Sawtooth Wilderness & Recreation Area

A lot of people don’t seem to be aware of this; but Idaho is so much more than just an immense middle finger at the Pacific Northwest (but yet it’s that, too).

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Alpine Lake, high in the Sawtooth Wilderness of southern Idaho.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

Take, for instance, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, a large swath of protected land full of razor-sharp (Sawtooth) peaks, crystal clear lakes, and abundant wildlife.  At just a hair under 780,00 acres in area, there is room to stretch out, if you’re motivated enough to get away from the crowds.

Dwarfed by towering glacial monsters which seem to evoke the spirit and feel of the Canadian Rockies, Sawtooth Lake, centerpiece of one of the most aesthetically rewarding day hikes in the high-mountain west, sits atop a hanging valley above the Iron Creek drainage, in the northeastern part of the wilderness. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Dwarfed by towering glacial monsters which seem to evoke the spirit and feel of the Canadian Rockies, Sawtooth Lake, centerpiece of one of the most aesthetically rewarding day hikes in the high-mountain west, sits atop a hanging valley above the Iron Creek drainage, in the northeastern part of the wilderness.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The scenery and trails in the Sawtooth Wilderness (the central section of the SNRA) are on par with almost anything in the continental National Parks system.  In fact, the only reason the area is not designated as a proper National Park is that there were some mountain biking and OHV areas grandfathered in when the reserve was established in 1972; and under present laws (which ought never be changed), the presence of these things precludes designation as a formal National Park.

The enchanted headwaters of Iron Creek, flowing out from Sawtooth Lake. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The enchanted headwaters of Iron Creek, flowing out from Sawtooth Lake.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But no matter.  Not having the words “National Park” in its name serves to keep the crowds somewhat at bay; which is a good thing, and one of the things that sets Idaho apart from a lot of its neighboring realms in the Rocky Mountain West.

Where did Katherine go? (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Where did Katherine go?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Don’t Believe The Hype (The Water’s Fine)

Despite appearances, there are no super powers at work here. Lake Tahoe, NV. (photo by Dave Speredelozzi)
Despite appearances, there are no super powers at work here. Lake Tahoe, NV.
(photo by Dave Speredelozzi)

They say these bodies of water are too cold to swim in safely.  I beg to differ.  You be the judge.

Flying fists of fury, Eagle Lake, Desolation Wilderness, CA. (photo by Deek Speredelozzi)
Flying fists of fury, Eagle Lake, Desolation Wilderness, CA.
(photo by Deek Speredelozzi)

The barren icy depths of Crater Lake, OR, attempt to claim another warm-blooded soul.
(video by Some Dude From Boston On a Road Trip)

Framping Comes Alive!!

10 Days of Campsites In Pictures

Day 01:

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Camp Necessity
Sheldon Antelope Refuge, NV
July 26
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

This campsite comes with a free one-day pass to try your luck mining for Opals.   Even here in the most remote corner of the Great Neverland, more than 120 miles from the nearest casino, the spirits of luck and loss have managed to seep in.

Nevada: where the hustle never stops.

Could today be your lucky day? There's only one way to find out. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Could today be your lucky day? There’s only one way to find out.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Day 02:

The Camp of Ghosts, Wasatch National Forest, UT July 27 (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Camp of Ghosts, Wasatch National Forest, UT
July 27
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

If you watch very closely, and don’t blink, you’ll be that much more positive that nothing ever happens here.

 

Day 03:

Double-Ninja Camp, Cache National Forest, UT July 28 (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Double-Ninja Camp, Cache National Forest, UT
July 28
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We were never quite sure whether we’d made our escape with the aid of the resident ninjas, or in spite of them.

 

Day 04:

Sadie's Stupid Hot Springs Camp, Boise National Forest, ID July 29 (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Sadie’s Stupid Hot Springs Camp, Boise National Forest, ID
July 29
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

For many of us, there just never seems to be enough time to seek out places like this.  Here’s how you can simulate the nearby hot springs from the comfort of your own home.

1) Turn on all four burners of your old-school electric kitchen stove; and for each one set the heating knob to “HIGH”.  Give the metal coils time to heat up.  When they are all glowing a bright magma-orange, you’re there.

2) Fill a bathtub with ice cubes until you couldn’t possibly fit another ice cube in it.  Add some more ice cubes.  Now fill in the air pockets with cold running water, until a fresh-water, temperature-appropriate simulation of the Bering Sea has been achieved.

3) Now sit on the counter at the edge of the stove, lift your legs, and gently lay them down across the red-hot burners of the stove.  And don’t be a pussy about it- be sure to really get them on there.

