[size=50]edited to add tunes
By the first week of September it was looking like I was not going to touch any cutthroat trout this year. I had tried once but didn't even get any eats.
Then I got a message from a friend I hadn't seen in about 15 years. We used to do a lot of fishing together; road trips, backpacking trips, all kinds of stuff. Life happened and he moved to Texas. His message asked about flies and some other things for a quick trip that he had coming up. Also, he invited me along.
I just had a trip fall through which opened up some availability for me so I jumped at the chance. The plan was for 3 of us to put all of our shit in backpacks and hike to some lakes for some
Backpacking is not something I do a lot of anymore, and I was sure that the miles, elevation gain, and heavy load would kick my ass. I also had a bigger concern. This trip was going to be near the end of September. That's pretty late for something like this. I was sure we would get snowed on.
As departure day approached we hadn't communicated much, but that didn't matter. I knew where the campsite was and I would see them there on the appointed day. The forecast looked good, amazingly good.
I'm not sure if, when I was younger, I had better backpacking ninja skills or if I just didn't feel the weight of my pack as much, but this go-round was different. My pack weighed about 200 lbs, maybe more. Years of car camping and rafting have instilled in me the opposite of the "fast and light" mantra.
Partly, I knew what I was doing to myself. It is definitely not a good idea to bring 5 big cans of hearty soup and a sixer of IPAs on a hike like this. That's pretty basic shit, but I didn't care. I like hot soup, and those beers would be some of the most rewarding I would ever have. I also wanted to surprise the boys with a couple cold ones.
As I assembled the pack at the trailhead I knew it would be heavy, but when I actually put it on I had a big "oh fuck, this is really going to suck" moment.
Fuck it. We're doing this.
The first mile or two wasn't bad. Steady incline, but didn't stop to rest. Around mile 2 things took a turn. I fucking hate when trail builders put stairs in trails. I know it's necessary for erosion control but I do not like hiking on them. The stairs are always too tall and weirdly spaced so you can't get a good cadence. They, and my 200 lb pack, kicked my ass.
I took lots of breaks, sometimes with only twenty steps in between. I just looked for good rocks to sit on where I could rest my pack and not have to take it off. I had thoughts of turning around. I considered dropping half my load and making two trips. But, camp was 7 miles in and I didn't want to turn that into 21 miles on the first day.
I pushed on, staring at the ground and thinking about how good those beers were going to be.
About 4 miles in I started to get wonky. Spotty vision, dizziness, unsteady legs. I took the pack off and ate some leftover chicken for lunch. That made me feel better. I also finished the last of my water. Uh oh.
Onward I trudged. More thoughts of cold beer, rising trout, and taking these fucking boots off. I was able to refill water around mile 5 (spam for good product - Steri Pen). Initially, I had been planning my day and thinking about what I would do with the rest of the afternoon after I made camp. Due to the clock and my fatigue, I had resigned myself that the sufferfest was all I was going to do that day. No evening rise, no nap by the shore. You're hiking all fucking day and that's it.
After 5 miles of stairs and steady uphill, I dropped into a wooded basin down a steep section of trail that brought me to the first lake. It looked a little swampy. 2 more miles to go. Fuck! It was brutal. I've done longer hikes, but this was without a doubt the toughest. Maybe it would have been different with only 100 lbs on my back.
I got to the campsite at 4:45pm. It had taken me 5.5 hrs. After taking off my boots I went down to the lake to pontificate. It didn't look that good and the wind was howling. Nope, not fishing tonight.
Around 5:30, the boys rolled in. We made 15 year catchup pleasantries, then bitched about the hike. I picked up one of their packs and threw it at them, disgusted with how light it was.
"Well, you guys ready to get high as shit?" I asked.
"Dude, we didn't bring any."
"Seriously? Ok, well I have plenty. What did you bring for booze? Whiskey?"
"Uh, we didn't bring any booze either."
"What the fuck? You know we're going to be here for 3 days, right? Well, don't worry about it. I have 6 beers and some vodka. I came prepared"
And so, we settled in.
The wind was still blowing hard after dark. It was cold and fires were not permitted. The boys lamented that they hadn't brought more clothing. I reached into my pack and put on my down coat over my hoody.
One guy was worried about sleeping in his hammock, the other about his 3 season tent.
"Well if you guys need to, you can get in my tent. It's a 3 person, 4 season."
We all slept fine. We just wanted that W to lay down.
The next morning was glorious. Cloudless and windless. We made breakfast. I had 1.3 lbs of chicken soup and a bagel. We had 4 lakes and a creek on the agenda for the day.
The first lake was cute and an easy hike from our base camp lake. We walked down a red ramp of kinnikinnik and immediately saw a group of rising fish.
Ten minutes later, we were all on the board.
We didn't stay too long. We still had 2 more miles to the upper lake. When we got up on the first bench everyone was just like, "Holy shit. Wow. Look at this place. This is fucking bad ass." We skipped the middle lake and pushed on, following game trails. The weather was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
[img]http://i1118.photobucket.com/albums/k604/undercare/bp/IMG_9779_zpsqedbjcfr.jpg[/img] [img]http://i1118.photobucket.com/albums/k604/undercare/bp/IMG_9780_zpsmzey2ypa.jpg[/img] [img]http://i1118.photobucket.com/albums/k604/undercare/bp/IMG_9936_zpsbfst1zd0.jpg[/img] [img]http://i1118.photobucket.com/albums/k604/undercare/bp/IMG_9927_zpstrkbzmfc.jpg[/img]
The next few hours were silly. "Teeming" would be a very appropriate word to describe the upper lake. It was game on. We couldn't take two steps without seeing a target to throw at. Every inch of shoreline had rising fish, and the entire shore was fishable. The fish were not big, 14" tops, but that didn't matter. They were suicidal. And fat. And beautiful. And native.
Doubles on dries all day. We probably doubled up 20 times. I think I could have caught a hundred if I wanted to. They ate everything I threw at them. I got bored catching the fish right at my feet and started going for the ones further out. We ignored the small fish and only cast at the larger, redder ones.
It was some of the best fishing I have ever seen. Pure silliness. But, we still had other items to check off the list. We took one last look at the lake.
One guy kept going up the valley to fuck around on some cliffs and shit. Me and the third guy off roaded down the creek, sampling it's bends and pools, downclimbing it's waterfalls.
We stopped at the middle lakes. Yep, they had fish too.
After re-grouping, we went back down to the cute lake.
I was finished. The boys fished a while longer, I went down to the camp lake. I caught a fish at the outlet. That was the last thing on my list. 5 lakes and a creek had produced for me that day. I opened my reward. It was worth every painful step I had taken the first day.
That night, we were elated. We had an incredible day. Alpine valleys are one of the most beautiful things on earth. On top of that, they hold some very special fish. It's an amazing angling experience that's right up there with fishing exotic foreign destinations.
I polished off the remaining poundage of soup. They helped me with the vodka. I threw a block of cheese into the woods. #leavenotrace
The next morning, we broke camp without ceremony. We hurried down the trail. I thought about where I was going for a beer and a burger on the way home.
We made it to the trailhead in just under 3 hours. I was beat.
After my friends drove away, I opened my fishing pack.
I found this.
I love my friends.[/report]