Monday, September 16, 2013

The Hermansens Celebrate the American Laborer

Labor Day 2013

This year the Hermansens celebrated the American laborer by hiking up to Lake Isabelle in the Brainard Lake region and fishing the Middle Fork of the St. Vrain.

Lake Isabelle

It turns out if you show up at 8:30 am on Labor Day, you will not get a spot at the Long Lake Trailhead (40° 4.674'N 105° 35.077'W). Instead we parked at the Brainard Lake day use parking area. It was about a mile walk around the lake to the trailhead. When we talked to one of the Rangers he said that 80% of the spots were filled for the weekend with people who hiked in and camped – so even arriving earlier might not have assured us a spot.

Bella finds hiking very tiring

We went with my friend Justin and his family. They have two kids and so we took a leisurely pace. We heard rumors that the lake was half-drained, but we decided we were committed at that point. We had briefly discussed hiking up Niwort Ridge for the views but it was too late at that point. However, when we arrived we were pleased to see that the upper half of the lake was still filled and beautiful. The low water level actually made for a great beach. We really should have brought some towels. Of course, the water was fed from the Isabelle Glacier, so swimming would have been brief.

Lake Isabelle has a beech!

We had a picnic lunch and then made our way back. As our friend said, Lake Isabelle has a high reward to hiking effort ratio. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick beautiful hike or an easy hike with the family.

Middle Fork of the St. Vrain

After the hike, Justin and I parted ways with our families and went fishing on the Middle Fork of the St. Vrain. We drove down the paved part until we got to the 4-wheel drive section of the road at the Camp Dick Campground (40° 7.796’N 105° 31.447’W). This section starts off with an obstacle that is designed to make anyone who does not have a 4-wheel drive vehicle realize that parking would be a fine idea.

This was my first foray into real 4-wheel driving. I learned that:
·         My truck is a lot tougher than I thought it was.
·         Four-wheeling is not any faster than walking.
·         It’s only really worth it if you’re going to camp (and want to haul a lot of gear) or just like off-roading.
We eventually came to an obstacle about a mile in that we decided was not worth crossing, so went down to the stream and rigged up.

Justin casting for fish beneath some falls

Both of us brought our dogs. This was the first time that I had taken Bella. She was a champ, exhibiting all the best characteristics that you wanting a fishing dog: she sat quietly by the bank, did not wander off and did not try to help me land any of the fish.

Bella proving her mettle as a fishing dog

I fished most of the day with large (size 12) parachute adams with a copper dropper. I got slightly more fish on the dry. The fish were mostly brookies in the 8-inch range. I got one cutthroat that was probably around 12-inches. The middle fork has beautiful pools and nice trails on either side that make for easy jumping to the good fishing holes. We ended our trip at a nice waterfall. I switched to a double nymph rig (size 10 stonefly, size 16 copper john) and landed a nice 13” brookie on the copper john to end the day.

We left the river around 5pm and amazingly enough got the truck out in one piece. It was great way to celebrate the working man and women with good fishing, hiking and friends.