Monday, August 1, 2011

Idaho! - Summer Trip 2011 Part 2

 please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

We made it into Stanley, stopped at Sunbeam Hot Springs along the Salmon River, and then headed up the Yankee Fork Road to explore.

Bonanza Ghost Town below Custer.

The Yankee Fork Dredge.

Bottles in the window of the Custer Museum.

Downtown Custer Ghost Town.

The woman docent in the Empire Saloon was very knowledgeable and fun to talk with although this exhibit didn’t need much explanation.

Custer was an enjoyable stop. We then headed up the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River and found a nice campsite. This was our view from our chairs as we had dinner.

Sunday morning we headed into Stanley, the gateway to the Sawtooths.

We had reservations for a campsite in Point Campground on the north shore of Redfish Lake. Point campground has just 15 drive in sites and only small campers and tents are allowed, no rv’s or motor homes. It also has a few walk in tent sites. There is a swimming beach on the west side of the peninsula and the bathrooms are heated with running water and flush toilets. We think this is the best campground at Redfish Lake. It is within walking distance of Redfish Lodge and the Visitors Center.

The next day we were to begin our seven day backpack trip into the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Into the Wilderness.

Three years ago, while backpacking into Idaho’s White Cloud Peaks, we met a young man who told us about Warbonnet Basin in the Sawtooths. It was a good enough story to get us searching maps and zooming in with google earth and making plans. This was our first trip into the Sawtooths.

The Lady & I have developed a fairly efficient camper routine. There was a lot to do this morning. Up early, enjoyed our coffee, breakfast, change into backpacking attire, stow away all our traveling gear, drop the top and secure the camper, drive over and drop the Lady & our packs at the Redfish Lake Lodge dock, park the truck in the Wilderness trailhead parking, and walk back to join the Lady for the boat ride to the end of Redfish Lake.

“There’s nobody here and it’s seven thirty,” the Lady said as I walked up, “Sign says they open at seven.”
“That’s what they said when we talked with them yesterday afternoon,” I added as we looked around.
“Well as busy as it was here yesterday, it is so beautiful and quiet this morning. I’m happy.” She smiled.

A couple from the Lodge came out. They wanted to rent a boat for the morning.

“Someone will be out to take care of us. Isn’t it beautiful?” The Lady told the couple, her attitude was infectious.

A climbing guide from Stanley joined us. He was meeting clients up Redfish Canyon. The new guy showed up.

“Take care of renting a boat to this couple. What boat do you use for the shuttle? We’ll stow our backpacks and be ready to go when you are.” I told the young man.

Soon the fifty horse Merc was propelling us across the smooth water. We were happy we had dressed warm against the wind and spray. It’s about a ten minute ride to the dock at the end of the lake. This ride saves you five miles of trail along Redfish Lake. The guide took off to get to work and the Lady & I were alone. After stowing our outer layers and eating a snack, it was time to saddle up.

By noon we were at Alpine Lake and surprised there was evidence of only one other camp at this reportedly busy place. We set up camp, grabbed the topo and our daypacks, and set out. We had some reconnoitering to do.

We quickly polished off the couple miles to the top of Baron Pass which gave us good views of our route into Warbonnet Basin. Along the way we met four men.

“How you guys doing?” I asked.
“We’re whipped. We camped at Alpine Lake last night and tried to make it into Warbonnet Basin today.”
“Didn’t make it?”
“No. My buddy had some good information about the route. We found only a couple of cairns but made the high point where we could see Baron Lakes. There’s a steep gully on the other side that gives access to a steep basin covered with snowfields you need to climb. There’s one set of tracks across the snow. This is way beyond what us flatlanders can do.”
“Flatlanders?” the Lady said. “Where you from?”
“All of us are from Illinois.”
“I’m from Illinois!” the Lady smiled. “Where in Illinois?”
“Half of us are from Bloomington and half from the nearby small town of Streator.”
“I’m from Streator!” the Lady exclaimed and Streator stories came pouring out along with interesting connections.
“Why did you want to get into Warbonnet Lakes?” I asked.
“We heard a story about amazing fishing for cutthroat trout. You can catch fifty fish a day. All the lakes are good in the basin.”
“Similar story to what we heard; must not be much of a secret. We are planning on spending a few days in there, but we will do a scouting trip tomorrow with our daypacks and see if we’d even want to carry our big packs over.”
“Lots of steep snow,” the fellow added.
“We brought our ice axes. So where you guys going to head now?” I asked.
“We might just camp right here but we’re hoping we’ll have the energy to make it to Baron Lakes.”
These guys looked whipped.

After topping out at Baron Pass and taking in the views, we returned to Alpine Lake to find we now had neighbors, lots of neighbors. We enjoyed the evening light and also walked out for the views down into Redfish Canyon.

