I thought I took some pictures, but alas, I didn't really. I think I was too busy enjoying it. Anyhow, the drive only takes about an hour, and each mile brings you closer to this gorgeous paradise. We passed many ranches, and I dreamed about living way out there, away from pretty much everything. (I mean, let's face it: Central Idaho is away from just about everything anyway, and if you've ever been in Challis, you know it's not in any danger of ever being 'big'. Pop. 1,080. Here is a google map shot, with my lovely drawing points for reference:
You might remember the BLM officer we met at breakfast in Challis. The one who poo-poo'ed my worry that the White Clouds might be overrun on this gorgeous weekend, after having been in the news all week, and the weather just being the most perfect ever. The one who looked over my head and winked at my husband, and said "Nah. You don't have anything to worry about", as if I weren't not only not sitting there, but definitely not worthy of any 'real' conversation. You know, man to man stuff that us wimmenz wouldn't know nor care anything about. You can also imagine the steam engine that fired right up at that table, to which my gracious Scott managed to put out lest the poor B&B owner's kitchen suffered the wrath of. Well. Turns out the BLM officer was full of shit. (Like we didn't know this anyway!) I counted 25 cars at the TH, and that did not include the horse trailers on the other side. :( Yeah. Sad face. As we start changing into our boots, we see two young people in Forest Service uniforms heading our way. A young woman named Katie, who was a Ranger, and her assistant, and young man named Matt. Super nice and great people. When I asked her about the number of cars, she immediately responded: "Oh this is totally not normal. Even on 4th of July we only had 7 cars. I'm sure being in the news with this weather pattern is responsible for this". COUGH COUGH. WELL WELL MR BLM DUDE. Who's your daddy now?! She continues on that her and Matt are heading up to check out the area as per maintenance and to take down all existing fire pits. After a bit of chat, she realizes we aren't n00bs and confides she's glad that we know how to practice Leave No Trace, because she's becoming quite disillusioned by all the crap she's finding everywhere. We part, expecting to run into each other later. In my haste at getting going, I forget to snap a picture of the TH sign, but I did get a map pic.
The above is kind of a downward-as-I-was-walking angle, but you can see how it drops sharply off at the top of the picture. Yii Yiii. First view of the peaks, and a giant Doug Fir with the strangest bark I've ever seen. And yes, it was a Doug Fir.
We met a fair number of people on the way out. Whew. That's always nice. Hee hee. One gentleman advised us we were only about a mile away, but we had 'Heartbreak Hill' starting right then. He basically was close, it was pretty tough and steep. We made Walker Lake around 1:30, about 7 miles from the TH. The official trail ends there, and you just kind of cross country it around a meadow and a ridge and then head straight up a ridge to your South. It's only about 1/3 of a mile, but it's basically switchbacks that are about three feet in each direction. Pretty much straight. up.
Scott's ready to go here.
One report we'd read, said to follow these cairns. So, Scott is merrily yelling out "Cairn!" and I'm happily following, and we're going up, up, up. Like Whew, up. Suddenly, I'm thinking....we shoulda toined left at Albuquerque, and I make Scott stop. We check our position on our map on the phone, and oops. We've gone too far NW and we are very close to attaining the ridge up at Sheep Lake, except...we didn't WANT to go to Sheep Lake first. (We probably should have kept going, then come down, but who does the smart thing? Certainly not us! We like the hard things!) So we turn around, descend and cross the meadow, then finally I spot the faint bootpath switchbacks. Up we go. FWIW, this picture is very deceiving. They are quite, um, exhilarating.
Decided to just do a little exploring and head up to Cirque lake. Took the day pack for lunch. Scott's daypack doesn't pack up into itself like mine, and in an effort to reduce weight at home, since we had bear canisters this time, we decided to only take mine. He insisted on carrying it, which while I appreciated, made me feel a little like a kept woman. Grunt. We passed two tents, but saw no one in or around them. Cirque was very pretty.
I wanted to go up to that saddle, and peak bag one or the other, but Scott had some pretty gnarly blisters he was trying to keep ahead on, so we went left up this beautiful grassy ridge that reminded me of something in Switzerland or something.
I'd seen a big green belt from down at camp, and wondered if it were juniper. It was fir. Of course.
Some panoramas from the top, there. GPS showed us just over 10,000 feet.
We messed about, thought about looking for "The Kettles", but after such a dry year, figured they'd just be small potholes, if there were any at all. While we stood there, reflecting upon the rubble that granite mountains produce as Time marches on them, we heard the sound of falling rock. Immediately I was like "GOAT" in a whisper to Scott. We stood stock-still, and after about 10 or so minutes, we finally spotted two of them, to the left of us. Goats have immeasurable patience and will stand perfectly still, but we got 'em this time. Anyhow, we decided to make lunch, so under a small rock to try to shield the constant breeze that blows at 10k feet, we boiled water for lunch and waited to rehydrate it. We took some more shots of the white granite and surrounds. We watched a couple and a dog head up to the peak on the right, and two guys head up to the peak on the left. I begged and begged Scott, but his bloody blister was not to be swayed. ::Sigh:: I guess I would hope he would let me off too, if I'd had such. He snapped some nice pictures while I wandered.
After lunch, we made our way back down and rested a bit.
The outlet from Cirque:
Panorama of Snow looking toward Boulder
We stood at a saddle, overlooking Sapphire, and it was straight down loose scree and boulders, and well, why not? We made it down to camp, and a bit fatigued but thinking of a drink, we decided to try mixing up some powdered Gatorade and splashing the whiskey in it. Who knew it would be so good? The afternoon sun on Sapphire and 'our' little lagoon was absolutely magical.
Looking back up after a bit of the way down, looks easy, dunnit? But it's very loose and slippery. And literally, that steep.
(You can just sorta see it on the side here):
So, as it turns out, Scott was supposed to mobilize, but then they decided to bring the trailer home, so we came home early for 'nothing'. He ended up missing 14 days of overtime, ugh. But we had a fantastic time, all my food turned out totally worth it, the best food we'd ever eaten backpacking-- just as good as home cooked stuff, and just like you'd made it that moment. We saw some beautiful country, and enjoyed each others company, so we have no regrets. Life is about more than money, it's about living and loving.
(I will leave you with my selfie in the Challis Lanes bathroom, that I took after seeing my face in the mirror, covered with dust:)