Two weeks in the White Clouds, Idaho, July 2018

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In mid-July 2018, Kade and I planned to spend about 16 days or so split between the Sawtooths and the White Clouds in Idaho. We started in the Sawtooths, but were quickly and soundly defeated by Fishhook Creek as we attempted to get up to Stephens Lakes. All turned out well, though, and we spent about 14 days in the White Clouds instead, starting at 4th of July TH. Our plans were again changed when we encountered several obstacles (read: got lost) near Iron Basin. Keeping upbeat and flexible turned out to be virtues on this trip, and in the end, everything worked out just fine.

We started at 4th of July TH and made out way up Antz Basin and near the Boorn Lakes. Moving quickly through the area we followed a strong and quite beautiful Warm Springs Creek down a relatively easy and well established trail. We soon entered two burn areas that slowed our progress and wore us down in the midday heat. Near the second burn area there is an old and unmaintained trail that goes up into Iron Basin. The FS does not actively maintain this trail because of protected Bighorn sheep in the area. Finding the trail was difficult and the trail itself is very steep and again, not very well maintained. We eventually found a pretty nice spot somewhere up above Warm Springs Creek in the direction of, but not quite in, Iron Basin.

20180718_110518.jpg


The next day we set out to find Iron Basin and jump over into Bighorn Basin and try to stay at O'Caulkens Lake. We were completely turned around, and the trail was nowhere to be found. We followed the wrong drainage up to a remote and beautiful lake, but were clearly in the wrong spot. We tried a different way and thought we were on the right track. Instead we came out the wrong drainage again, and were forced to descend a nasty and rocky ravine. The scenery the entire day was exceptionally gorgeous and obviously not well-trod, but we had hiked god-knows-how-many-miles basically in circles to end up exhausted back down on Warm Springs Creek. Finally setting up camp late in the day, we took stock of the situation and pulled out the map. We had about 6 days worth of food on us, since we planned to do an 8 day loop over Lee peak and back to 4th of July. Instead we decided to head back up Warm Springs Creek, stay a couple days near the Boorn Lakes, head back to 4th of July, and restock. The good news is the rest of our stay went off without a hitch, and we had an easy time navigating the rest of the trip.

20180719_133410.jpg


On the third day we made the short walk back to the Boorn Lakes, and made camp at one of the upper lakes. We moved again the next day but only a couple miles, and had great views down the Warm Springs Creek Drainage. It was quite windy in the area, and the little plateau we stayed on had very little flat ground, and it was mostly rocky, and seemed quite fragile. I wouldn't recommend it as a camp spot, despite the fantastic views and good company.

Early the next day we took off up the Antz basin trail and restocked at the car. We made our way to Chamberlain Basin, which was rather easy-going besides the strong sun. The first views of Castle Peak are absolutely stunning. Castle Peak provides a look at the volcanic and granitic bases of the White Clouds and Boulder Mountains, besides simply being an enormous mountain. We stayed near lake 9197, which was quite beautiful, but pretty buggy. At this point we really had our legs under us, and we were enjoying everything the White Clouds were offering.

20180722_154208.jpg


We were off early the next day to head up into the Boulder Chain Lakes. The views at Castle Divide are worthy of at least an hour of appreciation, and the last push up to the divide gives you a different reason to stop and take a break. Its a rather long day from Castle Divide up to the Boulder Chain lakes, and we ended up staying near Slickrock Lake, which gave us plenty of solitude and great exploring. We ran into about 3 guys who had 20 kids with them on a church trip. Most of the kids had no camping experience, but these guys took them over the Devil's Staircase into the Chain Lakes, to hike a 30-mile three day loop. Yikes, but good for them.

20180723_111727.jpg


On our 7th day in the White Clouds we left the Chain Lakes and make our way past Frog Lake to the Big Boulder Lakes. We ran into no fewer than 30 people, church groups and others, who were fishing up in those lakes. And it was a Tuesday! Asking around we found out that no one was planning on staying at Island Lake, so we made our way there, and it was a great choice. I must say, however, that this area sees a whole lot of use, and that meant we saw a whole lot of garbage. It's great that folks are using the resources, but christ people pack out your goddamn tin foil.

