Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking
Mt. Constitution

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hiking in Stanley and McCall

My sister, Karen, invited me to join the LaTreks, a Moscow women's hiking club, for a hiking trip to Stanley, Idaho.  I cleared my calendar quickly, bought new hiking clothes, and looked forward to cooler weather and meeting Karen's hiking friends, Christine Soquet, Becky Wick, Ann Storrar, and Nancy Savage.  Looking back, I probably should've added some training and conditioning in that mix because I'm quite stiff and sore today (August 29).  It never dawned on me that we'd be hiking above 6,000' and I might not be able to catch my breath as well as I can in Lewiston, elevation l400'.  My anticipation dimmed a bit when Ann wrote an EMail about the smoky conditions in Stanley, due to the Halstead Fire.  She made the decision not to go, but the five of us hearty souls left at 8:30 on Friday morning.  We stopped in McCall for lunch and then drove to Banks and turned on Highway 21 toward Lowman and Stanley.  I've lived in Idaho my entire life and have never travelled that road, except to Garden Valley for a raft trip on the Payette River.

We arrived in Stanley around 5 PM and noticed several encampments for the fire fighters and then the big plume of smoke visible from our room at the Mountain Village Inn.

We enjoyed wine and homemade salsa before heading out for dinner.  The Motel managers encouraged us to attend a community meeting about the fire, so we ate our hamburgers quickly and walked over to the Community Center.  Local residents, a few guests, and several firefighters, US Forest Service Personnel, and the County Commissioners filled the room.  We learned so much about fire behavior, chain of command, other "incidents", and plans to ensure Highway 75 remained open.  The IC (Incident Commander) reassured the residents their properties and lives were not in any danger because of the fire location, 18 miles northwest of Stanley.  I found the entire meeting fascinating.  The locals were grateful for the "best air quality" since August 18th.

The smoke seemed to take different forms and change depending on the number of helicopters carrying water or retardant to the area.  We went to bed confident our first day of hiking would be smoke-free.  Just a few fun facts about Stanley - it is routinely the coldest place in the lower 48 states, averaging more that 286 each year with temperatures below freezing.  And, the official popultion of Stanley is 100.  About 40 hardy souls stay through the winter and the population grows to 300 in the summer.

We drove to Redfish Lake on Saturday and decided to ride a jet boat across the lake and hike the Redfish Lake Creek Trail to Bench Lake and then back to the lodge.  We have our coats on because it was 40 degrees when this picture was taken - it had been 23 in Stanley during the night.

The incredibly beautiful Sawtooth Mountains.   Along the trail to Bench Lake the fragrance of huckleberries struck me and I said to Nancy, "it smells like huckleberries here."  She told me they were dwarf berry plants and the berries are about the size of a pin head - so small I could barely taste them in my mouth.

Bench Lake - we stopped here for our lunch and photo opportunities.  

View of Redfish Lake from the hiking Trail.

We treated ourselves to sweet potato fries and orange-flavored beers after the hike!

The air was thick with smoke when we awoke on Sunday morning, so we packed up, checked out and headed for McCall.  The day before we could see the SawtoothMountains from this vantage point, but no mountains were in view on Sunday.   Zeke and AnnMarie welcomed us to their lovely home on the lake and we enjoyed a delicious meal prepared for us by AnnMarie.

Christine dresses the Asian Noodle Salad from the cookbook, "Dinner at Your Door."

AnnMarie suggested that we head toward Brundage and hike the Coffee Cup Trail.  I got butterflies as I listened to these seasoned hikers talk about 1800' elevation changes and hiking over boulders and steep hillsides.  But I thought I could at least make it to Grass Mountain Lakes, just a  two mile hike with a 350' change in elevation.  

The views were stunning all along the hike.

Karen really like the fall colors mixed with the red Indian Paintbrush.  She thought it might work for a Christmas picture.

We stopped at Grassy Moutain Lake for lunch and noticed a million little tadpoles at the edge of the lake.  We'd hiked through a lovely meadow to reach the lake.

 The seasonsed hikers studied Nancy's map and we all agreed to scale the "mountain" to our ultimate destination, Coffee Cup Lake, but instead of backtracking we went off on another trail that just led us to a big bank of rocks.

At this point we backtracked until we found the meadow and realized the trail continued off to the right - we'd been so impressed by the meadow that we missed the Y in the trail the first time through.  The elevation change for  hike from Grass Mountain Lake to the view of Coffee Cup Lake was 1800' and there were times when I didn't think I could make it.  It helped me to think of the leader pulling me at her age of 72 and the woman pushing me and her age of 75.  I thought about all those years of working when I just sat on my butt in an office day after day and started feeling proud of myself for tackling this hike at my age and little hiking experience.  Those thoughts kept me going one step at a time.  And look at these views - it was so worth it!

Grass Mountain Lakes

Karen's signature hiking pose!
Amazing feeling of success, reaching a goal, and praising God for his beautiful creation!

Our destination, Coffee Cup Lake!
If the air had been clearer we would've had a gorgeous view of the Seven Devils!!

Tuesday Morning we walked to the lovely gardens that are open to the public near the Johnson Cabin.  
Karen carried Kennedy in her hiking pack and we all enjoyed the lovely flowers, especially the phlox. 

Barb, the 86 year old caretaker, made sure we saw this unusual flowering plant called, "Red Birds in a Tree."  She said the owners found it in Mexico.  

Becky and I enjoyed some great kayaking around the lake on Tuesday morning before we left to come back home.  It didn't seem like these women were all that sad that the fires drove us out of Stanley because we got to enjoy McCall and Payette Lake.  I'll never forget this wonderful experience and Karen's special hug when she left Lewiston and said, "it was my dream to hike with my sister."  Thank you to all who encouraged me and gave me the opportunity for a great new experience.

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