On the trail: Dark Canyon beckons | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Dark Canyon beckons

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – I’ve been meaning to explore Dark Canyon with a fly rod in hand since I first encountered it more than a decade ago.

Despite its ominous name, the canyon proved inviting at midday in August, when I finally returned, and its Anthracite Creek fairly sparkled as it poured through riffles and pools, tumbling out of the Ragged Wilderness south of Marble and northwest of Crested Butte.

A friend and I set out from the Dark Canyon trailhead near Erickson Springs campground off Kebler Pass, en route to Crested Butte, intending to hike and fish our way up the creek and into the canyon. Though we had hip waders in our packs, we mostly fished from select spots on the creek bank until my companion, enticed by a pool she could not reach, finally relented and swapped out her footwear. She still couldn’t ford the swift, deep stretch of water in front of her, but the waders would have been a good idea from the get-go.

Wading up the stream, we’d have hit lots of pockets where the dense willows kept us on the trail. There, we fairly gorged ourselves on thimbleberries, distracted from our original mission by the preponderance of ripe berries at our red-stained fingertips.

The canyon is impressively deep, and huge cottonwoods along the creek offer welcome shade on a hot day. We found stocked rainbows in the creek above the campground – all an identical 8 inches or so, with the telltale, muted hues of fish dumped from a hatchery truck into the water. Plenty of promising holes produced nary a strike though, and I suspect the easily accessed stream is fished heavily by anglers who keep their catch.

We were a couple of miles in before we landed a few brightly colored trout that fought far more vigorously than their downstream counterparts.

With our relaxed pace and a cold brew on the balcony at The Eldo in Crested Butte calling, we left many miles of stream and canyon unexplored.

My resolve to return to Dark Canyon remains intact.


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