Hiking the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho

[Note – This is the third of five posts describing my 2010 Road Trip]

Jon and I were heading south out of Jackson, Wyoming, and were anxious to get away from the crowded campgrounds, busy restaurants and roadways. Soon we would be in the less crowded mountains and forests of central Idaho . Yellowstone and Jackson can be pretty busy and hectic in the summer months (unless you’re a few days from any busy trailheads, and humping a heavy pack). We’d had enough of the crowds, and were headed for the backwoods of Idaho!

Snake River, south of Jackson, WY

Snake River, south of Jackson, WY

 

Rafting on the Snake River

Rafting on the Snake River

 

The Snake River in SE Idaho

The Snake River in SE Idaho

 

The Snake R.

The Snake River, SE Idaho


We departed Grand Teton, NP to the south on Hwy 26, following the Snake River west into the Idaho Falls/Rigby area. We caught Hwy 28N which eventually follows the Lemhi River north to Salmon, ID., where it merges with the Salmon River.

This is near the Lemhi Pass where Lewis and Clark crossed the  Continental Divide on their way west from Montana into Idaho, on Aug. 12th, 1805. The Lemhi Historical Museum has good displays of local history, and the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural & Educational Center has good information on local Lewis and Clark history, including the history of Sacajawea, the Shoshone woman married to French fur trader Charbonneau, who was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Sacajawea was an Agai Dika Lemhi Shoshone, and she served as the translator for Lewis and Clark on their journey west.

From Salmon, we headed south on Hwy 93, following the Salmon River upstream to Challis, where we caught Hwy 75 west to Stanley, ID.  Stanley is located in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The area is bounded on the west and southwest by the Sawtooth National Forest and the Sawtooth Wilderness. It is remote, wild, and beautiful country.

 

Mt. Heyburn Campground, Sawtooth NRA

Mt. Heyburn Campground, Redfish Lake, Sawtooth NRA, Idaho

 

We checked in with the Forest Service at the Stanley Ranger Station, regarding camping and fire conditions in the area. Jon had camped at Redfish Lake in the past, and conditions were good there, so that became our base camp for the next few days. We camped in the Mt. Heyburn Campground at 6,600′, and explored the surrounding area a bit before calling it a day. We had a clear sky and a very bright moonlit night- you could literally see around the campsite in the middle of the night!

 

Moonlit evening at Redfish Lake, Sawtooth NRA, Idaho

Moonlit evening at Redfish Lake, Sawtooth NRA, Idaho

 

Next morning we had some energy bars and coffee and drove back through Stanley to the Iron Creek turnoff and drove a few miles to a small parking lot. After a short hike we found the Iron Creek Trailhead which would take us into the Sawtooth Wilderness Area and up to Sawtooth Lake. It was a bright sunny day, not too hot, just perfect weather for a good climb to a glacial lake. I think it was about a 10 mile round-trip hike, so a day pack with the regular supplies (water and filter, first-aid kit, rain-gear, compass and map, a few energy bars, a flashlight, a knife and bear spray) was all we needed. It’s difficult to bad-mouth this car-camping and day-hiking… it was most definitely ‘easy-living.’  And it sure beat flying to our main destinations for this road trip (Yosemite and Kings Canyon/Rae Lakes Loop). We were just getting warmed-up, and acclimated to some altitude in the process of getting out there!

 

Iron Creek Trailhead

Iron Creek Trailhead, Sawtooth Wilderness Area, ID

 

Heading up to Sawtooth Lake

Heading up to Sawtooth Lake

 

The trail ahead

The trail ahead

 

Alpine Lake

Alpine Lake

 

Lots of switchbacks

Lots of switchbacks

 

Lower Sawtooth Lake

Lower Sawtooth Lake

 

It was my understanding that there was a small glacier up here 10-15 years ago, but from our views we could not find any glacier, perhaps it melted. Global warming maybe. But then, back in Minnesota we used to have glaciers over a mile thick, and they too began melting– about 10,000 years ago. It had nothing to do with fossil fuel combustion though. Personally, I’m glad they melted. I like Minnesota just fine without the glaciers. And I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog if the glaciers were still in Minnesota. But I digress.