20180724_134528.jpg


The next day we climbed up WCP 9 and Lee Peak. Great weather and fantastic views, although the haze from summer fires was coming into its own.

20180725_072504.jpg


20180725_111322.jpg


20180725_114714.jpg

The next day we walked all the way back to Chamberlain basin and stayed the night there again in a nice spot, and on the 10th day we were back out at 4th of July TH. We headed into Stanley for some beer and pizza, and headed up to the north side of the range and stayed at Slate Creek TH. We hiked up to a nice spot on O'Caulkens Lake, and spent about 3 days walking around Bighorn and Iron Basins, as well as simply enjoying the views of Lee peak and its neighbors. We were lucky enough to see about 9 bighorns from a distance. The area is very fragile, we were treading lightly, and doing our best observe the agile animals from a distance through glass.

20180730_185309.jpg


Final Thoughts: This wilderness area is spectacular in basically every way. Most of the trails are in great shape, the lakes are wonderful, the peaks provide great scrambling, wildflowers gave home to lots of insect life and thus lots of bird life. On the other hand, the range seems to get quite a bit of visitation, which makes me only imagine how busy the Sawtooths are that time of year. There wasn't a fire ban when we were there, but the area was a tinderbox, and we chose not to have any. It was warm enough at night without them anyway, and unfortunately the Boy Scouts caused a fire at Redfish Lake at the same time. Having fires is a personal choice, but it seems like people could really benefit from some situational awareness when it comes to fire use. We were very lucky to see a large portion of this wilderness area, but I am looking forward to going back and exploring many more of the nooks and crannies the White Clouds provide.
 

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Miya

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#4
Amazing reflections!
Too bad you saw so much trash. Can definitely be a bummer in an otherwise perfect setting. I always bring an extra gallon ziploc for strangers trash...I just don't pick up TP.
Thanks for sharing!!
 
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Amazing reflections!
Too bad you saw so much trash. Can definitely be a bummer in an otherwise perfect setting. I always bring an extra gallon ziploc for strangers trash...I just don't pick up TP.
Thanks for sharing!!
It was really just near the places that were heavy with fishermen, otherwise the place was very clean, besides the nalgene bottle and $100 battery I found on the ground. I'm sure though that for every person that leaves trash there are five that religiously pack it out. Really can't complain too much.
 

Artemus

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#7
In mid-July 2018, Kade and I planned to spend about 16 days or so split between the Sawtooths and the White Clouds in Idaho. We started in the Sawtooths, but were quickly and soundly defeated by Fishhook Creek as we attempted to get up to Stephens Lakes. All turned out well, though, and we spent about 14 days in the White Clouds instead, starting at 4th of July TH. Our plans were again changed when we encountered several obstacles (read: got lost) near Iron Basin. Keeping upbeat and flexible turned out to be virtues on this trip, and in the end, everything worked out just fine.

We started at 4th of July TH and made out way up Antz Basin and near the Boorn Lakes. Moving quickly through the area we followed a strong and quite beautiful Warm Springs Creek down a relatively easy and well established trail. We soon entered two burn areas that slowed our progress and wore us down in the midday heat. Near the second burn area there is an old and unmaintained trail that goes up into Iron Basin. The FS does not actively maintain this trail because of protected Bighorn sheep in the area. Finding the trail was difficult and the trail itself is very steep and again, not very well maintained. We eventually found a pretty nice spot somewhere up above Warm Springs Creek in the direction of, but not quite in, Iron Basin.

View attachment 73371

The next day we set out to find Iron Basin and jump over into Bighorn Basin and try to stay at O'Caulkens Lake. We were completely turned around, and the trail was nowhere to be found. We followed the wrong drainage up to a remote and beautiful lake, but were clearly in the wrong spot. We tried a different way and thought we were on the right track. Instead we came out the wrong drainage again, and were forced to descend a nasty and rocky ravine. The scenery the entire day was exceptionally gorgeous and obviously not well-trod, but we had hiked god-knows-how-many-miles basically in circles to end up exhausted back down on Warm Springs Creek. Finally setting up camp late in the day, we took stock of the situation and pulled out the map. We had about 6 days worth of food on us, since we planned to do an 8 day loop over Lee peak and back to 4th of July. Instead we decided to head back up Warm Springs Creek, stay a couple days near the Boorn Lakes, head back to 4th of July, and restock. The good news is the rest of our stay went off without a hitch, and we had an easy time navigating the rest of the trip.

