Sawtooths Backpacking Trip 

6 and 1/2 days


July 9 - 15, 2006



I picked Dave up at Boise International Airport on Saturday, July 8, 2006.  We drove around Boise, killing time til Deniece's flight was to arrive.  We stopped by a liquor store and picked up a fifth of Maker's Mark bourbon.  Deniece and I had shared a fifth during our Lost Coast hike in 2004 and decided that it was a nice addition to our after-hiking camp activities.  


After driving around some more and slowly heading to the airport, we called Deniece, cell-to-cell.  She'd just gotten off the plane and was waiting to pick up her pack at the baggage claim.  Dave leapt out of the car to find and greet her while I was hurried on my way by the cop whose sole job it is to keep people from parking in front of the terminal.  I circled the airport twice before seeing them emerge.   


I was driving my new car, well, new to me.  It had plenty of room for the three of us and our gear.  We stopped by Albertsons for last minute stuff.  Using the self-checkout machines was kinda fun.  


We hit the road up to the Grandjean Trailhead.  We slowed down and drove around Idaho City, a touristy town with rough edges, and had burgers at a restaurant on the highway. 


WE arrived at the campground/trailhead and were pleased to see the camp hosts had their trailer right next to the trailhead parking area.  This was probably the most secure of any trailhead I'd ever parked at.  We found a camp, futzed around for a couple hours, and went to bed. The first picture is at the campground, and second the next morning preparing to hit the trail.  


Day 01, jeff & deniece.jpg (656793 bytes)  Deniece.jpg (328132 bytes)


We were up early the next morning and on the trail by 7:30.  The map below is a topographic depiction of our first day's hike.  



Day 1 Map.jpg (690130 bytes)



The climb out of the Payette River Valley is about six miles and 3300 feet up to the McGown Lakes at 8550' where we spent our first night.  The trail was one of the most gracious and kind I've ever hiked.  It was graded so that even my incredibly out of shape body didn't suffer too much.  For this I was thankful.  


We had lunch at the trail junction that would have taken us to Trail Lakes, where the few people that passed us were heading, or coming from.   These three pictures were taken at the junction.  


Day 1, Dave, trail lakes junction.JPG (1076717 bytes)  Day 1, Deniece, Trail lakes junction.JPG (1078540 bytes)  Day 1, on trail.JPG (1484595 bytes) 


These two pictures were taken as we crossed Trail Creek.  I'm not fond of the first as what I see is a balding, fat man, not my self- image, which is more what I looked like when 19...   


  Day 1, Bald fat guy crossing creek.jpg (673708 bytes)      Day 1, Deniece crossing creek.jpg (665873 bytes)  


McGown Lakes was beautiful.  The book said to stay at the lower lake because of crowds, and we did.  No need.  There were no crowds.  A father and two sons walked through our camp and found a nice spot at the upper lake, which was far more scenic, which we discovered the next day.  Dave, our inveterate camp locator, hadn't gone on to check it out because he felt Deniece and I had walked our last steps that day, and would have clocked him one if he'd insisted on walking further. 


We ate a hot dinner, gladly, and turned into to an early bed.  I personally slept better on this trip than I have in years anywhere.  Being out of shape and working as hard as we did makes for deep sleep.  Not many pictures seem to have been taken at this camp - I think we were just too bushed. Dave did take some of the lake, the sunset and Upper McGown Lake.  


Day 1, LowerMcGownLake.jpg (274706 bytes)  Day 1, Sunset.jpg (124006 bytes)  Day 1, UpperMcGownLake.jpg (185755 bytes)   Day 2, Clean Camp.jpg (753496 bytes)


The next morning we continued to climb and reached a pass about 8800' in elevation, our first high point. 


Day 2 map.jpg (514063 bytes)  Here's a map of the second day's hike.  


These shots are of Sawtooth Lake for the most part.  This is truly one of the more spectacular lake vistas I've seen.   These pictures do a far better job of expressing what we saw than any words I might utter. 


