Five weeks in Dubois, Wyoming…
Why we came…
To hike, backpack, and fish the incredible Wind River and Absaroka Mountains.
Continental Divide, elevation 9,584ft, at Togwotee Pass / Two Ocean Mountain, 10,724ft high
The badlands and Absaroka Mountains near Dubois, WY
We stayed at The Longhorn Ranch. Though a bit expensive, you get what you pay for. The full hook-up gravel sites are level, long, and have plenty of space between neighbors. A few of the sites back right up to the Wind River which has good trout fishing…I caught at least 15 rainbows and browns! Mature cottonwood trees provided welcomed afternoon shade but would make satellite reception tricky in a few sites. Facilities were clean and well maintained. It was usually very peaceful. We really liked the little western town of Dubois (elevation 6,946ft, population 971). We would gladly come back!
Sunset over the Wind River at The Longhorn Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming
Arleen, Mary, and Heather / Family of Canadian geese
Hike Route to Lake Louise / A pretty little brook trout
On 8 July we hiked to Lake Louise with Mary, Heather, and Jean.
Mary, Arleen’s sister, Heather, her niece, and Jean, a friend joined us on our first adventure. We started at the Glacier Trail head and hiked about two and a half miles and a thousand up to Lake Louise, elevation 8,400 feet. The climb was steep in some sections. The glacier carved terrain is extremely rugged and composed of nearly vertical smooth cliffs sparsely dotted with pine trees. Unless you are a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, there is only one way in and out of the canyon!
The lake and the surroundings were spectacular! I was fishing and catching a bunch of pretty little brook trout when I felt like I was being watched. I looked up at the cliff a hundred feet above me and spotted five big horn sheep, three ewes and two lambs. They watched us for about 15 minutes and posed for pictures…it was a real treat!
Initially, we had it all to ourselves. Then 15 Cincinnati high school football players showed up. It was quite shocking to go from peace and tranquility to the rowdiness of testosterone-filled young men!Then the team’s leader asked if we minded if his guys jumped in the lake…REALLY?!? Apparently they did this right of passage every year. We said sure, and gave them room to do their thing. One by one, they jumped in the freezing water, whooping and hollering, and quickly climbing out…it was entertaining!
Heather, Jean, Arleen, and Mary next to raging Torrey Creek / Heather on the Torrey Creek bridge
Heather, Arleen, Jean, and Mary headed up to Lake Louise / Heather at Lake Louise
A rainbow trout from Lake Louise’s outlet / Three bighorn sheep keeping an eye on us
The ladies taking a siesta / Arleen, me, Jean, Heather, and Mary at Lake Louise
Togwotee Pass hike route / A tiny frog on the snow near Togwotee Pass
On 9 July we hiked around Togwotee Pass and toured historic Brooks Lake Lodge…
We took Mary and Heather to Togwotee Pass to hunt for mushrooms. Though it was the second week of July, there was still some snow around the 9,500 foot high pass. The area is known to have a healthy grizzly bear population so we made sure to let them know we were there…we did not want to surprise them! The wild flowers were incredible. We found various kinds of fungi, but nothing that we’d eat. Thankfully we didn’t surprise any grizzlies!
We hopped in the truck and made a short tour to Wind River Lake. The ladies picnicked while I fished. Though I saw a few small brook trout, I couldn’t tempt them to bite my fly. Arleen spoke to a touring cyclist who was in his 60s that had started his cross-country adventure in Virginia. He gladly accepted a Gatorade and shared some of his inspiring story. We love meeting folks like this!
Then we took the back route to Brooks Lake. The narrow, winding, rough dirt road was tricky to navigate…thankfully it was mostly dry! There were a couple of sections in which a mistake would have resulted in a fiery death. The views over the Wind River valley were beautiful. We arrived at the impressive Brooks Lake Lodge and asked if we could have a tour…we were invited in! We learned that the way we drove in was the original route to the parks in the 1920s. Travelers from back east took the train to Cheyenne and Lander and then wagons or autos to Brooks Lodge on the way to the Tetons and Yellowstone. The lodge, built in 1922, was constructed by the same team as the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. The manager graciously showed us around and answered our questions. She pointed out the original part of the lodge and explained the additions. The lodge is impressive and has an interesting history. We were thankful for the tour. We will stay there someday if we have a lot of extra cash!
