Sawtooth Wilderness Lakes Loop

Backpacking In Central Idaho
From the Grandjean Trail Head: And visiting.... Elk Lake - Benedict Lake - Ingeborg & Spangle Lakes - Vernon Lake - Ardeth Lake - Cramer Lakes - Edna Lake - Sand Mountain Pass - Slickrock Junction - Alpine Lake - Hidden Lake - Baron Lakes - and back around to Grandjean TH

August 3 - 9, 2004
by Kathleen and Rob J.

(Photos © copyright by Rob)
Baron Lake at first light
Baron Lake at first light
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Kathleen in the gardens near Benedick
The gardens near Benedick
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Pathway to the spires
Pathway to the spires
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Rob and Kathleen at Ingeborg Lake
R & K at Ingeborg
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Rockslide Lake in the Ingeborg basin
Rockslide Lake
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Approaching the Spangle Lakes
A Spangle Lakes
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Edna Lake Sunset
Edna Lake Sunset
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      There are three banks of photos. Keep scrolling and reading....

Click here to see the previous trip, in reverse, which was enjoyed in August, 2001

Click here for the Sawtooth Traverse: Iron Creek to Atlanta, 1985

      Prologue: Kathleen and I hiked this grand loop in grand country, sans the shriek and electronic whine of cell phones, chainsaws, ORVs, and such. While finishing the photos to fit your screen and editing this text, I note that today is the 40th anniversary of the signing of The Wilderness Act. Shepherded through the Senate by Idaho’s greatest senator, Frank Church, in 1961. It was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964. Many of you know that the area North of the Sawtooths is named to honor Frank Church (The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness), yet he also played often in the Sawtooths. It is as a salute to the values of wilderness that we offer this report and these photos. Enjoy, and let’s continue this discussion with the Epilogue (where else, but at the end of this report). Rob; August, 2004, Sacagawea Hot Springs, Sawtooth NF, Idaho.

A note about ERM:

      “Energy Required” Miles (ERM), are determined by determining the lateral distance, then adding a mile for every 1,000' gained and lost. In alpine country, the ERM method makes sense. (It makes sense in the canyon country as well, but this is another story.) This is part of the reason for giving you elevation summaries in this report. I have estimated the “true” mileage from a topo map, added 20% of this distance for wiggles, etc., roughly added in the correction for elevation, rounded the result, and called this the “ERM” in the report. The estimated mileage for this trip was 60 miles, and the ERM mileage was about 76. I believe that 76 miles is the most accurate mileage for this trip. ERM mileages =

estimated mileage (from topo map)
+ 20% (for trail wiggles, etc.)
+ 1 mile for each 1000' gained and lost


Kathleen and Rob at Sand Mountain Pass - backdrop is the Toxaway Lake Basin
K and R at Sand Mountain Pass
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View of Snowyside Peak and the mountains of the Toxaway Loop
Snowyside Peak, et al.
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View down the Toxaway Lake Loop to the White Cloud Mountains
View of the White Cloud Mountains
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The Arrowhead and the Cramer Divide spiny Ridge
Arrowhead and Cramer Divide
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Kathleen with backdrop of Cramer Divide
K and Cramer Divide
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Heart-shaped lake above Cramer Lk series
Heart above Cramer
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Day 1: Groveling for elk, 12 mi. (14 ERM; ERM = Energy Required Miles), Grandjean TH to almost Elk Lake.

      I’m watching the shimmering green reflections on Benedict Lake and reporting on the past 2 days: K and I set out for Idaho Falls - where we watched my youngest brother, Allan win another stock car race at Noise Park in I.F. in car 868. Impressive driving. Then I spent a day helping around the family house and chopping around the old birch stump in the front lawn. Allan pulled it out with his truck. Then, slow goodbyes and the long drive to the Grandjean TH along the South Fork Payette. Ahh, Central Idaho.

