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Backpacker Magazine – September 2011

Rip & Go: Horse Heaven Loop - Wyoming Range, WY

Discover a pocket of wildlife beyond Yellowstone's borders.

by: Jason D. Kauffman


Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.
Key Skill: Staying bite free
Here’s a simple equation: warmth + wet meadows = swarms of mosquitoes. But the presence of skeeters doesn’t mean you have to pay for this trip in blood. Get the perfect combination of bug deterrents and strategies with this competing equation: physical + chemical + timing = protection.

Physical Bring long sleeves, pants, and a head net (we like Sea to Summit’s Mosquito Head Net for its visibility and packability, 1.3 oz., $8, seatosummit.com) to shield bitable skin areas. Best for: lowland areas with thick swarms, taking breaks, and hiking in morning and evening, when mosquitoes are most active but the weather’s not too hot.

Chemical Deet (try 3M Ultrathon, $8-15, solutions.3m.com) and permethrin repel bugs or kill them on contact. Best for: all-day protection, especially on hot days (tip: reapply every four hours), and
covering the gaps between clothing and skin (neck, hands, and ankles) that mosquitoes always find.

Timing Hike when the bugs aren’t active (late morning-early afternoon), and before June or after August, when swarms typically subside. Best for: planned rest stops, bathing/bathroom breaks, and getting respite from the other methods.


See This: 
Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat
With the amount of megafauna around, it’s easy to miss what’s just beneath the clear waters of the Little Greys. Scan riffles in the river with beds of small- to medium-size gravel for the sideways motion of the female cutthroat as she scours a hole to deposit her eggs in early summer. Males follow just behind. Best part? They’re easy to catch and they fight like hell. Use dry flies like Royal Wulff, trudes, stimulators, elk hair caddis, and Parachute Adams, and cast into deeper pools in late summer.


Locals Know
Standing at the top of 10,862-foot Hoback Peak northeast of your first night’s campsite, you’ll see an endless expanse of lakes, peaks, and meadows. Others have looked at the same places and seen dollar signs. Scattered throughout the Wyoming Range are 75,000 acres of oil and gas leases, including one covering Horse Heaven Meadows. In 2009, the Wyoming Legacy Act protected 1.2 million acres of the area from further leases, but didn’t supersede agreements already in place. So what’s that mean? Industrial oil machinery could someday dot the landscape now ruled by elk, deer, bears, and open space. Groups like Citizens for the Wyoming Range are trying to buy up and retire all of the remaining leases in the area to keep the place pristine for backpackers, hunters, anglers, and wildlife. Learn more about efforts to preserve this landscape at wyomingrange.com.




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