Arleen, Mary, and Heather at Togwotee Pass / Arleen, Heather, and Mary navigating through willows
Mary, Heather, & Arleen with Two Ocean Mountain in background / The ladies posing with various fungi
Me fishing Wind River Lake near Togwotee Pass
Mary pointing out last year’s rock slide near Brooks Lake / The upper Wind River Valley
The ladies lounging at the Brooks Lake Lodge / The view of Brooks Lake
Double Cabin hike route / Brook trout in a small stream
On 10 July we hiked the Double Cabin area…
Mary wanted to share her favorite area with us: Double Cabin on the Wiggins Fork at 8,100 feet. The good dirt road heads north out of Dubois and winds for about 25 miles into the incredible Absaroka mountains. Two impressive drainages meet at Double Cabin: Frontier Creek and Wiggins Fork. The wide valley is relatively level and the river braids into numerous channels. After the mountain snow melts and run-off subsides, it’s easy to cross the river to access miles of trails. Unfortunately, the river was still too high for us to cross, but we followed the river downstream for a nice hike. We were in a bit of a hurry to beat thunderstorms and make it back for a BBQ so we kept it short. The were hundreds of cows! We had to herd them to get back to the truck. We didn’t cross any bulls, but as we snacked at the truck, a huge one slowly made its way toward us. Thankfully, he chose a different route and left us alone. The flowers, especially the bright yellow Lanceleaf Stonecrop, were very pretty. We could see why this is Mary’s favorite spot!
Mary, Heather, and Arleen in the Wiggins Fork River valley
Hike route to Upper and Lower Jade Lakes / A 19 inch cutthroat trout!
On 12 July we hiked to Upper and Lower Jade Lakes…
We started this hike at Brooks Lake and did a six mile loop to fish Upper and Lower Jade Lakes. It’s a relatively easy two miles with six hundred feet of climbing to the upper lake at 9,500 feet. There were beautiful flowers and the views were amazing. We made the final quick descent to the green colored lake and spotted nice cutthroat right away! As is often the case, the fish we could see had no interest in our offerings. We got a couple of hits fishing the deeper water, but couldn’t hook ‘em. Clouds were building so we quickly scampered a mile to the bigger, lower lake at 9,400 feet. I made a couple of casts from a steep point and hooked a big 19 inch cutthroat…it was a nice trout! Distant thunder rumbled so we hustled the last three miles back to the truck. Thankfully the thunderstorms kept their distance. The Brooks Lake area is spectacular…one of our favorites!
Brooks Lake, the lodge, and the Wind River Mountains
Fishing Upper Jade Lake
Brooks Lake and The Pinnacles
Arleen pointing at Pelham Lake with Sublet Peak in the background / Fighting a lunker!
On 14 July we fished Pelham Lake…
Pelham Lake has special regulations and is known for big cutthroat trout. We had hoped to get the kayaks on the water, but the final quarter mile of “road” was way too rough. We put on our waders and hiked to the pretty lake that sits at 8,800 feet in the shadow of Lava Mountain.
It didn’t lake long for us to spot a heavy splash from a big fish. I had a hard time fly-fishing because of the wooded banks. Arleen had no problem casting a small spoon with spin gear. Sure enough, on her third cast, she hooked a lunker! Initially she thought she was snagged, but the “snag” started moving. The battle lasted a few minutes as she gingerly fought it on thin 4-pound test line. The 20 inch cutthroat was blushed red…it was pretty! We made our way to some rocks that gave me some casting room and I hooked a couple of trout, but nothing like Arleen’s lunker. Unfortunately, distant thunder forced us to head back early. Pelham Lake is special. It grows big cutthroat trout. It’s difficult to fish from the bank so drag a float tube or canoe down to the lake and hold onto your rod!
Fishing Pelham Lake
Fighting a nice one with The Pinnacles in the background
A 17 inch cutthroat trout / A 20 inch cutthroat trout!
