Backpack trip to Alpine Lake in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness with day trips to Upper Redfish Lakes, Lake Kathryn and Baron Lakes.
Upper Redfish Lake - Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness
Gully that climbs from Alpine Lake to saddle overlooking Upper Redfish Lakes
The most memorable trips are those taken "off the beaten path", those in which you make your own path, and you don't follow one that many before you have traveled. Wilderness experienced with many others is good, but wilderness experienced by yourself or just a few others transcends you to a much higher level of awareness. Looking forward to the solitude and beauty of the Sawtooth Wilderness mountains and lakes, Fred and I originally planned to backpack into Upper Redfish Lakes for 3 nights but when we saw the snow at the top of the gully from Alpine Lake we considered an alternate plan. We instead camped for 3 nights at Alpine Lake and took day hikes - one day hike cross-country to Upper Redfish Lakes and Lake Kathryn and the second day on the main trail to Baron Lakes. Besides, my pack felt too heavy with 3 days of food. In retrospect, we realized we needed lighter packs! We came up with a goal for our next backpack: bring just 2 days' worth of food, lighter packs so we could camp at the middle Upper Redfish Lake. That way we could get up early to summit Reward Peak, southwest of Lake Kathryn.
Climbing gully that separates Alpine Lake drainage from Upper Redfish Lakes
U-shaped glaciated valley - Redfish Lake Creek Canyon as seen from Alpine Lake Trail # 101
After hiking up the gully from Alpine Lake, then down to Upper Redfish Lakes, we got water from the lake outlet. It was too late in the day to summit Reward Peak, but we hiked southwestward toward it and then circled around, doing some Class 3 climbing over the steep rocks northwest of Lake Kathryn.
We saw mountain goat prints indented in the mud around the rocks. A breathtaking view of Lake Kathryn awaited us at the crest of the rocks. Lake Kathryn, the southern-most of the three Upper Redfish Lakes is named after Kathryn Mills, according to Iowa State University's archives of the Vandervelde Family Papers. This fact leads me to consider whether Kathryn Mills was associated with the Iowa Mountaineers, a group important to the Sawtooth Mountains' climbing history. This group led mountain ascents all over the world from 1940 until 1996. The Iowa Mountaineers claimed first-time ascents of 18 peaks in the Sawtooth Mountains in 1940's, including Warbonnet Peak in 1947, a challenging sheer-wall spire where all routes to the top are Class 5 climbing. Lake Kathryn is located ~ 5 miles southeast of Warbonnet Peak.
Lake Kathryn - Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness, Idaho
We scrambled for 9 hours, ascending, descending and route-finding in the spectacular basins and forests of the Sawtooths. The next day we decided to hike on the established trail to Baron Lakes. Smoke increased that day due to fires in British Columbia and Washington state. We ran into six women who were camping near us at Alpine Lake. From them I got advice on how to make my pack lighter.
Top of gully - Redfish Lake behind Fred in basin
Creek from Upper Redfish Lake
Upper Baron Lake
Erigeron at Baron Lake - Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho
Western Columbine near Lake Kathryn
There's nothing like the peace and rejuvenation your body and mind feel after spending multiple days and nights in the wilderness. There are things you miss, of course, like better food cooked more easily and no mosquitos. But once you get back home to your comfy house, there are many things you miss about the wilderness. Having only what
Fred and I can carry on our backs for 4 days, having the legs to take me to stunning lakes and meadows, and the time to do it is a blessing. Reminds me of a quote:
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die,
discover that I had not lived."
- Henry David Thoreau
Sue and Fred waiting for boat back to Redfish Lake Lodge and breakfast!
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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