The first hike I did with Abby in the Sawtooths went really well and we both really enjoyed it. Abby showed that she could hike in the big mountains so I was anxious to go again. I suspect that she was anxious to get out again too. Since the weather in Idaho is usually excellent for hiking during the fall we didn't have to wait long for another opportunity. In late September we had another weekend with a good forecast. Early Saturday morning Abby and I were off again, this time to the White Clouds.
We had a little excitement on the drive up. In Lowman, just as I made the turn onto Highway 21 towards Stanley, a deer ran right in front of the car. It made it across but I still slammed on the brakes, expecting more deer to be right behind. Sure enough, there was another deer and it followed the first one, running right in front of me. It's not uncommon when deer cross the highway for the lead one to make it across and the trailer to be the one that gets hit. That's what happened the time that I was visiting Tim in Tennessee and he clipped a deer on the freeway.
This time I barely avoided the second deer. If I hadn't been going slowly because I was just coming out of the turn, and hadn't guessed right and slammed on the brakes even before I saw the second deer, I never would have stopped in time. Abby was sitting in the back seat and came flying forward between the seats. It was a good thing that my parent reflexes, developed during years of riding in the car with kids, were still there. My arm automatically went out to the side and caught her from pitching all the way forward onto the gearshift. Fortunately no harm was done and the deer continued into the woods and disappeared. After those few seconds of excitement Abby and I were back on our way.
The deer weren't quite done with us though. After we went through Stanley two deer ran across the highway in front of the pickup truck that was just ahead of us. He stopped in plenty of time and so did we. No excitement this time.
I was glad to see that there weren't any dogs anywhere in sight when we arrived at the trailhead. I didn't need a repeat of some of our previous hikes where Abby had gone nuts in the car when she spotted another dog as we drove up. There was just one guy who was getting his dirt bike off of his trailer. Of course, it turned out that Abby didn't like the motorcycle either and started barking. I can't say that I blame her - I don't like motorcycles in the mountains either. I think that they are obnoxious. They're noisy and smelly on the trail and don't exactly enhance the wilderness experience.
Fortunately the guy didn't seem to be afraid of Abby at all and wasn't bothered by her aggresiveness. He just laughed and tried to make friends with her. I hurried up getting ready anyway and got us going up the trail as quickly as I could.
The hike we were doing was Horton Peak. Its mainly a dirt trail, not rocky like the Sawtooth Lake Trail we had done previously, so I wasn't worried about her cutting up her paws the way she had done last time. I was hoping that if we kept hiking in the mountains her pads would toughen up.
The trail starts in the Stanley Valley and leads to an old, inactive fire lookout at 9896 feet on the summit of Horton Peak. On the west side of the valley the Sawtooths rise abrubtly from the valley without foothills. They present a spectacular view from the valley as you drive along Highway 75. The big peaks of the White Clouds on the east side of the valley are hidden behind foothills and lesser peaks. The highest of those lesser peaks is Horton Peak, which makes it a fantastic viewpoint for seeing into the heart of the White Clouds wilderness.
In all my years in Idaho I haven't done much hiking in the White Clouds, but I did climb Horton Peak once before. It was way back in 1999 when I hiked to the top with Tim and Mickey. This was when I was still trying to get them interested in hiking and climbing in the mountains. They were good sports and did the hike, but afterwards said, meh, they weren't that interested in doing any more.
After that I made one more try, taking them to Yosemite and climbing Half Dome with them. It was the first major mountain that I climbed, back when I was in graduate school, and it started my lifelong passion for the mountains. That didn't get them hooked either, which was fine. We have other interests that we share and we've focused on those over the years.
Fifteen years later I was doing the hike again. And again, I was taking someone along, hoping they would get interested in hiking. This time I had better luck. Abby loves being in the mountains.
The trail to the summit wasn't long - a little over three miles. But it was steep, gaining over 2500 feet. The climb was steady. I took my time and Abby was ok with that. She would run ahead, run back, or chase up and down the slope. She was able to keep busy. Every once in a while she would get ahead of me and just sit down and wait patiently for me to catch up, although she did have a "man you really are slow!" look on her face.
We hadn't hiked far when a couple of hikers caught up with us and powered past. That's not unusual. I'm a slow hiker and I get passed a lot on the trail, especially going uphill. But this couple see med uncomfortable with Abby, so I called her over and held her to the side. They powered past us and zoomed ahead. Good for them.
Turns out we'd see them later.
We took our time going up. As we climbed higher we got a spectacular view of the Sawtooths across the valley. The slopes that we were hiking on were covered with aspen which had turned to bright fall colors, providing a beautiful golden contrast to the dark green of the pine trees, the deep blue of the sky and the grey rock peakss across the valley. A very pretty sight.
It took us about three hours to reach the summit. We found our friends who had passed us on the way up sitting there. There was an old forest service lookout on the top so I stayed on the opposite side. That way we could each have our own space on the top of the mountain. But Abby didn't buy into that and kept going over to bug them. I think they had food that she was interested in. So I had somewhat of a challenge to keep Abby with me so she wouldn't annoy those other people.
From the summit we could see deep into the White Clouds. I haven't hiked there much and one of these days I really need to go in and explore the heart of the White Clouds. It is a highly regarded backpacking area. One reason that I haven't explored them as much as the Sawtooths is that the approach roads to the trailheads are longer and more difficult. But next year I just have to do it. This year, after a decades long controversy, two Wilderness areas were finally designated in the White Clouds. I need to explore them.
The hike down was beautiful. All the way back I had that fantastic view of the Sawtooths across the valley right in front of me. I took my time and enjoyed the hike down. Abby was enjoying herself too.
When we reached the trailhead Abby climbed into the back of the car and promptly went to sleep. She slept most of the way home.