Day 2, Dave & Jeff, Sawtooth Lake.JPG (1105215 bytes)   Day 2, sawtoothlake5.JPG (871816 bytes)  Day 2, sawtooth lake4.JPG (1149442 bytes)  Day 2, Dave & Deniece descending to outlet of sawtooth lake.JPG (1225890 bytes)        

Day 2, Dave walking by sawtooth lake.JPG (1190241 bytes)Day 2, Dave by Sawtooth lake.jpg (691156 bytes)  Day 2, Deniece & Sawtooth Lake.jpg (643227 bytes)  Day 2, Sawtooth Lake 6.jpg (603637 bytes)  


Day 2, north end of sawtooth lake2.JPG (852394 bytes)  Day 2, north end of sawtoothlake.JPG (957013 bytes)  Day 2, Sawtooth Lake, south end.JPG (874765 bytes)  Day 2, sawtooth lake.JPG (798950 bytes)


Day 2, north end of sawtooth lake3.JPG (809166 bytes)  Day 2, Sawtoothlake6.JPG (951434 bytes)     Day 2, Dave walking by sawtooth lake.JPG (1190241 bytes)   Dave.jpg (919956 bytes)


That's Mt. Regan on the right of the lake.  The father and sons we met the previous night had bushwacked over the ridge just this side of the peak.  From across the lake it didn't look possible, but from this angle, yes. The trail switchbacked down the ridge from McGown Lakes and traversed along the left side of the lake.  AT the far end of the lake we stopped for a break.  The next set of pictures is taken in this area.  


Dave had fun crossing the outlet stream. 


Day 2, Dave fording outlet of sawtooth lake.JPG (1095716 bytes) 


The walk around the lake was awesome.  I think this was the first time I turned my ankle - walking and looking at mountains at the same time...


Day 2, south end of sawtooth lake area.JPG (936600 bytes)  Day 2, south end of Sawtooth Lake.JPG (788752 bytes)  Day 2, Little Lake south of Sawtooth lake.jpg (744234 bytes)  Day 2, little lake and south.jpg (662072 bytes)  


Day 2, little lake and south2.jpg (445120 bytes)  Day 2, little lake & south.jpg (648714 bytes)


The walk over the little pass down the North Fork of Baron Creek drainage was awesome as well.  From there on, though, we were in backpacker's hell.  The trail hadn't been cleared in years and years, and the brush was head high in many places, and so thick and overgrown, that way too often the trail wasn't even visible.  The temperature was in the 80s - hot.  I turned my ankle a couple of times.  I kept wondering why the two of them, who always hike ahead of me, hadn't stopped at one of the many little rivulets for lunch.  I was hot and tired and hungry, ripe for injury.  And it wasn't me that got injured.  Deniece actually fell off the trail, did a 360 flip in the air, and bounced down a steep bank until she came up against a rock.  Here are pictures of some of the effects of this fall. This was the most dangerous trail I've hiked in a long time.  


Day 5, Deniece's bruises.JPG (1221423 bytes)  


And these pictures are a day after the bruises were really bright with purples and yellows and reds.


Camp that night as along Baron Creek itself, a couple miles up from a junction.  It was well-shaded and right on Baron Creek.  How nice...


Day 2 camp.JPG (1627810 bytes)  Day 2 camp2.JPG (1356545 bytes)   Day 2 map.jpg (514063 bytes)  Day 2, Jeff in camp.jpg (171655 bytes)


The following is a map of our third day's hike to Baron Lakes.   Day 3, Map.jpg (367118 bytes)

Day 3 had us continue up the Baron Creek Drainage.   


Day 3, looking down Baron Creek.JPG (1064078 bytes)    Day 3, heading up to Cramer Lakes.JPG (799860 bytes)  Day 3, peaks above Baron Creek.JPG (981548 bytes)  


past Baron Creek Falls 


  Day 3, Baron Falls.JPG (1483480 bytes)     Day 3, Baron Falls & Deniece.jpg (798070 bytes)   Day 3, DeathOnTheTrail.jpg (789187 bytes)


to the high point were we took a long break.  


Day 3,.JPG (1015262 bytes)  Day 3, Rest Break, top of Baron Falls.jpg (795994 bytes)  


We then hiked along the creek.    


