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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
The next morning we continued to climb and reached a pass about 8800' in elevation, our first high point.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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...
The following is a map of our third day's hike to Baron Lakes.
Day 3 had us continue up the Baron Creek Drainage.
past Baron Creek Falls
to the high point were we took a long break.
We then hiked along the creek.
and up to Lower Baron Lake.
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
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'.
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.
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.
We hiked down and down again, switchbacking on gentle trail, sometimes across snow, past Hidden lake.
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.
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...
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...
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.
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...
Here is an example of the brush we encountered on the South Payette River Trail.
The flatlands before the trailhead on the South Payette River Trail were beautiful...
Jeff & Dave at the trailhead at the end of the hike. We didn't exactly hug did we? - guy stuff I guess.