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Mike Carey
Welcome to Mike's Fishing Blog, the culmination of a ten year vision for this web site. I fish for anything that swims - put a pole in my hand and I'm there!
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Margaret, Twin, and Lillian Lakes - Alpine Lakes

This is a tale of three lakes, each originating from the same starting location. I’m speaking of recent hikes I did to Margaret Lake, Twin lakes, and Lillian Lake. Three gems in the Alpine Wilderness, located off I-90.

 

To get to the trailhead is an easy one hour drive from Seattle, up and over the pass and taking exit 54 to Gold Creek. The parking lot is not Gold Creek, but ¾ of a mile further on the north side of I-90, continuing east, and then up Forest Service Rd 4934 to a parking lot on the left, marked “Margaret Lake”.

 

I hiked Margaret Lake on Aug 6th with my brother Chris and his fiancée Karena. On August 11 I came back and did a solo hike to Twin and Lillian Lakes.

 

The lakes share a common (and mundane) hike up a clear cut which has grown back to 10-20 foot tall trees. There are very nice views along the way looking back at Lake Keechelus, so that is something anyway. At 1.75 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain – finally! Second growth forest. From here the hike is a gem.  We started at 3,997 feet at the parking lot, and hit the second growth forest at around 5,000 feet. From there it’s decision time – go east to Margaret Lake or north to Twin and Lillian Lakes? The distance to do all three lakes in one day would be tough (at least for my 50-something body). We decided to hike down into Margaret Lake, which was about ¾ of a mile and a drop down from 5,100 feet to 4,800 feet. A word about Guide Books – they suck! I have not found one guide book that accurately measures elevation gain and distance. Try bumping whatever numbers they mention by 20% to get a better estimate. For example, my gps gave me a distance of 5.9 miles round trip for Margaret, and 1,521 feet of elevation gain. The guide book says 6 miles and 1200 feet, so I guess they got the mileage right, anyway.

 

As we broke the crest and descended down to the lake we began running into snow on the trail, which got more frequent and thicker the closer we got to the lake. Once we arrived, however, we found open areas and some very nice camp sites and rocks to hang out on. The lake was clear of ice – yes! I tied on a Fish Creek Spinner and began working the lake, but had no success. As we fished a half dozen very larger trout swam by. I would estimate them to have been in the 14-16” range – these were BIG trout and not at all what I have come to expect from Alpine lakes. Since the spinner was not working I tried flies (both dry and wet) behind a casting bubble. I actually had one of the trout nudge a small nymph pattern I had tied on, but he wouldn’t commit. After convincing myself that the fish were not in the feeding mood we gathered our things and hiked back to the parking lot. Margaret lake definitely would be worth visiting again, and the elevation and distance would make it a candidate for hiking in a small raft for more serious fishing efforts. I’m sure once a person figured out what those fish wanted they would be a hoot to catch!

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Chris and Karena Fishing at Margaret Lake



Margaret Lake



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Lot's of snow but passable



Thursday I returned for a solo hike with my goal to reach the furthest lake along the trail system, Lillian. It was another perfect morning for hiking and there were just a couple cars in the lot, which I found out later were overnighters at Twin Lakes.

 

I made quick work of the clear cut, and at the fork in the trail headed north to Twin lake, first in line. The hike here follows along a wooded ridge line with spectacular rock fields and peak a boo views. A really nice walk and the kind of hike I enjoy most. At 5,000 feet plus, I was running into some patches of snow and a lot of downed trees on the trail, so this portion of the hike I was pretty cautious.



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At around 1.3 miles or so I dropped down into Twin Lakes, a very steep trail and feeling a lot more than the 250 feet descent the guide book said it was.



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Twin Lake -shallow - no fish?


Twin Lakes are, as far as I could tell, barren of fish. The lakes are quite shallow and clear. I saw nothing and did make a few casts, looking for trailing fish, but didn’t see a thing. The lakes (one large and one small, but neither very big) are pretty and have several very nice camp sites. This would be a good destination if your goal was to hike and camp in a scenic setting, but not plan on catching fish. The lakes have nice rocky bluffs on several sides.

 

Onward I went through snow patches and fallen trees to my primary objective, Lake Lillian.  Distance traveled, about ¾ of a mile of intense ups and downs, rock fields, more fallen trees, and generally tough hiking conditions. But, well worth the effort! Lillian is one of those “take your breath away” destinations. Surrounded by rocky outcroppings and cliffs, you really get the Alpine Lakes experience. I found myself just taking in the scenery in quiet appreciation. Well, not quite quiet, as a group of seven arrived 5 minutes after I got there. But that was OK, they were cool and we had a nice visit.




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Now, regarding fishing at Lillian. The lake was clear of ice except for the west shore where I was. It is possible to work up over some rocky cliffs on the south side of the lake, which would give you a chance to hit more spots, but I wasn’t willing to try this day. One false step and you ARE going in! The water is deep right up to the shore, crystal clear. I did not see any fish dimpling the surface. That said, I have no doubt there are fish in this lake. It is listed as having rainbow trout and the lake is 17 acres. So for me the fishing will have to be for another time.



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Laura Lake





There is one more lake which is just west of Lillian and about 400 feet lower, Laura Lake. This lake is listed as having rainbow also and is 3 acres. It would require a scramble down a rocky hillside and some dead-reckoning. I’ll leave that to someone younger and more energetic than I.

 

I shot video and will post it at a later date.

 

Totals from my GPS:

 

Margaret – 5.9 miles round trip, 1,521 feet of elevation gain.

 

Twin and Lillian – 11 miles round trip, 3,020 feet of elevation gain (yes, I feel it!)

