Mountain Sheep Lake (Then and Now)

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When I asked my long time friend Andy Ambrose if he would be up for a backpack/fishing trip this summer, he immediately said he would like to go. Since fishing is Andy’s real passion, I asked him to choose our destination. I was excited to hear that his choice was Coon Lake in the southern Wind Rivers here in West Central Wyoming. I told Andy of my interest in attempting to replicate a photo which another friend, (Jay Drake) had discovered in 2008 in the USGS Archives. After a trip with Jay and another friend Kyle Johnson to Wind River Peak, Jay found a photo of A.D. Wilson (chief topographer with the Hayden Expeditions in the 1870’s) with Wind River Peak in the background. Jay and I determined (through Google Earth images) that the photo was taken from Mountain Sheep Lake, which lies within a couple of miles of our fishing destination at Coon Lake. Andy and I decided our agenda would be to fish for Golden Trout at Coon Lake and also visit Mountain Sheep Lake and try to get the photo I wanted. It would be the perfect trip. Andy’s dad was excited about our planned trip and somewhat disappointed he could not join us as he was still recovering from hip joint replacement surgery. Since he couldn’t come along he volunteered to provide our transportation to the trailhead. This gave us the flexibility of entering from one trailhead and exiting at another–an opportunity to see even more fabulous scenery in the Southern Winds.

Day one:
Andy and I concurred that neither of us was in the condition we were when we worked together staking mining claims in the 1980’s and that, next time, we would make the 12 or so mile walk in 2 days rather than 1. We finally reached Poison Lake after about 10 hours of hiking and decided it was a good spot to camp.

Day two:
We left camp in the morning and headed for Coon Lake a few miles away for a day of fishing and sightseeing. The scenery was spectacular, although the fishing was somewhat disappointing. We caught Golden Trout, but not up to our expectations for size.

Day three:
We decided we would spend a leisurely day at Mountain Sheep Lake, which turned out to be the highlight of our trip. We caught lots of Brook Trout and got lots of great photos, among them the one I had in mind to put us in the footsteps of the explorers of the 1870s.

On departure from our visit to this magnificent world Andy told me of a trail shown only on older maps of the area which would save us a mile or so hiking on our way out. We easily found that trail, and were treated to more spectacular scenery on our trip back to the real world.

Andy Ambrose is a Petroleum Engineer Tech with the BLM and lives in Newcastle, Wyoming.
Bill Chupka is a professional Land Surveyor in Riverton, Wyoming.

A 7.635Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE