The hardest part of doing a day hike from Boise is getting up really early so that I can drive both ways, do the hike, and still be back around dinner time. August 23 was a Monday morning and I had a "lucky" break. Sandy had to get up really early for a phone conference. She woke me up to let me know that the hot water was out. So I stumbled out of bed and half an hour later had the pilot light relit. But now I was up early and the weather was great. I figured it was a chance for Laney and I to do a hike.
Usually I hike in the Sawtooths near Stanley, or less often some of the mountain ranges around Sun Valley: the Pioneers, the Boulders, or the Smokies. But I wanted to explore a little bit so I picked Granite Peak near McCall. There was a fire lookout at the top which meant there was a trail to the top. And they obviously only put lookouts where you can see a long way so the views promised to be good.
It had taken me some time to work up the resolve to go for a longer trip with Laney. For some reason since we have returned to Boise she has become very neurotic about riding in the car. She seems to be terrified and whines and whimpers constantly. The worst part is that she has this very shrill, high-pitched whine that is downright painfull to the ears. I can barely manage the one hour trip to Bogus Basin for our hikes on Schaeffer Butte the past two summers. This would be the first longer trip that we would take since last summer.
Well although I spent a week working up my resolve, it only took Laney about an hour and a half to break it down. Before we reached Cascade my headache was so bad that hiking no longer sounded like a good idea. So we turned around. Unfortunately Laney may now be officially retired from hiking - it is impossible to survive the ride to the trailhead with her.
I still wanted to hike up Granite Peak, and I still wanted to explore the mountains around McCall. So two days later I decided to try again. This time Laney had to stay behind. No matter how excited she got when the pack and boots came out, she wasn't getting another chance. This time the only stress that I had to deal with was lots of construction on the road to McCall. There were four spots where the road was down to one lane so I had to wait five or ten minutes for the chance to go through. It's all that stimulus money at work.
I really don't care for McCall compared to Stanley. McCall is much more developed. A lot more boating (and water skiing) on the lake. A ski area just outside of town for the winter. A golf course. Definitely a different style of mountain resort with different types of activities. Wilderness it ain't. But it is surrounded by mountains and that I wanted to explore.
Less than ten miles past McCall I turned on the road to Brundage. The road was paved for the five miles to the ski resort. Beyond that it was dirt but a very good dirt road. At about thirteen miles the road passed Goose Lake, a long mountain lake with campgrounds along the shore. It was pleasant but not spectacular. Although there were cars on the road there was no one at the lake. Just past the lake was the trail head. There was one other car there so parking wasn't a problem. Surprising on a fantastic day in August less than twenty miles from downtown McCall.
The hike was pretty straightforward. The trail gained 1700 feet in three miles to the summit at 8479 feet. That meant that there weren't many flat stretches. About a half mile from the start the trail forked. One path led to Twin Lakes. But that was an even shorter hike. And I'm a summit guy, not a lake guy. So I took the left fork heading for the top. At one point I lost the trail crossing a rocky area, but picked it up again in about a hundred feet or so. Finally I topped out on the summit ridge and could see the lookout. There is a long ridge leading up to the top so it still took a while.
I got a view of Twin Lakes from the ridgecrest. There had been a forest fire sometime in the past few years so the area around the lake didn't look that pretty. I had made the right choice to go for the summit views.
From the top I could indeed see a long way. I could see Cascade Lake and the West Mountains to the South. I had done a hike there earlier this year (which I'll get around to posting eventually). To the west I could see the Wallowa Mountains where Sandy and I had gone for a long weekend in July. To the northwest was an intriguing view of the Seven Devils Mountains. These mountains are supposed to be quite scenic but the drive to them is long and the trail approaches are too. So I have never hiked in them or even seen them really. Since they have extensive foothills you can't see them when you drive by on US 95 heading north. They did indeed look like interesting mountains. I have put them on my list - maybe next year. Finally to the east were more mountains but I don't even know what the ranges are called. I will have to do some more exploring.
It was clear that someone was living in the lookout but they weren't around. After having my lunch I headed down. The walk downhill went pretty fast. I didn't see anyone for the entire hike. Even the car at the trailhead was gone when I got back. That person must have gone to Twin Lakes and I never saw them. An awesome day in August, only twenty miles from downtown McCall on good roads, and I had the trail completely to myself. Two days later I had the same experience in the Pioneer Mountains near Sun Valley when I hiked to Boulder Lake. Man, that's why I love Idaho.
I do have to admit though that I probably won't come back to hike in this area anytime soon. The scenery was nice but certainly not spectacular. The drive was about the same as going to Stanley or Sun Valley. Given a day to go hiking I would much rather go to the Sawtooths or some of the other ranges near them. But at least I got to explore this area and had a good day of hiking doing it. Laney really missed out.