Tag Archives: Sawtooth Mountains

Grandjean to Alpine #2: Baron Creek

 

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The good folks at Sawtooth Lodge were more than happy to rent us two horses and the gear to pack up our iron skillets, canned food, blankets, Coleman stove, and whatever it takes to keep a family of five clothed and reasonably comfortable for a week. And we kids once again found ourselves watching Mom and Dad balancing pack boxes and cinching the whole kit and caboodle high on the backs of those huge beasts.

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I remember the long, long walk up the south fork of Payette River and Baron Creek. They are narrow valleys with steep slopes rising above tree line to towering granite peaks. Every time we stopped and looked back the valleys seemed more immense, an expanding crevice opening into the distance.

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On the steep slopes between the towering stone tops of the mountains and the base of the valleys were all variety of growth. Scrub pine barely hanging on at tree line gave way to aspen and brush with open spaces of grasses and moss. Areas of grey stones lay where they had tumbled from on high. Slicing through the vegetation were avalanche trails. Only low brush grew in the avalanche trails, saved by remaining under snowpack while the power of sliding snow roared above.

Mom spotted a bear with her cubs on our side of the valley, but a goodly distance from us. She and Dad seemed to agree this was a good opportunity to point out “a goodly distance” is just the right place for spotting bears in the wild.

They got no argument from me.

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Atlanta to Alturas Lake #10: Shocked

We made it back to Atlanta after a week of dusty horse camping in the Sawtooths. Other than at Alturas Lake we had not seen a soul.

We walked through town to the camp were we had left our car, unpacked the horses, and Dad returned them to the folks who had rented them to us. We spent the night in the Atlanta campground listening to the rushing Boise River. I’m sure Mom and Dad spent the night in sweet dreams, knowing they did not have to pack and unpack horses the next day.

But we did pack the camping trailer, a two-wheeled, fairly light-weight trailer with high sides that fit around the large canvas tent, cotton mattresses, blankets, pots, pans, Coleman stove, supplies of gas and boxes of food that it took for us to be outdoorsmen.

I was expecting a seventy mile trip down the Boise River to home but instead, just outside of Atlanta, we turned left and began a long climb up James Creek and over Bald Mountain. We explored the little survival cabin where Peg Leg Annie had her frozen legs cut off. We explored Rocky Bar and I watched the crusted food in the corners of Charlie Sprintle’s mouth while he chatted with Dad. We checked out Featherville as we drove by, and the wide backwaters of Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Then we finally hit paved road and the miles flew by smoothly and dust free!

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It didn’t seem long before we slowed down and Dad turned left onto another dirt road. The sign said, “Alturas Lake.”

And sure enough, some ten minutes later we passed the lodge where Dad had rented the steel boat that could not sink. And we were unpacking at the very camp site where a few days before we had packed up horses.

I was shocked! Sure, I had seen the cars and trucks at Alturas Lake. But, really? We could have just driven from Boise in three hours????!!!!!

Well. What kids haven’t wondered about the sanity of their parents?

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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.

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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

Sawtooth Kidhood #1

I was a kid in the 1950s and have always assumed everyone raised in Idaho spent every summer being drug over the Sawtooth Mountains with two or three horses in tow.

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Mom and Dad rented horses for our annual Sawtooth walk-about. Light-weight sleeping bags and cooking stoves and dried food were in the future. To cook in the wilderness we carried iron skillets and a Coleman white-gas camping stove. Food was in cans and bottles — and, yes, fried Spam and cold Vienna Sausages on crackers taste mighty fine in the mountain air, all dusty from the trail. Or at least they did when I was ten.

We did have the latest in air mattresses, flimsy plastic tubes molded together that only stayed inflated if no one was on them. Our bedding was heavy woolen blankets carried over the pack boxes on the backs of the horses. The blankets also served as handy padding for us kids when we got tired and were hoisted up on the top of the horses for a ride.

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1954 — Vicky (sis), Victoria (M0m), Dean, Nyla (sis)

Tents, made of thick canvas, were too heavy to bother with so a couple of canvas tarps sufficed, one under our beds and one lying over them. It kept the dew off as well as the two inches of snow we woke to one August morning.

Every morning Mom and Dad packed our camp into boxes and loaded the horses and every evening it was all unpacked and set into a camp. We kids were kept busy blowing up mattresses and gathering wood, which was lying all about and easily available by breaking off dead branches from trees. Then it was time to play, often by riding the horses bareback.

My beautiful picture

1954 — Dean, Mom, Vicky, Nyla. Boxes fit on pack saddles.

Summer after summer we were crossing different trails in the Sawtooths. It was National Forest land at the time, not a National Wilderness, and in all our treks we only twice ran into Forest Service trail-maintenance pack strings. And only once did we run into another family. It was so unusual we became friends. For years we visited them at their place on Sunnyslope along the Snake River.

So, folks — that was part of my perfectly ordinary childhood. Now, at seventy years old and starting to tell some stories about it, is the first time I’ve realized just how unique it was. Stay tuned for some highlights…