Water water everywhere

Water water everywhere, but not in the right places. It’s strange driving through a dense fog of smoke so thick that you can’t even see the markings on the road. It was a new experience to me, and one I would rather not go through again. Fort Collins isn’t my town, but driving under the heavy weight of the smoke bearing down on the town was saddening all the same. It could happen in Boulder too, and I’m sure it will in the not too distant future. The last few weeks have brought some much needed precipitation to the front range, and the topic of the impending fire danger seems to have been forgotten from daily conversation, but the danger is still there. As I look up at the huge black clouds unleashing lightening onto the foothills, its obvious that the 10 minutes of hard rain that will follow is never going to be enough to douse the spark that really wants to spread.

Whilst traveling through the mountains, camping in tinderboxes ready to light, caution was always on our mind. After living in such precarious situations, the lakes always seemed like an anomaly; all this water just sitting there. Useless to help the dire situation of its yang, the woodland that surrounds it.

I’ve seen some fantastic lakes. Here is a selection of my favourites:

Lookout lake – Snowy range, Wyoming.

With one of the driest winters on record, I was surprised to find this run of ice making its way across the surface of the lake. In the shadow of medicine bow peak, the touch test confirmed that this water wasn’t much above freezing. The baltic wind was also blowing small ice chunks across the surface like little rubber ducks. Fantastic.

Lake Marie, Snowy range, Wyoming

The peak in the background is Medicine Bow peak, a mere 12,000 feet high. In colorado it wouldn’t even register as worth naming. But its the namesake of the medicine bow national forest, and sticks its head a long way above the grassy plains of south eastern wyoming. This is Lake Marie, named after one of the most influential ladies Wyoming has even seen. As I was taking this photo the wind was buffeting the water so hard I wondered how it managed to stay in the lake.

Green River Lake, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

The green river isn’t widely known, but it tracks a large course through the southwest of the US, from its headwaters here in the Wind Rivers, through the empty sage of Southern Wyoming, and finally meandering ever more slowly into Utah before dumping into the Colorado river just outside of Moab. Having filled cars with petrol in both Green Rivers (there are two towns called Green River – one in Utah and one in Wyoming), I never imagined its origins to be so grand. With squaretop peak in the background, and nestled on the pacific side of the continental divide, it could hardly be more majestic. I’m going to state right here that I will one day look down Green River lake from the top of that peak.

Twin Lakes, Wind River range, Wyoming

When you study a  map of the wind rivers, the hike to these lakes looks like a literal walk in the park. So small in fact that you’d hardly consider it a worthy conquest. But on closer analysis, the scale of these peaks becomes clear, and suddenly you realise the quarter of an inch of dotted ink on paper actually equals a solid 14 mile round trip with almost 3,000 of vertical gain. Creeks to be crossed, steeps to scramble up, and multiple downed trees to overcome lead up and over a ridge into a bowl that feels untouched. Encountering no people in either direction made this hike that little bit more special. The small barely submerged walkway between the two lakes is another quirk of geology; it takes a good moment of contemplation to work out in which direction the water is flowing.

Jackson lake, Teton National Park, Wyoming.

The king of all lakes, its majesty almost unconquerable. Sitting at it’s eastern shore and listening to the gentle lapping of water is exactly the place I would like to spend every 7pm. The colours begin to form over the highest peaks in the Tetons, and as the clouds dance above, the water is saturated with its changing  hue. Swimming in the lake makes you feel like the smallest thing alive; I like it.

Taggart Lake, Teton National Park, Wyoming.

This is a little lake by Teton standards. On the map it hardly looks worth visiting, but a dawn-stroll around its shore provides the best view of Grand Teton that I have ever seen. Eagles nosey enough to make a second, and third, bypass over your head just adds to the feeling of being out there.

Minerva Pools, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

I’m not sure this one counts, but it can’t be excluded. It doesn’t flow anywhere, but rather evaporates right off the surface as the near-boiling sulphuric water pours out of the ground. Millennia of calcification has transformed an otherwise normal valley into terraces of the whitest of white rock formations. Looking at the peaks on the other side of the valley which fall into Montana make it even more special.

Lake Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Its big; not much bigger than Jackson lake, but the perspective puts the peaks so much further away on the other side of the water. I would like to go find out what there is on the other side of that water. We rolled up just as a thunderstorm was rolling in. It looks dangerous; not just foreboding, but actually something you wouldn’t want to be involved in.

Lake in the woods, Union Pass, Wyoming.

Compared with the other bodies of water in this list, this little puddle shouldn’t even make a splash. But it does. Perhaps its the solitude; Elk and Deer were scrambling for cover around every corner. Its winning feature for me though are the lilies floating so happily on the surface. Undisturbed like we found them, and like we left them.

Lake Louise, Western Wind rivers, Wyoming.

You can see the carvings the water has made as it furrows its own path in between the scree of volcano which originally shaped this valley. The walk to its closest shore is a mere hour of scrambling up and down seemingly never ending valleys of rubble, but it takes you to another place – looking at the highest point in wyoming that is so close but you know would take another two days to walk there, dont even think about taking a bike!

Grand Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

In contrast to the most solitary parts of Wyoming, Grand Lake is a metropolis. Surrounded on three sides by resort homes, and the third rising sharply to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, its a lake buzzing with Kayaks, boats, swimmers and young energy. Ice creams are being sold on the board walk, next to children digging their feet into the sand. Smoke from nearby fires added a haze to the valley which finished the picture – holiday land.