October 30, 2014

Looking for Gold in the Sawtooth Wilderness

This years "Brother hike" took us to the Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho. I made a pit-stop in Twin Falls to check out Shoshone Falls. It was impressive, but I'm guessing Spring is the best time to go based on water flow.
A view of low run-off at Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls Idaho.
We made it to the Queen's River Trail head Monday to rainy conditions. We took a quick nap until it stopped raining to begin our hike. Full disclosure, I was in no way in shape for this hike, and my body let me know that very quickly. I really slowed our usual pace on this trip. My brother on the other hand, could out-hike a mountain goat, but he was patient with my progress. Along the trail were several wolf tracks, one as big as my hand! We never heard or saw them though though out the trip. There was a major fire last year that ravaged the lower country of the hike. I can only imagine what it looked like before. We camped along the trail the first night. The rain and my being out of shape slowed us down.

Let the hike begin!

The aftermath of the fire they had last year.

Giant wolf track on the trail.

A few Spruce Grouse. There were 6 babies with their mother.
We finished the 11 miles to our destination at Johnson lake. This would be our home for the next week while we day hiked to other lakes to fish. Johnson lake held small Westslope cutts and some unexpected football Rainbows. They made for great dinners each night. The Rainbows put up fantastic fights, and busted me off a few times. The views from the lake were breath taking. Pictures never do justice to being there in that moment.

15 inch Rainbow. The lake was full of these footballs.

Contemplating dinner.

Trout always taste the best when you're on a hike.

Johnson Lake
The next day we hiked over the The Hole that held small Westslope cutts. Jason picked off one after the other using dry flies. We then headed to glacier lake to go after what we came for; the beautiful Golden Trout. In my opinion, there isn't a more challenging or better looking trout species out there. You almost always have to put in a good hike to even get to pristine lake that hold them, and then you have to figure out what they want. Glacier Lake was no different. It was slower fishing, but we bother managed to catch a few. Jason caught several more than I did. He figured out the fly they wanted and had several hook ups back to back casts.

Jason struck gold first.
One of only a few Golden's I landed.

Glacier Lake
 Jason took off the next day on a 14 mile hike to several other lakes around the area. He caught several fish and said there were Golden Trout in a few of the lakes. I stayed back and fished Johnson lake tangling with the rainbows, loosing another lure. Jason made it back and we decided to hike out. We made great time getting back to the truck. It was interesting see wolf tracks that covered our tracks just a few day earlier. On the drive down along the Boise river, I noticed huge piles of rock along the banks. Jason told me it was slag from strip mining decades before. It was unbelievable how much of that river was destroyed.  The river is healing though at least, and even bull trout are starting to show up in more numbers.
As much as this hike reminded me that I need to get in shape, it was still a great experience. There is nothing like being in the back country enjoying the solitude that comes with it. Now it's time to get my butt off the couch and get in shape for next years hike.
Piles of mining slag along the river. This place was simply gutted!



  1. Rick, thanks for sharing your adventures in the Sawtooth Wilderness.........................
    Appreciate all the great pictures. Helps us who can't hike like that anymore at least get a feeling for what you experienced.
    In better days for me, I have fished a number of waters in the Sawtooth Wilderness area. Memories that will last forever.........................

  2. Nice pics and good blog!! I´ve just follow you!!

  3. @ Mel: Thanks, although I almost fit in the "can't hike anymore" camp, lol. Getting back in shape.

    @ Marcos: Thanks for the follow and kind words.