Tag Archives: 1954

Atlanta to Alturas Lake #8: New Boots

In all the planning Dad put into our first trek across the Sawtooth Mountains, one thing he made sure to do was think of footwear. We kids were outfitted with the popular Converse “tennis shoes” of the time, a modern cobbler’s approach to canvas uppers on rubber souls. Being heavier, Dad got himself a good pair of stout leather hiking boots.

Brand new stout leather hiking boots.

Half way through the first day of the walk from Atlanta to Alturas Lake there were blisters coming up on Dad’s heals. Some extra padding helped but the blisters were not to be abated.

By Alturas Lake Dad had blisters inside of the first blisters, including some on toes. I remember them being popped to make room for his foot to get back in the boots.

Well, folks, there are no cobblers or shoe stores at Alturas Lake, so the walk back to Atlanta was faced with the knowledge more skin would be rubbed raw in the future. And it was.

1954 new boots

Meanwhile we kids were prancing about in our thin canvas shoes with nary so much as a red splotch to show for it.

I’m not sure if those boots found the nearest trash can when we got back to Atlanta or not, but my dad was not one to toss out anything that had any life left in it. There is a photo from hiking in the Sawtooths the next year that has him wading barefoot in a creek while holding a pair of boots that look similar.

1955 Old boots

One thing I do know — he never again wore new footwear of any kind when taking off on a mountain trail. And I’m pretty sure he considered an extra pair of very comfortable shoes worth packing along just in case.

Atlanta to Alturas Lake #4: Breaking Camp

After a long mountain climb while leading horses and corralling three needy, rambunctious kids, I can’t imagine facing the work it must have taken to make camp. But camps must be made and dinners must be cooked.

Heavy tarps and blankets were pulled off the horses, then heavy wooden boxes packed with skillets and canned foods were hoisted off the pack saddles. Before anything else the horses had to be tended to, so Dad got busy with that. We kids were put to work gathering wood for a fire and blowing up our air mattresses. Now that I think of it, the mattresses were always flat by the time we got to bed — were they brought along just to keep us busy?

These days, with light mountaineering equipment and scores of Sawtooth hikers, I don’t know if there is wood for camp fires or not. But in 1954 there was abundant dry wood laying on the ground and hanging as snags from the trees. It wasn’t long before we kids were through with chores and were entertaining ourselves by bareback riding the horses around camp.

Meanwhile Mom arranged what rocks she could find so they would hold the Coleman white-gas camp stove and spent rest of the day cooking, feeding, washing dishes, and reading aloud by fire light as we snuggled under blankets watching the stars come out.

The next morning, after breakfast was cooked and the dishes were cleaned, the hard work of unpacking was reversed. But everything had to go back on the horses, so camp was broken.

Breaking Camp

One camp ritual I had forgotten until looking at my Dad’s slides was our daily bath.

bathing in creek

We did not have a tub to heat water in, so Sawtooth Mountain “bathing” always consisted of a washcloth in the creek. What with the sweat and dust of the trail, I remember the concept of a bath being most welcome. I also remember these being extremely quick approaches to hygiene. Even in August, those mountain streams were snow just hours earlier. They were cold!

Those washcloths never approached my body with enough water to run, I’ll tell you that. I soon learned to get them just damp enough to wipe off the grit and get the bath done.

August Snow

Atlanta ID to Alturas Lake #2

INT

After packing our horses on that Atlanta morning in 1954, we found ourselves walking the entire operation up the familiar road to Atlanta.

Atlanta was a virtual ghost town even then, so probably no one noticed Mom and Dad and we three kids and three loaded horses, but we did our best to provide a parade for anyone interested in watching.

After the few buildings of Atlanta we walked past the Forest Service bath house, fed with hot springs, and a short bit later the swimming pool, also fed by hot springs. Back in 1917, when he was fourteen, Dad and his school buddies had kicked the mud up from the bottom of this pool when the schoolmarm walked by. The mud made a good curtain to hide their skinny dipping from such a pretty authority figure.

Pool INT

I knew what that warm mud felt like between my toes. Returning to Dad’s youthful haunt had filled many an evening on our summer camping trips. The crisp air at 5,500 feet, the warm water, the mossy mud and the smell of pine trees were all one Atlanta amalgam.

But this time we didn’t stop for a swim. We just kept walking. Past the rusting penstock of an abandoned powerhouse. Past the upper campground we never stayed at. Along the deteriorating wooden flume that had run water to the penstock. Then we crossed the green-clear rushing water of Leggit Creek on a most precarious bridge of barely more than logs laying on rocks.

Then the climb began. A steep and rocky and dusty climb in my mind. And tiring. Before long I had been hoisted up on one of the pack horses to ride (What? A nine-year-old whine about walking uphill? Pshaw… I’m sure the horse just needed more weight).

Folks, to my mind it was a long way up to the back of a horse. Add another yard or so because of pack boxes piled over with blankets and tarps — blankets and tarps I was sitting on that left no room to reach my legs around!

Way down beneath it all was a steep slope littered with rocks to bash my head on should I fall off.
Nyla INT

Well. I was one very attentive boy and my knuckles turned whatever color they had to while my hands gripped the ropes that cinched the awkward mound on a swaying and bucking perch!

But I didn’t ask to get off and walk …