The Wind River Range

“Remote” backcountry place popular with climbers, backpackers, and fisherfolk.

I write “remote” in quotes because there were easily over 100 cars in the Big Sandy Trailhead parking lot when I arrived. A bit shocking after an hour spent driving in on “Am I in the right place?” kind of dirt roads.

The Trip: Drive (8 Hrs) > hike (5 Hrs) >camp (4 days) > climb 1,000+’ faces (x2) > hike out (4 hrs) > Drive home

On Distances

My climbing partner is a sponsored athlete for a smartwatch company. Her watch measured all kinds of cool metrics, from atmospheric pressure to total fitness recovery level. But she didn’t even turn it on to measure the GPS track in or out.

So I can’t offer you much except to say, both in & out, it felt pretty far.

Final pass.

In Quick

The purpose of our visit was to climb some peaks, so we packed in two ropes, a load of protection, shoes & harnesses in addition to all of our camping gear and food for five days. Water, luckily, is abundant in the range, so we filled up and used filtration at natural streams. Still, as you can see from the photo above, the packs were heavy and the trail was long.

We arrived right at sunset, just as the winds shifted and decided to bring us a thick blanket of wildfire smoke. Sadly, it seems this will be the new normal for the American West in summer. We dealt with it last year. We deal with it today. Our children, I fear, will know nothing else.

But in the near past

We camped, we climbed (perfect weather), we rested, and we climbed again. Under mutual agreement, tired & satisfied with our winnings, we left a day early.

Be Mindful Of The Story You Are Telling Yourself

I sit here now, trying to find the story of this trip. A thru-line; a gimmick. An angle to take. I could describe the climbs, certainly — but trip reports in the purest sense bore me to death. We rocked up; we climbed. At times it was scary. We wandered left-to-right across massive rock faces, almost totally lost. At times silly. I carried a loose rock from belay to belay. Often frustrating. We drank strong whisky to animate us for the last pitch. On the summit, a dram more.

Scenes my partner and I have both lived plenty of times.

But the truth may be there is no lesson in this trip. No epic story. No lightning-bright moment of profundity. Just some climbs, a beautiful place, and a good friend. Some golden moments spent in the present, without worry.

This makes for bad content, of course.

But perhaps a good life.

The dirt and plants growing out of the crack is a sure sign this isn’t often climbed. “I think we’re lost!”

Pingora Peak in the background (right)
Cowboy & horse at Big Sandy Lake

In Closing

When your biggest concern for the day is “which meal am I gonna eat?” life is pretty good.

Be well,

Dan

How To Travel the World Indefinitely With an Ultralight, 18-Liter Backpack

Hola Ustedes! Como estan?

I’ve been in Colombia for the past five weeks, primarily practicando mi español (still bad, but getting better). I’ve been living, working, and traveling with only an 18-liter CamelBak Cloud Walker pack. My father gave it to me four years ago, for my 20th birthday. It’s been on countless trails, climbs, and adventures with me. Now, it’s taken me all across Colombia.

Everyone I meet has been amazed at the size of this bag.

Since I get asked about my pack so often, I’ve written a detailed breakdown of exactly what’s inside it, as well as my reasoning. I’ve also included a downloadable packing list for your own use.

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Nepal 29: Bus From Kathmandu to Pokhara

Bus From Kathmandu to Pokhara

The bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara takes eight hours.

It travels a distance of 126 miles (203 kilometers).

Why does it take eight hours to travel 120 miles?

That’s a simple answer: the roads in Nepal terrible, the drivers are worse, and the whole dance takes place smack in the middle of the most mountainous terrain that exists on planet Earth.

Watching out the window for all eight hours of the trip, I had a front-row ticket to his terror.

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Backpacking Singapore’s famous Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands hotel at night

We were the only people wearing backpacks in the check-in line at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s most famous 5-star hotel. All around us were businessmen in slick suits, Indian families on holiday and wealthy Korean socialites. Shiny, wheeled suitcases abounded, sliding silently across the perfectly polished floor of the Marina Bay Sands’ immaculate lobby.

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And then there’s us: two very young Americans, soaked in sweat and baggy under the eyes, with these huge scruffy backpacks sticking up above our heads; looking up at the impossibly high lobby ceilings, with their suggestive curving lines and beautiful architecture. We were starstruck.

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Probably looking something like this.

A five star hotel isn’t a traditional backpacker– or even flashpacker– destination. But this was the Marina Bay Sands— it is THE touristy thing to do in Singapore. It has the world’s highest rooftop infinity pool. The supertrees at the nearby Gardens By The Bay were one of the first things we agreed we wanted to see, a year ago when we first started discussing travel. And, it was Polly’s birthday.

So I booked a night in the cheapest room at the Marina Bay Sands.

