TRIP REPORT (1) - TIMBER LAKE ONCE
Summary: Two trips to Timber Lake. Polar opposites in experience.
This one was a mellow, happy trip (see
By Ron Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Aug. 1992 Jeff B. and I plot an excursion to Timber Lake to do a
little fishing and some day hiking. The day hiking is intended for the
purpose of reconnoitering the Mt. Ida-Chief Cheley notch. We have grand
plans of exiting out the top of Hayden Gorge and returning to the car by
way of this Divide path and need reassurance that it's possible. The Hayden
trip is scheduled for Labor Day weekend. (The result of this trip is
HAYDEN GORGE - NOT!)
Friday We leave work about 3PM and go home & get our gear and get
underway for RMNP. We drive from Ft. Collins to RMNP and then over
Trail Ridge Rd. to park at Milner Pass near Poudre Lake. The plan is
to traverse along the tundra on the Divide over to the vicinity of
Timber Lake and drop down to our campsite (JACKSTRAW) just before dark.
This plan was calculated to avoid afternoon thunderstorms and to have
enough time to get to camp & setup without having to miss significant
work (flexible work hours are good).
We had an uneventful drive and beginning to the hike. The path follows
the route to Mt. Ida. It's not really a trail to Timber Lake but is
more like easy route finding on tundra. I have a vivid recollection of
standing on the trail well above timberline and appreciating the view of
the lowering sun to the west.
As we progressed, we eventually veered off the faint trail and just held
our elevation as we kept on toward the lake. At some point, I don't
recall where, we started angling down off the tundra and reached the
saddle of mush meadows that would lead down to the Timber Creek
This is prime elk territory. We saw a few on the other side of the
large clearings about 1/2 mile away. No bugling though. We mosey down
the meadows and reach the trail and find our camp after 2.5 hrs hike.
Camp is setup and we have about 30 minutes before full dark.
Saturday We are up at 0600. After breakfast we return to the meadows
and climb back up to the ridge and angle over to Mt. Ida. We enjoy the
view from Ida and then descend the notch between Ida and Chief Cheley.
It takes awhile to gain Chief Cheley and to get views of Highest Lake
and of the steps down the drainage of the Gorge Lakes. Unfortunately,
the day is kind of humid and at 1100 it is starting to look like a
storm. We drop down to the notch again and try to traverse around the
side of Ida to gain the saddle overlooking Timber Lake. This sort of
worked but didn't really save any time. The boulders were too big and
jumbled to travel quickly but we regained the tundra above the saddle as
a little rain started. Jogging downhill now we scurry for the saddle
above Timber and continue downward toward the lake. Some distant
lightning comes and goes and the rain comes and goes several times. We
drop down along Timber lake and the skies clear awhile and so we stroll
back to camp.
We putter around camp for only a few minutes when another black cloud
comes along. We jump into the tent and I promptly fall fast asleep
listening to the rain (delightful:-))) Jeff is less imaginative and
reads a book.
It rains for an hour or so then the sun comes out and the tent becomes too
hot to tolerate.
We pack up our packs, stove, food, water, clothes and fishing gear and
walk the 1/2 mile up to the lake to hang out until bedtime. In
mid-afternoon, the fish are hardly to be found. We cast and cast and I
catch 1 fish in 2 hrs. Then dinner on the lake shore. Peaceful but not
entirely alone, there are other campers around. Still, this establishes
an SOP of taking dinner by the lake (whatever lake) instead of being
confined to the proximity of the tent. I have two excellent photographs
of dead-still water reflecting the blue sky and framed by the ridges.
Perfect calendar material. (sigh)
After sunset, the fish get to cruising and are easy to catch. They
cruise the shallows and take almost any kind of fly that is presented.
We even try the goofiest flies we have with us and still take some fish
although they won't take *everything*. Jeff catches what we think is
about an 18" cutthroat. A fine fish is admired and released. Then it's
full dark. And my flashlight doesn't work. Fortunately, in my
emergency kit is a tiny single AAA cell flashlight. It is sufficient to
see us thru the rockiest parts of the trail back to the tent. The full
moon illuminates things nicely in the meadows.
Sunday We are up at 0700. Underway about 0830 and enjoying a fine,
clear morning. We exit by way of the meadows and get back to the tundra
with great views. We encounter a ranger and trade stories. He took a
brief 'fishing success' report. He is new at RMNP and had just
transferred from Denali where he'd spent >100 nights in a tent each year
(that's PROFESSIONAL backcountry!) We tell him about the route we took
and recommend it as being MUCH better than trekking thru the trees down
low with the rest of the tourists. We ask him about the terrain beyond
Cheley but he doesn't have any helpful info. (Note- ALL of my ranger
contacts have been unfailingly cheerful, friendly and helpful if
possible. I am always impressed with these people.)
- Saddle is doable. This means GO for Hayden Gorge
- Flashlight failure usually occurs when too dark to
work on. 2nd teeny tiny light was good idea.
- Forgot all about maglite in food bag.
- No matter the forecast, put rainfly over tent when
not in camp. (No, we didn't have a problem)
- Mountain House beef stroganoff --- good!
By Ron Miller
Ft. Collins, Colo.