We are now just south of Stanley, Idaho, in Sunny Gulch Campground in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It was a lovely 135 mile drive from Boise along the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, passing through Lowman, where there is a wildfire just a couple miles from town.
Our scenic lunch spot along the South Fork of the Payette River.
Unfortunately smoke from the Pioneer Fire between Lowman and Idaho City has been moving our way and obscuring the mountains. It was hazy when we arrived, cleared by Thursday morning, then came back with a vengeance Thursday night and Friday morning. We considered leaving but are not sure where to go to get out of the smoke, so after clearing again yesterday we are hanging around to see what happens.
Sunny Gulch is a very nice forest service campground just north of the turnoff for Redfish Lake. There is dispersed camping in the area but after stopping at a couple places and finding the good spots taken, we pulled in here and found a great site. With Jim’s senior pass it’s $9/night. No hookups but there is water, trash, and vault toilets. A dump station is just up the road at the ranger station, or at nearby Redfish Lake.
The Salmon River runs right behind our site but it’s down a ravine so we have no view, although we can hear the rushing water.
So far we’ve taken a couple of hikes, the first starting at the Redfish Lake trailhead. Instead of taking the easy and popular Fishhook Creek trail, we turned off and climbed up to the Alpine Way trail, where we walked along a ridge for about three miles with great views of the hazy Sawtooths.
After the hike we drove over to check out the Redfish Lodge area. There were way too many people around there, so we didn’t stay long.
Redfish Lake, not very appealing with the smoke, but the masses didn’t seem to care.
Yesterday we did another 6 mile hike, this time driving about 20 miles, 10 of which were on a rough dirt road, to Fourth of July Creek Trailhead. From there we hiked to Fourth of July Lake, and continued on another mile or so to Washington Lake. We didn’t have the smoky haze as the location was farther east, but it was an overcast day so the lakes were not as photogenic as I imagine they would be in the sunlight. Still a nice hike, and although not a huge change in elevation, from 8,800’ to 9,500’, we could definitely feel the effects of being that high on the steeper uphill parts of the trail.
These are actually the White Cloud Mountains on the east side of the Sawtooth Valley.
Heading to Washington Lake we came upon a small pond under this hill of rocks. You can barely make out the couple on the left scrambling up to the snow. Jim tried to talk me onto going up there on our way back but I declined.
First glimpse of Washington Lake.
My favorite spot on the entire hike. The camera didn’t capture all of the flowers along the stream heading into the lake, but it was just beautiful.
It’s very clear this morning so we’ll stay around here a couple more days before moving on to parts unknown.