 

Upper Sawtooth Lake

Upper Sawtooth Lake

 

Sawtooth Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness Area, ID

Sawtooth Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness Area, ID

 

No glaciers up here either, at least from our viewing positions. Sure is beautiful, though.

 

Looking back at Lower Sawtooth Lake

Looking back at Lower Sawtooth Lake

 

I guess the heavy winter snowfalls, combined with the steep slopes and the remaining heavy glacial moraine are adequate to maintain water levels and the ‘glacial look/color’ in these alpine lakes. Simply beautiful!

 

Sun-Dried Timber

Sun-Dried Timber

 

Ready to head down

Ready to head down

 

Jagged peaks and ridges

Some pretty jagged peaks and ridges

 

Rough country, yet beautiful

Rough country, yet beautiful

 

Weathered rock along the trail

Weathered rock along the trail

 

This cracked boulder is likely the result of freezing and thawing water over many, many years. On the way down, I took many similar pictures to show my grand-kids, a demonstration of the power of nature over time. There were also several examples of burn areas, large trees with fire scars for example, demonstrating the power of nature over a short period of time. The grand-kids are all old enough now to get out on the trails and see such examples for themselves. They don’t stay young for very long! But, I guess none of us do for that matter!

 

Jon thinks we need a fire

Jon thinks we need a fire

 

We had dehydrated dinners and fresh-filtered water for an early meal after our hike, and a couple of apples for desert. Jon cut some firewood, and we enjoyed a nice small fire for several hours as night approached. We sipped a little brandy and enjoyed a cigar, as we talked about our hike… and what a great hike it was!

Discussing our schedule and options, we decided that we’d pack up in the morning and drive down to Ketchum and Sun Valley, mail a few things we’d picked up along the way back home, get lunch, then head southwest to Reno or Carson City. We had Yosemite on our minds! It would be a long drive.

Next morning we packed up early and hit the road. We ended up stopping at REI in Reno to get something… more dehydrated food, I think, then kept driving. We ended up in a nice two-story motel in June Lake, CA– ( possibly the June Lake Lodge) just a few miles south of the east entrance to Yosemite.

June Lake is a great little community, and if you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it… even as a get-away destination. In addition, it’s only about 30 miles south of Tioga Pass (9,945′), which is the east entrance to Yosemite!

Life on the road can be a grind… but not this day. We found a great meal with a cold beer about a block from our room, and then hit the sac early. The plan was to spend a couple of days here, day-hiking off Tioga Road in Yosemite, in Tuolumne Meadows, and to visit Yosemite Valley briefly.

We would then drive out the south Park entrance on 41 to Fresno, then into Kings Canyon on 180. We planned to meet two friends, John and Rick for some backpacking in Kings Canyon, the Rae Lakes Loop– and this time we had reservations made and permits ready for pick up at the Trail’s End Ranger Station! John and Rick had flown out and would meet us at Cedar Grove, in Kings Canyon. We would all day-hike for a couple of days, allowing them to acclimate somewhat to the higher elevations. Then we’d strap on the backpacks for nine-ten days.

You can read about my aborted backpacking trip to hike the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon during late summer, 2007 here— we were snowed out!

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Note-  Excellent Guided Hike planned for the Superior Hiking Trail in August

August 13 – Guided Hike, Highway 1 to Silver Bay. 11.1 miles, 10:00 AM

I highly recommend this rugged section of the SHT- a great hike! See the Baptism River High Falls and hike through the wilderness of Tettegouche State Park. Climb up Mount Trudee, past Palisade Creek, and take in Bear and Bean Lakes. Meet at Penn Blvd Trailhead in Silver Bay, MN. At Hwy 61 milepost 54.3, turn left at stoplight on Outer Drive and go 1.5 miles to Penn Blvd. Continue straight 0.5 miles on Penn Blvd to parking lot on right. Vehicles will be staged at each end of the hike so folks can get back to their vehicles after completing the hike. This is a good one folks!

