- Jul 5, 2014
A few weeks ago I embarked on a 12 day trip to Idaho and Alaska. The first stop on my trip was to visit @Ben and his fiance Brittinei for a few days of backpacking in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. The Sawtooths had been high on my list since reading a bunch of Ben's reports a few years back, particularly this one. I was also really bummed when I had to back out of this trip to the Sawtooths with @Ben, @Chuck the Mauler, Brittinei and another backpacking buddy of mine Matt, 2 years ago. But despite how long I anticipated backpacking the Sawtooths, they far surpassed my expectations.
The trip started with Ben and Brittinei picking me up at the airport (third different airport now where Ben has picked me up). We saw some haze from the ongoing wildfires on the drive up, but it pretty much cleared up as we got closer to the trailhead. Also, a big "thank you" to Ben's mom who was nice enough to help us out with a car shuttle.
I only had 4 days to hike for this trip before I 'd have to be back in Boise to catch my flight to Anchorage. Ben put together an awesome route for the time allotted. We did an approximately 29 mile point to point starting from Redfish Lake, hiking south finishing at Pettit Lake (see map below). We bypassed about 4.5 miles of trail along Redfish Lake by taking a shuttle boat across the lake. One of the big highlights for me along this route were the pretty lakes along the way; the Cramer Lakes (upper, middle, and lower), Hidden Lake, Edna Lake, Toxaway Lake, Twin Lakes, and Alice Lake., as well as some smaller unnamed lakes and tarns. We camped the first night between Lower and Middle Cramer Lakes, the second night at Edna Lake, and our third night at Alice Lake. All three campsites were among the nicest spots I've camped. The first campsite in the Cramer Lakes was probably the single nicest camp spot I've ever stayed at.
I took the picture on the way out at Pettit Lake. I think I was too excited on the way in to notice anything but the peaks and the beautiful alpine forest surrounding me. In fact, we apparently stopped at a kiosk when we entered where Ben and Brittinei filled out a self-service permit but I have no recollection of this happening.
The view of Middle Cramer Lake from our campsite on the first night. It was directly across from a beautiful waterfall. We explored the other side of the lake the next morning and I realized the waterfall was much larger than it appeared from camp. I find that when I backpack out west, my brain struggles with depth perception and scale since the sight lines are structured so differently than what I'm used to in the northeast.
Heading around Middle Cramer Lake
Ben standing atop the waterfall where Upper Cramer Lake flows into Middle Cramer Lake.
A view from atop the waterfall (waterfall at my back) looking towards Upper Cramer Lake where it drains into Middle Cramer Lake.
Upper Cramer Lake
A pretty creek that we passed on Day 2
Some shots of Ben and Brittinei up ahead of me on the trail heading up to the first pass. I'm not sure if this pass has a name, maybe @Ben can chime in if it does. Looking at the map, the closest mountain to the pass is called the Temple.
A view looking back at an unnamed tarn heading up the first pass.
Basin after the first pass. I made this photo black and white to highlight how jagged this ridge is. You can see how the Sawtooths got their name.
Continuing along the basin towards Hidden Lake. Not sure why I didn't take any pictures at Hidden Lake, but Brittinei and I found a pretty sweet spot with stone slab chairs along Hidden Lake where we hung out while Ben scampered up Mount Cramer. I had another 9 days of backpacking ahead of me and was just happy that I wasn't feeling the altitude, so I hung back. Hopefully Ben will post some of the pictures that he took at the summit.
Edna Lake, near our second campsite.
Edna Lake early the next morning when the water was still and I was able to capture a reflection.
Ben can correct me if I am wrong, but I saw a sign at the pass before Toxaway Lake labeled "Sand Mtn Pass", so I assume this is Sand Mountain. Ben?
Ben and myself at the pass before Toxaway Lake. The aforementioned Sand Mtn Pass sign to the right.
Ben and Brittinei right before heading down towards Toxaway Lake.
First glimpse of Toxaway Lake and a few more views of Toxaway down below.
Toxaway Lake is hidden in this picture, tucked down below between the foreground and the mountains in the background. I believe that's Snowyside Peak slightly left of center.
Final descent down to Toxaway. We saw some campers with horses down at the lake.
A pretty cascade after we passed Toxaway Lake as we began the ascent up the Twin Lakes Pass (Ben is that what the pass above Twin Lakes is called?)
One of the small unnamed lakes on the way up to the pass above Twin Lakes.
Finally, atop the pass looking down at Twin Lakes. I felt like I was standing in a living postcard.
Ben taking it in.
The next stretch of trail from the pass above Twin Lakes down to Alice Lake was one of the nicest stretches of trail I've hiked. I made sure to take my time and really soak it in.
Arriving at Alice Lake
A shot taken about 30 ft from where we pitched our tents at Alice Lake.
A shot of Alice Lake from our camp in the morning when the light was hitting the mountains. I wish I had gotten up a little earlier when the lake was completely still.
A final shot following Ben out on the last day on our way to Pettit Lake.
Once we hiked out, we drove back to Ben's house where I was able to shower and get my bags ready for my flight to Alaska. Since my flight was later in the evening, Ben and Brittinei took me for a little tour of Boise. I was impressed by how clean and beautiful of a city Boise is. We then went to dinner, in part to celebrate a successful trip but also to celebrate Ben and Brittinei's recent engagement. They are both two of the nicest people I know and I’m fortunate to have them as friends. We went to a vegan BBQ place in Boise that was amazing. What is vegan BBQ you ask? I ordered a grilled sourdough sandwich stuffed with barbecued tempeh and vegan mac and cheese with a side of vegan potato salad and we split some vegan chocolate cake... *mic drop*. Pics upon request! It was also really nice to catch up with Ben's brother Spencer at dinner who I hiked with in Death Valley NP last year, and to meet his beautiful children.
I may have labeled things incorrectly or mixed up some of my explanations of the route, so hopefully Ben can chime in to correct me if I gave any misinformation. After Ben dropped me off at the Boise airport I was sad that my time in Idaho had come to an end but I was excited to be heading off to Alaska to meet BCP's @Chuck the Mauler and @Joey as well as two other backpacking buddies (not on BCP). I'll cover the Alaska portion of my trip in separate reports.
Thanks for reading!
Vegan Hiker (John)