It has been a few months, and I’m back on the road again…this time with an upgraded Hellwig sway bar, Koni shocks, a Maxxair Fan, and a more powerful 300ah battery! VANgo will take us through parts of Wyoming (but not Yellowstone with the floods), northern Idaho and western Montana over a two month period.
My dog Annie and I pulled into Lander, Wyoming Wednesday night and found a camp spot with rock fire ring at Hugh Otte Camping Area in Shoshone National Forest. We got in just before dark and the road was not well maintained, so I took a spot a little more out in the open than I prefer. It was fine for a week day, as there weren’t too many people around.
I moved closer to some trees today, but it is near the circle drive to the pit toilet, so we shall see how many visitors I have at my campsite. Hopefully no one will park in it like they did in Idaho and Colorado! Regardless, after spending much of my last two-month road trip in Florida in parking lots, this free camping area feels like paradise.
The cell service is intermittent at best, but it is only 10 miles outside of town, close to Sinks Canyon State Park, as well as several hiking trails, including the hike to Popo Agie Falls.
Hike to Popo Agie Falls
Having been a flatlander for the past six months, we took it easy for our first hike to Popo Agie Falls. The roundtrip hike is only 3.3 miles to the base of the falls, though Annie and I added some mileage as we scrambled to the top.
The trailhead may be found near the Bruce Camp picnic area, though the parking is across the two-lane highway. Having been in the central time-zone, I awoke early and was the first one in the large parking lot which also accommodates horse trailers.
Donned in my Columbia shirt and Kuhl pants, I strapped on my favorite Deuter pack, dressed Annie in her Ruff Wear pack and headed out under partly cloudy skies. Bird songs filled the brisk air as we followed the dirt path loaded with protruding, large granite rocks. You definitely have to watch your step on this hike to keep from twisting an ankle!
The path gradually climbs through the canyon on an approximate 15 % grade. Had I been hiking in altitude regularly, I likely would have described the hike to Popo Agie Falls as easy, but I definitely felt slightly winded for my first time in 7,000 feet since last fall. As a result, I’ll call the hike moderate, which is the same description AllTrails gives it.
Late June treated me and Annie to red, pink, white, yellow, and purple wildflowers lining the trail. Sadly, wildflower names escape me at the beginning of each hiking season, but I can recall balsam root and Indian paintbrush!
Annie loved trotting along the path and really wanted to chase the bunny and the marmot, but she behaved. Fortunately, she didn’t see the deer that meandered through our campsite or the several pronghorn and deer that ran across the road last night, or she would have been busy barking!
Most of the hike travels across open terrain with little sun protection until you reach the base of the falls. The numerous cascades tumble down the canyon wall across the Popo Agie River from the viewing point.
Popo Agie Falls
Being a waterfall lover, I took in several views of the Popo Agie Falls, the first being from across the canyon with a view of multiple cascades.
Then Annie and I followed the bridge through the aspen and found a bench for another lookout point. Next we scrambled up the right side of the falls. Annie was much faster at this, but it was an easy climb over trail and large boulders. I only needed my hand once or twice, so I hesitate calling it a scramble, though this was when I realized I had forgotten my hiking pole!
The right-side hike provided a close-up view of one section of the Popo Agie Falls. In a photo, you’d think it was a completely separate waterfall, which really drew me in! My curiosity led me up high to a pine forest strewn with fallen trees. I had hoped to look down from the top but the trees blocked most the view and the ground started getting soggy. Consequently, I turned around and spent more time admiring the falls from afar as the sun poked out of the clouds.
Annie and I only saw two hiking groups by the time we returned to the trailhead, a total of five people. Of course, we were finished by 8:30am, so we certainly beat any crowds. While I generally don’t love hiking through sagebrush terrain, I really enjoyed this hike with the variety of canyon rock formations, flowers, the river and waterfall.
I found myself appreciating the small things after 9-month hiatus from the mountains. Now I understand why some of my flatlander friends stop for photos every two minutes! More hikes to follow…stay tuned! ETB