Ice off at 9000 feet

Originally published May 14th 2015

With the light snow this last winter I wanted to take an early shot at an alpine lake that I’ve been looking to fish. Noticing that the roads had opened I added the trip to my to-do and started gathering gear to prepare. It’s just a day trip but at over 9000 feet you don’t want to be unprepared in early May.

For this trip I wanted to take along my Jetboil stove and get the first in-field use from it. This plus water, rain gear, a few extra warm clothes, DeLorme InReach, and fishing gear all loaded into my pack for the trip.

Also along for the first time: a pair of hiking poles. The older I get the more I find my knees suffering and hoped that these would make it easier on them. The trail is only about a mile and a half in but climbs about 1500 feet in the process and I knew coming down was going to pound my knees mercilessly.

But first I had to get there. I headed out early in the morning and drove about 90 minutes to get to the area. Turns out the trailhead was pretty tricky to get to, being on the far side of a ribbon of creeks swollen with runoff. The hiking poles came in super handy here right off the bat and helped me cross a pretty sketchy wet log to get access to the trailhead without getting wet.

The trail up was pretty clear until about 9000 feet where I ran into snow. Still doable though and so close I knew there was no giving up now. Besides, the scenery was stunning.

Plowing on for another short while brought me to the lake. I was worried about the ice but there was enough free water around the perimeter to fish and they were looking for food. Not that the hike and scenery alone weren’t worth it but I was really excited to get into some fish.

I dropped the gear at the base of a dead tree and got rigged up. I’d brought my Echo carbon 4 wt for the trip and it was a perfect choice for this trip.

It took me a few tries with more “tactical” selections to realize that these little brookies weren’t picky and that twitching a parachute Adams in front of them was almost irresistible. After that I spent the next few hours working my way around the perimeter picking up the fish crushing the shoreline. It was a sight fishing game and far more fun than I expected to have.

Shortly after noon it started to threaten rain so I fired up the Jetboil and had a lunch of hot noodles, and a salted nut roll. The Jetboil did the trick nicely and made lunch quick and easy. Afterward I broke down the gear, and packed it up. As I descended it began to snow, eventually changing over to rain but just enough to convince me that it was a good idea to leave when I did.

The hike down was uneventful and the poles did indeed save my knees from abuse. Will be using them from now on and will definitely be coming back to this little jewel of a lake and the brookies living there.

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