Lawn Lake Backpacking

August 17th-19th, 2007

We finally got out on a little backpacking trip, my first of the summer. We had planned to hike into Thunder Lake with our friend James, but Thunder Lake was totally booked through September. So he arranged a permit for Lawn Lake and we went. His goal was photography. Ours was to hang out, fish, and eat. Which we pretty much did, despite the mediocre weather.

On Friday morning we got a late start hiking in, but were on the trail by 11am or thereabouts. Lawn Lake is about six miles from the trailhead with a fair bit of elevation, but we made the hike in no time. The weather wasn’t great, spitting rain and cloudy, but it cleared up by the time we reached our destination and set up camp. James hiked around the lake to take pictures; Apryle and I went down to the lake and fished for a bit…and I caught a fish on my second or third cast. It was my first fish caught fly-fishing, and a pretty fish at that: native greenback cutthroat. Exploring the stream below the lake, I actually caught a second We ate pizza for dinner and turned in just after dark.

IMG_5916.jpgSaturday started off really nice, sunny and cool. We hiked from Lawn Lake to Crystal Lake, a beautiful alpine tarn with the clearest water I’ve seen outside of Mexico. We paused on the way to take photos, enjoying the meandering trail. Crystal Lake isn’t visited as often as Lawn Lake (or some of the nearer destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park) so it was a neat place to see. We hung out for a while, trying to guess how deep the crystal clear water was and posing for some more photos. On our hike down we noticed some really interesting water bugs…looked very prehistoric. After some time examining our ‘trilobites’, we started back down towards camp.

james-taking-a-photo.jpg IMG_5923James wanted some hiking shots (he is a professional photographer) through some wildflowers on the way down, so we spent some time hiking through a wildflower bed cut by a stream with the spectacular backdrop of Mummy Mountain in the background. The sky was clouding over, though, and we had a sense that we were tempting fate.

The storm rolled in, not unannounced, but suddenly nonetheless. Thunder was booming between Mummy and Fairchild, lightning flashing every few seconds. I was counting three and four seconds from flash to crash when flash-BOOM! A bolt struck nearby…far too close for comfort. We took off running through the torrential downpour, water running down our pant legs, lightning flashing and thunder booming.

By the time we made it back to camp we were soaked. Should have brought rain paints. James had stayed behind (in full raingear) to shoot some ptarmigan we had spotted on the way down, but Apryle and I were more than damp. So we hung our clothes and hung out in the tent for a while. Apryle didn’t have anything else to wear; I had a pair of lightweight nylon shorts. The weather cleared up just a bit, so I headed down to the lake hoping to dry things out. There was a decent breeze but no sun, so I put on my wet pants and fished for an hour or so. Poor Apryle was wet, cold, and unhappy back at the tent when I returned, just as the second downpour began.

The rain let up enough for us to cook some tortellini, but overall it was a wet evening. Just before bedtime, the sky opened up once more and gave us a wild show of power, raindrops hitting our microfiber tent walls so hard that we could feel spray coming though on the inside. We fell asleep to a show of lightning in the distance, flashing against the dark clouds and lighting up our tent every minute or two like so many camera flashes.

Sunday was probably the best day of the trip. James got up early and had a great photographic morning, replete with wildflowers, bighorn sheep, and a few willing flyfishermen as models. Apryle and I made some pancakes and got a late start, first packing up the camp a bit then heading to the lake to fish. We had dried out, the weather was pretty good, and the fishing pretty darn great. Apryle caught a fish shortly after we met back up with James, a beautiful big cutthroat. Handy to have a professional photographer around when you catch a nice one! At the inlet to the lake, a thousand trout were in a frenzy, hitting the surface left and right. I hooked and landed a little one, a pretty fish nonetheless. Made for a really enjoyable morning.

IMG_5933.jpg IMG_5938.jpgOn the hike out, rain threatened and came down for a few minutes, but the day ended clear. Apryle caught a little greenback in Roaring River as James and I stopped along the trail. We caught some fish, made it through a nasty storm, and ended the trip in pretty good spirits.

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