Over the years, I have grown to passionately love the Sawtooth Mountains. Ever since I moved to Boise, Idaho and took the two and a half hour drive into Stanley and looked at range jutting up off the valley floor, I knew they would continue to attract me like moths to a light, bees to honey…oh, you know what I mean.
This is the start of our journey.
We drove up on Wednesday night and stayed at the Meadowbrook Spa – a great property with a clean room, massage, and great view. This would be the last shower for 4 days. But who cares when you are a going on a trip of a lifetime.
When it’s time to get on the road, there is no better place to start the day off than at the Stanley Baking Company. The food is great and the coffee even better. Get a real breakfast made to order that will give you the energy to tackle the Sawtooth Mountains.
To check out the weather before you go, try the Sawtooth webcam in Stanley, ID. http://www.sawtoothcamera.com
We’re at base camp at Pettit Lake. It’s time to get ready for a 4-day pack trip. We are in good hands with real cowboys! They even pack all the gear the way the did in the old days – using a sheet of canvas to wrap your bags.
This is our journey through the Sawtooths. The scenery, the elevations, the lakes were all amazing. The route starts at Petit Lake and follows the Toxaway drainage. The first lake we saw was Farley, then off to Toxaway – our base camp. The next day, off to Edna Lake via Sand Mountain Pass. The third day, up Snowyside Peak to Twin Lakes and Alice. On the way out, we stopped at Farley.
We are off. With our cowboy guide, Borchet, we start up the mountain on our journey. We start climbing and I am so glad we have horses so I don’t have to carry our tent, sleeping bags, food, water, wine, and camera gear. If we were backpacking in, we would have 60lb packs and would be without some of the finer things in life. The best feature that I never thought of is that on horseback you get to enjoy the scenery. Normally when hiking, your head is down watching for rocks to step over and you don’t get to see all the sights. And the real advantage, if you’re a photographer, is that you don’t have to stop to take a photo. This is the only way to go!
Our path takes us up the Pettit lake drainage and then away from the lake to the next draw over. Following a rocky path we ride up the canyon waiting for the next vista to take our breath away.
This is just a stop on the way to Toxaway Lake. It had no name so we called it Lunch Break Lake and Falls.
Here are our cowboy guides – Cam & Borchet
On the second day of our adventure, Edna Lake was our journey. To get there, we needed to go up an out of the Toxaway Lake drainage. The journey took up up the notch to the top of Sand Mountain. On the way, we were blessed with great views of Toxaway Lake. Check out the color and the islands in the lake.
This is our base camp. Based on regulations with horses, you are not allowed to set up camp by the lake. We ended up being about a 10-minute hike down to the lake but the night sky made it all worth while.
This shot is of Toxaway Lake in all its glory. It is early morning looking east. The lake is calm and sky so blue. Out in the distance, you can see the White Cloud Mountains shouting out…come visit me.
When you pull into Toxaway Lake, you see this rock cliff off in the distance. It sits at the back end of the canyon – on the way to Snowyside Pass. On the first day, we were fishing in the cove and I looked up and thought I saw something spectacular but the actual sight did not do it justice. Only when we were on horseback, climbing up the canyon, could we really appreciate the force of nature – water carving a smooth finish on the granite. As you can see, the waterfalls were everywhere and the setting, just below the mountain range, gave me an iconic photo. If there is one spot that you need to see at Toxaway Lake, it is this escarpment. All the way up Snowyside Pass there are emerald lakes, wildflowers and more waterfalls.
Working our way up to the top of the pass, the switchbacks were not too bad until the top. At the summit, they were only 2 feet wide and the drop was up to 1,500 feet. The adrenaline rush was amazing and when you reached the top, the air from Alice Lake drainage slapped you in the face, and all the beauty of nature filled all of your senses.
Stopping at Twin Lakes was a beautiful experience. After the nerve-racking ride down from 9,200 feet, it was a great to get off and absorbe the beauty. And, the fishing for Brook Trout was perfect – almost a hook up on every cast.
Then, the last stop was Alice Lake. Just over the rise from Twin Lakes sits one of the most precious jewels of the Sawtooths, Alice Lake. With little islands breaking up the emerald color, the lake is framed by majestic mountains most notably El Capitan.
As the afternoon progressed, the smoke from the Pioneer fire continued to build. The sky got darker and set off this amazing sunset. Once again, another off-world experience.
When the sun went down, the stars came out. Not only could you see shooting stars but also the Milky Way. Check out the colors and teh negative space in the cloud cluster.