The end of June had brought hot temperatures to the mountains after a cool end to spring. Tanner and I discuss frozen lakes and large patches of snow fields that could impede our ambition to fish and walk far enough to get away from it “all” for a few days. I took a glance or two at a set of maps and scratched my head to find a route in Holy Cross; during that tricky time period where illprepared snow scouting could potentially underachieve the goals of a trip. Spending these four days in Lake Creek was about as perfect of a trip as perfect could get.
An indirect route to the Wilderness area boundary, but no complaints as the first few miles of trail around private property wind through a large Aspen stand and lush green flora. The only other person I will see for the next three days walks above.
Upon crossing the first bridge over Lake Creek, the trail enters a steady climb along a steep hillside inside the drainage. Trees and vegetation pile thick here but the roar of runoff never really leaves your ear.
Close to our camp where deadfall on uneven ground made for something improvised in close quarters.
My tarptent sits directly on the trail.
Downstream of the abandoned mine.
The private inholding of this mine still stands today. It has not been active since the 1930s. One could spend a solid few hours exploring the shafts and equipment, but because we’re two of the most law-abiding safety contentious citizens you could ask for, we resumed to hiking south on the tread laid before us.
The first of many bigger patches of snow to either navigate on, through or around, right near the mine. I had anticipated this to be true from past experience while trying to gain higher reaches of this same valley.
Twelve and thirteen thousand foot peaks crown the East Lake Creek valley. The drainage takes on a whole new view from here on south.
Near here another trail bridge (the last of its kind as we continued hiking) placed us back on the west side of the creek. To our surprise, several cuts on deadfall had been made within the past several years in this area.
The next creek crossing presents a challenge of balance and nerve. The old bridge has been washed out for years and parts of its skeleton lay directly next to the creek. Two options to consider just a few feet away from each other as a means to cross: A log jam or a dead and split tree lay in the creek. Instead of searching up or downstream of this puzzle, we opted to cross the old log. The beaver ponds and the calm water of downstream are long gone. The water turns violent again.
One or two huge avalanche paths fall straight from the peak of Mount Jackson. Large trees from past avy debris spread out across a significant plain.
Like so many other Wilderness trails in Holy Cross, the farther you move away from the trailhead, the fainter the path gets; eventually giving way to game trail and your own sense of navigation.
We began looking into deep pools and calm stretches of the creek. Not a single spotted fish this far upstream. In retrospect I should have expected this. East Lake Creek is too steep a stream with not a single deep lake to feed it.
A cow elk gives us a look as we continue walking up the valley (click the photo for a closer look). The “trail” comes and goes. Past cairns appear where there is no tread.
“Promise me that a better campsite will be up ahead.” I promised. Tanner was sick of hiking for the day. We decided to make camp near the photo above.
Later in the evening I decided to hike a little farther up the valley with my camera and fishing pole. Only the camera was used.
You’re on your own for distinguishing a path this far up. Larger patches of snow begin to crowd the ground.
The following morning we walked and climbed approximately 900 feet straight above from camp to discover a small amount of lakes that the shelf has to offer. In addition this would serve as scouting for the day I decide to come back and hopefully see them all.
Finally reaching the high alpine.
Hungry schools of cutthroat patrol the shore (as they always do) as soon as these lakes open up for the summer. Tanner did most of the fishing and most of the catching on the spinning setup while I showed my infantile struggles of tying knots and fidgiting with fly line. At last I too joined the action, but we spent way too little time up here. After cleaning we threw the fish in freezer bags full of snow and began hiking back down to our camp to pack up and head farther down the drainage.
Taking it in while we still could.
After a quick break down of camp, we started back down the stream and into the denser forest.
Enjoying last night at camp after eating fresh trout.