A weekday evening seemed liked a good time to hit a few lakes that I’ve had on my Eagles Nest list for a few years. Salmon and Willow lakes are some of the closest and easiest to access high alpine lakes from the town of Silverthorne.

After dropping my pack off at the Willowbrook trailhead, I drove my car a half mile down to one of the 72 hour parking lots. Overnight parking is not allowed at the true trailhead, so I took the opportunity to scarf down my bagel and cream chee, while walking through the urbanite spice of the neighborhood.

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The Gore Range Trail follows the east hand side of Eagles Nest Wilderness for nearly its entire length. The trail gives easier access to many of the more popular, but also remote drainages of the Gore.

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Trees long infested with pine beetle proliferated along this side of the range.

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Autumn creeping in, but flowers still abundant.

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I hadn’t seen the sun since I hit dirt. One brief shower moved through on my way up to the lakes.

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The spires above Willow Lakes are named after nine of the twelve astrological signs, Aires being the tallest at 12,680′.

I made camp at a decent hour and watched small fish surface for tiny insects that evening; also chewing on beef jerky and popping peanut butter M&M’s while continuing to scout the topography into South Rock Creek and the surrounding area. Light rain fell later that evening, but the only occasional grumble from the sky came from the airline industry.

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After morning camp routines and breakfast, another brief shower passed. The sky remained cloaked, but the earth dried quickly enough for me to begin some boulder hopping soon after.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A shortcut to make my way up to Salmon Lake.

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East Thorn Peak (13,333′) and Mount Silverthorne (13,357′)

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The beginnings of my ascent up the shoulder of Rain Peak.

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Ruby Lake as seen from the Pass of Rain Peak. Everything in this photo looks way smaller than what it actually is.

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I dropped down into the South Rock drainage just as soon as a solid two hours of rain came through. I followed heavily used elk trails to descend to Ruby Lake; a lone cow raced passed fifty yards out in front of me, then disappeared into the forest further down below.

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There is no formal or informal human trail here. The drainage is in good parts a swamp and the terrain can get thick and bluffed out quickly. I did my fair share of zigzagging through heavy vegetation and trees, water and rock. The evidence of any human impact here is zero.

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Making my way towards the crown of the drainage and another shallow body of water.

After seeing what the remaining flat valley had to offer, I still had aspirations of climbing higher.

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An unnamed lake sits tucked into a massive boulder field below Mount Valhalla (13,180).

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I made camp on a shelf near the talus field behind the unnamed lake. The clouds began to open up, and the sunlight danced around for the remainder of the evening until dark.

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Each time I stepped away from camp to take more photos, the sunlight looked even more dramatic upon the clouds and the peaks than the last time out. It was times like these where I wish I had invested money into a better camera, and time into a better knowledge of photography. It’ll happen someday.

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I believe this to be Sleet Peak.

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I could never get sick of it.

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Looking west as the sun sets.

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Looking east as it then rises.

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West is the best.

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As quickly as I packed up camp, clouds and thick fog rolled over the valley and began to settle in for the next few hours. I made a steep plunge from my shelf of bliss.

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I was psyched to see this beautiful bull run out in front of me, and eventually disappear up the hillside. I watched as it twisted and turned its head as to avoid snagging his spread on the surrounding trees.

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The bushwhack downstream was eased by choosing a smoother and more informed line … and also by the abundance of raspberries. I could’ve baked a pie.