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Nature & Hiking

2022-07-02 thru 04 in the Sawtooths

A bit of a cloudy morning but still nice views from near our camp.

July 2-4, 2002

Once again Carly and I headed to the Sawtooths for the Fourth of July. The call to head there again was mainly forced because of weather. All points east of SLC seemed as though there was a decent change of rain/t-storms. Our main goal was to get some trail running in since we have a race in a couple weeks and we have a big traverse planned in August. Putting down some miles seemed to be the best option to prep for those.

Initially we’d thought we could backpack into the mountains and use camp as a staging point for some longer runs and to bag some peaks. It was a wet and snowy spring in our general vicinity and the Sawtooths. For example, at Galena Summit on the way into the Sawtooths from the south, they had their peak water content in the snow on May 15 rather than the average April 18. This meant more snow than normal was on the ground at higher elevations. Based on some recent satellite images I could find it looked like much of the higher alpine terrain and most summits would have some snow—not very compatible for trail running.

We opted to buck our norms and stay out of the alpine for the 4th, and to just trail run and boulder. Around Redfish Lake there’s some bouldering and the Sawtooths have miles of trails so it seemed like the best choice for the long weekend.

We headed north after work on Friday and made it to around Twin Falls before we pulled into a gas station to bivy for the evening. At this time of year and that far north it is always cool to see the sun set at 9:30pm.

In the morning we finished up the drive without any issues. Our first objective was an attempt to Thompson Peak. The full trail is ~4,200′ of gain and 12.6 miles round trip. However, we found above 8.5k’ or 9k’ there was a lot of snow on the ground. The first part of the trail is fairly flat after it gains a small ridge above a mostly dry drainage formerly carved by a glacier. This was the hottest and sunniest of the days and the beginning was a little oppressive. Once up on the ridge we had a little more breeze and it was better.

Part way up the easy section of the trail. It was kind of hot in the sun when there wasn’t a breeze.

At the split between the main trail and the Thompson Peak trail the angle steepens a bit and running is less possible so we fast hiked as best we could. There were only a couple people on the trail so it was quite a nice experience to be in nature and moving (relatively) fast. Looking at the map prior to leaving it didn’t look like there’d be any streams to refill water on so I left the filter in the van. But as we reached the final steep bit before the lake there was a good stream coming from snowmelt we could have used.

As we crested the steep bit below the lake we hit some snow. It was consolidated for the most part but still slippery and I punched through a few times. It was clear based on the amount of snow just below the lake that getting any higher would require quite a bit of effort for the amount of distance traveled so we opted to call it a day once reaching the lake.

The lake was still frozen over. It was also quite interesting topography. The lake was naturally damed by some rocks and bedrock so that it didn’t have a surface outlet draining into the valley below. There must be some small amount that drains through the rocks since there is a bit of a stream feeding the swampy areas below. It would seem that about 20′ higher and the lake would drain but at its current level it doesn’t very much.

We got up to the lake below Thompson Peak, on the right. The lake was still frozen. It was also peculiar in that it had no surface outlet and must only drain through cracks in the rocks. It was sort of naturally dammed.

After soaking in some of the alpine we turned around and headed back downhill. Carly and I have gotten quite a bit better at running downhill, but we are still slower than most dedicated trail runners I think. Getting back to the van for beer, chips, and salsa we finished up the day with 9.9 miles and 2,300′ of gain. My longest run to date.

Sunday we opted into paying for a ride across Redfish Lake (5 miles) to start our run from the end of the lake. Again since we knew snow would be a factor up high we resigned to getting more miles but only modest vertical gain. This time we went up to Alpine Lake. This trail goes along the valley bottom for most of the way before zigzagging up switchbacks to the lake. It is a popular backpacking destination, but the number of people on the trail was minimal—probably because of the snow. This time I was sure we’d pass some streams so I brought our filter, allowing us to bring only a liter of water for the first part of the run.

There were more clouds and cooler temps so it was a much more pleasant run overall. Once at the lake we took a break for a while to enjoy the views. It got a bit cold and looked like there could be some rain so we made our way back down. After about 20 minutes we refilled our water on a nice stream that intersected the trail a number of times.

Another nice view down the valley. The trail ran along one ridge of it.

We were able to make good time on the way back and finished the run with 11.1 miles and ~2,000′ of gain. Beating my previous longest run from the day before.

Redfish Lodge is a bumping place on a sunny summer afternoon, with swimming, paddle sports, boating, music, food, ice cream, and the like. It is quite a unique hang on a sandy beach with spiky mountains filling the horizon. We washed up in the lake and enjoyed some food and beers. Since the days were so long after our late lunch snack we headed over to one of the bouldering zones in the area to do a little climbing. I found the problems to be pretty hard for the grade, but was able to do some of them.

For camp we decided to head into the hills above Stanley to get a different perspective on the area. We ended up having to drive quite a bit more than anticipated up a forest road to find some open camping. The holiday weekend was busy up there. We eventually found a nice spot high up, but a little wooded so our views of the mountains were obscured a bit.

Monday we decided on a recovery run since we’d put down 20 miles already. I found a trail with very little gain to a waterfall called Lady Face Falls just outside of Stanley. The trail was really nice. Flat, mainly smooth dirt and winding through some lowland forests and meadows. Only the last 1/10 of a mile or so did the grade increase. The falls were a little lack luster since you can’t see them from the top. I found out later that there’s probably a way along the stream, but with the water levels as high as they were it may not have been passable anyway.

Once again an awesome weekend in nature. While we didn’t put on a harness we did get a little climbing in and lots of miles on the shoes.