A young Pronghorn near Union Pass
On 15 July we fished Lake of the Woods and checked out Union Pass…
Union Pass is a fairly decent dirt road that traverses the north end of the Wind River range. The route was initially blazed by fur trappers in the 1800s and of course, Indians before that. It climbs steeply out of the Wind River Valley and stays mostly in coniferous forest until you reach about 9,000 feet where it opens into huge meadows filled with flowers. The mile and a half spur route to Lake of the Woods is very rough…not recommended for passenger cars. Forest rangers told us that the good-sized lake at 9,200 feet, grows big arctic grayling. We spoke to some campers that had caught “seven nice brookies”. And what did we catch? A 15 inch and a 17 inch cutthroat trout! The winds were strong so we were limited to fishing a protected point, however, much of the bank was lined with trees which made it difficult to fly-fish. With grayling, brookies, and cutthroat, Lake of the Woods would be a pleasure to fish on a calm day with our kayaks!
Arleen fly-fishing Lake of the Woods / A 15 inch cutthroat trout
Beautiful fields of flowers near Union Pass
Arleen hiking up the Whiskey Mountain trail in the Wind River Mountains
17-19 July we backpacked to Ross Lake…
It’s a tough route to Ross Lake! The trail climbs about 3,000 feet the first three miles, then undulates up and down around 10,200 feet elevation for the next three miles, and finally drops steeply 800 feet the last mile. The vista high on Whiskey Mountain is incredible! Unfortunately, smoke from fires in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho really hampered the view. As we roller-coastered up and down at 10,200 feet through stands of pines and open meadows, I spotted some fresh morel mushrooms! We dropped our packs a couple of times to hunt for more and ended up with a pound! Later that evening, Arleen cut the morels into big pieces, dry sautéed them, and added them to our dehydrated chicken teriyaki meal. It was a real treat!
The bulk of the steep drop to the lake occurs the first quarter mile. It switchbacks down a very rocky trail that was really tough with 40 pound backpacks. Our trekking poles are invaluable on these dangerous sections. We were relieved to safely make the final short drop to the lake shore and dropped our packs. While I replenished our water supply, Arleen hunted for a camp spot. Surprisingly, she took off across a boulder field, which she hates, and found a great spot! We donned the heavy backpacks and slowly traversed the boulder field. It’s hard enough without the packs, but on tired legs and with the packs, it’s dangerous. However, it all went well and we were thankful to set up our home for the next two nights. The mosquitos were horrible, but our head nets made it tolerable. Before we climbed into the tent, I hung the smelly stuff out of the reach of bears. We wearily laid down, and though exhausted, had a hard time sleeping. I’m a bit paranoid about bears, and while I laid there, a plethora of noises kept me alert. Thankfully, we didn’t have any big four-legged visitors!
The smoke wasn’t quite as bad the next morning…it was glorious! We planned to find a rarely visited geocache that was just .6 miles from our camp site. However, the cache had a terrain rating of “5”…the hardest rating. The first .4 miles was ok as we followed a barely discernable trail along the lake’s shore. Then the rocky terrain forced us up and over a small hill and we dropped steeply to Torrey Creek. We hit the raging creek, looked upstream, and discovered a hundred foot waterfall! We were out of options and had to turn around. The geocache was a “did not find”…we were stopped within a tenth of a mile!
When we got back to the lake, I slipped into fishing mode. Arleen tasked me to catch dinner and I wanted to make her happy! I waded through shin-deep cold water to cast from big rocks. I threw grasshopper flies along a drop-off and got a bunch of sniffs from nice rainbow trout. Only 2 or 3 trout hit the fly and I landed just one nice 15 incher. I carved it up, put it in a plastic bag, and sunk it in the cold water. Strong winds prevented me from trying other flies and methods. I’m sure I would find a fly more to their liking…perhaps a floating beetle fly?
I fished hard the rest of the way back. The trend continued: lots of close looks at my floating grasshopper fly, but no takers. I worked my way past our camp site, but the boulder fields made it slow going. I finally found a decent spot a little protected from the wind, changed my tactics, and hooked a couple. Each one of them got off before I got my hands on them! Was I going to let Arleen down?!?
I got back to camp and I told Arleen that I only had one trout for dinner. She moved the “kitchen” down to the lake and started preparing dinner. While she cooked the one trout, I hooked another! I landed the nice 17 incher, carved it up, and Arleen put it in the frying pan…now that’s fresh fish! It was still windy, but that grounded the annoying mosquitos. The two trout with macaroni and cheese were tasty and filling…it was almost too much food! The meal was messy and smelly…my paranoia of bears ratcheted up a notch. It stayed windy that night and the chorus of noises kept me alert.
