Dry Lakes . . . are not so Dry

We went on a backpacking trip to Dry Lakes from July 28th – July 30th. Not sure why they are called Dry Lakes, because they are pretty good sized lakes and the drainage was pretty wet. Dry Lakes is the drainage north of Horn Lakes in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. You get access to them via the Horn Creek trailhead parking lot. We hit the trail at 12:10PM and took the southern spur to the Rainbow trail not realizing the northern spur still existed until we passed it on the way to the Dry Lakes trailhead. If it had been marked, we could have saved ourselves about half a mile of hiking. BTW – for this trip Paul stayed home due to some blisters on his feet, and instead we had two guest on this trip. One was Luke’s friend Ryan, and the other was a former co-worker, Glen.

Though this trip was to be shorter than the previous two trips at about 4 1/4 miles, it was still tough because it had lengthy steep sections. The Dry Lakes trailhead is at 9250 ft. and we needed to get to 11,750 ft. to the lakes in only 3.5 miles.

One fun thing about backpacking in the end of July and early part of August is that the wild strawberries, raspberries and blueberries/huckleberries are ripe. We came across some very large patches of huckleberries and took many breaks to feast on these wild treats. Does wild fruit just taste better, or what?

We got above the ridge to the first lake around 5PM. I was quite tired, but at least I didn’t have a headache on this trip as I managed my heart rate and breathing better. We pitched camp on the open ridge similar to the North Colony trip and the boys went fishing and started catching fish right away. We made dinner and then a campfire to cook a couple of trout. It was a beautiful evening and we talked about how lucky we were that it wasn’t windy. We went to bed around 10PM, and then the wind picked up at 12:30AM . . . a lot. Wow, did it get windy and stay windy for the next 9 hours! That night I didn’t sleep much, as the wind just shook the tent making so much noise that it seemed the tent might rip apart. The tent poles would bend inward from the wind and I’d move closer to the pole using my body to help support it. This was the key equipment lesson for this trip. Don’t setup your tent broadside to the valley. The wind either goes up or down the drainage, so set your tent appropriately. The next day we rotated the tent and when it was windy you hardly noticed it. Big difference on certain tents.

By the time I got up on Saturday, Luke was already fishing. Can hardly get the boy out of bed at home, but when there’s fishing to do, he’s up at the crack of dawn. Ryan and Joshua followed shortly after Luke. All three of them had landed 5 fish each by the time I got up a short while later. I ate a bagel with jelly and then went fishing. Caught two small trout (5 inches) on my first two casts. By late morning Joshua caught and released more than 25 fish with about half being in the 8 to 12 inch range. Luke was over 15 and Ryan over 10. We ate lunch and then hiked to the upper lakes. The boys fished the second lake, while Glen and I hiked up to, and fished, the third lake. The weather looked a little threatening by 3:30PM so we made our way back to camp. Fortunately, it all blew over. On the way back I was bush-whacking through some chest high willows, when something started making noise to my left. Glen was about 20 yards to my right and I said, “hey, there’s something over here”. We found a bear skull earlier on the way up and were trying to make lots of noise should we happen to come upon a sleeping bear. Luckily, it turned out to be a nice size buck deer, still in velvet, but it did make my heart race a bit. We got back to camp and spoke to a couple of hikers, gathered firewood, and fished some more. By the end of the day Joshua had caught over 35 fish and Luke was over 25. All five of us kept 1 fish each, wrapped them in aluminum foil and cooked them near the coals from the fire. As usual they were quite good. Saturday night was a little less windy and everybody slept better.

The Sunday morning sky was clear all around. Very nice with a little breeze. The boys fished some more, while Glen and I took down the tents and generally cleaned up the area. I lazily made breakfast, and reclined on some rocks looking at the mountains around us. A very pleasant morning. The boys wanted to take some fish home, so we kept two and cleaned them and placed them in a zip-loc bag and then into a Nalgene bottle filled with water.

We broke camp around 1PM and headed downhill. We hiked for about 20 minutes when Joshua reminded me to get some mushroom samples for a co-worker of mine who is from Poland and loves to hunt for mushrooms. Must be a hobby for people from Europe. He always asks me if I see any mushrooms and I do, but I have no idea how to describe them to him. So, we just started picking them along the way trying to get 1 or 2 of each type we found. When we got to the stream crossing, about 1 hour and 40 minutes from the top, we took off our packs and walked about 50 yards to the huckleberry patch. We picked berries for about an hour, gathering nearly a gallon of them to make pies. I put my bare feet into the creek for a nice cool-down and readied myself to finish the trip. A short time after we hit the trail again we were back at the truck and on our way home.

Glen made a pie last night and Lisa and Luke made ours today. We’ll be having pie for desert tonight. We also looked up mushrooms on the internet and found that the red-topped ones with the white spots are not-edible and will make you very ill. But, we did get two types, according to Zbigniew, that were very good. One type was related to the Boletto mushroom and the other was a Chantarelle (the spellings may not be correct). We didn’t take very good care of them but we learned a little bit about mushrooming, and what to avoid, gathering them, transporting them, and cooking them, etc.

Another good trip. Check for the Dry Lakes pictures in my Outdoor Life Photo Album.

One comment on “Dry Lakes . . . are not so Dry

  1. Diane L says:

    sounds like a great trip! Norb would be jealous of all those fish. it IS a thing to do in Europe. i know plenty of people from there and they actually find places around HERE for mushrooms if you can believe it.


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