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Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 1158 | TRs | Pics
Location: Bellingham
Post Thu Sep 20, 2007 9:36 pm    Pioneer Mtns east of Ketchum, central Idaho, 9/3,4,6
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Hike # 1: Boulder Lake

We had to resupply and make phone calls in Ketchum, a ritzy, high end tourist and resort town.  A single tomato rang up for $4.25 in the town grocery store.  That tomato was pretty tasty but for that price it better been union-made and organic from seed to packaging.  But really... it was big and juicy and tasted good after a few days hiking and trucking a tomato to Ketchum can't be cheap and then there's that whole Supply & Demand thing.  The high elevation, intense sun and low humidity air chapped my lips into cracking so the acid in the tomato burned my lips.  I couldn't finish eating that wonderful piece of fruit.  What a shame.  Don't forget lip balm if you hike here.  But, beer was surprisingly cheap! up.gif

There are a lot of log cabin mansions (many built in the last 10 years) in Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey and radiating out into adjacent valleys.  But, I have a hunch that some tracts of particularly important lowland valley bottom habitats like aspen stands, wetlands and riparian areas have been preserved via conservation easements with local land trusts and landowners.  I hear celebrities have houses in this area.  I saw none.  The smoke from the recent wildfire moved on although the firefighter camp was still there.

The first day in the Pioneer Range me and the dogs hiked up to Boulder Lake from Wildhorse Creek on the Salmon-Challis National Forest after driving down from the White Clouds over Walker Way.  There were 3 skinny lodgepole pines over the creek to balance walk over.  The trail then passes through valley bottom willows and sagebrush with views up into the Pioneer crest.

The trail enters lodgepole pine and begins moderate switchbacks up.  The trail passes through some aspen stands among lodgepole, crosses Boulder Creek over a nice, new wide bridge then closely parallels the creek.  It crosses the creek again and enters large, open high elevation sagebrush meadows with views of the high Pioneer peaks.

The trail becomes faint, steep and rocky just below Boulder Lake as it climbs to the end.  Boulder Lake has a cool, alpine, cirquey feel that just made me feel good inside.

Like pretty much every hike we did in Idaho, it was hot, sunny and dusty in the afternoon on the way down.  Had a nice conversation with a dad with his 2 girls on the way down.  They really know how to hike.  It looked like they average about 1 mph, stop a lot and really soak in every sight to see and then talk about it.

9 miles RT?
2000 feet gain/loss?

Hike # 2: just below Johnstone Pass

This hike starts on the west side of the Pioneers.  The access road is along the East Fork Wood River out of Hailey.  We camped at Federal Gulch Campground the night before. We awoke to clouds and scattered showers but later on it dried out and looked OK.  My Midland radio bought from REI for 20-some bucks and gets the 7 National Weather Service stations couldn’t get a signal in the valley.  I could only get my Subaru Forester to the PK Pass trailhead.  The road has some big rocks and ruts beyond PK Pass trailhead but even getting there requires careful driving, some skill with that kind of road and atleast a medium clearance vehicle.  There were 2 trucks parked there.  One rig had Michigan plates.  Maybe it was The Nuge (author of "Kill it and Grill it" a.k.a. The Motor City Madman) on a bowhunting trip?

The trail is not official and is unmaintained.  There are a few blowdowns to step over or go around but nothing brutal like in the Cascades where getting around a blowdown could be a big, exhausting operation.  The trail gradually ascends in a large, open U-shaped valley through sagebrush meadows, aspen stands and subalpine forests.

Sometimes it’s adjacent to riparian zones with willow thickets.  The upper end has handsome whitebark pine trees, trees with strong, broad basal areas and branches that curve with prevailing winds.

Toward the head of the valley it starts switchbacking steeply up to Johnstone Pass. Really steeply!  Like climber’s boot track steep.

Out came the Midland weather radio.  This thing is great but you need to get up high on a ridge or peak in an area with canyons and mountains to get a signal.

I like to listen to the Stephen Hawking robot guy voice.  He’s my favorite radio voice. I’d like to hear him do a Howard Stern routine or talk trash about The Weather Channel or

The rock is sandy, loose and likes to slide. It gives out from under your feet so for us, the trail ended where it traverses across a steep landslide of loose, sloughy earth.  The crazy Australian shepherd was bopping around on this stuff with his low center of gravity and his rock climbing shoe paw pads.

We turned around about 200 vertical feet below Johnstone Pass.  No problem.  A storm cell was moving in, clouds darkened and thickened, winds picked up and rain started to fall.  It showered on the way back.  We took refuge and lunch in a stand of old Engelmann spruce.  It was fun to watch the chickarees taunt the dogs.  The weather cleared up to Partly Sunny and warmer near the PK Pass trailhead.

