Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lower Stanley in the Sawtooth NRA

Here's my hiking bud headed for the wilderness once again. Quick before the rain starts. It doesn't look like thunder and lightening, but by afternoon, it usually happened.

This photo and the one leading this blog right now were both taken from the Stanley, ID city park situated between the chapel, the airport and the elementary school. Not a tourist spot, so I had the park to myself at 4:30 AM while I out waited the fog to get the photos. Wondering why Stanley is so small with all this beauty, I started asking. Check the Stanley weather this winter for a clue.,-114.9378

This was taken from the balcony of the finest eating establishment in Lower Stanley, ID. The Bridge Street Grill has great food and the deck over the upper Middle Fork of the Salmon River flows right below. A few hundred yards further, the river splits and is reduced to a stream of pleasing proportions, but certainly not suggestive of the appellation: "The River of no Return." We ate at the Bridge Street Grill meeting our best and newest friends there, then went back with my Nephew and wife, David and Barb Cook when they met us for a day.

If you grew up eating trout you caught, you might not order it in a cafe, right? At the Bridge Street Cafe you ought to try it, it might surprise you! I see online, some folks got slow service and didn't like their burgers, well, that wasn't our experience and we didn't get tossed out as suspected hippies or for any otherwise liberal tendencies. Hey! Whadda they know?

Oh, the bridge? Scariest motorway in 6 states I'd say. It has no rails and appears a dark slash above the river, covered with steel, solid as in slick. I'm sure in winter it's worse than it looks and it's significant, the fall to the river. Another one of those times I didn't shoot the photo. The bridge street is about 50 feet long after it drops away from the bridge itself.

Just another rock

Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA)

Finally, the Sawtooth National Recreational Area. If you live near one of these NRAs (no guns involved) you know they are a patchwork of public lands loosely coordinated, but rarely understood. Comprehensive information about Sawtooth was difficult obtain as reps from one group had little coordination with the others.

BUT, the good news is not many people go there. Unlike Yellowstone, the density of tourists is much lower, and mostly nearby folks. Hardly a Californian to be seen, except Carole.

The mountains are well named with a fractal edging on the ridge tops competitors for jaggedness. We hiked into the mountains on several days and located stunning waterfalls. You won't see those in my pictures as they are the most difficult waterfalls to photograph or view. One usually walks up to the base of a great falls and, there you are (or one is), facing a roaring torrent of white water, hurling brickbats of water bouquets over the cliff. At least the names are creative compared to Yellowstone (Upper and Lower Falls).

Lady Face Falls is hidden so we missed it; walked right past on our way to Bridal Veil Falls. Bridal Veil cascades a quarter mile over the mountainside, but the view area for it is amidst a grove of brush where glimpses are possible, but the full view never available at once. We settled for a longer view in the shade of some pines where we ate lunch. Other frustrated hikers told us of Lady Face Falls and we found it was neither in our trip description nor on the map. We found the side trail and proceeded to the brink of the falls where this great yawning crack envelopes the small river. The edge is steep and rounded, but not sheer, so it is most dangerous to approach and impossible to see more than the water dropping away. The sounds were good! The fool hanging to the tree declared the view "awesome!"

The cloud in the photo above looks like poor photography, but it simply faded out to fairy dust on the right side.

Thunderheads threatened and boomed away, but we were unsullied walking in the Sawtooths, Sawteeth? A quick dash from the visitor's center to the truck dumped all the rain we missed in a couple minutes. Better there than five miles from shelter.

Goat Falls, another destination hike. This one Carole picked out and we found the trail more strenuous than the Bridal Veil trail. We hoped the falls to be more cooperative to viewing. It was not! At the end of the trail, it dropped precipitously through a field of moving scree so it looked more like erosion than trail. Carole, being less certain about diminishing trails, sent me out to scout to see if indeed any falls was in the vicinity as we were neither hearing nor seeing evidence of such. I scrambled down and came to a spectacular falls, no doubt named for animal one must emulate to see the waterworks. I panted back up the sliding mess and reported it was good, but not good enough for risking the necessary descent.

We gave up on Goat Falls and sat again under the trees (Doug Fir) looking at an unnamed falls on the opposing ridge that was quite handsome, but distant. We met a family of three + dog looking for some lake unknown to us. After consulting our various maps we all decided they took a wrong turn at the beginning of the hike. To be honest, I thought this poor navigating but I received my comeuppance a day later when I made the same mistake! Careful about judging others! Ha!

Often the riffraff are separated from the posh paying Inn-mates, but here you can see they are not. All these people arrive to gather in front of the Redfish Lake Lodge for water sports, sunbathing, boating, water skiing, beer drinking and hot dog eating.This is the most crowded spot in the SNRA. The resort lodges was directly behind when I shot the photo above. The resort labels the nice lounge chairs to keep out itinerants like me, alas it doesn't work. Here's their story: I didn't see the usual riffraffy crowd in any of their photos.

Lodgepole pine covers a vast portion of the Wyoming, Montana and Idaho landscape we visited this past summer. Here you see them put to good use as fence to frame tourist photos!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hot Springs on the Salmon

Often I search my photos expecting to find images that reside only inside my head. After Trekking Nepal, I was sure I shot a photo of broken slats in the swinging bridge we crossed. Fear seared the image to my brain, but I had no photo. Well that's true for today's post. I expected I had shots from Royal Gorge, ID and the little resort we stayed at. Lovely location on the Salmon River with Greg the host being so accommodating. His multi-income site is an anthem to entrepreneurship. I loved the sunset there and was sure I shot up the canyon into the reds of the cliff and the pinks in the sky. Let me check again, but no, it's like that slat photo, only in my head. There goes my dream of being a photojournalist. First, shoot the photo!

I did locate the website which has a few photos:

Greg has some cute little cabins, a bench by the river for five or six RVs, a shop across the highway, hiking trails, hot springs in two locations, a guide service for fishing and rafting, a small store for supplies and probably he could repair your boots too. His hot springs were challenging to find and proved more difficult to negotiate an entrance than I'm used to after the backyard spa. Cute, but... There was only one other RV and no cabin folks while we were there.

At Challis Hot Springs we stopped again. Maybe it was 50 miles up the Salmon and of course right on the river. Hard not to like a river that yields all that pink fish! We wandered around the valley and found the site after a near circle from the town of Challis, ID. More people and a wonderful, hot, hot pool and a cooler pool too. The strange encounter with the host about sent us down the road. First question was about our reservation we didn't have. Ok, I don't make many reservations, one this past summer, so I thought they were full. Next she said we could wait until 2PM and she could get us in. Recall that we drove only 50 miles and it was maybe 10 AM? The food service they advertised was only for the B & B people, so that was out, but we could go swim if we wanted. Next, she reconsidered, after staring at the register, and told us there was one site we could have. The camp was nearly empty then and less than half full by the end of the night! What was that about? This great site could use an upgrade in ownership.

The first photo shows you the top of Royal Gorge, see there nearly was a photo! They were all taken at Challis Hot Springs, which was great place to laze about in hot water and chat with nice fellow traveler from AK, CO, OR etc. As the geology in the photos indicates, this is a tortured place and no doubt the reason for all the hot water. The guy on the ground explained they had to drill all over the place to get enough cool water to cool down the pools and provide drinking water. It's likely this was that same hot spot now residing under Yellowstone. Maybe a geologist relative will set me right on this thinking.