We made two trips last summer to “Wolverine” Basin in Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains: 4th of July weekend and early September. We found beautiful scenery, high alpine lakes, plentiful trout, and few other people. It’s Larry’s new favorite fishing spot. He has forbidden me from revealing their real names.
Before I give away Larry’s secrets, please consider his pants. He’s been wearing (and patching) them for what he calls “a really long time.” Is it time for new pants? Please help solve a marital dispute and vote below.
And now to the trip.
The trail up follows this broad canyon, about 5 miles and 2500′ elevation gain, to a basin that holds several lakes, most of which are stocked with trout–cutthroats, rainbows, and goldens.
This mountain goat was napping smack-dab in the middle of the trail.
Our first stop was “Golden Trout” Lake. The goldens were attempting to spawn in July and not biting. September was a different story: Larry landed about a dozen big golden trout.
The next day we took a short hike to “Cutthroat Lake” where Larry caught a couple dozen 12-15″ cutthroats. The fishing was good here in both July and September.
One evening, we noticed a dark spot moving across the snow field (below at right). It was a wolverine, an animal neither of us had seen before in the wild. We watched it run across the snow and disappear by the lake’s outlet.
The photo below is from the National Geographic website, but here’s a wolverine. Yikes!
We left “Cutthroat Lake” (below) and climbed the steep saddle into the next little valley where we found yet another lake full of fish.
From the point where Larry is standing (above), you can see “Cutthroat Lake” on one side and–if you turn around–see “Mosquito Lake” on the other side (below).
“Mosquito Lake” yielded many easy cutthroats along with a generous helping of mosquitos. Crazy Larry did a count one morning: 75+ mosquitos on the tent mesh waiting for us to emerge. If you like mosquitos, this is the lake for you.
From “Mosquito Lake,” the trail zigzags up the face of the mountain, over an 11,000′ pass, and then drops into a surprising hanging valley (below).
Go to the end of the valley, drop 1000 feet, hang a left up the next valley, and follow the trail for a couple miles. You’ll eventually come to this sign:
Despite the sign, when in pursuit of trout, one must keep going! Watch for cairns marking impossible creek crossings and be ready to bushwhack up steep slopes.
If you’re persistent and have good navigational skills, you’ll be rewarded with great fishing at “Rainbow Lake.” To get here from “Mosquito Lake,” it took us 9 hours to hike 8 miles (2 miles off trail), gaining 1800′ and losing 3400′. It was the 4th of July, but we had the place to ourselves.
Idaho has 347 peaks over 10,000′ –more than any other Rocky Mountain state. Take that, Colorado peak snobs!
You can see why these lakes are Larry’s new favorites. We’ll be back next summer.
Whitebark pine trees grow at high elevation and have nutritious seeds once gathered by Native Americans. Today they provide food for birds and animals, including grizzlies. Sadly, most of these trees are dead in the Intermountain West due to mountain pine beetle and white pine blister rust. When you consider the impact this has on the entire ecosystem, it is disturbing indeed. More information here.
We saw many teeny-tiny flowers growing in the most unlikely places (dry, sand or rock, above 10,000′). These guys know how to make the best of a bad situation!