Lessons Learned From Getting Deep in the Wyoming Backcountry

Stunning film photography documents an impromptu trip to the Wind River Range, where emotions run high as the hard-fought miles tick by

Lessons Learned From Getting Deep in the Wyoming Backcountry

Author

Brian Chorski

Photographer

Brian Chorski

Camera

Fujifilm GA645, Nikon F3

Film

Kodak Portra 400, Gold 200


Last summer was my first summer completely taken over by creative industry demands—and I was the supply! Despite being grateful for that, the calendar struck August and I hadn’t taken a single alpine summer adventure yet. Typically I would have already had anywhere from three to five under my belt by then. My brain’s synapses were beginning to misfire.

What does one do in such a situation? Go full Euro-style. Fire off some texts to fun-seeking-friends and toss up an OOO auto-reply for ten days to enjoy the final slice of summer away from work and home.

Though this was to be no leisurely summer holiday to Capri. It was hard earned. And at times hard fought.

Over the course of nine days we drove 2,000 miles from California to Wyoming and back and covered 75 miles on foot across four different backcountry trails. Our six person crew slept under the stars a total of nine nights—and only wanted to kill each other one time!

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"There was finally sun in the forecast... What could go wrong?"

To start, my friend Louise (whom I previously only knew from the internet) flew from Stockholm to Los Angeles and hopped in my ‘99 Jeep Cherokee with no working AC during a heat wave with temps reaching as high as 105 fahrenheit. We stripped down to our skivvies and bought ice bags at each fuel stop and hugged them for dear life all the way from LA to the foothills of the Tetons.

Fast forward to Wyoming, where we all commuted in from respective corners of the western United States in the spirit of a good time. Our first three day trek through the Tetons was pain-free, save for a peppering hailstorm and ensuing rainstorm that went on for 36 hours. We were still havin’ fun, and the feeling of a carefree summer still clung on for dear life.

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Now for the Wind River Range. With clouded optics from the rainy onslaught and the naive optimism of a sunny forecast ahead, my vision was to go pedal to the metal the next handful of days. I mean, I felt fine, and there was finally sun in the forecast for fuck sake. What could go wrong?

Well, it turns out the vistas were beautiful but they came at a cost. A week into our trip, so close to our grand prize view I had been willing us towards, we witnessed a complete breakdown of our summer dream team about 12 of the 13 miles and 3,500 of the 3,800 feet into our longest day of backpacking yet.

What ensued was a sobering juxtaposition of one of the most beautiful landscapes you will ever see paired with expletive shouts shared from across a lake. Just moments from our desired alpine lake we frantically broke off into two groups in search of a new place to rest our heads.

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I had pushed the group for too many miles on too tired legs. As we settled on a camp zone just before dark I felt guilt crawl up through the damp evening soil into my exhausted shell of a human body.

After a silent half hour of individual backcountry dinnertime routines, we reached into our collective tender hearts, stitched each other up, and had ourselves a beautiful next couple of days complete with intermittent sunshine and perfect puffy clouds. Then clinked pints and rolled darts at the local watering hole as if nothing had ever happened.

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We went to Wyoming for an all-you-can-summer smorgasbord and returned home with a full plate of 5-star views with a side of dreamscape-stitched emotional wounds. Nothing one can’t lick clean over time, though.

If I may, I’d like to offer a bit of advice to my pre-Wyoming-trip-self and fellow overzealous adventure-seekers alike. If you find yourself daydreaming of driving across a quarter of the country to spend a week in the wilderness with pals, know their limits so everyone can equally enjoy Mother Nature’s visual platter in peace, together.

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Thanks for tuning in. Put your friends first. See ya out there.


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Lessons Learned From Getting Deep in the Wyoming Backcountry

Gallery Mode

Photographer

Brian Chorski

Camera

Fujifilm GA645, Nikon F3

Film

Kodak Portra 400, Gold 200

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