 Day 3, Dave above Baron Falls.jpg (689549 bytes)  Day 3, heading up to Baron Lakes.JPG (1102321 bytes)  Day 3, Jeff & Dangerous Crossing of Baron Creek!.jpg (761820 bytes)  Day 3, Deniece on trail.JPG (1160930 bytes)


and up to Lower Baron Lake.  



  Day 3 Camp.JPG (1152063 bytes)  Day 3, Baron Lake2.JPG (944057 bytes)  Day 3, camp, Baron Lake.JPG (959334 bytes)  Day 3, Baron Lake3.jpg (585978 bytes)


This was a short day as we were all pretty beat.  I think we got into camp around 1PM.  Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves, lying around, talking, sipping bourbon, exploring, setting up camp on a gentle slope, and generally just taking in the views.  Everyone took advantage of the warm weather and washed self and clothes. 


That night a few drops of rain fell and all there of us leapt out of our tents to put on rainflies.  It was pretty funny actually...  


The next day we headed up to Baron Divide.  The sprinkles of the night before became a steady downpour as we headed up.  I didn't put on my poncho until we reached the top, when I started to feel cold.  Dave and Deniece had been wearing their marmot driclime jackets and put on raingear as well. 


We didn't dally and headed down, and down, and down.  The hike down from the gap south of Sawtooth lake had been long and gentle, despite the dangerous trail.  This section of the trail down was all switchbacks and dropped us within an hour down to the Redfish River, which we had to ford.  By the time we reached the ford the rain had stopped.  There was a group of 20 or so high school kids who were doing trail work.  One of the girls said, "We're not bad kids!  We're volunteering to do this out of the goodness of our hearts."  later my thought was, "there is no such thing as a bad kid, only kids that do bad acts."


The ford was to just above my knees and I took my shoes off to do it.  Dave and Deniece by this time had given up taking their shoes off and just walked across.  I started to do the same as we started to cross more and more creeks. The following is a map of our fourth day's hike


Day 4, map.jpg (637590 bytes)


As we hiked up the river the sun finally poked out its head and we began to dry out.  It wasn't long before we reached the Cramer Lakes at 8400'. 


Day 4, Cramer Lake Camp.JPG (844868 bytes)  Day 4, Cramer Lake Falls.JPG (917517 bytes)  Day 5, Cramer Lake Camp, morning.JPG (1058526 bytes)   Day 4, Cramer Lake Camp2.JPG (1151511 bytes)  Day 4, Cramer Lake Falls.JPG (917517 bytes)

Day 4, Cramer Lake Falls2.jpg (698273 bytes)  Day 4, Cramer Lake Falls3.jpg (715485 bytes)  Day 4, Cramer lake Mountains.jpg (634760 bytes)  Day 4, Cramer Lake, Jeff mellowing....jpg (695845 bytes)



Day 4, Deniece, Cramer Lake Camp.jpg (660954 bytes)  Day 4, Deniece, Cramer Lake Camp2.jpg (456407 bytes)  Day 3, Jeff in Tent.jpg (121731 bytes)  


After staying at the "lower" Baron Lake, it was decided to stay at the upper Cramer Lake for our Camp 4 night.  There is a waterfall from the upper to middle lake about 40' high.  We met a family that was going to camp where we did and leap over the falls into the lake.  When the 11 year old girl said she was going to do this, I said, "I'm chicken."  None of us went swimming.  We dried everything out and hung out and had fun!


The next morning we headed up to reach the highest point on our trip.  The pictures again tell a story I can't. 


Day 5, Dave & Deniece, Day 5, leaving Cramer Lakes.JPG (1395154 bytes)  Day 5, Dave & Deniece, heading up to 9500' pass,.JPG (1493006 bytes)    Day 5, The Temnple area.JPG (1268217 bytes) Day 5, The Temnple area.JPG (1268217 bytes)


Day 5, The Temple, Deniece & Jeff.JPG (1327856 bytes)  Day 5, map.jpg (370942 bytes)  Day 5, another dangerous crossing.jpg (738484 bytes)  Day 5, crossing snowfield.jpg (589194 bytes)  Day 5, up and up.jpg (776929 bytes)


Day 5, Dave & Deniece, heading up to 9500' pass,.JPG (1493006 bytes)  Day 5, heading up to 9500'.jpg (646446 bytes)  Day 5, Heading up to 9500'2.jpg (782591 bytes)  Day 5, heading up to 9500'3.jpg (754383 bytes)


  The hike up was absolutely beautiful.  We got to the top and took a three hour lunch.  Dave tried glissading on soft snow.  Deniece and I had coffee and jabbered a lot.  This is Deniece getting ready to head down from the pass. 


