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We made an early start Thursday. We were moving to a heavily used area and needed a place to stay. Near Stanley it is required to stay in a developed site. Our pick is Sunny Gulch Campground. Five sites were open when we pulled in at 10 am. We met Frog - as in "Just call me Frog, everyone calls me Frog" - the concessionaire's campground host, and paid for a campsite for four nights. The Lady had a list of places she wanted to see with trailheads only a short drive from here.
Redfish Lake Lodge, just down the road from their main complex on Redfish Lake, operates a coin laundry and shower building. We used the afternoon for chores, laundry, and in Stanley we picked up some ears of corn for roasting over coals. Sunny Gulch is along the Salmon River so walking along the river was our evening escape from the campground environment as needed. It was mind boggling to have the river all to ourselves, of course we didn't mind that at all, with a campground full people a few hundred yards away. Here are samples of our companions during quiet evening walks.
We wouldn't trade this for a million cases of Coors or Bud Light or an average American family's lifetime supply of chips and soda or loud conversation competing with a sound system bringing city noise to the outdoors.
Oh, the old scared 3 point buck's name was "Floppy Ear".
The Lady looked at the map right after the strong young kid in the fly shop in Ketchum said, " You two ought to go to Goat Lake!" She also checked the description in our falling apart copy of Margaret Fuller's book "Trails of the Sawtooth and White Cloud Mountains". She read this passage aloud to me, "Climbing to Goat Lake from the falls is the most dangerous hike in this book."
We started in to Goat Lake Friday morning. The trailhead was well signed.
Compared to our last hikes here back in 2011 most folks are now happily complying with the leash ordinance. But there is always the exception and usually with the worse behaved dogs. A tip on a lesson I learned in 2011. Never say something like, "Hey partner, did you miss the sign on having your dog leashed?" You will be instantly made to feel you are the biggest asshole on the planet. This works much better - "Hey partner, the ranger is coming behind us and we already saw him writing a citation for a dog off leash." You will be treated like their best friend, gets lots of thank yous, and the dog is quickly put on a leash. Much more pleasant.
The first obstacle on the route was crossing lovely Iron Creek.
The use trail into Goat Lake leaves the main trail at an unmarked point. The Lady "kept us found" and followed our progress on the 7.5' topo map.
In places it was a scramble up the steep slope buts it levels out considerably as you near Goat Falls.
The fun began anew as we climbed the steep talus.
We arrived at Goat Lake and we agreed this was up there as one of the most beautiful alpine lakes we have visited.
There is no beach or easy shore line. The cliffs continue down into endless deep water.
There is only one possible camp area at the lake. It was hammered ground and denuded of vegetation from use.
We felt it an honor to be here at this high special place. One of those times when our voices turn to whispers.
We moved over to explore the area around the outlet. Be sure and notice the large trees near the end of this video.
The outlet, Goat Creek, flows out of a massive log jam.
The few large cutthroat trout in the outlet were adorned in bright spawning colors.
This was a spot just to sit, watch around us in silence, and let this place touch us.
Granite towered around and above.
We moved back down canyon, this time along the cascading creek, until we reached the top of Goat Falls. This was the start of the steep descent down to the use trail.
We found an easier crossing of Iron Creek.
The wonderful open meadows around Stanley are home to families of Sandhill cranes. We stopped to observe them on the drive back to Sunny Gulch.
We returned to Sunny Gulch and Frog filled us in on all the happenings around his campground. Frog is a people person and we don't know how he'd manage without the interaction he thrives on.
The Lady wanted to return to Sawtooth Lake, we had hiked there back in 2011, on Sunday. This is an easy and enjoyable 5 mile hike into Sawtooth Lake from the Iron Creek trailhead. I'll note that besides the small Iron Creek Campground at road's end, there are several designated free sites along the road. All are in timber along the valley bottom, without views, and not our kind of spot.
The trail travels along easy terrain the first couple of miles.
Reaching the head of the canyon, the trail then climbs continuously up a series of switchbacks. They are well laid out and we just breezed up them.
The views were spectacular of the granite spires around us.
We reached Sawtoth Lake and continued on the high trail to McGown Lakes. This offered wonderful vistas of Sawtooth Lake.
The wildflowers were impressive with Flax, Whorled Penstemon, and Buckwheat.
Our plans were to drop down from the pass above Sawtooth Lake down to explore the McGown Lakes. We found the area had recently burned so we climbed higher and found a high perch to relax at and enjoy this magnificent alpine paradise for a couple of hours. The rocks do tend to get hard after awhile.
The granite of the Sawtooth Range is glorious. We enjoyed spotting the various intrusions into the mother granite.
We were in complete awe of this recent rockfall and wondered how many visitors even noticed or contemplated the incredible evidence.
We had spent another wonderful day wandering to our heart's content through high mountains. We couldn't be happier with our time spent here. But we weren't done yet. Tomorrow, Sunday, we were going on a boat ride.
Our adventure continues in Part Four - please Click Here