A four-day, 20-mile trip into the Cloud Peak Wilderness of Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains was my first backpacking in about 20 years. I was worried about my knees holding up, but with the help of trekking poles, Ibuprofen and knee braces, it was OK. We got a late start on the first day, and walked about 4.5 miles to our first camp on Lake Helen. The mosquitoes were out in force by the lake, so we opted to camp on a rocky ridge above the lake where it might be windier. By the time we set up camp and ate, there wasn't much time to fish so I didn't even break out my flyrod. The next morning, we hiked to Mistymoon Lake and caught some small brook trout. We pushed on to Solitude Lake for night two's camp, passing some beautiful waterfalls about a half-mile from the lake. Jan and I caught a bunch of brookies at the lake, including a couple decent 12-inchers. Day three started with a long uphill trek. Luckily, the day was cool and overcast - a harbinger of what the weather held in store for us. We set up camp at Lake Marion around 1 p.m., giving us ample time to fish that water and to hike to Fortress Lake. A ranger hinted that Fortress held golden trout, and it wasn't long before Jan hooked up with one about a foot long. Even from across the lake, I could see the fish's bright orange belly. Goldens are gaudy, special trout that live in special places. We awoke to snow on our last morning and hurriedly ate and packed up. We all wore the warmest clothes we had, and walked briskly to get the body temperature heating up. Once we reached the trailhead, we headed for beer and burgers in Tensleep, Wyo. Thanks to Marty for packing cognac and wine. It was a great trip.
Eric is retired and living in Laramie, Wyo. He taught journalism in the University of Wyoming's Communication and Journalism Department for 26 years. Before that, he worked at the Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle for 11 years.