We woke up the next morning, had a nice breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail. Though tiring, we had an easier time climbing out of the lake canyon. We got to the top, dropped our packs, and hunted for morel mushrooms for about 45 minutes. We found a pound just two days prior and were confident we would find more…nope! As we traversed the rolling high section of trail, we dreaded the looming three thousand foot final drop. We took consistent breaks about every 30 minutes, and got back to the truck thoroughly worn out. Our bodies were worn out…it took us two days to recover!
Satellite view of the Ross Lake area / Morel mushrooms and forget-me-not flowers
Arleen at 10,200ft on Whiskey Mountain…it was smoky from fires in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington / Starting the steep drop to Ross Lake…a small portion of the two mile long lake is center left
At Ross Lake…Traversing a boulder field with a 40 pound backpack is TOUGH!
Fresh morels! They were great in a dehydrated chicken teriyaki meal. Note Arleen’s mosquito net. / Camped near Ross Lake / Smelly stuff hung out of bear’s reach
Arleen at Ross Lake on a glorious morning
Being silly near Torrey Creek below Ross Lake. Chose a poor route to a geocache…didn’t find it
A 15 inch rainbow trout that we ate for dinner / Mosquitoes trapped between the tent and the rain fly
Arleen approaching our high point on Whiskey Mountain
Posing at 10,200ft on Whiskey Mountain…Hidden Lake is on the left
Upper Brooks Lake on 22 July
On 22 July we hiked to the Upper Brooks Lakes…
We went back to explore one of our favorite areas: the Brooks Lake valley. We started at Brooks Lake and hiked three miles to Upper Brooks Lake, elevation 9,100 feet. On the way, we met two other hikers, known by their trail names: “Unbreakable” and “No Trace”. The inspiring couple has been married over 40 years and doing through-hikes each year since 2008. Last summer they hiked the southern half of the Continental Divide Trail, and this summer they are completing the northern half. It was a real pleasure talking to them. Check out their trail journals:
We arrived at Upper Brooks Lake and spotted some nice trout cruising the shallows. Initially they ignored my grasshopper fly, but two big rainbows gently sipped in my floating beetle fly…I failed to hook them both!
We walked another mile to the next lake, elevation 9,200 feet. The banks were thickly wooded making it hard to fly-fish. We spotted bear tracks, bear poop, and bear fur as we walked the shore. I briefly fought a solid fish before breaking it off. Because that lake was difficult to fly-fish, we decided to head back to the lower lake. Again I targeted large rainbows slowly cruising the shallows. I hooked one on a floating beetle fly that I estimated to be over 20 inches, that took off on a blistering run before breaking me off again. I worked my way to the lake’s inlet stream and began fishing deep and slow. TUG…I hooked another solid fish! I fought it for three or four minutes and never saw it while it stayed deep. And then, it got off! I was something like 0 for 6 and they were all good fish…What the heck?!? We started heading back and I told Arleen that I was in “stalk mode”. If I spotted a trout, I would stop and go for it. Sure enough, I plopped my beetle ahead of a shallow cruising trout, he slowly rose and slurped it up…fish on! The good-sized rainbow trout took off on a couple of blistering runs, but I finally landed it. The heavy fish was 19 inches long! That one beautiful trout made up for the earlier missed opportunities…it was a successful day!
Hike route to the Upper Brooks Lakes / “Unbreakable” and “No Trace”
Upper Brooks Lake and the Pinnacles / A fat 19 inch rainbow that hit a floating beetle fly
Me, Arleen, Phyliss, and Alan at Bog Lake on 23 July
On 23 July we went to Bog Lake with Phyliss and Alan…
We met Alan and Phyliss over two years ago at Sugarite State Park (our blog link) in northern New Mexico. Now they were camped west of Dubois so we met the evening prior and had a great dinner together. We convinced them to accompany us on an adventure. The goal was Bog Lake, north of Dubois in the Absaroka mountains. The Forest Service folks assured us that the five mile road would be decent if it was dry. Thankfully it was dry, but we averaged 5-10mph as we bumped slowly along the rough route.
