French Creek

Location: Snowy Range, Medicine Bow National Forest, near Laramie, Wyoming
Maps: USGS 1:24K Medicine Bow Peak
Trail:Follows French Creek for 5.5 miles and 1800 ft at a gentle downhill grade, then splits, with the north trail heading uphill 2.5 miles and 1700ft to the Silver Lake picnic area, and the south fork continuing on 1 mile to a 4-wheel drive road.
Access: From Laramie, take Hwy 130 through Centennial to Snowy Range Pass (seasonally closed). Park at the Lake Marie TH about 1.3 miles past the Pass.
Trailhead: NAD83 zone13 389129e 4576363n  Elev: 10,480'
Fees: None
Dogs: Voice control
Webcam: Arlington Interchange, 30 miles north
Weather: Current & Recent Conditions 
             Snow conditions 
             NWS Forecast

July 31-Aug 1, 2004
During a blistering heat wave in Cheyenne, Andra, Frank, Makenzie and I escaped to the cool, blissful forests of the Snowy Range. Turned out it was stinking hot at 10,000 ft too! We parked at the Lake Marie TH, then walked across Hwy 130 to the inauspicious French Creek TH. Within minutes of walking, we had left all thought of the highway behind, and were descending through thick spruce and fir towards the rushing current of French Creek. Eventually, after what seemed like longer than necessary, the trail came in contact with the creek, and the dogs drank away their thirst with the cold, clear mountain water. The day was slightly overcast, as skies tend to be during monsoon season in Wyoming, and as the sky grew darker with approaching thunderheads, I congratulated myself on choosing to hike progressively downhill into the trees rather than uphill above timberline. 

The valley cut by French Creek is steep on both sides, and we didn't immeidately see any ground that looked very conducive to a comforable nights sleep. After a couple of sweaty miles and darkening skies, we began to seriously wonder whether we would find anything suitable at all. Every 200 years or so, we stepped off the trail a good bit to check things out, and went through several rounds of this before finally finding a nice flattish area on the other side of French Creek, which was great because the required sketchy creek crossing to get there decreased the chances anyone would come blundering into our camp.

We set up the tent and relaxed in the gathering darkness of an enormous cumulonimbus cloud, and decided that to venture on down the trail under such ominous weather signs would border on foolish. Thus, we flipped out our books and read while Frank and Makenzie snuffled and shuffled through the undergrowth, following any one of ten thousand foreign scents. I hope I have half as much fun in the woods as my dogs appear to. 

Soon, the anticipated thunderstorm arrived, and pounded our little tent with giant drops for about ten minutes before tapering off into a steady rain. Frank is terrified of thunder to the point of neurosis, and although the thunder was not terrible close to our position, he shivered in fear under Andra's sleeping bag. 

The rain stopped, but the clouds did not break. We got out of the tent and walked down the trail as far as Sunshine Falls, a beautiful and unexpected waterfall along French Creek. We tarried here for some time in the cool afternoon air, finally determining to go no further. Back at camp, we cooked up some Ramen noodles for dinner and the dogs munched on kibbles.

The next morning the sun was shining again, but we allowed ourselves a nice leisurely morning of reading in the patches of sunlight that made it through the trees to our camp. We had initially thought of hiking down to the junction with the Silver Lake trail, which we figured was only about 2.5 miles away, but lethargy set in, and we settled on simply packing up camp and taking an easy hike out.

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