Turqoise to Timberline: Chasing Trout in the Rockies

Thursday, July 7, 2011 | Leadville, CO, USA (map)

Spying on the enemy from above, at Timberline Lake. (photo by C. Graham)
DC is the last place on earth any sane warm-blooded creature would want to be during the summer heat. So a few days before the Fourth of July weekend arrived, when my uncle Chris called to invite me to spend the holiday camping in the Rocky Mountains with him and my aunt and two cousins, I wisely accepted.

From their home in Denver, I drove with my uncle and his chocolate lab, Ollie, to Turquoise Lake, where we met the rest of the family and pitched our tents for the weekend. (Of course, in our minds this was largely a fishing trip, so my uncle and I made sure to stop at several points along the way—fly fishing shops, trout streams, and rivers still bursting with this year's late snowmelt.)

My two cousins, twin 15-year old boys, led the charge with their friends on the next day's hike to Timberline Lake. The two-hour climb to 11,000 feet (3,350 m.) involved fording several snowmelt
streams, which at about 34°F (1°C) left our legs with pins and needles. At the lake, the teenagers ate lunch and then quickly grew bored. While they turned back to the trailhead, Chris and I began our afternoon's trek around the circumference of the lake, in pursuit of the native greenback cutthroat trout.

The fish proved hard to catch, given that the lake's water was entirely clear, allowing our prey to easily spot us as we followed the shore. But after several hours of alternately slogging through icy water and over snow drifts as tall as me, I finally managed to hook one of the brilliant red-gilled speckled trout and yank him ashore. It was a small but satisfying victory.

Greenback cutthroat trout at Timberline Lake, Colorado (photo by C. Graham)
The rest of the weekend passed even better than I could have hoped: campfires and s'mores with my cousins, fireworks and stargazing, more hiking and fly fishing, and a meandering drive home with my uncle across the West's wide and solitary expanses.

Years ago I made a decision to see as much of the world as I can before it all becomes Americanized, and to leave the explorations of my own country until I'm older and, perhaps, less adventurous. But I have to admit: trips like this one make me a little impatient to get started with my journeys closer to home.


In addition, I've posted some of my uncle's pictures from our trip here.

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