View attachment 73372

On the third day we made the short walk back to the Boorn Lakes, and made camp at one of the upper lakes. We moved again the next day but only a couple miles, and had great views down the Warm Springs Creek Drainage. It was quite windy in the area, and the little plateau we stayed on had very little flat ground, and it was mostly rocky, and seemed quite fragile. I wouldn't recommend it as a camp spot, despite the fantastic views and good company.

Early the next day we took off up the Antz basin trail and restocked at the car. We made our way to Chamberlain Basin, which was rather easy-going besides the strong sun. The first views of Castle Peak are absolutely stunning. Castle Peak provides a look at the volcanic and granitic bases of the White Clouds and Boulder Mountains, besides simply being an enormous mountain. We stayed near lake 9197, which was quite beautiful, but pretty buggy. At this point we really had our legs under us, and we were enjoying everything the White Clouds were offering.

View attachment 73373

We were off early the next day to head up into the Boulder Chain Lakes. The views at Castle Divide are worthy of at least an hour of appreciation, and the last push up to the divide gives you a different reason to stop and take a break. Its a rather long day from Castle Divide up to the Boulder Chain lakes, and we ended up staying near Slickrock Lake, which gave us plenty of solitude and great exploring. We ran into about 3 guys who had 20 kids with them on a church trip. Most of the kids had no camping experience, but these guys took them over the Devil's Staircase into the Chain Lakes, to hike a 30-mile three day loop. Yikes, but good for them.

View attachment 73374

On our 7th day in the White Clouds we left the Chain Lakes and make our way past Frog Lake to the Big Boulder Lakes. We ran into no fewer than 30 people, church groups and others, who were fishing up in those lakes. And it was a Tuesday! Asking around we found out that no one was planning on staying at Island Lake, so we made our way there, and it was a great choice. I must say, however, that this area sees a whole lot of use, and that meant we saw a whole lot of garbage. It's great that folks are using the resources, but christ people pack out your goddamn tin foil.

View attachment 73375

The next day we climbed up WCP 9 and Lee Peak. Great weather and fantastic views, although the haze from summer fires was coming into its own.

View attachment 73376

View attachment 73377

View attachment 73378
The next day we walked all the way back to Chamberlain basin and stayed the night there again in a nice spot, and on the 10th day we were back out at 4th of July TH. We headed into Stanley for some beer and pizza, and headed up to the north side of the range and stayed at Slate Creek TH. We hiked up to a nice spot on O'Caulkens Lake, and spent about 3 days walking around Bighorn and Iron Basins, as well as simply enjoying the views of Lee peak and its neighbors. We were lucky enough to see about 9 bighorns from a distance. The area is very fragile, we were treading lightly, and doing our best observe the agile animals from a distance through glass.

View attachment 73379

Final Thoughts: This wilderness area is spectacular in basically every way. Most of the trails are in great shape, the lakes are wonderful, the peaks provide great scrambling, wildflowers gave home to lots of insect life and thus lots of bird life. On the other hand, the range seems to get quite a bit of visitation, which makes me only imagine how busy the Sawtooths are that time of year. There wasn't a fire ban when we were there, but the area was a tinderbox, and we chose not to have any. It was warm enough at night without them anyway, and unfortunately the Boy Scouts caused a fire at Redfish Lake at the same time. Having fires is a personal choice, but it seems like people could really benefit from some situational awareness when it comes to fire use. We were very lucky to see a large portion of this wilderness area, but I am looking forward to going back and exploring many more of the nooks and crannies the White Clouds provide.
Amazing views Amazing photos and love the writing. Thanks scoags!
 

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