Margaret - hiked Aug 6, 2011
Twin and Lillian - hiked Aug 11, 2011

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Posted by: Mike Carey
Posted: 08-11-2011, 08:44 PM
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Wallace Lake 2011

The 2011 hiking season for me has officially begun. Since I had some surgery earlier this year I picked what I thought would be a fairly easy first hike, Wallace Lake, at Wallace Falls State Park. The hike is listed as 4.2 miles in and total elevation guide of around 1,500 feet.

 

I arrived at about 8am and got my gear together. There was not another hiker around and I had the place to myself. It felt good to get the pack on and hit the trail.

 

As is my nature, I could feel the adrenaline propelling me ahead too fast and I had to work on my pacing, especially as I hit the first bit of incline and actually found myself wheezing – never had that happen before! I pressed on and soon enough got the rhythm I was looking for.

 

The hike itself starts along the Wallace river and eventually comes to a “Y”. Falls hikers go right, lake hikers go left. Oh, there is also an alternate route to the lake using logging roads but come on, who wants to do that? It takes about 2 extra miles going that route. I will say, if you are a mountain biker that is the way you’ll have to go, and if you’re biking you may even want to bring a raft along as the lake has very limited access. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

 

I arrived at the lake around 9:30am after a pleasant hike. Second growth forest, no great views, but not a bad hike, the hike is overall pretty tame. This trail is made for beginners. Every 1/2 -1 mile there would be a little sign telling the hiker what to expect – “easy grade”, “moderate grade”. I really don’t need and didn’t care for these prompts but oh well. That tells you this is a very popular day hike area and the State Park service is playing to the crowd.

 

The lake itself is quite pretty, surrounded by wooded shores with precious little access to the lake to fish it. An angler would have to walk out on downed logs and balance as he fishes. Not my cup of tea. The far end of the lake has a delightful area called “Pebble Beach” and this is by far the best fishing location with the shore dropping off to deeper water. I saw fish dimpling and smolt swimming in the shallows, but unfortunately for me my rod had a stress fracture and broke so I didn’t get to catch any fish this day.

 

The lake was first stocked in the 1920s and holds rainbow and eastern brook trout It is 100 feet deep and has a few outlet/inlets so I’m guessing there is a healthy population of fish to catch despite it being in a popular location. It just doesn’t have much access to fish it. This leads me back to my earlier observation about bikes and rafts. If a person hiked in a float tube or raft I think they could really target a lot of fish that have never seen a fly or lure before. I’m guessing it could be pretty good fishing!  So for the strong and brave among you I’ll plant that idea for a future adventure.

 

Today, July 5th, hiking stats: 9.36 miles hiked, maximum elevation 2,131 feet, elevation gained 1,498 feet.

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View from mid lake looking back.

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Posted by: Mike Carey
Posted: 07-05-2011, 08:02 PM
Categories: Trout Fishing
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Mason Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Today’s Alpine Lakes hike took me today a near-by gem of a hike and a so-so lake. My destination was Mason Lake, located on the Ira Springs trail, off exit 45 along I-90 highway. It’s a quick and easy 48 mile drive from my house to the trailhead. There was some lumbering taking place on the road to the trailhead which was interesting, but soon enough I was there and putting on my boots for the hike.

The guide books and the Forest Service rate this hike as “more difficult” and I would have to concur. Although only a 3 mile or so hike to the lake, the elevation gain is almost 2,000 feet so it’s a steep ascent. After a nice warm-up on the old logging road the hike gets serious and I definitely got that “why am I doing this” thought working in my brain. So far in my hiking trips I have been able to push that thought to the back of my mind. It was a little harder this time but I managed it. There were several rest stops that had me gulping for breath – feel the burn baby! It was all worth it as about halfway into the hike the trail opens up to open rock fields and amazing views of the I-90 corridor below and Mt Rainer in the distance. I personally love these types of hikes, getting above tree level, walking high Alpine meadows or cliff walls are my favorite types of trails.

As I crested the ridge and came up to the sign announcing I was entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, the trail descended on the back side and back into lush second growth timber, strewn with large moss-covered boulder fields, like a scene out of Lord of the Rings. Wow, an amazing hike with so much variety for three miles! A short bit of hiking and I came to a creek and BAMM! The lake was right in front of me, totally unexpected.

Mason Lake is a moderate sized lake, listed at 33 acres and holding rainbow trout. The shoreline is boulder-strewn making it tricky to easily work around the entire lake. You definitely need to watch your step! There were several nice looking campsites on the west side of the lake. As to the scenery, this lake is surrounded by forested hills and while nice enough doesn’t really have anything that makes it stands out. Fishing was dead slow with no surface activity. The one fish I caught had some very strange markings. I’ll post the picture and you can come to your conclusions. The fishing was poor, and I was surprised because I figured a nice October day would find these fish on a feeding frenzy before winter comes.

I hiked into this lake in total solitude and thought maybe on a week day I might actually do the impossible – not see anyone on the trail. But that I guess would be asking a lot considering how close this hike is to the Puget Sound area. I had about a half dozen hiking parties coming up as I went down. But, at least I had the lake to myself while I was up there!

Hiked on October 12, 2010. Total distance hiked: 8.9 miles, elevation gain 2,337 feet, maximum elevation 4,285 feet.




View from ridge trail looking back over I-90 toward Seattle

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 Mason Lake looking south.

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Mystery Fish

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Posted by: Mike Carey
Posted: 10-12-2010, 08:23 PM
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Double Trouble - Rachel and Rampart Lakes
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:

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Far shore of Rachel Lake:

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View from the Rampart Lakes area:

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Posted by: Mike Carey
Posted: 09-13-2010, 08:31 PM