Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

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sparklehorse
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Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

Post by sparklehorse » May 10th, 2020, 4:38 pm

95-07 4267 Sawtooths 23 opening.jpg
(Opening shot)


Temporarily laid off from work, I decided to make use of my stay-at-home time by scanning some of the many Kodachrome slides I shot back during the ‘age of film’. So, now that I have some of those photos digitized, here’s a VERY belated Sawtooths trip report:


My memory of this trip is a bit fuzzy after 25 years, but with a little help from the interwebs I think I can piece it together well enough.

One thing I recall for certain is that in the summer of 1995 I had very little vacation time available. Luckily though, July 4th fell on a Tuesday that year. That meant a nice backpack trip was possible by tacking just a couple of vacation days on to that holiday weekend. Growing tired of the Cascades and Wallowas, my friend Jeff and I hatched a plan to do a nice 30 mile loop in the heart of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. This is in central Idaho near the town of Stanley, about a nine-hour drive from Portland.

Soon enough we were at the Redfish Lake trailhead ready to roll...

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That’s Jeff’s old ‘79 VW bus. I loved that thing. It took us on many an adventure back in the day. His dog Katie was along for the trip as well.


The trailhead for this hike is actually a boat dock. Several times a day a shuttle boat ran hikers from the Redfish Lake Lodge to the trailhead at the far end of the lake. Opting for the boat trip saves hikers about five miles of ho-hum walking each way...

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The boat trip was fun...

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Soon we were making our way up the trail, and it quickly became obvious why they call these mountains the Sawtooths...

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The weather looked poised to cause trouble, but it cleared up nicely as the day progressed.


A lone tooth appears...

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Lovely Elk Peak comes into view...

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We stop for a break before tackling the climb out of Redfish canyon...

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The SW face of Elephants Perch comes into view as we ascend...

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We encountered large patches of snow on the trail as we ascended toward Alpine Lake. Once there, we were surprised to find the lake was half covered in ice. Maybe two thirds ice...

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Also surprising was the amount of snow still on the ground here. It was everywhere. LOTS of snow. Post-holing galore. We did not expect this. I think this was the first time we had ever attempted a backpack trip in early July, and we just assumed, or perhaps just hoped, that snow wouldn’t be an issue. But it absolutely was. Alpine lake sits at 8300 feet, and ahead of us was a mountain pass at 9100 feet, and many, many miles of high alpine country beyond that. That might have been fun with the right equipment, but we didn’t have any of that. So our grand plans ended here, just five miles into the wilderness, and several miles short of our goal for the day. Of course this was before the internet, before online hiking forums, forest service web sites, NOAA snow coverage maps, etc, etc. But we still coulda (shoulda) called the local Ranger Station! I don’t recall why we didn’t think of that, but we didn’t. Painful lesson learned!

After scouting around we finally found a small, snow-free plot of ground near the lake where we made camp. At least we could enjoy this beautiful lake which we had all to ourselves.


The lake was simply spectacular as evening rolled in...

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The next morning dawned cold and clear.

Alpenglow on the neighboring ridge...

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Our campsite in the morning sun...

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That’s my old Moss 4-season tent. When packed, it was basically like carrying around a 10 pound sack of potatoes. But that thing was bomber in ugly weather!


Jeff attempts to fly fish in spite of the ice...

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Rather than stay here another night, we opted to break camp and head home. With plenty of interesting places to car camp between here and Portland, and lots of country neither of us had seen before, it was an easy decision to make. Plus a beer sounded good already!


Heading down the switchbacks toward the canyon bottom...

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A cool stretch of trail...

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Grand Mogul comes into view as we head down...

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Elephants Perch reappears...

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According to SummitPost, this massive chunk of rock presents climbers with “the most dramatic granite faces in Idaho (up to 1200 feet in height)”. Its summit sits just shy of 10,000 feet!


We get another gander at Grand Mogul on the way out, along with its chunky neighbor to the right which is actually the NE face of Elephants Perch...

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Back at the boat dock, we did a little fishing and had lunch while we waited for the afternoon shuttle boat...

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Looking back wistfully at the Sawtooths from the road...

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All in all, it was a great trip in spite of the stupid snow snafu!

I'll have to take another crack at that trip one day after the Corona bug passes.

Gordon

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Bosterson
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Re: Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

Post by Bosterson » May 10th, 2020, 5:49 pm

Hey Gordon, sorry to hear about your job but great at see you on here again! Awesome blast from the past TR - please post more if you have them! The Sawtooths are so awesome; I thought I'd been to Redfish Lake when I went a few years ago, but turns out we went to Pettit and then in to Alice Lake. Neat that you're digging out old film to scan, Kodachrome is such a unique look! More please! :D
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Re: Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

Post by arieshiker » May 11th, 2020, 6:16 am

Excellent TR Gordon…..age of the trip isn't overly relevant at this point, a good trip is a good trip, and any trip to the Sawtooths seems a good trip, so I have to agree with Bosterson. First two times I went to that region was in early May with a friend from B.C., and both times the roads were still closed due to deep snow, and all the accessible lakes were frozen over except close to shore, where you could still see thousands of those tiny minnows that don't seem to realize it's freezing in there. I went back later, solo, took my sea kayak, and paddled Redfish, Pettit, Alturas and Stanley Lakes and did some minor day hiking from base at Stanley Lake. Sadly the disk that had my images from the old Seattle Film Works has long since gone the way of floppy disks. These are the only shots I can still find among my souvenirs.
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BurnsideBob
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Re: Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

Post by BurnsideBob » May 11th, 2020, 8:37 am

Thanks for sharing your fabulous trip. I've never visited when there is so much snow.

Hope you get the chance to visit again soon. The Redfish Lake dock has been redone, but the mountains are the same, although I've heard, thru an Idaho climber's bulletin board, that the iconic feature, The Arrowhead, mostly collapsed and fell when that earthquake struck the area a few month's back.

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_DSC3083v2.JPG
The Arrowhead as seen from Upper Cramer Lake.
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Re: Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

Post by justpeachy » May 11th, 2020, 11:36 am

Nice TR, thanks for sharing! I had the pleasure of visiting the Sawtooths for the first time last year (did the Alice-Toxaway loop) and I was blown away by the scenery. Absolutely amazing!

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bobcat
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Re: Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

Post by bobcat » May 13th, 2020, 6:47 pm

Wonderful trip report! I'm particularly impressed by the quality of your slide scans. I have hundreds of old slides and have yet to deal with them, partly because I am suspicious of the quality of any process.

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sparklehorse
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Re: Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

Post by sparklehorse » May 14th, 2020, 2:05 pm

Thanks everyone! Glad you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. I have one more 'time machine' trip I'll be posting soon. Glad to see a number of people have been to the Sawtooths already. Sure is purdy up that way! And not really that far of a drive either.

To Bobcat:
In case you're interested, the slide scanner I'm using is the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai. It's a dedicated 35mm slide and print film scanner. That company has been making scanners for a long time and this current model has gotten quite a lot of good reviews. From what I gather, it's about as good as it gets for this purpose unless you can find one of the old Nikon CoolScan scanners. Those are expensive though, even used, and Nikon doesn't make or support their scanners anymore. The Plustek comes with fairly sophisticated image editing and color correction software, but I've found I prefer to just scan the slides as raw images and then do all my editing in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. If you work with Lightroom that would also be a good workflow. Of course your results will largely depend on how well your slides have held up over the years. I'm lucky that I shot mostly Kodachrome back in the 80's and 90's, because the dies in that particular film are famous for their stability. The Ektachromes and Fujichromes I shot 35 years ago have not help up as well.
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Felipe
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Re: Sawtooths Backpack, July 1995

Post by Felipe » May 15th, 2020, 1:56 pm

Love it! Last time I visited that region was 1993. Guess it's high time to invest the time and return once the dust settles. Most of all, thanks for taking the time to compose an awesome report and those images are treasures.

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