We pulled the truck right up to the shore of beautiful Bog Lake, elevation 9,400 feet. Alan is a rooky fly-fisherman so I tried to help him a bit. We set up his rod and worked a little on his casting. The lake is loaded with small but pretty, 4-8 inch long arctic grayling. They were hungry and cooperative…Alan caught his first fish on a fly! Arleen also helped Alan while she caught about 10 grayling. I caught about 25 and even landed two at one time! It was a lot of fun, but we decided to go to Double Cabin. Alan and Phyliss were blown away by the incredible scenery.
The truck and I at Bog Lake / Alan fly-fishing Bog Lake…he caught his first fish a fly, an arctic grayling!
Dubois rodeo grounds and the Wind River
On 25 July Tony and Marge arrived and the Dubois Rodeo…
Our dear friends, Tony and Marge from Boulder City NV, detoured our way on their way home from Colorado. We were excited to see them!
Arleen prepared a great meal of carnitas…yum yum! We ate at our picnic table on the river bank…it was very pleasant. Then we went to the Dubois Rodeo. During the summer, there is a rodeo every Friday night. It was a packed house! The rodeo started with barrel racing. The ladies were impressive, but the youngsters stole the show. Two three-year old girls trotted around the three barrels on big ole mature horses! I gave kudos to their parents for letting the girls take such a big risk in a time when many parents are very protective. We also laughed quite a bit when about 30 youngsters were given stick horses and raced around the arena. And then a bunch of 6-12 year old kids chased two calves that had ribbons tied to their tails. The winners were the two kids that got the ribbons. It was pretty entertaining! We watched a couple of the bull riders and headed home.
Barrel racers…the girl on the right is three years old!
Tony, me, and Arleen on top of Whiskey Mountain on 26 July
On 26 July we hiked to the top of Whiskey Mountain with Tony…
The tough trail climbs 3,500 feet in 4.5 miles to the top of Whiskey Mountain at 11,200 feet. 30-50mph winds were BRUTAL, but the air was clear. As we neared the top, we were surprised to see the Tetons 65 miles to the west. The nearly 360 degree view also included the town of Dubois, our campground, the Absaroka Range, a portion of the Wind River Range, the Wyoming Range, and multiple lakes. We posed for a few pictures and tried to find a place out of the wind to snack. We lingered far less than we wanted to, and looked forward to dropping a thousand feet to the protection of the trees. We descended rapidly back to the truck.
We made a quick detour on the way home to show Tony some petroglyphs. Tony lives near Hoover Dam in Nevada and has shown us a lot pictographs and petroglyphs in that area. He always appreciates seeing more!
To complete the great day, we picked up Marge and had another wonderful meal.
Hike route up Whiskey Mountain / Tony near the start of the hike
Stopped for a break around 10,200 feet
The view at 11,150 feet of our campground, Dubois, and the Absaroka Mountains
Tony on Whiskey Mountain and the incredible Tetons 65 miles to the west
Marge and Tony at the Rustic Pine Grill & Steakhouse
Pronghorns near Union Pass on 27 July
On 27 July we drove over Union Pass to Green River Lakes and then through Jackson and Grand Teton National Park with Tony, Marge, Phyliss, and Alan…
We convinced Tony, Marge, Alan, and Phyliss that they had to see one of our favorite places: Green River Lakes. We warned them that it would be a long day of driving on rough dirt roads, but it took even longer than we expected.
We met Alan and Phyliss at the Union Pass historic sign and they followed us up the mountain. The extensive mountain meadows were awash in multicolored flowers. We saw a herd of 20 pronghorns back-dropped by the Wyoming Range…the scene was beautiful! We averaged 20-25mph across the pass and arrived at Green River Lakes about three hours after we started. We posed for pictures at spectacular Green River Lakes and then decided to take the longer, but easier route back to Dubois through Jackson and Grand Teton National Park. We enjoyed a great meal at Merry Piglets in Jackson and then parted ways with Alan and Phyliss. We made one more quick stop in Grand Teton National Park on the way home. We ended up driving about 300 miles and were worn out! Thankfully everybody had a good time and we made some good memories.