Added details available here.

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Attention HAM Radio Operators!

June 25-26, 2016

arrl field day

ARRL Field Day 2016

ARRL Field Day is the most popular amateur radio ‘on-the-air event’ held annually in the US and Canada. On the fourth weekend of June, more than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations. Check with your local radio clubs for added information. I plan to spend several hours with my club over the weekend- learning how to set things up (antennas, radios, cables, power options, etc.) and gain some operating experience.

Amateur Radio Relay League   [  http://www.arrl.org/field-day  ]

antennasilhouette

Mike, KEØGZT

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About Mike Hohmann

I did lots of camping/hiking as a kid in the Scouts, and I still strive to 'be prepared.' After high school, I got bored with more school and enlisted in the Army Corps. of Engineers, doing two tours in Vietnam. Post military, I completed BS and MBA degrees and spent several decades with Corporate America, working mostly in the areas of conventional and renewable energy. I also spent over a decade as a self-employed small business consultant in marketing and finance. As a young family man with a wife and two kids, we spent many vacations camping and hiking in northern Minnesota. I spent additional long weekends fishing the rivers and camping/hiking along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I retired early and hit the trails hard-- in the lower-48, Alaska, and western Canada. These days I backpack, car-camp and day-hike, go snowshoeing, and try to get the grand-kids out to teach them the ways of the trail. Other interests include American Revolutionary War and Civil War history, 19th and 20th century firearms, Native American history; business and macroeconomics. I'm a recently-licensed amateur (Ham) radio operator, and I look forward to many radio-related adventures in coming months. Life is good! Member, Superior Hiking Trail Association; Member, Appalachian Mountain Club; Member, REI; Member, ARRL- Amateur Radio Relay League, the National Assoc. for Amateur Radio; Twin Cities Metro Skywarn Spotter; Twin City FM Club; Richfield Amateur Radio Club; QRP ARCI, Low-Power Amateur Radio Club International; Life Member, National Rifle Association
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6 Responses to Hiking the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho

  1. Jack says:

    Interesting as always – great pics.

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      Thanks, Jack. It’s no exaggeration to say that I love Idaho. It’s wild out there, and beautiful. Thanks for visiting, and thanks for your comment.

  2. Tricia says:

    Just gorgeous country out there, huh? Great pics you’ve got! I’ve been to Yellowstone a few times and while we were not backpacking we did manage to find some more remote campsites. It’s been several years and I’d love to go back.

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      Yes, there’s lots of beautiful country out there to appreciate and enjoy. That is a fact, Tricia. I hope you can get back to Yellowstone again soon, and maybe even get into Idaho to enjoy the scenery and the folks that live there too. It’s a big beautiful country we have here, and many of the National Parks and state parks are just wonderful. Thanks for stopping by to check out my blog, Tricia. I try to post 4-5 times a month but that may slow up a bit over the summer/fall months when there is so much to do and see, and the long days only facilitate doing things other than writing. 😉 Stop back again soon.

      • Tricia says:

        I do hope get back out there soon Mike. I’d love to see Idaho too. I’ve driven through parts of it but only very eastern side near WA. You are so right, so much to do and see other than writing! Although perhaps that doing and seeing inspires the writing at a later date, eh? 😉 Take care and enjoy yourself out there.

        • Mike Hohmann says:

          Good observation, and you are correct, Tricia. ‘Doing’ is the inspiration of life. The ‘doing and seeing’ will always take precedence with me. But I do find it rewarding, knowing I’ve finally taken a step to add some documentation to the ‘story.’ I’m trying to get some of the older ‘stories’ documented in writing, but the new ‘stories’ or adventures continue piling up in the ‘undocumented’ memory file! “To be completed, or documented as time allows. Alas, there’s only 24/7, but that’s life. And I have no complaints. Good luck with your travels and life’s adventures, Tricia. And, thanks for your comments. Tricia blogs at: http://freedomthroughempowerment.wordpress.com/

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