After leaving Stanley and the Sawtooths we headed south through Ketchum for a quick restock for the remainder of the week and then we were off over Trail Creek Summit to the headwaters of the Big Lost River. It was a homecoming of sorts, going back to a place I worked over 20 years ago. But mainly it was a visit to one of my favorite places of high mountains, lakes and streams. This is high country, with valleys over 7,000 and elevations topping out over 12,000. October gets to be a bit late for a visit due to cold overnight temperatures in this country, but it’s hard to get away much earlier in the year, so we made the best of it.
The first destination was Kane Canyon. We were hoping to get up to Kane Lake, which may just be my favorite high alpine lake, but quickly encountered snow on the trail which slowed us down. Snow, ice and short fall daylight led us to turn around with about a half mile left so we could get back to the trailhead and find a camp before dark. It was still nice to get up into the mountains.
We were back down to the trailhead with plenty of light left. Someone had cut some large rounds of Douglas-fir and left them at the trailhead. A portion of two rounds was all we needed to top off our firewood supplies for the rest of the trip so we quickly did just that and then headed down canyon in search of a camp. The canyon is full of beaver dams and willows and we kept saying, “There ought to be a moose in there!”, and sure enough there was. Just a couple of horns and some flicking ears at first, but then he came out to say hello.
The next morning was a stormy one with snow flurries. We explored a bit up Wildhorse Canyon and then moved on to Copper Basin.
When we arrived at what would be our camp for the next two days it was a full-blown blizzard but that quickly passed and we headed out for an afternoon walk up Bear Canyon. I once had an overnight adventure that started here many years ago, and after a couple missed turns we ended up near Ketchum the following morning. Oops. I still remember listening to the elk bugles and the millions of stars that night. Sometimes the unplanned adventures are the most memorable.
We ran across a really impressive avalanche path which looked like it had some activity last winter. Not only did it wipe out a swath as it headed down the mountain but it came uphill on the opposite side of the main drainage at least 100 vertical feet. I’m guessing the young trees were under the snow and thus are still alive, while the larger trees lower on the slope didn’t fare as well. It would have been a terrifying sight to see.
The next morning was a chilly one. I couldn’t get an accurate reading as the display on the portable thermometer stopped working. Once I warmed it up in my pocket the display said 17. I did check the weather stations once we arrived home and one of the nearby stations registered 7 that morning. We took our time before heading out but once we did we were bound for the Bellas Lake trail just down the road. It has received some fresh snow but it was still easy to follow the trail. A little fresh snow reveals just how much wildlife is out and about. We crossed tracks with elk, deer, cougar and lots and lots of squirrels.
Most of the trails in this country also have blazes on the trees. I haven’t seen these used as much in other areas. These come in handy in following a trail with fresh snow on it.
We had a gloriously sunny fall day and except for the wildlife had the trail to ourselves. Will we be the last ones up the trail in 2017?
After a steep climb up the trail we were in the meadow just below lower Bellas Lake.
Before we knew it the day was growing short so we headed back the way we came.
It was another chilly night but after the single digits, a night in the teens seemed warm. We were up early for the trip home.
A quick stop by the Copper Basin Guard Station, as we didn’t have much of a view on our trip in during the snow flurries. I was lucky enough to spend a summer working out of this little cabin way back when.
Then it was up and over the hill to Mackay and onwards to home. Where did the week go?