7 miles RT?
2500 foot gain/loss?

Some observations and comments:

1.) A lot of Idaho is like the Loomis, Sinlahekin, Similkameen area in north central Washington east of the North Cascades “on steroids” in terms of open space.

2.) The Pioneers were our favorite out of the Lemhis, White Clouds and Selkirks.

3.) The US Forest Service in this area seems to have a bigger recreation budget for trail maintenance, outhouses, etc. than Mt Baker-Snoqualmie or Gifford Pinchot National Forests.  Every outhouse was new and clean and all the trails looked recently maintained even though there was a lot of mileage to care for.  Plus, central Idaho mountains don't have as many big, rotten trees, water and damaging storms to contend with.  Money from DC gets distributed out to the various regions in lopsided ways.  There were more USFS personnel out and about on the roads too.

We did 1 more dayhike in the Pioneers.  It was the best hike of the whole trip to Idaho.  It was upper Hyndman Creek.  That’s coming up later.

"I aint jokin woman, I got to ramble...We gonna go walkin through the park every day." - Led Zeppelin
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Joined: 08 Jul 2005
Posts: 1680 | TRs | Pics
Location: Seattle
Post Fri Sep 21, 2007 11:19 am   
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The Pioneers are great indeed. Last year, I did a hike to Kane Lake, east of Ketchum. I was really impressed with the scenery: massive granite peaks, waterfalls, large glacier-like snowfields active enough to give Kane Lake a milky tint.
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Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 1158 | TRs | Pics
Location: Bellingham
Post Fri Sep 21, 2007 1:32 pm    upper Hyndman Creek
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That Kane Lake looks good on the map.  Arrowhead looks like a good one too.  Could you see The Devil's Bedstead from Kane Lake?  What time of the year did you hike Kane Lake?


Pioneers Hike #3: upper Hyndman Creek

We camped 2 nights at Sawmill camp on the East Fork Wood River east of Hailey.  The road to the upper Hyndman Trail trailhead was fine.  The trail starts off crossing the creek over a new bridge then gradually ascends open valley bottom with alternating aspen, sagebrush meadows and conifer forest.

It's on old road but most of the way vegetation has grown back and it's a real trail.  After about 3 miles the trail turns left and ascends steeply near a north tributary of Hyndman Creek.  "Hiking Idaho" by Maughn says an old road continues straight to Big Basin.  We did not see this turn off but we really weren't looking for it.  Big Basin looks like a cool hike.

The trail switchbacks steeply in sagebrush up to a high valley that was occupied by Mexican sheepherder, his camp, horses, band of grazing sheep.  His border collies were surprisingly nice.  They liked our dogs.  Other herding dogs I've met have been tough, mean and crazy.  After passing next to the shepherd's wall tent the trail climbs steeply again paralleling the creek that had waterfalls sliding own in sheets over the rock.

Then the trail opens up into subalpine parkland with views of Cobb Peak, Old Hyndman and Hyndman.  We kept plodding on to a high tarn.  The trail grew faint and I lost the path once even though it was marked with cairns.  We kept on hiking even higher to a second high tarn below the amazing north face of Cobb Peak and the huge pyramid of Hyndman.

We turned around at the second tarn among dry tundra at about 10,000 feet elevation .

On the way down, about 1/2 mile below the lower tarn, the bird dog trotted ahead to check out a clump of subalpine fir and whitebark pine about 25 yards away then abruptly turned around and trotted back.  There was some rustling in the clump.  A big bear head poked out and looked at us.  A smaller black bear was in the back.  We moved on quick and the bears moved away up the hill.

We got a late start and got back to the car late.  The evening light was very nice.  Besides the shepherd we didn't see any other people except 2 guys at the trailhead in the morning that looked like they were scouting for elk.  There were 2 rigs parked at the TH when we returned, looked like hunters, but they went off-trail or up the other trail.  Bow season was in full swing in Idaho.  After this hike we drove over to Challis and then the Lemhi Range where we saw the most wildlife.

I estimate the hike was about 10 miles RT and 3000 foot gain/loss and it felt like about that.

"I aint jokin woman, I got to ramble...We gonna go walkin through the park every day." - Led Zeppelin
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Niece of Alvy Moore

Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 14139 | TRs | Pics

Post Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:42 pm   
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HIke #3 looks pretty nice!

Regarding the trail maintenance - I notice lots of the Pasayten are well maintained too - I wonder if their budget has anything to do with hunter lobbies, or horsemen....?  I don't know how that would play into the District asking for funds, but perhaps it does.  I think you're right about erosion, too.   Plus, their volunteers can get farther in and haul more material with horses.

Lots of trails here aren't accessible by horses, so a lot of the volunteers for our muddy, erosion-prone trails come from a pool of hikers.

"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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