A Rather Blustery Lakeside Hike High in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains

Chill air, an icy trail and high wind beneath blue skies greeted us at 10,400 feet as we stepped off to take on the Lookout Lakes Trail in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. No problem. But an earworm of the classic “Smokey Bear” song nearly drove us nuts.

If you’re going to hike high in Wyoming’s Snowy Range in mid-October, you need to prepare for wintry weather. We delayed our arrival in the Medicine Bow Mountains to assure dry roads. We dressed in layers. We scrutinized the weather forecast. Check, check and check.

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Snowy Range, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Dawn Page/Coastside Slacking

But then we stopped at the ranger station just above the tiny town of Centennial, WY, to confirm the location of the trail head. A woman ahead of us in line asked the ranger if she could earn a junior ranger badge by singing the “Smokey Bear” song. We chuckled. It seemed like harmless fun. A slight delay. But the chorus of the forest service classic about a firefighting bear proved insurmountably sticky.

“Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear; Prowlin’ and a-growlin’ and a sniffin’ the air.”

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Quartzite in the Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Dawn Page/Coastside Slacking

Zipping toward the trail head along Snowy Range Road in our tiny red two-seater, we were amused to pass its twin, the first Mazda MX-5 we’d seen in 4,500 miles behind the wheel the previous three weeks. The occupants waved furiously at us, arms aloft with the convertible top down in the 38-degree chill. We grinned back. Our top remained firmly closed.

“That’s why they call him Smokey; That was how he got his name.” 

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Lake Marie, Medicine Bow Mountains. Dawn Page/CoastsideSlacking

The nearly empty lakeside parking lots confirmed we had arrived well past peak hiking season, which was fine with us. We bundled up and, after several false starts, located the trail and forged ahead.

“Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear; Prowlin’ and a-growlin’ and a sniffin’ the air.”

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Mirror Lake, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Dawn Page/Coastside Slacking

The 4.9-mile out-and-back trail initially parallels the road along the banks of Lake Marie before shifting left below Mirror Lake and gaining elevation. A hard crust of snow covered the countryside and crunched nicely on the trail in spots that hadn’t compacted and iced over. The wind was fierce. Layers intact, we climbed through an alpine forest of stubby firs and scrubby brush before huddling behind a stand of trees to snack on rolled up flour tortillas smeared with peanut butter – MontaraManDan’s favorite trail food!

“That’s why they call him Smokey; That was how he got his name.” 

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Lookout Lakes Trail, Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming.

The Geek fell twice, sliding to the ground in slow motion with great grace on both occasions as her boots failed to find traction. MontaraManDan saved himself on several occasions by frantically pinwheeling his arms. Not graceful but effective.

“Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear; Prowlin’ and a-growlin’ and a sniffin’ the air.”

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Lookout Lake, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Dawn Page/Coastside Slacking

We hit a rocky moraine field as we passed Lookout Lake and the climb steepened. We leaned into the wind and pressed forward, the “Smokey Bear” song dogging every step. Despite a series of tall cairns, it was difficult to follow the rock-covered trail from marker to marker. We considered turning back, but the cairn on the ridge beckoned. Besides, turning back would not relieve the earworm that would hound us the remainder of the hike and beyond.

“That’s why they call him Smokey; That was how he got his name.”

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Lookout Lakes Trail, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Dawn Page/Coastside Slacking

We reached the ridge and the far end of the trail at 11,100 feet.  The wind nearly knocked The Geek down as it swooped up from the valley below. The Lookout Lakes Trail connects with a loop that we could have taken to Medicine Bow Peak, but we demurred in the chill. With the wind now at our back, the return hike offered some relief. We were better able to enjoy the sun twinkling on the snowy trails and icy waters of the lakes, the blue sky and sunshine, the forest and brush.

But there was no escaping the “Smokey Bear” song. Click here if you dare.

“Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear; Prowlin’ and a-growlin’ and a sniffin’ the air .”

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Snowy Range, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming. Dawn Page/Coastside Slacking

This post is the 12th in a series about our adventures on a 6,000-mile road trip across the American West in Fall 2019.

Part 1: Getting our Kicks in Route 50 in Nevada – ‘The Loneliest Road in America”

Part 2: Strolling among Nevada’s Bristlecone Ancients at Great Basin National Park

Part 3: Finding Pando: Utah’s 80,000-year-old Aspen Grove Hides in Plain Site 

Part 4: That Time We Lost the Trail High on a Ledge at Capitol Reef National Park

Part 5: Weary of Iconic Vistas at Canyonlands National Park? Hike to Upheaval Dome

Part 6: Scrambling Beyond the Bus Tours in the Devil’s Garden at Arches National Park

Part 7: Night Sky Brightens a Visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Part 8: ‘Ode to Autumn at Crested Butte’ – A Fall Hiking Adventure in Verse and Pictures

Part 9: Hiking the Sandhills of Nebraska in America’s Largest ‘Man-Made’ Forest

Part 10: Sunrise at Carhenge: Nebraska’s Nod to Stonehenge Revs Our Imaginations

Part 11: Westward Ho on the Saddle Rock Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument

Part 12: A Rather Blustery Hike Lakeside in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains

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