Sawtooth mountains – Central Idaho, near the town of Stanley, ID.
Camping in a free site near the gurgling Iron Creek, about a mile from the trailhead to Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness.
After a bad night of sleep, I finally get back to dream land, but wake up about 7 am. I have coffee and breakfast with my friend, Dave O., who was camping in his tent. He leaves to return home today via Lolo Pass and maybe he’ll visit some more hot springs and do more solo camping along Highway 12.
(Above is a photo of our camp site on Iron Creek.)
Dave had his tent set up in the woods where he could look at the stars through his mosquito netting, and he could hear the creek gurgling just a few feet away.
I am inspired to hike to Sawtooth Lake today for the second time, this time by myself with a headlamp, intending to come out late so I can catch some late-evening light with my camera. I hit the trailhead about 11 am today.
The Wilderness boundary starts about one mile up the trail from the parking lot. I hike at my own speed today, stopping often to rest and take my boots off to massage my feet because they hurt so much. It takes me about an hour longer going in by myself, not keeping up with Dave at his “cardio speed”. I am “Lolly-gagging” today, going “Todd Speed”. Dave can be a very fast hiker, as he has much longer legs than I do, and he has lost a lot of weight as he has a goal of better managing his health.
The pain of my feet hurt really bad, and I ponder the Pain Scale (would this be a 5 out of 10?). This getting old sucks, and I am grateful for my parents, grandparents, and “all my relations” for my strong, straight legs, and that I can still do this, in spite of the pain. I think about my Scoutmaster, Desmond McDonald, who took us beyond the end of the road. I think about my parents and their cigarette smoking, never traveling into the Wilderness. I meditate on my lineage, thinking about their experiences, reciting my grandfathers’ names as far back as I can remember.
On the return hike two days ago, just for the adventure Dave took his boots off and hiked barefoot for about a mile, “to see how it feels.” Is he crazy? Maybe. No, he’s just younger than I.
On this solo hike, late in the afternoon I arrived and am resting at Sawtooth Lake, ready to start up the Divide above the lake to get a better view from higher elevation. I am driven to see what’s on the other side. As I get up, a hiker with a backpack comes down the trail by himself. I ask where he came from, and he didn’t know. He was with two friends and they got lost and they had to backtrack today. He said he has “never done this before”. He looks trim and fit, so he must mean he has never backpacked before. I asked where they were this morning, and he didn’t know. He doesn’t know where they are going. He said he is slower than his friends, so he started down this trail before them to get ahead, and he doesn’t know why they are so far behind.
As Dave and Ralph and I have been visiting the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) we ask people where they come from, what their circumstances are, and sometimes how they heard about the Sawtooths. On my solo hike I ask this first hiker where he came from, and he said he is from Springfield, Missouri - I share that my wife is from Rolla, MO, and he lights up with recognition. He said this is incredible country, and every time you turn a corner one gets amazing new views. We have a nice visit, and I explain it is my intention to reach the top of this Divide today, then to return to the parking lot tonight with my headlight, and I want to get good light for photos at the top of this Divide. I tell him this is Sawtooth Lake, and the parking lot is about “five miles that way.” As I get my day pack on and turn to leave, his friend, the second hiker, arrives at our spot, and explains “you can get Facebook from up there” so he was busy posting pictures on social media. Then the third hiker in their party arrives. I ask the latter two where they are from, and they say “from Nebraska”, and that they left Grandjean this morning. (See below for more on this.)
Last week, Dave and Ralph and I drove around the top of the Sawtooth Wilderness in the SNRA, from Stanley to Grandjean hot springs and Sawtooth Lodge, and it was about 50 miles, obviously the long way around. (Roads and private development are allowed in the SRNA, while no motorized vehicles or development is allowed in the Wilderness.) I looked on All Trails (alltrails.com, a cell phone app that Dave and I use when we hike), and it shows the trail from Iron Creek Campgrounds to Grandjean is 13.6 miles, so subtract the 5 miles between the trailhead that I left this morning, next to Iron Creek Campgrounds, and that means that these three guys hiked at least 8.6 miles to get here to Sawtooth Lake, plus they got lost coming here and they had to backtrack, adding more miles to their journey today.
I leave these three guys at Sawtooth Lake and went up to the Divide, which Dave had reached two days before, solo. I get up there about 5 pm, and it was beautiful with the light just perfect for photos. I don’t want to leave, not caring as I know the trail out, and I have a headlamp plus a down vest and a wind breaker/rain coat for warmth. Plus, I am hiking at “Todd Speed”, meaning I can take my time. I am at home in the Wilderness, and I am completely comfortable.
I reach the summit of the Divide and over the top I see the devastation of a wild fire from just a few years before. It looks like it had been hit by a nuclear blast. Yet, I knew that Nature will soon restore this in its own time, and that wild fire is part of the natural cycle of things. The Circle of Life. Compost happens! The contrast of viewing death and destruction in the burn area, right over the Divide from the beauty of ancient old-growth - which probably did take hundreds of years for the high alpine vegetation - this fragile environment clearly shows Life and Death by compare and contrast of the views. The cycle of death/destruction/regrowth is just a blink of the eye compared to the thousands of years that glacial geology and deep earth tectonics takes in pushing up these mountains, well beyond our life-times.
NOTE: I attempted to place more photos within this Blog but I was unsuccessful. Sorry about that! I've got to go now and chase some more headstones!