I had moved from Indiana to Oregon after a year in Florida in the mid-1970's. Dan and I had been to Wyoming together when we lived in Indiana. I'd read about the Wind River Range and imagined it to be a place I'd want to backpack. I had done some backpacking in the Oregon Cascades at that point. Dan had gone out for overnighters in the hilly hardwood forests in southern Indiana.
My gear was minimal. I had a long tube of plastic with no doors as a tent, a Svea stove, Boy Scout aluminum cook kit, Kelty frame pack, and a solid REI down bag which had been my first ever serious piece of backpacking gear other than boots. I can't recall what gear Dan had.
We met in Pinedale, Wyoming and Dan had brought along a tall, thin and very fit friend, also named Dan, so I'll call him Dan A. I'd brought my fine trail dog, Butterpup, a golden retriever/border collie mix. After a frantic search for a lost billfold we drove out to our chosen trailhead after zero research. Keep in mind that none of us had a clue what we were doing, only that we wanted to do it.
Rather than heading east and into the range, we veered off to the north and quickly descended into a canyon then trudged up the far side. Dan A. practically raced up, and we tried to not hate him for it. Once up there we realized that we were now near another trailhead and that we'd not penetrated into the wilderness at all. So we got out our topo and took a trail to the east. We came to the top of a broad ridge and could see the crest of the range miles away. We had no thought of going that far. No imagination? I don't know. We just wanted to be away from roads and people.
A woman backpacking solo ran into us and we stopped to chat. She'd been deep in the range, yet we still didn't even talk about us going there. We hiked on talking about how neat and clean she looked while we'd been out less than a day and were already dusty and our clothes gathering stains.
We descended a little to a nice lake in the shape of a rectangle and walked around it to the far shore near the outlet where we set up camp. My tube tent was supported by a rope between two stubby trees and held down by rocks placed inside along the edges. We ate our ramen and jerky and settled in for a frosty night.
At some point in the darkness I was roused quickly when I realized that there was something alive inside my sleeping bag. Something small scrambling frantically by my ankles. I unzipped the bag and flew out of it into the moonlight. I shook out the bag and a mouse skittered away into the rocks. But wow! It was gorgeous out there. Perfectly clear night. Everything white with frost. Silence. Immense silence. And I could see the jagged crest off to the east. I thanked the mouse.
I can't recall what else we did on that trip. The weather held for the most part. It was early fall. We saw almost no one. I think that we were in for only 3 nights. One bit that I'm sure of was that Dan and I were hooked. This is what we wanted to do and to be.
One thing I learned about myself on the trip was that I had no sense of direction. On the day we left for the car I was doing some yoga and delaying my departure. Dan and Dan A. took off while I stayed behind for another half-hour or so. I hoisted my pack and then realized that I had no idea where the trail was, no idea how we'd reached this lake. This may seem unimaginable, but it's true. I felt a bit of panic. "Which way?!?!"
Finally, I said to Butterpup with as much enthusiam as I could fake, "Let's go!". He danced off along the side of the lake, across the far end, and behind a tall boulder there was the trail. It soon reached the main trail but (again, believe it or not) I wasn't sure whether to go right or left, so I followed the dog. Mid-morning I caught up with the Dans as they were taking a break at the high point of our route. Dan and Dan A. loaded up and headed back toward Indiana. I washed up in cold water spigot and went west. The Wind Rivers have drawn us back many times since.