Me, Arleen, Marge, Tony, Phyliss, and Alan at Green River Lakes / Tony, Marge, Arleen, and me in Grand Teton National Park
Me fishing Upper Jade Lake on 28 July
On 28 July we hiked to Upper Jade Lake with Tony…
We wanted to show Tony the Brooks Lake valley and Upper Jade Lake. We parked at Brooks Lake and made the two mile scramble with 600 feet of climbing in less than an hour. Arleen and Tony talked and admired the green colored lake and vertical cliffs while I fished. Numerous cutthroat trout cruised along the bank in a clockwise direction. As usual, the fish I could see wanted nothing to do with my flies. I changed tactics and fished deeper and slower and started getting hits. I caught three cutthroat trout, 12-14 inches long. We headed back to the truck and let Marge know we were on our way for lunch. After another great meal, we checked out the Bighorn Sheep museum. We liked the exhibits and learned a lot. Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to our special friends.
A pretty cutthroat trout caught at Upper Jade Lake / Posing with Tony above Brooks Lake
Fish Lake on 30 July
On 30 July we went to Fish Lake…
Fish Lake is west of Dubois at 9,200 feet elevation. The road is decent hard-packed dirt. The last few miles go through a large burn area that was going crazy with various hued flowers. The wind was 10-15mph…too strong for me to enjoy kayak fishing, but ok for Arleen. She launched her kayak, and I put on my waders and walked along the bank in knee-deep water. We caught about 15 cutthroat trout in two hours that were 8-15 inches long…fun fishing! Before we left, we took a short hike up to the saddle just south of the lake. The view to south was mainly of rolling tree-covered hills around 9,500 feet elevation. The view north over the lake was more impressive and included the jagged “Pinnacles”. The amazing array of blooming flowers was the most impressive!
A 15 inch cutthroat trout from Fish Lake / Pretty woman surrounded by pretty flowers
Trout Creek Lake on 31 July
On 31 July we fished Trout Creek Lake…
A geocache brought us to Trout Creek Lake, 8,900 feet elevation. The little lake is surrounded by thick woods and known to have arctic grayling. Most of the dirt road is decent, until you hit the final 200 yard spur that stops at the north corner of the lake. A high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is best for that short section. Though the lake is small, it’s best to fish from a float tube, canoe, or kayak because of the dense vegetation lining its banks. Initially, we didn’t see any surface feeding, so we tied on a leach and hare’s ear, and got hits nearly continuously…I even caught two grayling at once! We noticed a few fish start to feed on the surface and switched to floating flies. The hits slowed a bit, but it was more fun watching fish lips slurp in our floating flies! We must have caught 50 grayling that were 4-10 inches long, and a few surprise rainbow trout that were 6-8 inches long. It was another fun day of fishing!
Posing with one of the 20 grayling she caught! / I caught two grayling at once!
Hike route to Deacon Lake / On the way to Deacon Lake on 1 Aug
On 1 August we hiked to Deacon Lake…
The Parque Creek Road, FR 504, north of Dubois, is rocky but decent until it levels a bit around 9,000 feet. Then it can be a muddy mess better suited for high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles. The 2.75 mile hiking route starts at 9,000 feet, and climbs to 9,900 feet before dropping to the pretty lake at 9,500 feet. Within a couple hundred yards from the truck, we made the tricky crossing over Parque Creek on a huge fallen tree. In the next half mile, we pushed our way through about 50 cows, including three big ‘ole bulls. The cows made all kinds of ruckus as we detoured into the woods in an effort to give them space. They kept an eye on us, but let us pass with no shenanigans. The climb to the pass was tough, but pretty. As with all the Wyoming high country in summer, the flowers were incredible! We saw plenty of bear sign, but no bears. We kept looking for the lake through the pines, and were blown away when we finally spotted it! The turquoise green water was so clear and such a stark contrast to the towering spires. There were no signs of other people…we had the beautiful place all to ourselves! Forest Service folks told us to expect rainbow trout, but we didn’t see any. However, Arleen caught a very pretty 14 inch brook trout, and I caught a slightly smaller one. A distant loud crack of thunder and a few big raindrops forced us to head back. We didn’t get too wet, but the lightning and thunder got much closer so we picked up the pace. Traversing across the open meadows was a bit nerve racking as thunder boomed, but we made it back safely.
Posing at Deacon Lake / Arleen caught this colorful 14 inch brook trout
Fishing Deacon Lake
7-10 Aug we backpacked to Dinwoody Lakes high in the Wind River Mountains…
Our final Dubois area adventure was to backpack to the Dinwoody Lakes and spend three nights in a tent camped at a high alpine lake.
