Matt House Photography

Backpacking at Music Pass

The last two 4th of July weekends have seen the start of a tradition. Backpacking and backcountry fly fishing at Lower Sand Creek Lake in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Southern Colorado. The first year (2014) we went into the trip not knowing what to expect. The word was that the lake had amazing fishing in a ridiculous setting. Getting there would require several hours of driving with about an hour or so on dirt roads that got increasingly more 4wd as you get closer to the trailhead. Then a few more miles of backpacking over Music Pass into a valley to get to the lake. I’ll let the photos talk but it definitely surpassed the expectations.

4th of July 2015 was coming and there was no doubt about where we were headed.

Tijeras Peak towering over Lower Sandcreek Lake

Tijeras Peak towering over Lower Sand Creek Lake

But first was the drive. Driving into Westcliffe, CO and the Wet Mountain Valley we get the first glimpse of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Sangre de Cristo Range on CO 96

Sangre de Cristo Range on CO 96

After a quick gas/lunch stop in Westcliffe we headed out into the dirt roads toward the trailhead at Music Pass.

Driving parallel to the Sangre de Cristos

Driving parallel to the Sangre de Cristos

The road getting a little rockier

The road getting a little rockier

 

After getting organized at the trailhead we set off hiking up the old road toward Music Pass. This trail just goes up, up, up. So I have no photos of that struggle. But once we got to the Pass we took a break and took some photos.

Looking out over the Wet Mountain Valley from Music Pass

Looking out over the Wet Mountain Valley from Music Pass

Entering the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness

Entering the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness with storms brewing

It was clear once we got to the Pass that there were afternoon thunderstorms brewing. So we prepared to get wet and started the hike into the valley. The lake below the tall peak on the left in the above photo (Tijeras Peak) is our destination.

Hiking into the valley

Hiking into the valley

We had some showers pass nearby but managed to stay mostly dry on the hike to the lake. As we got up the last hill in the forest close to the lake the sun decided to reappear.

 

Tijeras Peak greeting us over Lower Sandcreek Lake

Tijeras Peak greeting us over Lower Sand Creek Lake

Being able to set up camp while the sun was out was great, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Before we knew it another storm was blowing through. The temps dropped and thunder echoed throughout the basin. We had just enough time to gather some wood and get it under a tarp before the rain and hail started falling.

Hail coating the ground like snow

Hail coating the ground like snow

 

Once the hail stopped it was time to get out to the lake for some fishing.

Clouds rising up Tijeras Peak

Clouds rising up Tijeras Peak

 

Native Cutthroat Trout

Native Cutthroat Trout

We fished until the sun went down and then worked on getting a fire started with the somewhat damp wood. It eventually worked and everyone warmed up around the heat.

Hanging out around the fire

Hanging out around the fire

Day 2 started with some coffee, breakfast, and more fishing. Then with great weather we hiked around the lake to explore up the slope toward Tijeras Peak.

A higher view of Lower Sand Creek Lake

A higher view of Lower Sand Creek Lake

Looking up the Southeast face of Tijeras Peak

Looking up the Southeast face of Tijeras Peak

Adam and Tucker over the Lake

Adam and Tucker looking out over the Lake

A photosphere Eric took. Click and drag around to explore.

 

On the way back to camp we gathered more firewood for a 4th of July campfire. It was still early afternoon so we fished a little and hung out around camp a bit.

Adam's...kit

Adam’s…kit

Sand Creek Lake and one of the inlet streams

Sand Creek Lake and one of the inlet streams below camp

Catching a fish

Catching a fish

Then almost like Mother Nature has a schedule to keep, another thunderstorm blew in. Only this time everyone got in their sleeping bags and napped until it stopped. Once the rain died down I snuck out and explored above camp a bit.

Camp

Camp

Trail through the forest above camp

Trail through the forest above camp

There are a few unmarked social trails in the forest that lead to the surrounding peaks.

Bluebells

Bluebells

The upper parts of Tijeras Peak

The upper parts of Tijeras Peak

The upper parts of the inlet stream

The upper parts of the inlet stream

Then it was time for a little more fishing before the sun set.

Evening fishing

Evening fishing

After dinner and starting a fire Reggie and I took some time to take a few night photos of the lake as the moon came up.

The Milky Way over the Lake

The Milky Way over the Lake

4th of July Night on Lower Sand Creek Lake

4th of July Night on Lower Sand Creek Lake

The following morning Adam and I woke up for sunrise.

Adam and Tucker up early

Adam and Tucker up early making coffee

First light hitting Tijeras Peak with the moon behind

First light hitting Tijeras Peak with the moon behind

The Sun warming up Tijeras Peak

The Sun warming up Tijeras Peak

Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee

Camp in the Morning

Camp in the Morning

After packing up camp we all fished for a couple more hours before hiking back out to the trailhead. It was a windy morning but the fishing was still unreal.

Last morning of fishing

Last morning of fishing

A colorful Cutthroat

A colorful Cutthroat

Matt catching fish. Photo by Reggie

Matt catching fish. Photo by Reggie

In the 2 hours of fishing I managed to catch somewhere around 28ish fish. At some point you just stop counting and keep casting.

Unfortunately it was time to head back to the trailhead. We had to head out before Mother Nature’s thunderstorm schedule snuck up on us. So it was a quick lunch followed by the hike out.

Eric hiking through wildflowers

Eric hiking through wildflowers aka dandelions

Music Mountain

Music Mountain

Looking back at Tijeras Peak and more storms building

Looking back at Tijeras Peak and more storms building

Panorma of the trail going back up the Pass

Panorma of the trail going back up the Pass

Hiking back down the Pass toward the trailhead

Hiking back down the Pass toward the trailhead

Driving back down the road

Driving back down the road

Further down the road

Further down the road, looking at storms coming into the valley

Back on the smooth road

Back on the smooth road

Storms blowing into the Sangre de Cristos

Storms blowing into the Sangre de Cristos

Dudes on a dude trip

Dudes on a dude trip

Only 4 months until 4th of July weekend 2016…

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