Grandjean to Alpine Lake #4: Strangers Indeed!

Visiting the Sawtooth Wilderness Area today is as awe-inspiring and rigorous as ever. It is also something of a social event with regular exchanges of howdy-dos with strangers on the trails.

When horse packing in the 1950s, any interaction with other people in the Sawtooths was a rare event, indeed.

We once did come across another family out exploring the trails. It was so unusual we became friends and several times drove to Sunnyslope, overlooking the Snake River near Marsing, to visit.

There were only two other times we met another person during the eight treks we took in the Sawtooths. Both times they were men leading long strings of pack mules.

The U. S. Forest Service builds and maintains the trails in the Sawtooth Mountains and it is a constant job. In the spring it takes a surge of saws to open the trails through the winter’s accumulation of downed trees and areas damaged by avalanche and flood. All summer it requires regular clearing of trees blown and blasted down by wind and lightening.

Just how modern trail maintainers travel I don’t know. But the wilderness area is motor free, so I would not be surprised if long lines of mules still carry the tools and supplies needed to keep the wilderness wild while still open to human traffic.

During our horse camping trips in the 1950s, one string of mules was spied in the distance, working its way across a scree of loose stones.

Mule train INT.png

On another trip, a string of mules caught up to us from behind. After a few pleasantries the forest ranger said he had been watching our tracks for most of the day. He had also been watching the prints of very large paws that had been following us for miles. The paw prints of a large lion, known hereabouts as a cougar.

And here I thought I was the only one noticing how pungent sweating horses can get!

Cougar INT.png

2 thoughts on “Grandjean to Alpine Lake #4: Strangers Indeed!

  1. Dorothy Burrows

    In a time space long ago had a cougar looking at me while I was looking at him. Guess who brock eye contact first? Me that’s who. Waked quietly away. We both knew we were being watched and being lucky as well.

  2. rangewriter

    I can tell you a little bit about modern day trail maintenance in the wilderness areas because I have done some. I have been on several trail maintenance crews as part of Squaw Butte Backcountry Horsemen. The Backcountry Horsemen is a national group with multiple chapters in 33 states. They work with various agencies (BLM, Forest Service, etc) to build and maintain trails, using crosscut saws and other handtools. I’m also scheduled to participate in 2 or 3 week-long trail work sessions with the Idaho Trails Association. They bring food, kitchen gear, and tools into a base camp in the wilderness via pack string, so all volunteers need bring is their tents, sleeping bags, and clothes. It’s hard work! But rewarding.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s