Warbonnet Basin and the entire Goat Creek Drainage is a special management area inside the Sawtooth Wilderness. There are no trails and the special regulations include no fires and no dogs. This is one of the most primitive areas in the Wilderness.

Tomorrow, into Warbonnet Basin.

In the above photo we have already climbed high above Alpine Lake and our route is to traverse over to the pass, climb the ridge of the peak on the left, drop over the other side to another saddle, and then drop down steep awful scree into Warbonnet Basin. Afterward we called it an interesting mountaineering exercise.

View from the high saddle down at Baron Lakes. This is not the saddle the Illinois boys made. It was necessary to climb from the saddle they reached and not down climb the gully. Behind the Lady, out of view, is the steep drop into Warbonnet.

Sorry, no death defying route photos, the camera got stowed in the pack as both hands needed to be free.

The views at both Upper and Lower Warbonnet Lakes were incredible.

This place is an alpine paradise.

And, the stories about cutthroat trout were true.

Enroute on this interesting mountaineering exercise we decided that we were not going to carry our big packs over the terrain we had crossed. With the condition of the route, it just looked stupid to do so. We decided we’d make a long day of it in this beautiful basin and explore everything we could.

After being surrounded by sharp granite spires, we were surprised to find open smooth Yosemite like granite on the south side of the basin.

Below Warbonnet Lakes is the string of the Feather Lakes with the incredible granite spires of Warbonnet Peak above.

We descended the basin on the northside of Goat Creek, crossed above the steep drop off down to lower canyon, and climbed the south side of the basin back up to the Warbonnet Lakes. Most of this is across and along steep talus slopes and eventually you will find loose rocks that will bite you as the Lady discovered.

Warbonnet Basin is a very special place. It takes a lot of effort to get in there. Although we did not see any, there was ample sign - fresh tracks and white fur hanging from brush - of the Rocky Mountain Goats that live up here, the reason for the special management area.

Back at the high saddle the Lady pulled out her see mores and glassed the basin below us. She spotted a possible campsite high on the ridge between the Baron Lakes.

“Well, if we’re not going to carry into Warbonnet Basin, I want to camp there. I don’t see anybody down at those lakes.”

“Looks good to me!” I answered.

We took a little different route back to Alpine Lake. It wasn’t any easier.

We enjoyed the sunset and tried to avoid the crowds that continued to stream in.

Tomorrow, into the Baron Lakes.

The trails in this area are very well laid out with very comfortable grades. We were over into the Baron Lakes by mid morning. The north slope down from Baron Pass was still mostly snow covered and in the morning shade the snow was hard and icy. We needed to be cautious. The Lady’s camp spot she had seen turned out to be great. We made ourselves at home and decided to explore and relax the rest of the day.

We headed down to Lower Baron Lake. Waterfalls tumble off of the east side of Warbonnet Peak to the inlets to Lower Baron Lake amid wildflower covered meadows. It was a great spot for lunch and a nap.

At Lower Baron we met a group of backpackers, two couples from the San Francisco Bay Area. They were a delight to talk with. We shared stories and information about places we had been. They explained they were an informal club that called themselves “The Old Timers Backpacking Group.” They said there use to be several couples over the years but they were all that were left. They told us, “You’re from California, you ought to join us. You look like you’d fit right in!” They were fun. They busied themselves with setting up their camp and we continued on with our exploration. Their travel plan was to continue on to Sawtooth Lake and then out to the Iron Creek Trailhead.

We both love maps. That night in the tent with our headlamps we poured over the Warbonnet Peak quad before sleep. The Lady was getting ideas.
“Look at this, and this! There are all these lakes off trail around us! I want to see this one and this one………”
“Tomorrow’s your day. Let’s make it a cross country navigation exercise. We’ll see everything you want to see.”

The sunrise was gorgeous. The high peak with all the granite spires is Monte Veritas.

We headed back down to Lower Baron Lake with a view of the east side of Warbonnet Peak and what is called Big Baron Spire.

Next stop was the third and lowest and smallest Baron Lake. It’s about a quarter mile off trail and appears to have the largest brook trout. The Lady was doing a great job navigating. We continued on to the base of Baron Falls, a couple of miles down canyon.

From here we headed back up canyon but turned east into a neighboring high basin. We were not alone traveling up into this basin.

Braxon Lake sat right below the ridge line at the head of the basin.

From here we decided to follow a compass bearing that would take us to tarns on the divide between the two basins.

This was a wonderful spot, far from any trail. Just before reaching these tarns, in heavy timber, an elk stood up about twenty feet ahead of us. Elk are huge at this range.

Continued in Part 3 - Click Here

1 comment:

  1. Ah, ha! The origin of your masthead photo :-)

    What a wonderful trip you had. The scenery is spectacular! Wow.