The 10.5 mile hike route is tough, especially with a 40 pound backpack! We started at 7,600 feet on the Glacier Trail and climbed to 10,900 feet at Arrow Pass, and then descended to about 10,200 feet at Upper Phillips Lake. We climbed a total of 3,500 feet! The route across Arrow Pass includes roughly three and a half miles of exposed trekking across open tundra…not a place to be if lightning is nearby! We expected afternoon thunderstorms and just prayed that they would miss us. We watched the clouds closely and were relieved that they stayed away. It took us eight hours to reach Upper Phillips Lake. We wearily dropped our heavy packs and searched for a camp site. We spotted a single morel mushroom with fairly level and smooth ground nearby, tucked between trees, with a view of the lake…our home for the next three nights! We dubbed it “Camp Morel”. I set up camp while Arleen cooked dinner. We were whipped, hungry, and REALLY appreciated that dehydrated meal! I fished for about 30 minutes and got skunked. It had been a long day. We were exhausted when we climbed into the tent! We had the incredible area all to ourselves…it was so peaceful.
We woke up the next morning a bit stiff, but under brilliant blue skies. We took our time and enjoyed apple crisp for breakfast. Our goal that day was Golden Lake, about a half mile and a couple hundred feet higher than our camp. The aptly named lake has golden cutthroat trout, a rare trout native to California’s Sierra Nevadas was introduced to just a few high alpine lakes in other states. It’s a unique and beautiful trout that few fishermen get an opportunity to catch.
There is no trail to Golden Lake so we had to navigate cross country in steep, rocky terrain. We crested the final rise and saw the dramatic cliffs mirrored on the glass-smooth lake…it was beautiful! As I strung up my fly rod, a few trout sipped bugs on the surface, and one or two of those trout were sizeable. I was excited! We spotted a few cruisers finning along the rocky shore, but had no success the first hour. I tied on a small floating beetle fly and cast ahead of one of the cruisers. It slowly rose and slurped in the fly, I set the hook, and it took off…fish on! My first golden cutthroat trout was beautifully colored and 15 inches long. I caught two or three more on the beetle fly…one of them was 17 inches long! I could see five or six nice trout staying deeper and ignoring my fly, so I tied on a big, fast sinking orange scud. That got their attention…the big heavy orange fly was like candy to them! During the next hour I caught at least 10 more goldens before I lost my only two scuds to fish. Arleen hooked one briefly, but the goldens eluded her. My first experience with golden cutthroat trout was special. I caught about 15 that included a 16 incher and two 17 inchers…it was a lot of fun!
We scrambled back down to “Camp Morel” among growing black clouds. We enjoyed rehydrated lasagna as rumbling thunder got closer and closer. Just as we finished cleaning up, big rain drops fell on our heads. We tumbled into the tent and the deluge started within minutes. We laid in the tent and joked about it being “lightning proof”. It was cool to hear the thunder reverberate off the nearby mountains, but a few of the loud cracks were uncomfortably close. The air cooled at least 20 degrees so we snuggled into our sleeping bags and were comfortable. The thunderstorm only lasted an hour, but it was bed time so we settled in for the night.
We awoke again the next morning to bright blue skies. Our goal was an unnamed lake about a mile away, but 500 feet above us. There is no trail so we had to find our own route across the steep rocky terrain. We progressed steadily uphill until we hit a half mile long boulder field. Arleen hates those boulders! We decided to turn back and head down to Double Lake. The descent was tough and the mosquitos were relentless, but we made it safely to the pretty lake. I immediately got hits and caught a few 10-13 inch cutthroat trout and a few 11-14 inch brook trout. Arleen did well too…She caught five brookies and an 18 inch splake! Dark clouds were growing so we tried to follow the west shore around to the north, but we were stopped by a sizeable cliff that forced us to backtrack the way we came. We got back to “Camp Morel” with no problems. We enjoyed a nice dinner while perched on a rock with a beautiful view of Upper Phillips Lake. Before settling in for the night, I fished the lake for a bit and got skunked.
