DISTANCE
11.3 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,253 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

birding

camping

fishing

hiking

snowshoeing

lake

river

views

bugs

muddy

snow

backpacking
11 months ago

My group of four waves goodbye to our NOLS instructors, just a few moments after we complete breakfast. They're heading off on an ambitious route, aiming to scree up some of the peaks surrounding Edelman Pass before meeting us at our predetermined camping spot. I sit down on my bag, a tennis ball in hand, and study the topographic map laid out on the forest floor.

Our route for the day was a moderate climb from Coffeen Park Trailhead to Edelman Pass. We had been resupplied with food the day before, swelling our packs to a touch over fifty pounds. We're entering the last week of our monthlong course, and we are all ecstatic to be hiking on our own. Our instructors, who stayed by our side for the first three weeks, graciously allow us independence for the day.

We throw our packs on, exaggerating our groaning due to the weight, and make our way past the trailhead. The trail begins as an established 4x4, a welcome sight that shields us from the perils of off-trail travel. The forested scenery passes by quickly as we engage in conversation about our lives and what we would do when we finally returned home. We are carefree. The seriousness of the group returns as we come up to the first river crossing. It's roughly a dozen feet wide and slightly below our shins, swelling from the above-average Wyoming snowmelt.

Lucas and I scout downstream (after a confluence, oddly enough) for a better place to cross. Grant and Sara remain upstream, grabbing a quick snack and testing the current of the waters. Lucas and I find marginally safer options to cross, but we ultimately decide to ford the river where we first saw it, for we don't want to risk losing the trail. Grant and I cross safely, albeit eventfully, as Lucas and Sara follow suit. Our boots are wet and socks drenched, just as they are usually. It was a rather wet summer in Wyoming.

We begin the ascent about one, one and a half miles in to our hike. We ascend on an established trail through both forested and rocky terrain before deciding to break for a snack. Wary about our location, I pull out the topographic map to see where we are. Grant scales a minor boulder to get a viewpoint. 15 minutes pass before we accurately pinpoint our location. We conclude that, if we were correct in our location, we would soon enter a grassland.

Shortly thereafter, we were met by a swarm of mosquitoes, a product of the marshy grassland we had entered into. We hiked at a brisk pace until the mosquitoes subsided. We are met by an open alpine meadow, with Edelman Creek trickling softly through the landscape, and we peer at Edelman Pass in the distance. We cross a bridge over the creek- peculiar, we thought, this creek would have been the easiest crossing yet- and take our final break. Sara closes her eyes and leans back on her pack. Lucas disappears in the woods, complaining about the Giardia he had contracted a week earlier.

Grant and I sip our water and throw some rocks into the stream. We engage in a hilarious conversation, the contents of which I'd rather not share, and continue to rest for fifteen minutes. Sara is woken up and we put our packs on, eager to hike the remaining mile to the top of Edelman Pass. The trail up is no more than a footpath cut through the grass, but it's thankfully easy to follow.

Grant and I drop our packs at the top of Edelman Pass. Sara and Lucas head to camp to rest. I greet our instructors, who had managed to arrive before us, and chat briefly with the other hiking group. Expending the last of my energy, I run with grant up to a point where we can see Emerald Lake. I take a few pictures before heading off to camp, eager to hike down into Medicine Lodge Valley the following day.