July 15, 1979

Ruby Mountains - Elko, NV

I was just a fledgling angler in my early 20s.  Just out of college, working towards my CPA license, my audit supervisor was Bill “Bergie” Bergan.  Bill was a weekend climber, and we somehow agreed to exchange hobbies with each other (see Beaver Dam Creek, the Early Years for the details of that story). In the spring of 1979 we planned a Ruby Mountain backpack trip as a combination climbing/fishing adventure. Neither of us had ever been to the Rubies, but had seen many pictures of the peaks and alpine lakes that gave rise to its nickname, “Alps of Nevada.” It remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
Looking south up at Liberty Pass, assessing the task at hand.
My brother Neal had backpacked the Rubies with his girlfriend, and he suggested we trek to Favre Lake, a 14-acre alpine lake nestled in the prettiest part of the mountain range at 9,500 feet elevation. The trail starts in Lamoille at 8,800 feet elevation, rises to 10,450 feet at Liberty Pass, and then descends down to Favre Lake, a 3.8-mile one-way trip. Along the trail we passed the Dollar Lakes, Lamoille Lake, and Liberty Lake. The Dollar Lakes freeze solid in the winter due to their shallow nature, but the other three support abundant populations of brook trout. (Nevada Wildlife documents say that Hidden Lake, located north of Lamoille Canyon next to Robinson Lake, had golden trout at one time, but that was back in the 1960s.) Lamoille Lake drains north, creating Lamoille Creek that flows through the glacer carved U-shaped Lamoille Canyon. Liberty Lake drains south into Favre Lake, and Favre Lake drains west into Kleckner Creek, and Kleckner is but one of numerous creeks draining the western slope of the Rubies into the south fork of the Humbolt River. Lamoille Creek had both rainbow and brook trout, but Kleckner supposedly had cutthroat and brook trout.

Our trip occurred in early July. I had recently begun dating Denise, my high school sweetheart. I was excited about this backpack trip but melancholic about being away from her for so long after having just reunited. Bergie, on the other hand, was to leave the Rubies for Sacramento where he had fallen in love with Kathy Duren, his high school sweetheart. How fortuitous that we both fell in love with our childhood sweethearts at the same time, eventually marrying them within a year of each other. Thirty-eight years later we're still married... and to the same women. But I digress.
Bill at Liberty Pass, with Lake Peak aglow to the south, just above Liberty Lake,
with Castle Lake in background and Favre Lake nestled between them.
We donned our 80-pound packs and headed up the pass. Our packs were heavier than normal because we brought along a 160-foot, an 11-millimeter rope, and our climbing gear as well as our fishing gear. The trailhead starts in Lamoille Canyon heading south; in other words, we were on the north side of the pass. Once we passed Lamoille Lake at 9,750 feet we realized what that geography meant: no visible trail as there was still spring snow-pack all over the north-facing slopes. We had both driven 600+ miles, so we were not about to turn back. Rather, we pushed on through the snow trying to make our way to what we believed was the pass.

Once we attained the summit we were relieved to see the south side of the pass fully into spring bloom. What a relief to see flowers and green fields of grass. We got to Favre Lake and set up camp just above the lake. The brookies were voracious and took anything we presented. We saw no other hikers on that side of the pass, so I assume that we were he first fishermen of the season. The brookies were in the eight to ten inch class, but I did catch one at the outlet into Kleckner Creek that approached twelve inches. We kept four for dinner that night, but we released dozens of trout. Those four brook trout were the best tasting trout I have ever eaten. We salt and peppered the trout and stuffed them with wild onions (scallions) that we had plucked on the way back up the hill. We wrapped them in aluminum foil and covered them with hot coals. Those trout tasted shrimp-like; I have never tasted anything like them since.

The Rubies are also known for their exotic wildlife. You need to keep a lookout for Himalayan snowcock, Rocky Mountain bighorns, and mountain goats in this mountain range.  We, unfortunately, we did not see game of any sort.
FisherDad descending Liberty Pass with an 80-lb pack.
The Ruby Mountains deserve to be visited by every Nevadan who enjoys trekking in the snow capped mountains for which the state received its name.  Were I in good enough physical condition a decade or so ago I would have taken my boys on that backpack trip. That opportunity is lost to me now. The Rubies are a source of pride for Nevada outdoorsmen, and I wish my sons will someday experience what Bill and I did in that summer of 1979.

For other Ruby Mountain related stories, visit these other two blogs: Northeastern Nevada - Ruby Lakes, Lamoille Creek, & Illipah Reservoir and Elko County Waters: Ruby Marshes, South Fork Reservoir, and Wild Horse Reservoir.
FisherDad at Liberty Pass;
Lake Peak aglow to the south, just above Liberty Lake.

FisherDad just above Kleckner Creek outlet.

Bill just above Kleckner Creek outlet.
Bill snapped the picture just as I struck a Brookie taking a dry on Favre Lake.
Liberty Lake lies above and to he left of this picture.

Our tasty trout dinner!
FisherDad being top-roped up a granite boulder by Bill Bergan.

A jeweled little alpine Brook Trout; a New England transplant just like FisherDad.
Above is a 3-D topographic map of the area just south of Lamoille Canyon.
You can see how the trail passes by the Dollar Lakes, Lamoille Lake, and Liberty Lake
on its way to Favre Lake. The trail actually follows the range south towards
Overland Lake and eventually meets up with the Harrison Pass Road. Castle Lake
is not pictured on the map, but would be on the ledge south of Favre Lake.

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