Monday, July 28, 2008

Sawtooths Backpacking Trip -- Day 1

July 28 -- Bryan talked his dad, a mining hobbyist, into driving us up to the trailhead in Atlanta early in the morning. Atlanta's a former mining town with a population of something like 21 people, but rich in mining history. And it's a three-hour drive from Boise, with two of those hours on a winding dirt road into Atlanta. Bryan's dad was into it since he'd have the expensive gas paid for and a day to kill putzing around the small wooden buildings of what's called "town."

At 9:30 a.m. we arrived at Power Station campground. After firing up my GPS, we discovered that the official trailhead was 2.35 miles further down the trail (my only GPS error of the trip) which meant that we'd have to do 10 miles our first day out. We said our farewells, hitched our packs and headed up the trail. 

We saw lots of ponderosa pine, fir trees and ferns. Very green and lush. Despite the bear warnings posted at the trailhead, we saw little evidence of animals big or small. Just birds. And we ran into freshly cut deadfall, which meant that someone had just come through to do some trail maintenance. How far we'd get on a cleared trail, we didn't know. 

We followed the Middle Fork of the Boise River all of the way. After three cold river crossings, I got tired of switching between my boots and Keen water sandals and did the last three miles of the day in my sandals. The river water was higher than normal due to the late-season snow melt. While it was cold going, it was refreshing to my hot feet. 

While looking for a spot to make camp, Bryan spotted an established camp site across the river. It was located in an ideal spot, and they had pack horses. It had to be the maintenance crew. We made camp two miles further upriver, around 7,400 ft, just before our fifth river crossing. Finding a level spot was challenging, but we were ready to chow down on something other than trail food. 

I ran down to the river to fetch some cooking water, and on the way back I ran into a couple of people from the trail maintenance crew. Sure enough, they were there for the week and confirmed our trail was clear for the next five miles. I was relieved.

There were mosquitos, which are to be expected at this time of year. Their peskiness was minimal, but to get worse. 

Gear notes: Avoid using the Nuun elixir tablets used to fortify your Camelbak water with electrolytes and some flavor. They taste like shit!

Starting Altitude: 5,200 ft
Ending Altitude: 6,800 ft

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