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  • Writer's pictureRaymond Smilor PhD

Finding Lucky Lake

Sometimes, you find something that you did not know you were looking for. The discovery combines surprise and relief. Surprise at finding the unexpected, and relief that it was there waiting for you. Like a lot of discoveries, you may not know that you have come upon something important until you actually start to experience it.  Such is the case with Lucky Lake and me.

I came upon Lucky Lake in July 2009. My wife and I took a hike along the Snowflake Trail in Breckenridge, Colorado. The trail is just off Four O'Clock Road, It's only about a mile in length, but one of the most scenic trails we have ever been on. It winds through dense forest, passes a beaver pond, runs along a rushing, white-water stream, and then at the top opens onto a small but spectacular alpine lake.  The lake is a shock to find since it lies hidden above the town of Breckenridge at about 10,000 feet. The actual name of the lake is the Breckenridge Outdoor Educational Center or BOEC.  Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and circled with pines and aspens, the lake is about the size of a football field but rounded with a sandbar that cuts through the cold, crystal-clear water like a diameter through a circle.

The BOEC, I learned, serves as a location to introduce kids to the woods, as a training area for leadership skills and as a place of outdoor recreation. There are times when it can be crowded, and other times when it is completely deserted.  At all times for me, it is a serene, beautiful, meditative refuge to think and fish. 

My wife named it Lucky Lake because it is the first place at which I caught trout entirely on my own, and it is the spot that I take friends and family to catch and then release their first trout. I take joy in serving as a guide to others who have never fly fished.  I have had friends worry that they don't know how to fly fish.  I tell them that they will catch trout. They say that they have never touched a fly rod. I tell them that they will catch trout. They point out that they know nothing about flies. I tell them that they will catch trout. And they do.  I have had only one occasion when two dear friends failed to even have trout strike their lines. I pointed out to them that they showed real potential in casting and them stripping the line. It was their guide who let them down by not finding the right flies for that particular afternoon. Next time, I encouraged them, their guide will be better prepared.

I have fished Lucky Lake in all kinds of conditions standing on the sand bar in waist deep water casting the line alternately to my left and then my right. On some early mornings by myself, I have nodded at the occasional moose that will swim across the lake, glance over to me and probably wonder what this trespasser is doing in his lake. On late afternoons as the sun sets over the mountain peak, just to make sure I don't get too set in my ways, I'll experiment with a new fly to see if it might land something. My best day fishing was in the midst of a cold, steady rain when there was not another soul to be seen around the lake. I caught and released fourteen rainbows in an hour and a half before my shivering made it too cold to catch any more. Best not to judge how good or bad a day will be until you get on the water.

My wife and I have hiked up to Lucky Lake many times over the years, and each time, we have enjoyed the hike and appreciated the wonder of finding the lake at the top.  We have picnicked there with friends and family, watched the total eclipse of the sun from the deck at the lake and taken our granddaughters to walk barefoot in the cold water.  

And I have discovered not just a place but also a state of mind.  When I sit down to write my notes to you, I go to Lucky Lake.  I walk my favorite path to the edge of the lake, step into the cold, clear water, wade out onto the sandbar, cast my line, take in the majestic beauty of the place, and then see what kinds of thoughts my thinking might hook into. Then I put together a note like this one.  With more to come.

That's what can happen when you come upon something that you did not know you were looking for but then are thankful that it found you.

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