I backpacked to Lakes of the Clouds this weekend for a one night stay with my son Luke. It was pretty hot, and I felt more tired than usual. This hike is pretty rocky and there are some nice level sections, but that only means you pay for it with steeper sections . . . or so it seems to me. We arrived at the parking area west of Westcliffe around mid-day and headed north on the Rainbow trail. Don’t let yourself get confused, though . . . the closest trail to Lakes of the Clouds from this trailhead is called Swift Creek Trail. Follow the Rainbow Trail to the Swift Creek Trailhead.
The Rainbow trail is pretty level, overall, but the Swift Creek trail is rocky and steep in sections. It seems that I even noted this in my blog entry last year. You could continue north to the Lakes of the Clouds trail, however the Swift Creek trail will meet the Lakes of the Clouds trail after about 2.5 miles. In couple of miles you will need to cross Swift Creek which was flowing pretty swift this year. it was also pretty deep so we removed our boots and carefully waded through. If you’re not accustomed to wading through mountain creeks a word of caution . . . the water is really cold. Brrrr…..
By the time we met the Lakes of the Clouds Trail I was feeling tired, so we opted for a lower camp. We camped before the switchbacks about a mile to mile-and-a-half below the lakes in a well established campsite. I believe that this is the place where we were camped when Luke first caught a fish with his bare hands. Ah . . the memories.
After getting everything setup we headed up to the Lakes. Along the way the trail was dry, then a river, then covered in snow. What fun! There was a waterfall of sorts along the way which was flooding the trail. I think it was only a drip last time.
The lower lake was peaceful with only one other fisherman. Ahhh . . . this is why I like to come here.
I did what I normally do which is look around for fish rising. There were some, so I set up my bubble with an elk hair caddis. Hmmm . . . nothing.
Next I tried a nymph, specifically a Hare’s Ear nymph. 15-20 casts, still nothing. Sheesh. Next, a black ant (I’m now looking in the water to see what’s floating around) . . . nothing, and finally an Adams. Nothing. Well, by now, it’s getting a little late, but not too bad, but I’m in shorts and the sun is dipping below the ridge, so I see Luke across the lake, wave “hi” and head back to camp. On the way back, I keep thinking . . . “man, it’s been years since I’ve been skunked fishing in the Sangre’s”. Oh, well.
I get back to camp and light up this trip’s stove, a 1951, M-1950. I boil some water and make some tortellini and chicken.
I had just added tortellini when it began to rain lightly. So, I put up the hammock rain cover and moved “inside”. Luke arrived a little while later and it turns out he did catch 5 fish. One was a decent size around 10 inches, but the others were very small. There was much more action on the west end of the lake than at the outlet where I spent most of my time.
On Monday morning I woke up around 4 am. Not sure why. Fell back asleep and woke up around 7:30. We made breakfast and decided not to go back to the lakes. Were the small fish worth it? Nah…
On the way out we crossed Swift Creek again. Even though the water is really cold it feels refreshing once you arrive on the far shore. We relaxed for a bit, had a snack, put our boots back on and headed down the trail.
We made our way back to the truck, passing six hikers, one dog and about 10 horses, most of which were on the Rainbow trail.
I was more tired than usual, it rained and I didn’t catch a fish. Still it was a nice backpacking trip. Love it!
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