      The next morning, we set out with very full packs, inching, then creeping as the day warmed to hot, and we finally groveled to camp near a tiny rivulet just short of Elk Lake. Delightful, for there were no mosquitoes and it was quiet and calm.

Day 2: Not quite Ingeborg, 8 miles (10 ERM):

      I’m gazing at the reflection and the gray crags forming a backdrop to Benedict Lake. The low rumple of the entrance stream rolls across the glassy water and seems to ripple the waves of grass without rumpling the water. My stomach is protesting the arrival of BBQ tvp (textured vegetable protein) which will be given away when I return home. (It’s one of those experiences where you get sick eating a certain food, and it retains that gag reflex evermore. For me, the aversion of BBQ tvp originated in the Kanab Creek Wilderness.) Yes, I continue to eat, and greatly enjoy, other tvp mixtures.

      We started out mid-morning and hiked to a ford of the Payette River. Once across, we ate an early lunch beside this clear burble, watching butterflies and enjoying the warm sun on our toes, then continued on to the Queen River junction (the river is across the pass) and headed into new territory, the Ingeborg Lake area. True, Sinclair, Lori, Bruce P. and I had been near this area in our 1980's transnavigation from Iron Creek to Atlanta, yet only to Spangle Lake. And, yes, K & I had been to Ardeth Lake in 2001, yet not into this basin at all. After plodding the 5 mi. from the junction to Benedict, we opted to stop before dropping over or encountering other campers. With the grays and whites of the Idaho Batholith turning pink, the mosquitoes have come out to play. Our day’s total miles was near 8.

Day 3: Ten Lake Basin+; or, it’s Edna, my Dear; 8 miles (11 ERM) to Edna Lake, near jct. To Sand Mtn. Pass/Toxaway Lake.

      Today we rolled from lake basin to lake basin to lake basin. Starting out from Benedict, we climbed to Rock Slide Lake, then the dazzling Ingeborg before dropping into Spangle Lakes. Here we met the junction of the trail that goes to Atlanta. Then we climbed out of the dangle of Spangle to a low pass before descending to Ardeth. Around Ardeth we hiked before climbing 600' steeply to another low pass then down into Vernon and Edna Lakes. Spangle drains to the Middle Boise River while the others drain to the South Fork Payette.

      K and I camped at Ardeth Lake 3 yrs. ago, while Sinclair, Pusey, Lori and I camped at Edna before heading down to the Flytrap Junction and the Middle Boise. We are currently camped near lake level at Edna Lake just north of the junction to Sand Mountain Pass. Here we enjoy a grassy terrace that affords views of toothy tooths and granite domes, and a lovely picnic area too.

Day 4: Sand Mountain Lay over (5 mi; 7 ERM) Hike to views of Toxaway Lake, Snowyside Mtn and the White Cloud Peaks

      The sun arrived very late in camp and we slept in. After a lazy breakfast, we day hiked the 2.5 mi (nearly 1000' up) to Sand Mountain Pass where stunning views of the Toxaway Lake Basin screamed out. Down the long valley and across the Sawtooth Valley rise the white pale ridges of the White Cloud Mountains - a place that should be official wilderness - yet, we have republican elitists of greed blocking this obvious official addition to our wild heritage. Eating lunch at the pass, there is so much to see on either side. Views of Snowyside Peak, the turquoise of Toxaway far below. And, back toward Edna, the cleft of the South Fork Payette carves a dark trench between gray granite teeth. It’s cool up here, nearly on Sand mountain, the pass almost tops the ridge. On our way back to Edna, we paused where a stream jumps into existence from the talus to fill the water bottle and watch pika play and Clark’s Nutcrackers attempt to settle a social dispute. Then it was back to camp to enjoy a dinner of spaghetti, tomatoes and hummus, dotted with fragrant olive oil, the same oil I use to treat my feet each morn (well, not exactly the ‘same’ oil). Yummy dinner. So far this trip, the bugs have been few and the weather grand.