The cheapest room at a five-star hotel is not cheap. In fact, I paid as much for one night at the Marina Bay Sands as it costs to rent a lower-end serviced apartment in Chiang Mai for a month. But sometimes in life, you have to go big. This was one of those times.

The benefit to looking out-of-place

After quickly reaching the front of the check-in queue, we were greeted by a very friendly clerk, who asked us if we were backpacking around Asia. “Traveling,” we said. “It’s my birthday,” Polly told him. “My great boyfriend over here bought us a night here as a birthday present.” “Good present!” he said, and upgraded us to a 51st-floor suite with a view of the bay.

Sometimes, looking out of place can make things happen for you.

Sometimes, it just makes you feel awkward as hell in Malaysia.

A suite at the Marina Bay Sands

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Now in possession of a suite for the price of a simple deluxe room, we giddily headed to Tower 3, where we used our RFID room card to gain access to the upper floors (exclusiveeeee).

We were floored when we walked into the room. Coming from tiny backpacker rooms on Ko Lanta and Ao Nang, to THIS, was more than we could handle.

The suite consisted of a big lobby area with a couch, chairs, and big screen TV, and a wall of windows looking out into Singapore Harbor, where dozens of ships were docked. There was a small– very small– balcony you could walk out on. For a couple of landlocked kids like ourselves, this was an amazing sight.

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The living room was separated from the bedroom by two large sliding doors. In the bedroom, the wall of windows continued. A plush, king-size bed commanded the room, facing a second, slightly smaller TV. All the lighting and drapes could be controlled from switches on either side of the bed.

In the bathroom: a huge bathtub, two sinks (godsend for couples), an opaque toilet cubicle (complete with a wall-mounted phone), and a rainfall shower. Toiletries and puffery out the ears, of course. There was also a huge walk-in closet and massive safe, but we honestly had no use for that. All our possessions fit on our backs.

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The room was so cool it was tough to convince ourselves to leave it and actually go see the city. You could easily spend a week in Singapore without ever needing to leave the Marina Bay Sands complex— provided you had the money to burn. The area has a high-end Vegas vibe and is priced accordingly.

The Skypool at the Marina Bay Sands

We didn’t have a week, we only had one night; so we had to jam as much as we possibly could into that one night.

First stop: the famous Skypool on top of the building. Visitors willing to pay a small fee can access the restaurant, bar and observation deck on top of the Marina Bay Sands, but pool access is a privilege reserved exclusively for hotel guests. You can be damn sure we were going to take advantage of it, and get those Instagram photos.

To be honest, I never did nail “the shot” from the skypool. I got a lot of good ones, but no one definitive image. So I’m just going to post a gallery.

The pool area’s actually quite large, stretching on for 300 meters. It is pretty crowded, but we didn’t find it obnoxiously so. There were few enough people that your personal space could still exist, something which you can’t always take for granted in Asia. We were able to grab pool loungers or a spot in one of the three hot tubs without any trouble.

Unfortunately it was pretty chilly while we were there, so we didn’t spend too much time in the pool, which was apparently calibrated to help beat those sweaty tropical nights. We spent most of our time in the hot tubs, which don’t have such spectacular views.

At night, they put on a fireworks and laser show in the marina, which you can view from the infinity edge— an experience sure to make you feel like you’re “on top of the world!”

The Casino

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We lost some money in the casino. I tried to take a picture but got yelled at and then followed by a guy in a suit. As you can see, it wasn’t a very good picture. Not worth the yelling. Turns out I’m a bad gambler no matter which continent I’m on.

The Gardens By The Bay

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We went at 1 a.m. just to check out the Supertrees— this is a cool, free activity which is also open until late at night! Singapore’s reputation for extreme safety had us feeling fine strolling through the deserted Gardens in the middle of the night.

The Supertrees aren’t to be missed. They are huge, man-made megastructures, covered in lattices for vines and other tropical plants to grow on. Additionally, the trees are models of sustainable engineering. They have open funnel tops, which serve as water reclaimers: they capture rainfall, which is then recycled. The wonderful purple lighting comes from solar power collected by panels installed on the trees themselves.

The tallest supertrees are 50 meter (150 feet) tall. For a small fee, you can go up and walk between two of the tallest trees on a skywalk (we didn’t do this).

In addition to the supertrees, the Gardens By The Bay boasts an impressive collection of international flora. Sadly, we didn’t have much time to experience this, but those into plants and gardning would find a lot to like in this attraction.

In Conclusion

Despite taking a significant chunk out of the budget for one night, I don’t regret staying a night at the Marina Bay Sands. Our free upgrade to a suite definitely colored my experience, but I think I would have been just as blown away by the simplest room this hotel offers. I can’t imagine anything here being bad.