Day 2

Dawn on North Rawah PeakThe next morning I woke up at around 5 and prepared to hike up to the hilltop I had been to the previous evening. With essentials in my frame pack and my headlamp on, Frank and I set out long before dawn and huffed and puffed our way up to the hilltop in 45 minutes. I suppose it was really only me who huffed and puffed since Frank ran enough to climb that hill 18 times, and was hardly panting. I got to the top and watched clouds redden and catch fire in the east. The sun peaked above the horizon and hit the eastern wall of the mountains before me, turning them rosy pink. It was cold, and the breeze blew stiffly even at 6AM. I sat on top of the biggest rock I could find, in the sun, as Frank pranced around the open flower-covered tundra searching for anything and everything of interest to a dog. 

By 7, the show was finished, and bright white light had replaced the warm rosy glow of dawn. I hiked down to Grassy Pass and then back up toward Rawah #4 at 11,400í. The hike up was difficult. The map shows a trail but I never found it, nor really needed it. Open meadows and rock fields were easy to navigate, although the going was slow. Arriving at the lake was like a hush over the audience. Cold, clear, greenish water sat still as glass in the protected cirque. On 3 sides, rock walls rose up almost vertically another thousand feet, peaking at the top of North Rawah Sam and Frank enjoying sunrisePeak on the north side of the lake. Permanent snowfields lined the rocks. Unlike the shallow, sandy bottom of Sandbar Lakes, one only saw naked rocks in this lake, lining a steep grade down into a black abyss that was almost eerie in its depth. It was not a cheery lake, but it was very beautiful. It was a lake I would have felt nervous sleeping next to. I fished around the east side of the lake and finally found my spot near the outlet of the lake where I hauled in the biggest trout I ever caught. He was a 19" Cutthroat. I stalked him from behind a large rock, dragging my fly through the water just in front of him. That is one of the big thrills of fishing alpine lakes. You actually watch the entire process happen. You can see exactly when the old fish spots the fly, how he gives his tail a quick flick or two and opens that gaping white-lipped mouth to swallow your deceptive lure. You try to time your jerk on the line to set the hook right as he hits it, before he can spit it out cleanly. This fish was so big I wondered if the line would break so I brought him in very slowly. Amazingly, I landed him on this tiny #18 fly and took a quick shot of him next to my fly reel.  His throat was so red it looked like I had gutted him. I caught three more in that same area, but none as large as that first one. 

Big trout. Cutthroat? Cutbow? Just not sure.
The Columbines and Indian Paintbrush at the lakeside were brilliant, and I took time to examine these in detail. I sat on the knoll holding back the lake on the east side and ate beef jerky and crackers. Large clouds came over the summit, and I kept expecting thunderstorms to build, but they never did, and it remained mostly sunny for most of the morning. I left the lake further south than the way I had come and made my way sideways over to a dramatic perch above Grassy Pass with a view of Bench Lake, 1 mile to the south.  Frank and I headed downhill and went to visit Rawah #3, where I fished and caught 3 large rainbows.  Some of the best flowers I saw the entire trip were along the Rawah #4; Rawah Wilderness, Coloradodrainage from Rawah #3 to #2. I intended to fish there on the way down, but there was a compound of tents and lamas right next to the lake and I didnít want to have to keep Frank on a leash so we just went back to camp around 3. Good thing I did since when I returned my head was pounding so hard I could hardly think. I napped for an hour in the tent, but that didnít help, so I decided to heck with it and went fishing anyway in Upper Sandbar and Big Rainbow. Maybe my headache slowed my senses because I didnít manage to land anything. 

Back in camp Frank immediately began growling softly in the uphill direction, staring intently at the trees on the other side of the small clearing. I grabbed my walking stick to fend off any bears that might come rambling through and stood quietly as Frank continued to growl. One never really likes to hear their dog growling softly at unseen shapes in the woods. I walked slowly up the hill, and then heard loud thuds and crashes in the underbrush as a buck went bounding up the hill, out of sight. Well, I donít suppose there was anything to fear with that deer around until we got there. I went to bed early that night and decided to sleep in as long as possible in the morning. 

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