Fiddle Lake and Climbs of Fiddler's Perch (9183') and Rainbow Peak (9140')
Location: 43.60571°N, 115.42466°W
Distance: 4.2 miles for lake (7.1 miles for peaks)
Elevation gain: 1100' for lake (2700' for peaks)
Class (difficulty): 2
Time: 2.5 hours for lake (4.5 for peaks)
Prominence: 323' for Fiddler's Perch and 480' for Rainbow Peak
Partner(s): Carrie, Lexie, and Mariah
On her last weekend before school started, my daughter wanted to go backpacking. We hadn't been backpacking for 2 years, so I agreed it was time to get out. My wife loves to fish, so I started looking around for a place to go with a short hike in and a fishable lake. I settled on Rainbow Basin below Trinity Mountain. With 7 or 8 lakes to choose from, I narrowed in on Fiddle Lake because I had read a report on a fishing website that said that was the most productive lake in the basin for fishing this year.
About mid-week, I warned my daughter that the weather was not looking good for the weekend. She didn't care, she wanted to go. So we headed up on Saturday morning, driving around 2.5 hours to get to Big Trinity Lake, which is where the Rainbow Basin trailhead is located. Forecast was for a 40% chance of rain on Saturday and a 60% chance on Saturday night and Sunday.
The Trinity Mountains were gorgeous. Still green, still flowers out, and the lakes near the trailhead were better looking than I remembered. The skies were partly cloudy and it was cool (50's at the trailhead). Perfect conditions. I was pumped up to get started.
Lexie brought a friend (Mariah). This was Mariah's first backpacking trip. Knowing Mariah from 3 years of coaching her at softball, I knew she could handle the heavy pack and hike in. So we headed up the trail with the girls in the lead. The intial half mile is fairly steep and my wife gave me some dirty looks. However, soon we were at the saddle and it was all downhill from there.
I wasn't sure if there was a trail to Fiddle Lake, but sure enough, we found a sign for a trail to Fiddle Lake. When we arrived at the lake, we noticed it only had one area that looked campable... and people were there. However, it turned out they were just done packing up and leaving for another lake. Very cool timing. Then I realized I knew the guy from a previous job and it was nice to catchup with him.
After we setup camp and ate lunch, it was time for the girls to relax, my wife to fish, and me to go bag some peaks in the area.
Peak 9183 (from now on called Fiddler's Perch) sat right above our camp at Fiddle Lake. At 3pm I headed up the slopes above the lakes to the summit. I don't know if I was under the weather, my legs were shot from the short backpack in, or what but I struggled to get up the peak. It took me 50 minutes to get up the 900 feet to the top. The top had 2 huge cairns on it and great views of lakes in all directions. Atop one of the cairns was a sheriff's badge-like object with the creed and the name Reyes on the back. I caught my breath and enjoyed the sun and great views. I then dropped to the saddle between Fiddler's Perch and Trinity Mountain and caught the road. I wasn't heading up Trinity Mountain, but I needed the road to get me around that peak and off toward Rainbow Peak (Peak 9140), which sits on the ridge that forms the southern wall around Rainbow Basin.
At 9200' on Trinity Mountain, a faint trail leaves the road at a switchback. I headed down to the saddle between Point 9135 and Trinity Mountain. I then worked my way up Point 9135, scaring up an enormous bull elk with enormous antlers. I had no beta on this peak, but as I turned the corner on Point 9135 I knew the route over to Rainbow Peak would go.
Rainbow Peak was marvelous. The views of the basin below, the Sawtooths, Smokies, Soldiers, etc... were amazing. There is a huge cliff dropping down to the Rainbow Lakes and you are right on the edge of it. I was also suprised to find a register and it contained 5 or so names per year since it was placed in 2004. It was evening and the lighting was great. Most of all I felt we were going to escape the predicted bad weather as there wasn't a threatening cloud in the sky. It was 6pm and I had to get back to camp soon. I hustled back to the saddle between Point 9135 and Trinity at 8600' and dropped down on a steep trail to the basin. I then followed the winding trail past numerous lakes to Fiddle Lake. My adventure had taken 4.5 hours. I was tired and hungry (as was the rest of the party)... time for dinner.
While cooking dinner the clouds rolled in quickly. Just as darkness fell, we watched a ligtning storm just over Trinity Mountain. It stayed out of the basin, but the next storm didn't and sent us into the tents at 9pm and still eating dinner.
That night saw 7 or 8 more storms. Midnight to 2am was pretty rough with intense rain and very loud thunder. Around 1am a bolt struck very near the lake. There was no pause between the strike and the thunder. This was also the time where I felt water flowing under the tent. I got up and dug a trench which solved the issue.
It was dry from 2am until everyone got up around 8:30am. We were able to eat, pack, and hang out until noon in dry weather. Around noon the first thunder was heard in the distance and everyone instantly got up and knew it was time to head back. The rain held off until we got to Rocky Bar. After a great lunch in Featherville, it was off to home after a great outing and a few new stories for the kids to tell.
I am not sure on the road numbers, but basically make your way from Featherville to Rocky Bar. At Rocky Bar, turn left (west) onto Trinity Mountain Road. There are signs from this juntion that will get you there. I believe it was 17 miles from Rocky Bar to the lakes. I would recommend high clearance, but I could see a car getting to the lakes.