Escape to Elevation

The sound of the alarm and a sharp elbow in my side entice my slow roll out of bed. I set the alarm, but the elbow came from my girlfriend who obviously isn’t going to be getting up at 3 am this Saturday morning. Even my dog is not enthused by the commotion. I, on the other hand, am set to be on the road by four as today’s fishing trip will require some work.

After about an hour of driving, we reach a dirt road. I say we because my dog is always to be counted on for any adventure. I can’t help but admire her skills in sleeping until 5 minutes before departure, eating her breakfast, taking care of the nature call, and still beating me to the truck.

At this point, I remove my seatbelt. No need for that here, we will be going slow and I would rather have the option of bailing out of the truck if necessary. Yes, I still have that rather foolish thought of having time to think about opening the door for the good ol’ tuck and roll maneuver when the drive goes south. Something tells me that my dog would make the move and I would be stuck, still fumbling with a door handle. I trust that she would bring help in a moment's time, and still have time to sniff a few landmarks along the way though.

For the next 40 minutes, we bounce up and down, side-to-side, and up over 10,500 feet on the mountainside. I don’t know who put this “road” here, but I do know that their intention was not to drive a truck up it. Even the thought of a gold miner getting a horse-drawn wagon along this route in years past is baffling. I giggle as I think about that miner seeing me in my truck and being jealous of my gas-powered capsule carried by rubber wheels and state-of-the-art suspension, while I stare upon his horse in my own state of jealousy. A mind sure can wander out here.

At this point, we have managed to lose 90% of the fishing crowds. The next step should take care of the other 9% leaving me with only 1%, or the other dedicated fishers who have grown tired of the rat race on the local tailwaters.

The “parking lot” is merely a wider part of the road, but don’t get too close to the edge as it is a long way to the bottom. As I step on the parking brake, I reach down to unbuckle a seat belt that isn’t there, only to notice my dog has already tucked and rolled out the passenger side and is staring back in at me. I knew she would beat me to that move but I can’t say I needed the proof.

Finally, we made it to her favorite part; the hike. My favorite part is at least another hour out, so I grab my pack and hit the trail. The sound of marmots and pika echo across the valley as the morning sun rises into the sky and the high-altitude environment comes alive. We walk a steep, narrow trail lined with the many colorful wildflowers the Rocky Mountain high country is known for and stop only to marvel at a herd of bighorn sheep crossing the cliff band ahead with more grace than even the best of rock climbers. The crest of the ridge puts us about 11,700 feet above sea level and only then do I get a glimpse of my destination… a few hundred feet back downhill.

Sporadic rises dot the surface of the lake as we hike down into the cirque. Just as I expected, nobody is here so I take my time setting up a rod, filtering water, and snacking on a peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich. One of three that I plan to consume today, and yes, I said banana. The only thing floating on this lake is a large mass of ice still holding on well into July and I don’t plan to board it, but if I do, I’ll leave my banana sammies on shore just to be safe.