Colorado 2012–The Medicine Bow Mountains & Snowy Range, our first days

Before leaving Encampment and moving up here Chris took a half day guided fly fishing trip. He met the guide, Ben, up in Saratoga. They went north, down river, for several miles and then west for several miles onto a public access. Then they hiked and hiked to get to a quiet spot on the North Platte. The fishing was fantastic and Chris thought he learned a few tricks from Ben. Despite the low water levels and warmer water temperatures, he managed to snare his biggest trout of the trip by far.

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The Medicine Bow Mountains are in Southern Wyoming, due west of the town of Laramie, which is due west of Cheyenne. The name comes from the Native Americans who first came to the area to cut mahogany, water birch and juniper for bow making. The area has been inhabited for the past 12,000 years. They are dominated by the Snowy Range, a 5-mile strip of high peaks pretty much in the center of the Medicine Bow Mountains. The range is bisected by the Snowy Range Scenic Byway. It is the highest paved through road in Wyoming, with its 10,847-foot high point being the second highest pass in the state. The Beartooth Pass is the state’s highest, but only by a mere 100 feet. The road was begun in 1920 and constructed by the CCC. It took 6 years to complete. At the top of the Snowy Range are a series of high mountain lakes and numerous hiking trails connecting the lakes and streams.  Many of the waters hold wild trout.

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There are five campgrounds scattered around the highest section of the byway. All but two are closed due to the danger of dead pine trees falling, on account of that little beetle. We had made reservations months ago in the Brooklyn Lake Campground, with only 19 sites, which is situated on a ridge overlooking Brooklyn Lake. They have just finished cutting down all of the dead trees and there are piles of logs and branches everywhere. At one time it would have been nestled in deep woods. Now it looks like it is in the middle of a logging operation.

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We have one of the better sites–the piles are at quite a distance.  If we position our chairs just right, we can pretend we’re still in a pristine environment.

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The Snowy Range is composed of a white quartzite rock that looks like snow from a distance. The mountains are reflected in the numerous lakes. It really a neat place up here. The only downside is that our base camp is at 10.500 feet and oxygen is a little low. There is one third less oxygen at 10,000 feet and we have to do everything a little slower, otherwise we get very short of breath. About the time we’ll be acclimated it’ll be time to move on.  Still we try.

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After setting up camp, we enjoyed a leisurely time around the site.  Chris got out the camp stove and stirred up a good meal.

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We hiked down to Brooklyn Lake upon arrival. In the subsequent days, we took hikes to East and West Glacier Lakes, Lost Lake (which really was hard to find), Mirror Lake, Lookout Lake, Lewis Lake, East and West Glacier Lakes and Lake Marie (not all at one time however). Chris took along his fishing gear, fished them all and caught trout at each of them. Most were brook trout with a few rainbows. It’s nice when you loose count of the number of fish you’ve caught. And they were of a fair size too.

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We’re high enough that there are still some wildflowers for Melinda to photograph. There were the usual suspects, and the fireweed is flourishing.

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We even saw a couple we hadn’t seen before. Photographing them helps to occupy Melinda while Chris is lakeside. The trail to the Glacier Lakes was especially decorated with stands of brilliant flowers.

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We took a walk through one of the forest service campgrounds that was closed due to the risk of falling dead trees.  It was a beautiful place with sites widely separated.  It was also slightly less remote than ours at Brooklyn Lake (read: not accessed by a 2-mile dirt road).  But you can see from this photo why the place wasn’t opened for business.

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We cranked up our TV antenna and managed to get a PBS station from Laramie. Imagine that! We had some afternoon showers and generally cooler temperatures than down in Encampment/Saratoga. We’re just about ready to head home and we are not looking forward to 90+ degree temperatures. We had no cell service so we have been out of communication with home. That was a little unusual, but we are really in the remote elevations. It is 40 miles to Laramie and about the same over to Saratoga from here.

Nevertheless, this area is a well-kept secret, we believe.  The scenery couldn’t be any more dramatic, and you can play in the outdoors to your heart’s content.  The temperatures are pleasant, and when the rain blows through, it rarely lasts long.  The skies can be very dramatic.

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From the Snowy Mountains in Wyoming,

Chris and Melinda

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About airstreamtravelers

An Airstream Flying Cloud suits our lifestyle perfectly. The two of us are now spending several months each year on the road. We hope our posts and accompanying photos give a vivid description of where we travel, illustrating to our followers what's out there, just beyond their horizons.
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