My two older sons planned a backpacking trip for this summer to Macey Lakes and I was invited along. We were there together a few years ago and I was there last summer but it’s become a favorite spot. The hiking distance from the Horn Creek trailhead/parking area to the lower lake is longer than other trails nearby and I think the distance makes this drainage a little less traveled. I only remember seeing 5 people, not in our group, while out there. Plus, there’s three decent-sized lakes from which to fish and plenty of camping around the lower lake.
Joshua and girlfriend Cory headed out early to get on the trail, but I worked half a day and left around noon with Luke for the Horn Creek parking area/trailhead. It’s a little confusing because you hike on this spur trail to the Rainbow Trail and head south to the Macey Lakes Trailhead.
BTW – If you turn north on the Rainbow Trail you quickly arrive at the Horn Lakes Trailhead.
According to the Sky Terrain Map the distance from the Horn Creek trailhead/parking areas (not to be confused with Horn Lakes) to the lower lake is 6 miles. This is the first backpacking trip of the season and I thought it might be a bit much, but we did it in 4 hours, which is a good time for me, however, I could tell I was slowing Luke down a bit (I stopped to gasp for air while he didn’t seem to be breathing hard at all). We did stop a couple of times for wild strawberries along the trail, spotted by Luke, and at the Macey Lakes trailhead. We hit the trail at 2:30pm and arrived where Joshua and Cory camped by 6:30pm at the north side of the lower lake . . . just in time for dinner.
Luke opted to bring one of the restored M1942 stoves , and it worked great the whole trip. He used it for one dinner, and two breakfasts, including about 3 quarts of coffee.
Luke made a small fire, however everyone was pretty tired from the hike in, and after pumping some drinking water and a little fishing in the lower lake we went to bed.
In the morning, we were greeted with a perfect day. Beautiful sunshine and clear skies. Nice! Jeff, who left work around 5PM on Friday, hiked all the way to the Macey Lakes trailhead on Friday, basically until dark, and then finished the hike in on Saturday morning to join us with Zeke, his Golden Retriever. We ate breakfast and headed to the upper west lake.
I fished for a bit, but didn’t catch anything so I got out my Brunton Pocket Transit and Rangematic Rangefinder to give it a try on a mountain. I took some measurements and made some calculations. On one peak I ranged near the base and the other closer to the top. In both cases I measured a height which was about 200 feet less than actual. I’m sure that part of it was that I couldn’t measure right at the base or all the way to the peak. Using that coincidence rangefinder will definitely take more practice and it is tempting to go and purchase a laser, but that was my first real test, so . . . onward.
Surprisingly, the fishing remain poor throughout the day. We could see the fish swimming but they never rose to the surface and we couldn’t figure out what they were eating. Eventually, Jeff caught one in the pond below and upon opening up the stomach saw that they were eating tiny black bugs. Well, I don’t have any tiny black bugs in my fly box, which explains why the elk hair caddis, Adams, hare’s ear nymph, bead-head prince nymph and even lures just didn’t work. Arrrgh!
Later on, Luke and I head down to the lower lake and caught some trout. We didn’t keep any, but were glad to not get skunked for the day. We headed back to camp for dinner and after Joshua, Cory and Luke collected some fire wood, relaxed around a nice campfire.
One note about the back country and camping, is that sometimes people leave a mess. The fire ring at our camp contained a propane cylinder, glass jar, cans, three partially melted plastic milk jugs, a rag, and some cigarette boxes. It’s confounding why anyone on foot or horseback would carry those things in full, but consider it too much work to carry them out empty. Makes no sense to me. Luke and Jeff hauled out the trash.
Anyway, the hike out was nice. It was sunny, but very breezy. Apparently, when we arrived on Friday night, the Hayden Pass fire (lightning strike), started and those same winds caused it to flare up quite a bit.
We passed Macey Falls and the Copperstain cliffs and paused to cool off at the Macey Lakes trailhead, before finishing the hike back to the truck.
Though the fishing wasn’t great this time, and part of that was failing to find what the fish were eating, I found myself asking, “why am I not doing this every weekend?” I love being in the wilderness.
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