View across Middle Cramer Lake toward Arrowhead
Middle Cramer Lake
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Sunset View across Middle Cramer Lake toward Arrowhead
Sunset at Mid. Cramer
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Hidden Lake
Hidden Lake
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Baron Falls on Baron Creek
Baron Falls
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Spiderweb at morning
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Hanging out in the Sawtooths
Hanging Out
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Day 5: Cramer Stereophonics: To Middle Cramer Lake (7 mi, 9 ERM) (ERM = energy required miles):

      The Arrowhead glows a bronze beacon over the Cramer cirque. A waterfall tumbles into Middle Cramer, across the lake and seemingly directly below the arrowhead. At the outlet, where we are camped, water cascades and falls out of sight - both falls provide Cramer stereophonics.

      Today we have relished several zen gardens replete with many flowers I don’t know, plus yellow and red paintbrush, pink and gold monkeyflowers, yarrow, some type of lady slipper, elephanthead, shooting star, red heather, phlox and lots of other stuff along our shuffle from the cold air sink of Edna to the azure blue of sky and lake at Hidden Lake - on up to the dazzling spires and spikes forming the ridge from Cramer Divide to Mt. Cramer. Then, down and down among the rock glacier debris to a heart-shaped pond and finally back into trees near the Cramer trio. A late afternoon was invested in a warm shower and a bit of lounging contemplation on the polished granite which is presently our kitchen

Day 6: Baron Backtrack: Cramer to Lower Baron Lake 7.5 mi (10 ERM):

      We’re sitting poolside to Baron Lake just a few hundred yards from camp #1 of the 2001 trip. So much different, with the bright blue skies and no other hikers to be seen. Mare’s tail clouds seem to be signaling a possible end to our stretch of delightful weather. Cranking up the stove, we awe as the lake surface calms, the fish jump, and we hear the snow melt gurgling from across the pond.

      It was an elevator day. From Cramer, we rolled down to 7400' at Flatrock Jct., then immediately began climbing to Alpine Lake, past the froggy pond and to what I call Alpine Pass at about 9300' before a corkscrew descent to the Baron Lakes at 8200'.

      We interrupt this entry for a series of photos of Monte Verita aglow with salmon pinks reflected in Baron Lake. Yow! What a lovely sight. As we watch the changing hues of sunset in the cirque, it is so still we can hear water burbling into the lake from across the way.

      Today near Slickrock Junction we encountered ancient, even by my present standards, day hikers who had taken the boat across to Redfish Lake inlet and were on their way to Alpine Lake - a 10 mi. round trip venture. We also met David Markham from “Venture Outdoors” with llama and sea kayak outfitters based in Bellevue, ID. As the light fades, we head off to rest up for the long route out.

      Earlier, we noted that one gets fine views into the Cramer Cirque just at the top of the switchbacks to Alpine Lake and again from the pass above Baron Lakes. One can see the Arrowhead from these vantage points.

Day 7: Baron Roll-Out: 11.5 miles (14.5 ERM) Lower Baron Lake - Grandjean TH.

      The sun is setting in the Grandjean CG and the sadness/feeling of accomplishment and other paisley emotions are settling in on the end of a fine adventure. We’ve showered, eaten at the Sawtooth Lodge (soon to be sold for $1,300,000) and set up a partial camp in the C.G. We’re just too tired for the long drive home and, besides, why leave this wondrous place so soon?!

      The day started fairly early as we awake to, again, fair skies and a glassy smooth Baron Lake. Leaving this quiet setting, we started the drop past Baron Falls and the falls coming down from Tohobit Peak over exposed slithers of Idaho rock and into the forest. Warbonnet Peak remains hidden as we continue to drop into Ponderosa Pine land, their faint vanilla scent occasionally washes over us, adding diversity to the 3000' drop to Grandjean. My feet were bruised and shoulders tired when we stumbled into the very warm (high 80's) TH. A cold shower in the CG and a very late 3rd lunch saved the day. Oh, to purchase and live at the Sawtooth Lodge - if only for 4 months each year, sigh...

