We put our own spin on Robert Frost's sentiments in his poem, "The Road Not Taken," and hiked a ridge less traveled to summit Lucky Peak in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, and that made all the difference.
On Lucky Peak's (AKA Shaw Mountain) southeast ridge looking toward the northeast at Boise National Forest and
Lucky Peak Lake
View from snow-covered Lucky Peak summit (5,904') of Shafer Butte to the northwest
Route to Lucky Peak summit from Boise River Wildlife Management Area building on ID-21
We gain ridge just after intersection to the road to Adelmann Mine at 4,800 feet, a little less than 2/3 distance of hike,
climb on ridge 1,100 feet to summit.
Many years ago, when we lived in New Hampshire, Fred would read to me Robert Frost poems in front of an old fireplace, lit with crackling orange flames burning wood collected locally. New England winter nights were cold and damp and the thick forest outside our door mysterious, so the warmth was comforting as we settled in with pillows on a wide-planked wooden floor and The Poetry of Robert Frost, a thick volume with a cover photo of a low rock wall extending over a green field. Our favorite poems were "After Apple Picking" and "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." The Robert Frost Farm, where Frost wrote his early poems was just 20 minutes away in Derry, New Hampshire. Through our explorations into the New Hampshire woods, we could directly experience the moods and scenes of Frost's poems.
Frost's most famous poem, "The Road Not Taken" is a testament to his choosing the unconventional road of writing poetry instead of farming; he put some effort into the latter career, but found passion and talent for the former. Farmers were expected to work hard and rise early but Frost seldom fit that expectation. He chose a different path, and grateful that he did, for we have his writings that reflect his deep connection to the nature and land of New England.
Unlike the extensive and deep, dark woods of New England, the summits near Boise are open; landmarks are easily seen to guide off-trail hiking. With a good topo map in hand, we have taken several ridges to the summit of Lucky Peak, making our own path to see what we can discover along the way.
In winter, we like to hike Lucky Peak using the southeast ridge approach that begins at the Boise River Wilderness Management Area building on Idaho Highway 21. Sometimes we are able to get to the summit - sometimes not because of weather. In February, a snowshoe hike that started with sparse snow flakes quickly developed into a snowstorm with limited visibility. The storm became worse as each minute passed, and by the time we got up to the intersection with the road to Adelmann Mine, breaking trail through 8 inches of snow, the visibility was about 60 feet. Instead of pressing on into this white void and deep snow to the summit, another 1,100-foot climb, we turned around to find our way back down, the snow working quickly to fill our snowshoe tracks. When hiking the ridge, we use Douglas Firs that are just to the right of the ridge as a landmark.
Fred at intersection of road leading from Boise River Wilderness Management Area buildings and trail to Adelmann Mine in February snowstorm
What a difference 5 weeks can make! We hiked the same route In March and summited Lucky Peak under blue skies without snowshoes on packed snow; it was as if none of the February storm had happened.
This ridge approach begins just after the mining apparatus up the hill from the Adelmann Mine junction (see previous post, Lucky Peak Hike - Winter Ascent). Before we get onto the ridge, we follow a dirt road from the WMA building to the junction. It's a direct (and therefore steeper) climb to the summit up the southeast ridge that intersects with Shaw Mountain Road. Spectacular views of Treasure Valley and the Owyhee Mountains to the south, the white-capped mountains of the Boise National Forest and the teal-colored and basalt-lined Lucky Peak Lake to the north make this ridge route more fun than continuing up road that leads up over the mine and through the north side of Lucky through the forest to the summit.
Boise River WMA on Idaho Highway 21, just past Highland Summit as you drive north from Boise
No snowfall at beginning of hike, but that quickly changed and got progressively worse
Structure on ridge between Black Hornet and Adelmann Mines, on last year's Lucky Peak winter hike
Shortly after this, we start climbing ridge to summit of Lucky Peak
Where we leave road to ascend ridge - this hike on a day with clearing storm
Rewards for climbing the ridge instead of the road abound. First of all, finding your own way is a challenge. The off-trail route for this hike is not difficult - you keep going up, but you don't want to waste too much time recovering from a loss in elevation. Also, you often see things that you wouldn't see following someone else's tracks. Thousands of elk tracks, making deep divots in the moist, squishy soil made our steep ascent to the ridge slow and bumpy, but once onto it, we found a faint human trail. The first wildflowers of the season were poking through last year's dead grasses - spots of bright green among thick faded brown mats. Up higher and onto the snow, our route intersected a wide elk trail - deep hoof prints heading down a steep ravine. Last year, we witnessed a huge herd of elk, led by one bull elk with enormous antlers traverse a large hillside to a ridge top while we approached Lucky Peak summit from a different ridge to the east. For a few moments, the bull elk's silhouette stood on the ridge against the sky, and then was gone.
Once, a large, fast-moving shadow floating over a gulch and then ascending a ridge caught my eye. In the azure blue sky a golden eagle slowly flapped its long wings, a dark and graceful presence moving effortlessly.
We intersected a trail of elk tracks on our March Lucky Peak summit hike
In March, we navigated over the snow easily, barely sinking but still making discernible prints on the surface as we climbed over three rises to meet with Shaw Mountain Road, a birdhouse at its intersection. The Douglas fir trees on the right side of the ridge have become familiar now, and there is one huge Doug fir that stands out from the rest, a sentinel that looks to the rugged snow-capped mountains of the Boise National Forest. The view from Lucky Peak summit is awe-inspiring: Shafer Butte and Bogus Basin Ski area to the northwest, and Boise is seen in the flat darkness of the Treasure Valley.
Douglas fir trees as guide to ascending southeast ridge to Lucky Peak
On southeast ridge to Lucky Peak looking north to Boise National Forest
Taking the ridge less traveled
Frost heaves, elk hoof divots and last season's dead bunch grasses contribute to uneven ground off-trail
One of the first forbs of the season
Sure, getting up to the proper ridge is pretty intense work usually. But once on top, the world drops on either side, and you follow the narrow land and wide sky up. After intersecting with Shaw Mountain Road, Lucky Peak's summit looms with its numerous antennas. A fun loop hike would be ascend the same ridge, and then descend Shaw Mountain Road to either East or West Highland Valley Road, necessitating a car shuttle.
We initially ascended the "wrong" ridge on our way to summit Pinto Mountain in Joshua Tree Wilderness a few months ago and found a large circle of rocks making me wonder who made this and why? Trekking through the gulch to this spot, we found a vibrant and lush green garden spilling with vines and bright red barrel cactus, out of place in the stark and barren brown Pinto Mountains. You find the most interesting things off the beaten path.
Many times we have hiked the standard Lucky Peak Trail to the south of the summit. It's great to meet people along the way, but hiking Lucky's "backside" is more rewarding because it feels remote in comparison, as if we have it to ourselves. It's a distinct feeling of fulfillment and a deeper connection to our local environment to walk the ridge less traveled; and as Robert Frost writes, "...that has made all the difference."
Last approach to Lucky Peak summit
Approaching Lucky Peak summit from southeast ridge
Treasure Valley from Lucky Peak's south ridge
About this blog
Exploration documentaries – "explorumentaries" list trip stats and highlights of each hike or bike ride, often with some interesting history or geology. Years ago, I wrote these for friends and family to let them know what my husband, Fred and I were up to on weekends, and also to showcase the incredible land of the west. I hope to hear about your adventures!
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