Sawtooth Lake

Shannon and Jimmy at the Park Creek Overlook

Sandy's daughter Shannon and her boyfriend Jimmy came out to visit us this summer. It was the first time that Jimmy had ever been to Idaho. Since he has lived in Illinois all of his life and only had limited travel in the west, I wanted to take him to see some of the beautiful mountain areas here. When we planned activities for their visit, a hiking trip to the Sawtooths was high priority. We picked the first day that the weather forecast looked clear and sunny, which was July 4. Even with the prospect of heavy traffic, we wanted to get into the mountains as soon as possible.

Shannon and Jimmy were interested in the drive up to Stanley. Later in the week the Finley's were coming to Idaho on vacation as well, and they had a raft trip on the South Fork of the Payette planned with Shannon's cousins. Since the highway followed the river, it was a chance for them to see the canyon and the stretch of the river that they would be rafting. We pulled over to give them a good look at Staircase, a class IV rapid that they would run. They were definitely psyched about their rafting trip after seeing that.

We don't need no stinkin' leashes

But this trip was about mountains and hiking, so we continued on. There are two standard places that I take everyone on their first trip to the Sawtooths. The first stop was the Park Creek Overlook for a fantastic view of the northern peaks of the Sawtooths. It's a perfect spot for calendar quality photographs. Then we took a short side trip to Stanley Lake. We only stopped for a minute because we were anxious to get to the trailhead, but Shannon and Jimmy were able to get some pictures of the lake with McGown Peak rising behind it. I think it is one of the prettiest places in the whole state.

There were a lot of cars at the Iron Creek Trailhead. In fact the parking lot had overflowed and there were a couple of cars parked along the road. It wasn't too surprising since it was July 4th and the weather was perfect.

Sandy and Shannon smile going up the big hill

One of the advantages of taking Abby into the mountains is that we can let her off leash so that she can run free. Unfortunately the Forest Service requires dogs to be on leash in the Sawtooths during the busiest trail season, from July 1 to Labor Day. So we did bring Abby's leash along and dutifully put her on it at the tailhead. Once we started out though there wasn't anyone on the trail. After walking a few hundred yards from the trailhead we decided to let her off. I haven't seen a wilderness ranger in years so I figured that as long as she didn't bother anyone, we would be renegades and let her roam free and hike on her own.

It was a beautiful day for hiking. We had seen clouds on the drive up but now they had mostly cleared. We had a blue sky with only a few puffy white clouds, perfect for taking pictures. The temperature was cool but not cold which made hiking pleasant. Jimmy, Shannon and Abby were usually a ways ahead of Sandy and I, but they would stop every once in a while to let us catch up. The hiking was easy until we got within a half mile of Sawtooth Lake. I had seen posts on the web from a few days before saying that there was snow. I was expecting to find it on some sheltered spots on the trail just below the lake. Sure enough it was right where I expected it would be, but there were only some short patches that were easy to negotiate. When we reached Sawtooth Lake it was more of a problem.

Abby doesn't need logs to cross rivers

There was a lot of snow next to the outlet creek for Sawtooth Lake. In fact, it overhung the banks in a lot of places. It would be easy to slip where it sloped down to the creek. Even worse would be if the snow collapsed, since it was obviously undercut by the water. We did find some places where the banks were clear, but the water was high and crossing on logs wasn't easy.

I crossed at one spot but wasn't sure that Sandy would make it across. So I came back. I was probably right - one foot went in the water on my way back. When I was a kid and we used to play in a creek near my house, we used to call that a "soaker". The name pretty much tells it all.

Jimmy crossed at another spot and I followed Sandy to help her. I did a good job because she made it without a problem, but in the process I went into the creek two more times. Three soakers! I would have been really embarassed if that had ever happened to me when I was eight years old.

Once we were across Abby spotted a branch in the lake. There was a big log about fifteen feet out from shore and one of its branches was sticking straight up out of the water. So Abby ran and jumped in the water. She swam to the branch, grabbed it in her teeth, and started trying to swim back to shore with it. That didn't work. She was trying to move a whole tree. We all called to her and eventually she gave up and swam back. She did wimper a little when she got out. I think she got really chilled from her swim. Sandy wrapped her in her jacket to warm her up and she was ok a few minutes later.

Abby and Jimmy admiring the view of Alpine Lake

We walked to the usual viewpoint for Mt. Regan across Sawtooth Lake. I took off my boots, hoping to dry my socks. But it was quite windy at that spot even though it had not been on the hike in. Because of the wind we didn't stay long. After a few minutes I got to put my cold, soaking wet socks and boots on and start back. Hiking is so much fun!

The hike down was uneventful. I was pleased that I didn't get any blisters considering that my socks were wet.

Abby was really good on the hike. For a long time everyone else was nervous, and they would call her and hang on to her whenever we passed any hikers. But my experience is that most hikers are pretty much ok with dogs. Plus we passed other people with dogs who didn't have them on leash either. So eventually they relaxed and stopped worrying about Abby. She stuck close to us most of the time and didn't bother other people or dogs on the trail. Hey, she's an experienced hiker.

Papa Brunee's - the place to be with your dog after the hike

After the hike we were all hungry so we went straight to Papa Brunee's. It has good pizza and is the only dog friendly restaurant that I know of in Stanley. A lot of other people had the same idea. There were four or five other dogs on the patio with their people although I think Abby was the only one who got to eat dinner with us. We had pizza and cheesy bread sticks and shared them five ways.

Even though we got there at four it was crowded, inside as well as on the patio. It took a while to get our pizza. This made Sandy nervous as people started to bring chairs and line the street. Apparently the Stanley fourth of July parade was about to start and it was going right past us. She was worried that our car, which was parked right in front, would be trapped by the parade. Who knows how long the parade in Stanley Idaho lasts? We could have been stuck for hours. Fortunately we were able to finish and hit the road before the festivities started.

For fourth of July the traffic on the trip home wasn't bad. It was quiet in the car. We had three tired puppies sleeping most of the way home.