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Get Out: West Jenkins Wash
Call it the poor man’s spring break. Real poor. Or a pre-spring break break. West Jenkins Wash, just the other side of Dubois, is two months ahead of us, weather-wise. OK, it’s not much to look at, really, but right about now, when you’re jonesin’ for some dirt to sink your hiking boots into, this barren wasteland fills the bill.
I like slipping over the CD to the Dubois area. They don’t get much snow and what they get is gone with the first sign of the Chinook winds in January. This one time, I decided to explore the Wind River Indian Reservation on the outskirts of Dubois.
Driving east of Never Sweat, about 11 miles outside of town, you pick up the Wind River (on your left) and enter the Rez. About 6.5 miles later, just before Dinwoody, hang a left on this non-descript dirt road. There might be a sign calling this the W. Dinwoody Lake Road. I can’t remember. The road takes you over a bridge across the Wind River – which, outside of spring, is an ankle-deep wash at this spot – right at West Fork of Jenkins Draw. You are now on the Old Yellowstone Highway, technically, but you’d never know it. Park here.
This whole vast wasteland north of Highway 26 is like moon dust. Forget the Hollywood studio conspiracy – if the Apollo moon landing was faked, they staged it right here.
What I did was head right up the West Jenkins Wash with the intent of making a loop by coming out Coal Draw. East Fork Jenkins Draw opens up fairly wide as it accesses Sand Draw a few miles later. West Jenkins tightens as you travel into it. It reminds me a bit of southern Utah slot canyons, only instead of burnt orange sandstone everywhere it’s chalk white badlands.
You’ll find bighorn sheep in here a-plenty. I found two dead rams lying head-to-head as if they had died smashing into each other. Their huge ram curls were mighty tempting to poach but beware, if you’re caught on Rez land taking stuff or committing any crime, well, good luck with that. It’s like a gringo getting caught stealing a chicken in a remote Mexican village.
Supposedly, one can find relics of the natives’ existence in the mountains and valleys around Dubois, including prehistoric petroglyphs, hunting traps and blinds, and stone tepee circles. I’ve run across some tepee circles but not around here, specifically. (Any evidence in this area doesn’t last long.) These washes are washes for a reason. When downpours come, and I saw one in these washes that threw down monster hail piles in no time, water runs wild over the nonporous rock and sand.
So, once again, I’m not saying this is the most exciting outing you will have. It’s just different. After five months of not seeing terra firma, it is kinda nice to see, smell, and taste earth. Even if it does look like the surface of the moon.
NOTE: Our good friend Nick Centrella says the area referred to in this article is closed to non-tribal members. He states:
Jake Nichols article on page 56 of the March 6 to 12 issue of JH Weekly is ill informed, at best. A permit is required in the form of a fishing permit to “fish, camp, hike and picnic in (open or designated) areas of the Wind River Indian Reservation” (page 1 of the fishing orders). But the area he advocates hiking in is PERMANENTLY CLOSED to non tribal members, even with a permit.
A map of open areas in the fishing regulations clearly and emphatically states “Area North of the Wind River Closed to Non-enrolled Permit Holders”. Jake is sending hikers to areas closed to non-Shoshone or Arapaho people, even with a permit, which he doesn’t mention.
I confirmed this by calling the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fort Washakie at 307 332 7207 today. I have held a permit there for years and am familiar with what is open to non tribal people.
Fishing permits cam be purchased at Whisky Mountain tackle in Dubois and the Crowheart Store in Crowheart. They cost $20 a day or $80 for an annual.
Please ask Jake to check first before poaching, and advocating others to poach, closed areas. Blatant disregard of the Reservations rules might result in further closures to those of us who enjoy it legally. Thank You, Nick Centrella