Medicine Bow National Forrest


Jana fishing in the distance

As Denver grew farther in the rear view mirror and we checked our work emails one last time before hitting airplane more, Jana took control of the radio and queued up her latest road trip play list.

Katy Perry serenaded us with the long weekend’s theme song:

“Don’t be afraid to catch fish….”

“Baby I know you ain’t afraid to catch fish,

Fish with me.”

Jana, who’d picked the song corrected us, “it’s FEELS, not FISH!”

“Well, that makes no sense,” Perrin said. I agreed.

Perrin and Jana are my two best friend from Yale, and we’ve committed to one trip per year with our tents as long as we are able. We have a short list of places we’re saving for our 70’s. As a trio, each of us is assigned a role. Perrin can start a fire in a torrential downpour. I am tasked with “carrying all the stuff.” Jana, aside from curating the road trip playlist, is our MD and first aid angel.

In August, we ventured into the Medicine Bow National Forrest for a three night trip. Every guide book/trip report we scoured raved about the area’s fishing.

Never ones to shy from a challenge, we decided that we would learn to fish, catch a fish, and fry it up for dinner. Lacking any experience, we turned to youtube for a tutorial and skipped right to the important parts: “how to gut a fish” and “how to grill a fish over an open flame.” Our confidence swelled.

I pulled my trusty VW  into a parking lot full of Ford Trucks at a gas station slash fishing store in West Laramie, Wyoming to pick up a rod. We explained to Gary behind the counter that we needed his cheapest rod and “whatever supplies go along with it.”

I don’ think Gary’s gas station fish emporium often gets three blond city slickers walking in midday on a Thursday.

“Ladies, I lead guided trips if you’re interested.”

“Nah, we’re good. What’s one step above the kid’s Moana rod you have over there?”

We left with a brief tutorial and a $30 rod.


I’m not certain but pretty sure we used none of these.

Medicine Bow National Forrest is a quick 3ish hour drive from Denver. I found a two night loop in Backpacker’s magazine but extended it to three nights to give us ample fishing {and hot toddie} time.

Perrin, Jana, and I covered a lot of emotional ground in this year’s trail talks: careers/purpose, families, love – both lost and found and everywhere in between. As we summitted Medicine Bow Peak, a mother daughter pair asked us if we were students at the University of Wyoming.

“Lady, I could kiss you!” Jana responded.

In our 12 years since college, I can’t imagine two women I’d rather venture into the forest alongside. I rely on their guidance and friendship to navigate this crazy life.

IMG_5982 (2)

The view from the top of Medicine Bow Peak

Our second night, we stumbled upon a fisher(wo)man’s paradise at Crescent Lake. Jana assembled our rod and cast the first line with glee. It snagged. And then it tangled. And then it snagged again. And then it tangled again so much that we had to cut the line in multiple spots to determine the damage. Jana, the surgeon, tasked me with holding various lengths of line while she hunted for the source of the tangle. Immediately in front of us, fish leapt from the water, the hunger in their eyes visible. Immediately behind us, Perrin slept peacefully in the grass having mistaken a Melatonin for an Advil. Eventually, we untangled enough line to let Jana cast a full reel. I lost patience and headed back to camp to build a fire.


That night, we didn’t eat the olives or lemon we’d packed in for our catch. We optimistically gave it one more night and a few additional hours of fishing before eating the accoutrements alongside our standard backpacking meals. Maybe we needed a little more fishing practice? We could have entertained Gary for a little longer with his lesson. {Jana is likely disagreeing with this statement as she reads it}.


Three and a half glorious days and zero fish later, we pulled out of the Sheep Lake Trailhead toward Centennial, Wyoming, tired and happy. We fired up Katy Perry back up and all three of us sang in unison, “Don’t be afraid to catch fish…fish with me.”


Trail tips:

  • Total trip length ~16 miles
  • Buy this pillow if you haven’t yet
  • Stop at Mountain View Hotel for breakfast; don’t stop anywhere else
  • {I have no fishing tips}

One thought on “Medicine Bow National Forrest

  1. Hi Katherine, sounds like a great trip. I’ve got a place in the Wind River Range on the Indian Reservation that is loaded with great fishing. Roughly 10 miles in. Closest town if Riverton/Lander WY. West Laramie flyshop is one of our favorite tackle shops. Did you meet Ev at the Mountain View Hotel? I think she still owns the place. I’ve rafted the Grand Canyon with her.

    Shannon Fitch


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