 Day 5.JPG (1349127 bytes)


We hiked down and down again, switchbacking on gentle trail, sometimes across snow, past Hidden lake.



Day 5, Dave & Deniece, Day 5, hidden lake.JPG (1413031 bytes)  Day 5, Hidden Lake.jpg (796199 bytes)    


This is why we hike...  Camp that night was at Vernon Lake, that while at 8500', was nowhere close to as scenic as the previous two day's camps. 


Day 5 camp.JPG (1034567 bytes)  Day 6, Deniece in morning.JPG (1441767 bytes)  Day 6, Lake Vernon, Dave.JPG (1397776 bytes)  Day 6, Jeff in morn, bad hair night.JPG (1414167 bytes)  Day 6 morning camp.JPG (1125429 bytes)  


IMG_2079.JPG (2668328 bytes)  Bugs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Again, we sipped bourbon and talked and organized camp and putzed around, just really enjoying ourselves.  Tomorrow would be a quick, steep uphill of 500' or so, and then a long hike, 17 miles or so, down the South Fork of the Payette River to the car.  The camp wasn't ideal by any means, but we managed...


day 6 map.PNG (192782 bytes)  day 6 map2.PNG (123214 bytes)  day 6 map3.PNG (250580 bytes)  


The next day we had a couple crossings of the South Fork of the Payette River.  The book warned hikers of these crossings, how they could be deep and cold early in the year, as our hike was.  The following are pictures of the main crossing...


Day 6, Deniece Crossing stream.JPG (1397372 bytes)  Day 6, dave & deniece crossing payette river, last day.JPG (1469960 bytes)  Day 6 dave & deniece crossing payette river, last day2.JPG (1517887 bytes) 


It wasn't bad, scary or even threatening.  None of the river crossings were bad - nothing like one of the creeks in the north boundary country of Yosemite. 


We continued to hike downstream, getting tired and more tired.  It was hot, very hot, and the trail was far from the river for the most part.  There was no level ground for miles.  Finally, after dropping 3000' or so and hiking 13 miles, we ended up in an area called the Meadows.  it was flat and hot and shady and just what we needed.  We had an orgy of picture taking going on. 


Day 6 camp, Dave.JPG (1203520 bytes)  Day 6 camp.JPG (1677664 bytes)  Day 6 dave, last night, marked by God.JPG (1462737 bytes)  Day 6, camp.JPG (1655294 bytes) 


Day 6, Deniece camp.JPG (1605940 bytes)  Day 6, Deniece.JPG (1563895 bytes)  Day 6, Jeff in camp.JPG (1521401 bytes)  Day 6, camp, Dave2.JPG (1517716 bytes) 


We headed out early the next morning, hoping to reach the car by 10AM or so so that Dave could catch a flight out of Boise that day, rather than waiting until sunday... 


Dave found some sunglasses on day 6 and added to someone else's idea of humor...


Day 7, Morning, oddity....JPG (1522100 bytes)   day 7 map.PNG (103197 bytes)  day 7 map2.PNG (149652 bytes)  


Here is an example of the brush we encountered on the South Payette River Trail. 


Day 7, Payette River Brush.JPG (1581422 bytes)  Day 7, Payette River brush2.JPG (1825653 bytes) 


The flatlands before the trailhead on the South Payette River Trail were beautiful... 


 Day 7, The Meadows.JPG (1371314 bytes) 


Jeff & Dave at the trailhead at the end of the hike.  We didn't exactly hug did we?  - guy stuff I guess.


Day 1, aDave & Jeff, trailhead.JPG (1386854 bytes)