|Mutt and Jeff
Range, southeast Wyoming
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August 31, 2013
Andra and I arrived at Brooklyn Lake, after a satisfying burrito lunch in Laramie, at 2:00. Itís best to get a much earlier start on a mountain hiking trip this time of year, and I spent a few seconds watching the dark clouds over Medicine Bow Peak. They didnít seem to be moving in any particular direction, just growing in all directions at once. We threw on our packs and tied orange bandanas around the dogsí necks and we were off, down the Sheep Lake Trail towards North Twin Lakes.
The trail was quiet and we didnít see any other hikers on the prowl. We passed through a band of thick forest, then gained more elevation towards North Twin Lakes. We passed several streams and ponds along the way, but the lateness of the season combined with a particularly dry summer had left the meadows yellowed and flowerless. We reached North Twin Lakes, and crossed the dry outlet channel. Several people were fishing around the west shore of the lake.
The hike to Mutt Lake starts and ends at about 10,600í, but in between there is a treeless 11,000 ridge to cross. The clouds to the west looked ominous and we hastened our pace to try to get up and over the ridge before the rain came. We didnít make it. Almost at the apex of the ridge, the icy rain came in sheets. We stopped and hurriedly slid on rain jackets and gloves. I wrapped my camera in a flannel shirt and shoved it in my pack. Makenzie and Henry, who shun baths and all cold-inducing conditions, seemed oddly unconcerned about the rain, and pranced along the trail as happy as ever.
After 15 minutes the rain moved on past, and we were able to take off our plastic rain jackets. We continued on the trail past the split to the Gap Lakes, heading north at the fork in the direction of Mutt and Jeff Lakes. The trail was vague in spots, but the general openness of the terrain allowed us to keep going in the right direction. The trail itself doesnít head directly to Mutt Lake, but passes it by several hundred yards to the east. As such, when we neared the lake, we left the trail and walked west through a few bands of spruces and over open tundra to the outlet of Mutt Lake. Just beyond, we found a spot in the trees to set up the tent, which we did so immediately in case there were other storm clouds lurking about.
After we set up the tent and hung the food, it did indeed start raining again. We retreated to the tent and pulled out our books and read. The dogs sulked. Actually, laying in a tent and reading a book while itís raining in the forest is a fantastic pleasure. You really appreciate your tent in such cases. All it takes is a submillimeter layer of nylon, some down sleeping bags and a couple of pads to create a fantastically comfortable bubble of home in the wilderness. We read for a bit, then both fell off to sleep to the sound of pattering raindrops on the tent rainfly. I didnít keep track of time, but after some interval of napping I awoke and the rain had stopped. Andra was still asleep so I led the dogs (not that they needed any persuasion) out to the lake, where I fished for a while. I not only failed to catch any trout, I didnít even see any trout, nor any ripples that would indicate their presence. Not sure if there are even any fish in Mutt Lake, as it is seems awfully shallow to support a trout population through winter. On the other hand, I've been fooled many times into thinking a lake is fishless, only to hear of somebody else raking in a boatload on some other day when the fish were a little less timid. Well, at worst I got some nice fly casting practice.
I returned to the tent, where Andra was
reading, but comfortable and cozy in her down bag and she made it pretty
clear she was content with reading. The afternoon was growing dim, so I
retrieved our hanging bag of food and cooked up some ramen for dinner.
It was breezy and chilly, so I set up kitchen behind a large flat boulder
amongst some spruce trees. When dinner was ready, Andra joined me and we
ate. The dogs ate their kibble. After cleaning up, we took a walk around
Mutt Lake and the clouds broke up a little to let in some very orange evening
light. Very pretty. As dark fell, we slipped back into the tent and, despite
napping away a large chunk of the afternoon, had no trouble at all falling
off to sleep.
In the morning, I woke before daylight to Makenzie pacing. I let her out of the tent to do her business, then we all slept another hour or two. Once the sun was up, I got up with the dogs and we retrieved the food, then headed out into the open field where the sun was shining brilliantly to heat some water. It was a cold morning, but the sun felt great. The stove hissed in the quiet meadow as I fired it up, and it was so quiet out I felt like I could probably have heard the stove hissing away on the other side of the lake. Andra joined me with uncanny timing right as the water was boiling for coffee. We slurped our steaming cups of coffee and nibbled on blueberry frosted Pop Tarts, real mountain-man food.
After breakfast we loaded up a few items in my pack and walked over to Jeff Lake. Andra found a comfortable rock to sit on and read. I fished for a bit, but the shallow, clear water reminded me a lot of Mutt Lake, as did the general lack of any sign whatsoever that fish lived here. I reeled in the line after a few minutes and suggested we walk south to Deep Lake, a spot Iíd been to before and remembered as a likely spot to encounter a trout or two. So, we walked back past camp, and down the hill to Deep Lake.
Two men were camped on the far side of the lake, and were in the process of taking down their tent when we appeared. Andra found a good flat rock to hang out on and read, and I began fishing the shore in a clockwise direction. Deep Lake certainly seems like a likely spot to find some trout. After an hour or so of no results with any fly I could think to try, and without seeing any sign of trout in the clear, deep water, I gave up and walked back around the lake to where Andra was sitting. We returned to camp and packed things up, eager to get back to the car before getting caught in the rain like we had the day before.
With packs on, we left around 11:00, retracing our steps back towards the car. We encountered loads of hikers on their way in. We stopped at North Twin Lakes where I tried fishing both lakes for awhile, again without success. A Just a bad day for fishing, I guess. We walked easily along the last leg of the hike, returning to Brooklyn Lake about 2:00. The parking lot was overflowing, with cars lining the road for ¼ mile. Maybe the fishing was bad because the trout had heard it was Labor Day Weekend.
Starting the hike at 2:00 under a threatening sky