Necklace Valley Trek
~ July 29 - Aug. 2, 1968 ~

by Ken James McLeod

Jade Lake & Bald Eagle Peak - Necklace Valley Ken James McLeod

We began our hike into the alpine lakes at the trailhead parking lot at 3:00 pm exactly. There were only a few cars in the lot. Wasting no time, we started up the East Fork Foss River Trail, only encountering a few day hikers. My pal Greg Relf and I had taken 5 days off from work for another "High Camps" vacation into the wilds. And it felt great to be going in the hills and mountains again where there would be no phones, bells, radios, city noise, etc. Our only entertainment would be the grandeur of the mountains and the fishing in the high lakes which lay 9 miles up the trail . . . beautiful Necklace Valley. We arrived at Jade Lake a little after 8:00 pm in the evening and very tired as our packs were pretty heavy loaded mostly with canned goods. We set up camp near the inlet and made a fire in the rock pit fireplace found there, for cooking. A camp fire was our only source for cooking as we carried no stove. After the quick evening meal, out came our fishing rods for some late trout fishing. We did not fish too long though before darkness engulfed us. Later, under a star-bright night, we rolled our sleeping bags out on the ground next to the fire for the night.

Morning came all too soon, and the mosquitoes began their assault on us. They attacked us from every angle showing us no mercy whatsoever! Fighting them throughout the day while fishing was more bearable than sitting around camp, so off we went. Our luck of fishing was pretty good catching fourteen cutthroats (small ones 8 - 10 inches) on mostly flies, Some were kept for eating. Later in the day, we packed up and headed up the valley and scouted out Emerald and Opal Lakes, then we traversed over to ILswoot Lake. At ILswoot Lake, a very big glacier-colored lake, we made another camp and another fire for the cooking, and to drive away the biting bugs. The fishing here was real good catching eleven cutts 9 to 11 inches and some seen larger . . . a 6 pounder at least swimming near the outlet. Later spent the night covered up in sleeping bags, we had no tent only a tarp in case of rain. At times, we did wish we had had a fancy bug proof tent though, for in the morning we counted 29 mosquito bites on one of Greg's hands.

Camp was broke later in the day and we headed up and over the hump to the main valley, where we encountered a log "memorial" shelter. There, we took retreat from the heat and had some lunch while we examined the shelter. From there, we hiked the way path over to Al's Lake, where the fishing rods came out again. We caught several nice fat cutts 13 to 14 inches. The trout appeared to be Montana Black Spot or MBS type, different from the other two lakes. The mosquitoes here were worse however and I had to bring out the cigars and cigarettes to keep them off my face. Onward to Locket Lake . . . Locket Lake was another big lake. We set up camp near the inlet stream. Here, the mountain ravens were carrying on about the lake and high cliffs above. We went for a few swims to cool off, Fishing was pretty good catching sixteen rainbows on flies, with Greg catching about the same, some on spinners too. We kept some for eating again. We stayed here at Locket for two nights and then left on the 5th day. During the trip, we had 85 and 90 degree heat and no clouds in the sky. We encountered no other people (fishermen or hikers) during our stay at the lakes, it was enchanting!

note: The Alpine Lakes Wilderness was established in 1976, 8 years after our trip into Necklace Valley. Prior to the establishment of the wilderness area, there were very few permits required nor any trail-park passes needed. It was no fad going into the high country and there were no crowds, few if any as I remember. Our camp fires were used for cooking and they were only made with dead (downed) wood. The food we consumed was either fresh or canned, mostly consisting of fried trout and potatoes. The mountains were ours to explore with few restrictions, a freedom back then we most certainly took for granted, not knowing just exactly how lucky we had it. And you could go anyway if you had a "buck or two" in your pocket, as gasoline was only 25 to 30 cents a gallon. Yes, an era long since past, but not forgotten.....


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