Today was gorgeous, and I had a couple of ideas. We could get fishing licenses and go back to Baby Wagon Creek, or we could get fishing licenses and combine a hike to a mountain lake with some fishing.
Of course, I like new experiences, so I decided we would drive the four miles on Forest Road 430 (East Tensleep Lake Road) and do the 1.6-mile hike to Maybelle Lake. One of my goals while here has been to hike to a secluded mountain lake.
So we got our non-resident one-day fishing licenses online and headed out a little after noon. We drove west on U.S. 16 (Cloud Peak Skyway) to Meadowlark Lake and looked for FR 430 on the right. We had to know where it was because the road number sign isn't visible until after you make the turn.
I was hoping that FR 430 wasn't as rough as the road to the Baby Wagon drainage yesterday. So much for that. It was worse and we had to go twice as far. While we didn't really need 4WD yesterday, it was quite handy today. We were maybe a half mile in when Linda squealed her first "I don't like this!". :)
The road went along East Tensleep Creek and it looked like a good fishing opportunity. With the rough road, Linda suggested we just stop there. Ah, but my determination to hike to the lake wouldn't allow consideration of her suggestion. We could fish the creek on the way back. :)
It took just under an hour to go 3.8 miles to the Trail 79 trailhead.
That's Bighorn Peak in the background and Maybelle Lake is at the foot of the mountain.
The hike is a fairly gentle ascent of about 400 feet through the wooded area.
However, we started at around 9300 feet elevation, so any uphill climb was taxing on our lungs.
It was a narrow path that was sometimes hard to follow. We had to stay on the lookout for "slashes" on the trees ....
and piles of rocks called "cairns" which marked the trail.
About a half mile in, we had to cross a creek.
This is where we had our only problem. We couldn't tell exactly where we were supposed to cross and where the trail picked up on the other side. We walked along the edge and up a hill where Linda had trouble catching her breath. I left her and my backpack there to see if I could find the trail.
After crossing the creek and walking a good quarter mile or so, I never found the trail. When I returned, Linda suggested we go back to the last place we knew we were on the trail. When we did that, she spotted a trail marker through the thick brush on the other side of the creek - not exactly an obvious place to cross.
I had to stand on a rock to see the signpost in the middle of the photo above.
So, we bushwhacked across. That delay cost us a good half hour or so.
We could have just followed the GPS, but we were glad we got back on the trail because it led us around two or three boulder fields ....
and the climb wasn't as steep. Still, the last half-mile had the most elevation change.
When we finally reached Maybelle Lake, we were happy to be there and it was beautiful.
We were at 9700 feet elevation, and I never was able to fully catch my breath for the two hours we were there. It takes awhile to get our bodies acclimated, but we've learned over the years that staying hydrated is extremely important at altitude, so we carried lots of water.
There are lots of trees around the edges of the lake, so it's not the best place for fly-fishing. But we found a section of rocks where it was easier. We could see fish surfacing.
But first, I hopped around on the rocks to take pictures - probably why I stayed out of breath the whole time. :)
We kept our eyes open for moose and elk 'cause we saw large, fresh hoof prints on the trail going around the lake. Alas, we saw neither.
We put our fly rods together, and I started out with a trusty wooly bugger fly, but there was no interest. After a few casts, Linda said to use a dry fly since the fish were surfacing.
So I changed flies and within a couple of casts, a small, beautiful Cutthroat Trout took the fly. Linda got the momentous occasion on video. No matter what happened the rest of the day, I was happy. :)
Soon, Linda had her line in the water.
She was a bit rusty on technique and hooked a couple of trees, but she also caught a fish - another Cutthroat.
In fact, she later caught another. We both missed a couple more strikes, but she beat me on fish count - two to one. :)
I would have loved to have walked around the lake, but it was over a mile, and I was just too tired.
Around 5:30, with an hour hike and an hour ride on the rough road, we packed up and started back. We bid farewell to the lovely Maybelle.
It was an easier hike back, and I was able to get my breath back as we approached the creek. We looked for wildlife in the meadows.
There was lots of evidence of rabbits, deer, and elk, but we only saw chipmunks, squirrels, and a few birds.
The Jeep was a welcome sight as we ended the hike.
But we were dreading the nearly four miles of rocks and ruts. Our backs and shoulders were already worn out from carrying extra water and fishing gear, and the bouncing was not going to be fun.
We slowly drove, but stopped once in awhile to look at the beauty in the light of the setting sun.
I asked Linda if she wanted to fish a little in East Tensleep Creek, ....
although I knew neither of us were really up for it.
We crested a rocky ridge and started down with Meadowlark Lake in view.
Another mile or so and we were finally on pavement.
Back home, we were just ready to sit and relax. As soon as we put all the gear away, we grabbed some water and plopped down in our recliners. We had eaten at the lake and, with the exercise, dinner wasn't on our minds at all.
With the constant sun today, our batteries were fully charged via the solar panels. We kicked on the inverter while we waited for the water to heat for our showers (we never leave the water heater on while we're gone). The propane heats the water faster than the electric, so it wasn't long before we were showered and ready for bed.
Though tired, we were pleased that we were able to complete another adventure. We've only got a couple days left in the Bighorn Mountains, and who knows what we'll get into next. :)