A week backpacking the Ruby (Nevada) and Sawtooth (Idaho) Mountains

Dani and I took an eight day trip. It was pretty darn perfect.

Lunch in the Rubies. Lake two of four.

Lunch in the Rubies. Lake two of four.

We’d been planning a cross-country trip around the Sierra’s Blackcap Basin. It was snow free and I’d always wanted to go. A day before our trip, we shifted gears and decided to head east to new mountain ranges.

Tea time. Dani playing with his new camera.

Tea time. Dani playing with his new camera.

The Ruby Mountains of Nevada met my excited expectations. We walked through big peaks and past many lakes. We car camped and backcountry camped. We visited the crest and saw the desert on both sides of the range. We crossed a snowy pass and left the day hikers behind. It was casual, relaxing, and beautiful. I scored a 15 mile downhill through the beautiful Lamoille Canyon on my new road bike. We drove the “backside” of the range. We’ll go back for the rest of the crest trail.

Early season trips often mean wet shoes.

Early season trips often mean wet shoes.

The second leg of the drive brought us in to Idaho. We landed in a friend of a friend’s backyard in Ketchum. BBQ, bluegrass band practice, welcoming locals, a campfire, a shower and a bed – it was an excellent stop between trips and drives.

With our new beta, we backpacked two nights past Alice, Toxaway, Imogene and Hell Roaring Lakes. We crossed three snowy passes. We had absolutely stellar campsites. On our first backpack in the area, we did Sawtooth Wilderness right. Snow travel makes for wonderful solitude.

On the summit of Sand Mountain, looking out towards where we came from. Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho.

On the summit of Sand Mountain, looking out towards where we came from. Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho.

The area is crowded with hot springs. After tacos at Redfish Lake, we found a soak on the Salmon River before a night around a fire at our next trailhead. The region is absolutely decimated by beetle kill. There was plenty of wood.

On the 4th of July we had three things on our agenda: hike ~10 miles to Sawtooth Lake, soak in a secret off-trail hot spring, and drive 10 hours to Lake Tahoe. Dani set a runner’s walking pace to the alpine zone. The lake was frozen and beautiful. The spring, apparently the best around, was a quick stop before hitting the road.

Sawtooth Lake. Five miles up in an hour and a half. We were there when the backpackers we just starting their days.

Sawtooth Lake. Five miles up in an hour and a half. We were there when the backpackers we just starting their days.

Highway 95 across Oregon between Boise and Winnemucca was one of the straightest that I can remember. It felt like we’d go 20 miles between turns. Driving, I was reminded of these places to visit: the Jarbidge, Toiyabe and Santa Rosa mountains and the Owyhee River canyon.

Sometimes road trips and backpacking trips can be tiring. Re-entering California with a stop at Dani’s home on Lake Tahoe, filled with family, friends and food helped make the week a true vacation. We SUPed, swam, played bocce, and took the boat out. Capped it off with a nice dinner out with just us “kids”.

Dani, dude. It was a fantastic trip. Looking forward to doing it again soon.

Lava Beds National Monument, Tule Lake, Glass and Medicine Lake Mtns.

For Memorial Day we played north of Mt. Shasta. It was really nice to car camp and dive into the region. The trip was skewed towards visiting lots of locations as opposed to breaking a sweat. Especially for me, as I sprained my ankle on Sunday in a cave. I’m nicely bruised and will limp for the next few weeks.

We: looked for shooting stars, ate well, went in caves, walked the battlefield of the Modoc War, sat at a fire lookout, hiked to a butte and lava field, drank, saw petroglyphs and the pacific flyway, napped in hammocks, visited small towns and drove the back roads onto a shield volcano to walk a pumice and obsidian flow and sit at a lake.

Tips: bring armor for the caves (pads, durable clothes, helmets); there is a seasonal canoe trail on Tule Lake; LBNM’s ~35 campsites didn’t fill on the busiest weekend of the year (and there are plenty of great dispersed camping outside the park); it’s hard to find out information about ~680 of the park’s 700 caves.

Climbing Whitney Butte to look at the lava flow, Mt. Shasta and much of the park.

Climbing Whitney Butte to look at the lava flow, Mt. Shasta and much of the park. This was my second trip to Lava Beds.

Backpacking Stoney Ridge Trail in Trinity Alps Wilderness

We spent the weekend hiking the Stoney Ridge Trail in the Red Trinities. As expected, there was still plenty of snow. Sure it’s a drought year, but May 3rd is pretty damn early to be in the mountains. It made the trip more of an adventure.

After the first major climb, we planned on a series of passes on our way to and around the famed four lakes loop. On the third pass, with multiple more planned that day, we decided to skip out on the opportunity for more steep snow and drink whiskey by a fire instead.

Unsettled weather was forecasted on Sunday and it played out pretty much how expected it would. Low clouds made navigating the steep snow fields back over the passes interesting, but thankfully the fresh precipitation was barely a flurry. The limited visibility, and trail over snow in trail runners, made navigation one of the most fun parts of the hike.

It was a great weekend and nice to get out on a hard hike so early in the “summer” backpacking season. It reminded me of visiting Boundary Lake in Yosemite early last summer.

We cooked steak, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, green beans, mushrooms and parsley on the fire.

We cooked steak, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, green beans, mushrooms and parsley on the fire.

Climbing the north side of Stonewall Pass.

Climbing the north side of Stonewall Pass.

ADZPCTKO 2014

I had the opportunity to fly down to Kick Off this year and I took advantage of it. It freed me up to spend the night at Scout and Frodo’s, day-hike the southern 20 miles of the PCT and add on Sunday night in the campground after the event.

Of course, it was a wonderful time.

Briefly:
- My favorite thing about KO is the opportunity for us play community. I really like getting to chat the regulars year after year. Meeting the new hikers, if only briefly, is nice too. I met a whole lot of great people.

- I was witness of a helicopter doing a body recovery :(

- KO is always really hectic and busy for me. This year was a little less so because the weather was bad, and I’d made a concerted effort to downsize the expectations on my time at the event.

The crowd of fun hikers that the San Diego network hosted just before KO.

The crowd of fun hikers that the San Diego network hosted just before KO.