Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Trout Lake Loop

Its Yellowstone season again for Matt and me.  Huzzah.  We've already got several swell hikes under our belt for the year.  We had to buy a new guidebook, actually, as we've systematically worked through nearly every hike in our old book.
Trout Lake was a secondary dayhike for us a couple weeks ago.  At only 2 miles round-trip its a super easy one to tack on when a morning hike is over, there is still plenty of afternoon left, and you're not quite ready to call in quits for the day--but also not feeling ambitious enough for something more strenuous.  Additionally its a mild, easy enough stroll as to make a keen picnic spot, too.
The trailhead is in the beautiful Lamar Valley in the northeast portion of the park.  There is a turnout at the trailhead located on the north side of the road, almost 19 miles east of Tower Junction.  From the pullout the trail climbs for a half mile through the forest gaining about 120-125 feet of elevation--and after that it was flat, smooth sailing.
The Soda Butte Creek is not too far below the trail and its sound kept us company as we hiked.  Always a delightful hiking companion, those rustling mountain streams.  There were lots of humongous trees, though most of the largest were also dead.  Even dead the were mighty impressive.
The Trout Lake Trail is a lolly-pop loop around Trout Lake.  I really like loops and a loop ringing a lake is certainly splendid.  It allows so many different vantage points from which to take in the quiet reflection and ripples of Trout Lake as well as offering chances to observe waterfowl and other critters along the shoreline.
Trout Lake is one of those interesting demonstrations of how the park service has adjusted its management policies to be more ecologically minded.  Trout Lake was once home to an in-park fishery and the lake stocked with Rainbow Trout.  These trout have bred with the native Cutthroat Trout resulting in a hybridized subspecies--the Cutbow.   The emphasis has shifted from more-fish-for-people-to-catch to preserve-native-species-and-habitats.  Fishing is still allowed, but is not unnaturally inflated with non-native game fish.  The park is still working to repair some of the damage done.  Cutthroat Trout are strictly catch and release at Trout Lake.  Rainbows and Cutbows are allowed to be kept because they really shouldn't be there in the first place.  I've read that the trout spawn in the creek on the north end of Trout Lake during the early summer, though I've not seen it myself.  We might try and catch the spawning here in a couple weeks, time permitting.
We sat on a fallen log which rested on the grassy banks of the lake and enjoyed a drink and snack.  There were lots of birds to watch, most notably a nine-pack of the fabulous Eared Grebes and a Mountain Bluebird singing his heart out.  Those grebes were simply stunning.  We also saw plenty of fish jumping.
It was so quiet.  So still.  The day was quite grey, but the smooth, still water managed to reveal itself a lovely, deep, emerald green nonetheless.
The trail along the west bank of the lake was still quite deep with snow, but we followed in the footsteps of those who went before us and managed to keep it out of our boots.  I guess that comes with the territory when mountain hiking the last weekend of April!
Just as we were planning to head back down the trail Matt ran into someone he knew!  What a small world!  One of Matt's "regulars" from the tie-dye business was accompanying her son and his AP Biology class on a trip through the park.  For such a large park and so many places to go it was rather bizarre to cross paths with her.  Of course, we ran into a class from the college where I work in the park last year.  This past weekend we ran into a friend on the boardwalks in the Upper Geyser Basin.  Its a small world indeed.
After concluding the loop around the lake we crossed a footbridge and returned to the road via the stem of the lolly-pop trail.  Short and sweet.
I had to marvel at the fact one can find such a quiet, little lake packed with so many birds, and so much tranquility just a mere mile from the roadway.  It was a splendid place to spend a few hours, soaking it all in.

2 comments:

  1. Is that fur on the tree stump?

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    1. Yes, at this time of year the bison are ditching their thicker winter coat and so frequently rocks, trees, stumps, etc end up with a bunch of fur attached or scattered around as the bison use the stump/rock/etc as a scratching/rubbing post.

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