With my son back to school this week's hike was a solo adventure. I picked Rachel lake, and added the Rampart lakes as a last minute decision.
Rachel lake trail head was easy to drive to and find, just off I-90. And apparently the criminals thought the same thing, as there were posts in the parking lot about recent car prowling and broken car window glass in several places. But that wasn't going to stop me from hiking, just make me worry about it more.
The hike to Rachel is a curious one. 3.5 miles of fairly level terrain followed by one mile of grueling, steep elevation gain (1,300 ft). The Box Creek Canyon is a pretty one, with lots of waterfalls and some great views to pass the time. But after that the the final route up to Rachel is made difficult by a trail that is intermittently flooded by creeks, and full of rocks and roots. I was so happy to finally crest the last ridge and see the lake! And a very pretty lake it is. Aqua-blue, clear, surrounded by rocky hills - and alive with jumping fish. Everywhere I looked there were fish breaking the surface. I set up with a casting bubble and a dry fly (renegade I think) and cast out. Immediately I was getting bites, some quite violent. In no time at all I had caught several cutthroat, including a healthy 12" chunker. The fishing was good and I was enjoying myself, but a small voice said to me "you got up here in good time - the Rampart lakes are just a bit further - just over that little ridge - 1/2 mile - you should check it out". Oh, cursed little voice!
I packed up my gear and made my way to the Rampart lakes, a grouping of several smaller lakes, all in a chain. The trail to this next ridge was just as steep and cruel. And full of many cross-trails, making it easy to get turned around. The views looking down at Rachel were worth it, though. When I final arrived at the Ramparts I was a bit disappointed. They were kinda small and the surrounding rock cliffs not quite as impressive as I had hoped they would be. In any case, it was time for lunch. I realized as I ate that I really didn't have time to fish, despite seeing more of the same activity - fish jumping and feeding, fish cruising the shoreline, you get the picture. So at 1pm I started the long haul back to the parking lot. The hike down was almost as bad as going up, less the gulping for air, but the thighs burned as bad. The last 1.5 miles I went on momentum, very sorry I had gone up to the Ramparts. I was spent. Tired and grateful to reach my truck and find it intact, I peeled off my boots and sox and changed into tennis shoes, blessed relief!
The fishing up at Rachel is first class and definitely worthy of another hike up sometime. I wouldn't go to the Ramparts unless my plan was to spend the night, it was just a bit too far for a day hike.
Hiking stats: 11.4 miles round trip, 2,859 feet elevation gain per GPS. max elevation 5,233 feet. Hiked Sept 13th, 2010.Nice 12" cutthroat:
Far shore of Rachel Lake:
View from the Rampart Lakes area: