This plan required something special for the night’s dinner. We had to have a dinner that would work just as well at the trailhead as it would on the trail. That meant nothing that needed to be cooked on the car camping stove, and we wouldn’t want to do a dehydrated meal at the trailhead. Ambrose thought some bun bo xao would be good, but I countered that idea with pizza.
For some reason, my idea won.
We drove north to Cascade and then turned east to Warm Lake. I’d been there before, though it had been nearly ten years. That, however, was not our last stop. We kept going, farther into the backwoods of Idaho than I’d ever been before until we reached the town of Yellow Pine.
We stopped there and pulled into the Silver Dollar Grill (for sale, if anyone’s interested) and had some pretty good burgers for lunch. I thought about having a beer, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned driving out for backpacking, it’s that I have trouble staying hydrated in the car. Beer would only make the hiking miserable later, so I had water like a good little backpacker.
And then we drove on, because as remote as Yellow Pine felt, we were heading to Big Creek, a place that boasted a rural air strip and a lodge in the process of being rebuilt after a fire. And, on the narrow, rutted, one lane road we almost got run off the road by a truck hauling an RV going in the opposite direction. We moved over to the right side of the road as far as we could and Ambrose could have reached out and touched the end of the RV as it squeezed by us.
That had to be the scariest moment of the entire drive, and we got past it, so I guess that’s a good thing.
As we drove into Big Creek, we saw a woman on the road riding a horse ahead. I don’t know a whole lot about horses, but I have more experience with them than Ambrose does, so he asked me what he should do. I advised him to stop the car and wait for the woman to ride past us, because the horse would be easier to handle if we were still than if we were moving. When the woman drew abreast of us, she called us brave for bringing a Ford Focus on these crazy roads.
After an achingly slow crawl on the rocky road past the air strip, we made it to the trailhead before 3pm. Plenty of time to start the backpacking day and get a few miles in.
|The information board and parking lot for the Big Creek trailhead.|
|Crossing Smith Creek on the road.|
|The trailhead board.|
|The trail began past this monument to Frank Church.|
|A different kind of registration card than the one we usually fill out in the Sawtooth Wilderness.|
At first, there were areas where we could walk side by side, and we did. I was feeling extra worn out because it had been only a little over a week since I completed my 70 plus mile solo hike on the Idaho Centennial Trail. I couldn’t get my pack to settle comfortably and I was hungry after the long road trip. Sure, we’d had a burger, but I hadn’t had any of my normal snacks between breakfast and lunch and lunch and starting to hike. The pizza in my pack smelled delicious, but I knew we had to get a few miles under our belts before stopping for that dinner.
|Where the trail was wide, we walked side by side.|
Ambrose started his hike-long habit of taking out the new-to-us GPS unit we’d acquired just before my solo. I didn’t take it on the solo because I didn’t want to take untested equipment on that hike. This trip was the time for us to test it. I carried the maps and Ambrose carried the GPS, getting to know it.
There were a lot of berries along the trail, but I couldn’t eat any of them, because I couldn’t positively identify them. There were several that I thought were blueberries, or close enough to blueberries, but without a positive ID, I had to restrain myself. I won’t take that risk - at least, not at the start of a hike.
|They look like dried up blueberries, but were they really?|
|Ah, red berries, unlikely to be edible.|
About an hour in, we passed by a possible campsite, but it was well below the trail and we didn’t want to stop so soon.
|I was tired enough to walk at Ambrose's pace.|
|The trail climbed above the creek.|
|More berries that I did not eat.|
|Ambrose getting his GPS fix.|
|More berries I didn't eat.|
|A site that has been used for camping, but not a site we wanted to stop at.|
|Ambrose steps over a log.|
|There's some maintenance going on here.|
|I'm glad this big log was cut.|
|Hm. Can I eat white berries? Better not.|
|A rocky section preceded the trail divergence.|
|The water is just past the trees, but I didn't check accessibility before returning to tell Ambrose.|
We decided to call it a day and brought our packs into the campsite. My first priority was eating. Ambrose settled down and did other things. I found a spot leaning against a log and brought my bird seed bag, my baggie full of pizza and my Kindle. I sat down and pulled my boots off and then started devouring my pizza while reading a library book.
|Another angle on the campsite.|
|Ambrose walking into the campsite. We pitched the tent near the tree to the right on the tall grasses.|
Turns out, he had a really good reason for calling me over. There were fish in the water! Pairs of them spawning. Huge fish, actually. They seemed bigger than would be reasonably expected in a stream of that size. Though I don’t know all that much about what to expect in fish. We were unable to positively identify the fish, but they were likely salmon.
|The fish were not easily visible in any of the pictures that I took, but our eyes had no problem spotting them.|
When I got around to hanging my bear bag, I found my strength ebbing. I had to throw my rock several times on the end of my length of orange paracord before I hooked the cord over a suitable branch. Ambrose watched me trying and tried to give me pointers about how to throw it, but I knew my technique would get me there eventually. And it did. He didn’t notice where I tied it up, so when I joined him in the tent (after consuming my fourth piece of pizza), he asked me what that red thing in the trees was.
It was my orange cord, tied down to a sideways tree.
It was a fairly warm night, so we left the vestibule doors pinned open and got settled into bed. We had a head start on the next day’s hike which would turn out to be not just nice, but even necessary.