and how these elemental things interact with both ancient and modern humans. His experiences on the land, whether triumphant or thwarted by events either in or out of his control, have provided the foundation for the work he does. Find Ben’s essays, trip reports, gear reviews, paintings, songs, and other work here: www.benkilbourne.com.