Nick and I drew up a one nighter to a high lake. We selected a lake with Southern exposure and called the Ranger Station for good measure. They confirmed that our lake of choice was free of ice.
Our gear piles just before packing up the bags the night before:
Camping in the Rockies can be very testing. Through the course of two afternoons and an evening you better be prepared for what Mother Nature is capable of up there. You just never know when her temper is going to flair... but when it does, be assured she brings the pain.
The way things turned out, we ended up needing every bit of our gear...
...and NOT slipping.
We reached the lake after a little wandering due to the snow throwing the trail. A compass a topo map and a little bit of manly intuition work wonders for these situations.
We brought Nick's new REI Halfdome 2 HC tent. He had used it the weekend before for the first time and had some concerns about it. He wanted to try it out again and get my opinion of it as well. Fine.
I had been itching to try camping with only the rain fly and the footprint, so that's how we set up. Right off the bat I didn't like how the rain fly set up.
Now, I consider myself pretty accomplished in the field of tent assembly, yet there was no way to get the sides of the fly taught. We tried tweaking the design, but there was just no answer. This spells very bad news for windy conditions.
Furthermore, the fly did not want to overlap very far over the footprint, nor did it come very close to the ground. These two attributes are red flags for an unpleasant experience in a hard rain storm. Hmm...
We both agreed right there that once we got home he would return the tent to REI and purchase the 3 man version of my battle tested warrior; The North Face's Rock 22. At that point the weather was overcast, but otherwise of no concern. We hadn't really considered the prospect that we might soon be testing the REI half dome against Miss Mother Nature's fire storm, whether we approved of our tent or not. Never mind that, there was lake to explore and brookies to catch!
The following is a completely candid photo. Nick's photo shooting skills just keep getting better and I love being the subject.
We began fishing by stalking the entire bank of the lake. Walking the entire bank of a new lake is great for mapping out the underwater topography of the lake and finding out where the fish are holding so you can concentrate your efforts wisely for the rest of your stay. I was pleased to see that there were bigger fish holding tight to the bank either underneath good cover or hanging out near the many inlets of runoff.
We approached a small spout of water pouring into the lake. We slowly crept our way over staying low and peering hard into the surrounding water. Sure enough, a dark spot was sitting motionless about 10 feet out directly under the moving water. I crawled into position and flipped out my rig; a stimulator with a drowned ant 8 inches below it. The current slowly pushed my flies over the fish's head...
Just for you Worm, we had packed a frying pan and seasoning to cook up a brookie. Everyone has been telling me that brookies taste excellent, so I figured I'd give it a go. This one measured 13.5 inches. I cleaned the fish on the spot and covered him in snow.
His stomach was virtually empty. I found mostly dirt and sticks in there with the exception of two tiny bugs that I can't identify. Feel free to fill me in via the comments section (Jim, paging Jim).
Here we see a shoal of shallow water that suddenly drops to deep. You better believe that trout like to hang out on that shelf:
Then came the rain...
We chilled under the rain fly for about an hour waiting for the rain to pass, but it just wouldn't stop. I got fed up with sitting around, threw on the Gore-Tex, and went out to fish in the rain. The fish were all over a woolly bugger swung through the current of the main inlet.
When we got hungry for dinner we found a tight group of trees to block the rain and cooked up dinner. We started with the brookie. We cooked it in olive oil with lemon pepper and garlic powder.
Only one problem... the Jet Boil was fouling. For some reason the fuel was coming out really weak and the flame was not getting nearly hot enough to heat the pan effectively. In addition, the wind was picking up and just the slightest gust was knocking the flame completely out. Trouble.
All I can say is thank God for the Crazy Creek. I learned about this tool from my professor, Mark Wagstaff, in my outdoor living skills class at Radford University. It's an extremely comfortable backpacking chair that has so many practical uses that, these days, I wouldn't be caught dead camping in the back country without one. The ever growing number of uses that we find for our crazy creeks has become an ongoing joke between my brother and me. We add to the count every time these things come in handy.
This time, we laid the Crazy Creeks on their sides at right angles and created a wind sealed area in the middle to cook our food in. Sadly, we had to pull the plug on the brookie because, with the Jet Boil malfunctioning, even with the wind protection, we were going to run out of fuel if we tried to cook the fish all the way. I took a few bites of the outer meat and it didn't taste very good. I believe that this was my first and last attempt at cooking fish while camping (sorry to let you down Worm, I tried).
We boiled water, made tortellini, ate and cleaned up. The rain was actually getting a little heavier and it was getting dark and quite cold seemingly premature. Not good.
I got a few more casts in.
Getting under the rain fly and into our warmer sleeping bags was the best option at that point.
Let the fun begin.
We filled the open gap between the fly and the ground with gear. We doubled the crazy creeks in half and used them to seal the gap above our heads. With nothing else to do, we laid and waited for sleep, but first came wind.
The wind came in surges. The surges could be heard first ripping over the barren peak above us, then down through the trees, and then the rain would momentarily pause and the gust would slam the tent. It felt and sounded like we were looping through a never ending car wash that prided itself on its drying blowers.
Some of the surges sounded so furious coming down the mountain that I would reach out of my sleeping bag and hold the rain fly for fear of it ripping out of the ground and soaring up into the night sky like a parachute trying to stop a missle launch.
But that never happened. While the wind flattened the fly on us like saran wrapped burritos a few times, the stakes stayed firmly in the ground. The poles flexed and rattled but did not break all night. The fly resisted the rain and kept us dry as well. The old REI half dome took a beating for 8 hours of wind and rain.
I don't know when it happened but the squall ceased in the late hours of the night. I finally fell asleep.
The next morning Nick and I woke up, cooked breakfast, broke camp and exchanged animated experiences from the nights festivities.
I fished a little bit more catching brookies on woolly buggers and clousers, and then we packed it out.
On the hike out we stopped at an area that Nick had spotted on the way in for some glassading.
The camping trip goes down in my book as the worst wind/rain storm I've ever experienced in a tent. While I've had much more pleasant camping experiences in the past, it's trips like this one that stick fresh in the memory bank and make for the best stories.
This evening ranks right up there with the hungry midnight bear encounter. That one happened with Worm in Virginia well before Tangler.Blogspot was around... maybe a collaborative writeup is in store...
A shot of Boulder on the way back in: