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The young mountain bluebird watched us without concern as we pulled our day packs out of the camper.
It was a short walk to the marina at Redfish Lake Lodge. We were using the shuttle service across Redfish Lake for easier access to the Sawtooth Wilderness. Early in the morning, we were the only passengers.
It was another perfect morning as we donned our packs and hit the trail up Redfish Lake Creek.
The Lady had spotted the Saddleback Lakes on a trailhead map sign board. When she consulted our topo map and Fuller's guidebook, she saw the lakes sat at the base of the Elephant's Perch - "From a climber's perspective, the Elephant's Perch is possibly Idaho's best piece of stone. Not just because of the quality lines and solid granite though, it's the whole experience" - well, we had to go there. Included in the experience was the hard steep off trail route to climb up into the basin behind Saddleback Mountain.
The guidebook's directions said to hike in 2 miles to the small creek crossing the trail that flowed down from Braxon Peak to the north. Here it was necessary to climb down to Redfish Lake Creek and find a crossing. Water was flowing down cascading creeks all along the trail. How would we know we'd hiked 2 miles and were at the correct creek? There were several options including using our handheld compass. At the creek crossing 2 miles in our bearing to the summit of the Grand Mogul would be 98° and, as confirmation, our bearing to the "horn" on Saddleback Mountain would be 140°. The trail travels through timber and from down in the canyon would we be able to see or discern the actual summits? We decided on a fun exercise using Deductive Reckoning (many shorten it to Ded Reckoning) to determine two miles in on the trail. We used speed, time, and direction. "Direction" was up the trail. We timed ourselves the last several days and discovered on trails with similar terrain and grade, we averaged three miles an hour. "Speed" was three miles an hour. Therefore "time" was 40 minutes of hiking. We came to the stream crossing at 45 minutes into the hike very confident we were at the correct point. A faint use trail led down to beautiful Redfish Lake Creek.
The Lady found a way across.
The Lady felt the climb up to Saddleback Lakes was harder than the climb up to Goat Lake. It is certainly a much longer climb. There are several use trails going up so make good decisions on taking one that goes where you want to go. The terrain got steeper. The roar of the cascades falling out of Saddleback basin grew to our right. We crossed the creek at the top of the cascades and hiked around the lower Saddleback Lake. The orange granite of the Elephant's Perch rose high above.
Climbing up the trail, we stopped and watched and listened to climbers working their way up the Mountaineer's Route, still in the cold shade.
We settled in at the largest, middle Saddleback Lake.
There were a couple of climbers' camps and you have to respect how tough these folks are. Not only are they humping backpacking gear up the steep 1.5 miles from the main trail but they also have all their climbing gear - ropes, gear racks, and helmets. These are tough people. We spoke with one young woman lounging in her hammock at camp, relaxing her morning away.
"I have three friends doing the Mountaineer's Route," she told us. "I climb, but 5.9 is just above my pay grade." She looked completely at home in her hammock.
We moved across the outlet and over to the east side of the lake figuring where we first stopped would be where all the day trippers coming up behind us would also stop. This was Sunday in a busy place.
I put my fly rod together. I had already seen several small brook trout taking flies off the surface. There were larger brookies deeper down feeding. I put a nymph under my indicator, cast it out, and gave a gentle twitch as a trout approached. The Lady was by my side with the ghost net and we quickly released a trout around a foot in length. This was too easy. I could easily catch and release these fish all day long. I am not much enamored of introduced Brook Trout and, like many, view them as an invasive species.
I put my fly rod away.
We relaxed the day away in this amazing place. The orange wall of the Elephant's Perch was an eye magnet.
As was the rugged spectacular surroundings.
And there were climbers to watch.
After a few hours it was time to start the descent.
We also needed to pay some attention to the time because the return shuttle boats ran every two hours, 3pm, 5pm, and 7pm.
We took a different route down, this time along the incredible cascade dropping out of the basin.
The Lady found a new place to cross Redfish Lake Creek.
This log jam ended with a 10 foot single small log tight rope walk 4 feet above the water. I had to really racket up my estrogen level to follow the Lady across.
We decided not only to treat ourselves to a boat ride this Sunday, but we also were going to have a store bought supper. Redfish Lake Lodge is a very busy and happening place, especially on warm weekend afternoons. The place was packed but the Lady had already sourced out the best information on food. There is an outdoor food stand and there is the inside dining room. The young man at the marina in the early morning had filled the Lady in. "Eat in the bar," the young man said. "They start serving at four, it's a small menu, and really the best food." Being non-drinkers, we would not have thought of this. It was great. The bar is in the corner with two large windows. The view is fantastic. This early, it was quiet and uncrowded. The line at the food stand outside was mind numbingly long. The open dining room was already getting loud; banging plates and screeching children. It was adult only in the bar. It was relaxing. We enjoyed chatting with our waitress; she was unhurried. Music on the lawn - a balladeer with guitar was entrancing the crowd - was right outside our window. This was splendid people watching. I had the standard fare, burger with fries - very good. The Lady had a sweet potato and black bean veggie burger - excellent. Neither of us had the cubano sandwich the young man in the morning highly recommended. I guess we'll just have to go back.
Back at Sunny Gulch Sunday night, Frog asked why we were a bit later at getting back today. He also filled us in on completing his paper work for the week. "I had 1099 people through the campground this week ending today," he told us. "That's busy and more than the week that included the fourth of July!" Frog loves his job.
We packed things up for an early departure Monday morning. It was time to head north, and to our meet up with my fly fishing cousin, The Big Guy. I should introduce him with a limerick from that 1998 backpack trip. I think I'm responsible for this one -
There once was a nimrod named Keither
whose back cast sailed into the ether
but his fore cast, alas,
snagged the fly in his ass
and that Keith, he could swear like a preacher
We followed the Salmon River out of the Sawtooth Valley. We intercepted highway 93 again and traveled over Lost Trail Pass into Montana. After resupplying with fresh food in Hamilton, we headed west up highway 12 toward Lolo Pass of Lewis & Clark fame. We'd meet Keith Tuesday morning. We spent Monday night at the quiet Lolo Creek Campground. We caught the edge of a small thunderstorm, the only storm and rain of the trip. We wished it would have lasted longer, put on more of a show. Here were our companions on our evening walk.
"Momma Grouse" was keeping eye on and herding her bullet like brood of little ones.
Where should a couple of geezer fly fishers meet? Lolo Hot Springs seemed just the right place, a pivotal location in Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It."
The woman working the counter at the hot spring pool was far too young for me to even bother asking her about the big stud poker game at Lolo Hot Springs.
Everybody stops here.
Even Lewis & Clark.
Keith, The Big Guy was right on time, although still recovering from the Kansas City Breakfast he had in Missoula, Montana. "It was excellent," was his pronouncement. We headed up to the divide.
The visitor Center at Lolo Pass is well worth at stop to get immersed in Lewis & Clark and also the Nez Perce culture.
Here's the Lady with The Big Guy. The trio was complete. It was time to drop into Idaho and work on tight lines!
Our adventure continues in Part Five - Please Click Here