4) Now have Lou Ferrigno lift up the bathtub and slowly pour its frigid contents all over you, as you sit enjoying the toasty warmth of the stove coils heating you from below.

5) This is what the hot springs at the campsite mentioned above feel like.

WARNING:  If you are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are yourself the result of a pregnancy, you should not do this.

 

Day 05:

Collapsing Mountain Camp South Fork Boise River, Boise National Forest, ID July 30 (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Collapsing Mountain Camp
South Fork Boise River, Boise National Forest, ID
July 30
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We set up camp on a patch of soft green grass along the banks of the South Fork of the Boise River, here a wide mountain stream glimmering with blue-green water crystals, then took out our camp chairs to sit and watch the river flow by.

Not even ten minutes later, the level of the river suddenly began to rise rapidly, and its sound grow perceptibly louder.

Before the Flood: The South Fork of the Boise River at 5:54 PM. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Before the Flood:
The South Fork of the Boise River at 5:54 PM.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

All of the sudden a low-but-formidable wall of thick, soupy mud and debris issued forth from upstream, moving faster than the prevailing river current, and overtaking and absorbing it into its own as it raced downstream, carrying logs, tree branches, and even a few sizable rocks with it.  Those boulders which had been just moments earlier protruding above the waterline in mid-river were now fully submerged beneath a roiling torrent of what looked like a mixture of cocoa and black coffee.  The banks of the river now ran thick with sediment, the persistent flood-works clogging its channels, obliterating its eddies, and re-directing the course of some of the larger currents.  All in a matter of seconds, every last cubic inch of clean water had been replaced by thick oozing muddy runoff.

After the Flood: The same spot at 6:08 PM. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
After the Flood:
The same spot at 6:08 PM.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Ain’t Got Sense Enough to Come in Out of the Rain

It was a flash flood.   It had rained hard for a few hours over the past few days; and now, apparently, somewhere upstream a cliff or mountainside had collapsed and crumbled from the cumulative effects of thousands of tiny little rivulets of runoff having threaded their way through the soft supporting soil over time; and the many tons of broken earth that had caved as a result had landed square in the middle of the South Fork.

When God forgets to zip his fly. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
When God forgets to zip his fly.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Day 06:

Morning Theft Creek Camp, Boise National Forest, ID July 31 (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Morning Theft Creek Camp
Boise National Forest, ID
July 31
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The morning was too wet and dewey to warrant the team sticking around camp any longer than necessary; but on the plus side, at least the water in the creek was clean and clear.

 

Days 07-09:

Camp Many Pointy Hurt-Wood Challis National Forest, ID August 01-03 (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Camp Many Pointy Hurt-Wood
Challis National Forest, ID
August 01-03
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Notice the rain and shade structure (fashioned from one red and one blue tarp) in the photo above.  If you ever want to find out in a hurry just how strong your marriage really is, make setting one of these up an activity that you and your spouse do together.

This is NOT a campsite. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This is NOT a campsite.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Worst Campsite Review EVER

This panorama only repeats about fifty times on the drive through Nevada from Idaho to California. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This panorama only repeats about fifty times on the drive through Nevada from Idaho to California.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Last night my wife and I returned from our month-long trip to Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.  We were supposed to go to Wyoming too, to go backpacking; but there had been thunderstorms predicted all week long from Washington to New Mexico, Montana to Southern California, and everywhere in between, so we aborted that plan.  And if you’ve ever been around my dog Peanut when the sky gets grumpy, you know why we had no reasonable choice but to bag that plan and just make it a driving and camping road trip.

Oh wait, I forgot- sometimes it looks like this instead. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Oh wait, I forgot- sometimes it looks like this instead.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Great Basin Desert of Utah and Nevada can be a tricky and thankless place to camp.  There’s virtually no water anywhere, virtually no tree cover, and actually no anything else.  It’s really about blasting on through the area, unless fatigue or sheer mileage forces you to stop for the night in the middle of nowhere- hundreds of miles even from any hotels.  The campsites in places like this are really no more than spots in gravel parking lots allotted for setting up tents.

Check out what Nevada calls a "campsite". (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Check out what Nevada calls a “campsite”.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

It’s not uncommon to arrive at a spot that your atlas showed as being along the edge of a lake, only to find a barren salt flat that hasn’t housed a respectable puddle in five years, when it did for five minutes after a torrential rain.

The Sheldon Antelope Wilderness, in Nevada's broiling Black Rock Desert, does the best it can to provide us with a campsite. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Sheldon Antelope Wilderness, in Nevada’s broiling Black Rock Desert, does the best it can to provide us with a campsite.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

So before heading into the area to camp, I  decided to seek out whatever information I might be able to find online about my camping options in Nevada.  That’s when I found this:  the absolute worst campsite review ever.