We woke up early the next morning to prepare for the long hike back. The dramatic cliffs were aglow from the rising sun and reflected perfectly on the smooth lake…it was spectacular! I packed up camp while Arleen prepared an interesting breakfast. She planned to make rehydrated Mexican omelets, but they were going to be complicated and take too long. That just left us garlic mashed potatoes and chocolate mudslide. We needed calories so Arleen cooked them both…yum yum! We joked about it while we ate and we continued to joke about it the whole way back. The interesting breakfast provided our bodies the necessary fuel to climb 700 feet up Arrow Pass and drop 3,500 feet down to the truck. The weather was nice the entire way and we made it back in 7 hours. It took our tired bodies two days to recover!
Route map to Dinwoody Lakes / Satellite view of the Dinwoody Lakes area
Headed up the switchbacks on the Glacier Trail / Further up the switchbacks with more to go
Will we beat the thunderstorms?!? Looking north from near Arrow Pass. / Four bighorn sheep near Arrow Pass
Arleen still climbing up Arrow Pass / Near the top at 10,900 feet…looking north towards Dubois and the Absarokas
Finally over Arrow Pass and looking south towards Dinwoody Lakes…our goal!
“Camp Morel” near Upper Phillips Lake (The lone morel is center bottom of the left picture.)
Smelly stuff hung out of bear’s reach / Arleen making breakfast at Upper Phillips Lake
Pretty flowers on the way up to Golden Lake / Looking down towards our camp at Upper Phillips Lake…note the snow in the bottom right
Golden Lake is beautiful!
Posing at Golden Lake / Golden cutthroat trout…our target!
Fighting a nice one at Golden Lake / A 17 inch golden cutthroat trout caught on a floating beetle fly
A 16 inch golden cutthroat trout caught on a big, fast sinking orange scud fly
Stopped by this half mile long boulder field on the way up to an unnamed lake / Dropping down to Double Lake…note my mosquito net
Fly-fishing Double Lake
Me with a 10 inch brookie / Arleen with a 14 inch brookie / Me with a 12 inch cutthroat
Our final morning at Upper Phillips Lake
Hiking back…Looking south from Arrow Pass towards Dinwoody Lake
Mushroom hunting is one of our favorite hobbies. We are always on the lookout for edibles like king boletes, chanterelles, hawkwings, hedgehogs, shaggy manes, and morels. We leave all mind-altering mushrooms alone…our reality is great the way it is!
Morels are a spring time mushroom. In the Rockies, that can be anytime between May and July, depending on the elevation. Shaggy manes can pop up nearly anytime after a good rain with the temperature above freezing. The others sprout after monsoonal thunderstorms in late summer and early fall…our favorite time to hunt!
Here is our report for the Dubois area…
9 July: Found no edibles near Togwotee Pass
17 July: Found about a pound of morels on the Ross Lake trail above 10,000 feet elevation
21 July: Found no edibles near Togwotee Pass
1 Aug: Found some fresh shrimp mushrooms along the Deacon Lake trail…area was very “shroomy”
2 Aug: Hunted near Togwotee Pass and Wind River Lake and found a couple of fresh shaggy manes
Mushroom hunting near Wind River Lake on 2 Aug / A fresh shaggy mane mushroom on 2 Aug!
5 Aug: Found four shaggy manes and a small king bolete near Togwotee Pass!
Four shaggy manes & our first Wyoming king bolete on 5 Aug! We had them with eggs the next morning…yummy!
7 Aug: Found one morel at Upper Phillips Lake…various kinds of other shrooms, but none we’d eat
10 Aug: Found no edibles near Togwotee Pass…felt that it was still a little early
10 July…BBQ with locals Bryon, Anita & Jean (so thankful to them for their advice!). Also Heather, Mary, and Arleen
13 July…Arleen, Cindy, John, and me at Grand Teton National Park. John and Cindy were our neighbors when we lived in Washington. They are two of our favorite people on the planet!
We are in Red Lodge, Montana. During the next month, we look forward to spending time with family and exploring the spectacular Beartooth Mountains.
Petroglyphs near Dubois, Wyoming
Fresh bear poop near a geocache by Trout Creek Lake / A geocache at an old water tank by Togwotee Pass
12 inch brown trout caught on a stonefly nymph in the Wind River / Another 20 inch cutthroat from Pelham Lake!
Golden cutthroat trout caught at Golden Lake on a big, fast sinking orange scud fly