      We had considered adding the Sawtooth Lake loop onto our current venture because of love of roaming and because it does share the Grandjean TH. Yet, we were out of time and food too, so this walkabout will wait for a future trek.

      In the cool morning, we headed out for the haze of Smog Lake. Along the way, we paused at the Stanley Ranger Station, where I released a book into the wild. Wonder what this is? See: and search for BCID: 746-1891307 (this will all make sense once you try it out).

      Epilogue: Bushco has added almost no wilderness to our national system, far far less than even the budget-buster former king Ronny Reagan, who signed 43 wilderness bills. (Bushco is the new emperor in bankrupting the U.S., environmentally and economically.) Bushco actions have resulted in the destruction of many natural areas, areas where we revive our spirits, get our clean water and air, where islands of biodiversity hold promise for science of all sorts, where nature retains all the precious parts without tinkering.

      In the ‘Tooths, we wandered without the war mongering lies and maneuvers of the military industrial elite, such as color-coded fear distractions engineered for fear and to cover lies and deception about an unprovoked, unnecessary war for oil and religious oppression, and the massive budget deficits, rape of our environment, corrosion of civil rights, and job-exportation. Only the “religious” Right has the right! to tell everyone what “religion” is the right one, and in an inspiring non-religious manner too! Fear! Fear, fear - look the other way while bushco erodes our liberties, saddles our children with an enduring legacy of red ink, destroys our environment, and jeopardizes our health and health care coverage. Fear! That’s the bushco mantra.

      We relished in a forest wilderness that does not (yet) know the oppression of “forest health” via chain saw and skidder (a bushco Orwellian distortion so common among the republican elite of bushville). Cutting down the forest to save the trees is bushco logic.

      Where have the republican conservative values of fiscal discipline, limited government, and individual accountability gone?? In four years, bushco has not vetoed a single spending bill, yet his war actions and absolute favoritism to corporate welfare have exploded the deficit by more than $800 billion (and counting by billions). The elitist patriot decree violates our private lives. The every child left behind unfunded “education reform” concentrates power and control at the federal level (what about local control?). Limited government? Yes, absolutely no government to be seen when corporate welfare artists are engaged in criminal behavior. Does an industry such as oil anything want less regulation? Sure, says bushco. So what if increased mercury emissions from unregulated power plants, etc. ruins your health, endangers the future of the planet (global warming? “Doesn’t exist!”, says bushco). If you are a member of the wealthy elite, there will be no government. For everyone else, there is the intrusion of the “you are no patriot if you don’t contribute millions to the elite” act, and, yes, a tax break for the elite (none for you, just a host of patronizing praise to king bushco rhetoric).

      "You are either with us or against us!" shriek the fear mongers. And, what about free speech? Hah, you are either a patriot just like us at bushco, or you are an evil doer. Tolerance, diversity, free speech? hah, just think and feel the fear. If you are not a member of the corporate elite, you must make certain sacrifices to support the war for oil and "religious" domination, make certain "concessions" in your health, environmental protection, economic future (and that of your grandchildren), in your constitutional protections and personal liberties... not much, just abandon your freedoms and your integrity for the sake of fear being fed to you daily by the elitists at bushco. This sounds just like what a terrorist would have us do, what do you think?

      It’s socialism and welfare for corporations and the wealthy elite, corrupt and unfair capitalism for everyone else. Certainly, there is no conservation in bushco (unless of course, to conserve the welfare for the wealthy egomaniacal elite, because they get a tax gift paid for by our environment, our future, and human values). Just what did you expect? Affordable health coverage, hah! A clean, healthy environment, hah! Fair tax treatment, hah! Social Security/Veterans’ benefits/education funding, hah! A government that saves resources for our future and present Americans (economic and environmental), hah! No republican or human of integrity would vote for a member of bushco. To do so is hypocritical and inhumane.

      Save our environment, plant a bush in texas.

      Somewhere in texas, a village is missing its idiot (send him home, please).

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