Photos and writing by Mac Holt
We started our drive towards the trailhead on what felt like the potholed road that never ended. Excited to get on the trail, we were driving too fast and attempting to dodge any pothole in sight. Unluckily for us, they were everywhere.
We arrived at the trailhead at 7 a.m. Planning to spend three nights in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, we set out for Tuck and Robin Lakes to fly fish and day hike around the area. However, as one must always be prepared for when out in the backcountry, plans may change at a moment's notice.
We slapped our packs on our backs and began our hike. I knew as I was packing my backpack that it was a touch overweight. This is the curse of being a landscape photographer; it is so hard to leave equipment behind for fear of losing that perfect moment.
This was also the maiden voyage with our new dog, Gus. My girlfriend Annabel and I adopted Gus just a few weeks before the trip with high hopes for our new adventure companion; Gus hiked like a champ.
The first few miles were a breeze. We passed Hyas lake in awe of Cathedral rock looming over us like an ancient statue. We began our climb up to Tuck Lake just as the sun began to hit our backs and warm the air. We were one of the few groups that morning heading up to Tuck and Robin Lakes as most were heading down from their weekend trips. Every party that we passed warned us of the hordes of bugs waiting for us at the lakes. With positive minds and strong will power, we pressed forward.
Annabel and I were not expecting the incline’s severity. The trail gains about 3,000 feet in four miles, so halfway to Tuck Lake we really started to feel the weight of our packs. The pain was eased by the incredible view of Mount Daniel and Mount Hinman across the ridgeline.
Hyas lake seemed to be getting smaller and smaller as we made our ascent to Tuck and Robin Lakes. We arrived at Tuck Lake excited to meet our next checkpoint of the day. We dropped packs with sighs of relief, plunged our feet in the ice-cold lake, filled our water bottles and peered warily towards the next ascent to Robin Lakes.
I was instantly excited by how many fish were jumping at the surface of the water and could not help but to set up my fly rod. My first fly of choice was a grey mosquito pattern. I did a short roll cast out and at once a beautiful 8-inch cutthroat took my fly.
Over the next half hour or so I caught and released four beautiful cutthroat trout, the biggest being around 12 inches. The colors of these fish were spectacular — deep reds on the underbelly and cheeks accompanied by a hard transition to a deep yellow-green with black spots. There is nothing like catching healthy alpine trout!
After about an hour at Tuck, we set off for our final push to Robin Lakes. The trail from this point on was extremely confusing and splintered in multiple directions. However, we began to see the cairns built by the hikers before leading us on the correct path. Very suddenly, the trail became a steep granite scramble.
As we crested the ridge to Robin Lakes, we slogged up tiers of granite slabs dispersed with patches of deep green conifers. As we approached the lakes we were overjoyed by the beauty of the landscape as well as our accomplishment of the 3,000 foot climb. The landscape of the granite basin was more magnificent than one could describe in words.
What also couldn’t be described in words were the thousands of blood-sucking mosquitoes that swarmed us as we greeted Robin Lakes. For the rest of the trip, we had to strategically plan how and when we got out of the tent for the hordes of mosquitoes waited for us to strike our already battered and bitten bodies.
The mosquitoes were so relentless that we had to make the hard decision to call the trip off early. We were discouraged at the moment, yet looking back through photos and reliving memories, it was truly an adventure to remember.
It was an important reminder of how small we are as humans and that nature truly rules all and will continue to do so for as long as it wishes. Hopefully, on our return trip to Robin Lakes, Mother Nature will grant us the permission to visit.