(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Good Times in the Mountains

I'm sitting on a hotel terrace overlooking the hills surrounding Bujumbura, Burundi. The downtown traffic hums below me with the frequent sound of honking and beeping. The air is cool and wonderful as I pause for a moment to take in the fact that I'm officially a long way away from the mountains of Idaho.

I know I've been slacking on this blog thing but I've been a busy guy. It's not going to be less busy any time soon so I just need to step up and catch you up on what's going on. More on Buj later.

Lisa and Cheryl mountain biking among the flowers in the Boise foothills

So the surgery has been without issue. The eyes are still working fine, fine enough that Priya and I headed for the mountains to spend three nights backpacking. My target was the White Cloud Mountains near the central part of the state. It's an area I don't know well having only been there once when I was young. It has dozens of small lakes and jagged, snow-capped peaks. Just what I was seeking.

What I was not seeking was quite so much snow. A cold rain welcomed us at the 4th of July Lake trailhead and the start looked a bit foreboding. To make matters worse, two hikers, both seemingly anxious to chat about something as I walked over to them, communicated to me that they'd hiked in nearly a mile and the trail was completely blocked by huge snow drifts. I walked back to the Xterra and reported the news to Priya. Often being more enthusiastic than bright, I conveyed my support of the idea of having a look anyway. After about a one kilometer inspection of the trail and a possible clearer alternative route on the opposite side of the creek, Priya was on board as well. After all, it was less than two kilometers to the lake where we would establish a base camp and spend the next couple of days doing day hikes. How bad can it be?

 Stormy, chilly evening view of Sawtooth Mountains from White Cloud Mountains

Well, let's just say it was a long winter. As Priya and I embarked on our adventure, we had rather smooth sailing until we were not far beyond the part we'd already inspected. But occasional rain, bog from significant snow melt and the increasing size and frequency of snow banks began to impede our progress towards the elusive lake. The monstrous packs on our backs, meant for only a relatively short hike, were becoming increasingly a contributor to our fatigue as we worked our way across steep hillsides, skree and drifts. Eventually it became apparent. There was no way to get to the lake – certainly not without snow shoes and much more time than we had. It was already around 6pm and the temperature was beginning to drop. We agreed that we needed to turn around and find a place to camp. We proceeded to descend until we found a suitable camping spot. About a third the way down we came upon a rare flat piece of land near a stream with a nice view of the elusive snow-crested White Cloud peaks.

We set up camp, made a fire and prepared dinner. It's one of the best parts of backpacking. The night was cold but we were sufficiently prepared and we slept well. I'd bought and packed a large air mattress that contributed "heavily" to our comfort and warmth.

 The road out from 4th of July Lake

The next day we decided to hike back down to the Xterra and change tack. We drove out of the White Clouds and targeted my beloved Sawtooth Mountains to the west. Because it is forbidden to make campfires in the Sawtooth Wilderness area (something we didn't want to do without), we opted for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). Yellowbelly Lake (yes, these lakes do have strange names) was a place I'd been as a child but not since. I had vague memories of mosquitoes attacking me and my dad carrying me on his shoulders part of the way because I was likely complaining about the long hike. The other possibility was that I was goofing around too much and this was the only way to keep the family moving forward. If you've ever hiked with a dog, you have an idea as to the path I would take – zigzagging, allowing myself to be easily distracted, filling my pockets with interesting rocks, pulling wings off insects, etc.

A still morning at Yellowbelly Lake

By Idaho standards it was a short drive from 4th of July to Yellowbelly and we soon had our packs on our backs again. The hike was also short by Idaho standards and we were soon setting up camp on the shore of the lake. It was a rather ideal location amongst the pines near the outlet of the lake.

The next two days were spent hiking, relaxing and some fishing. The nights were cold and the days were warm. On Monday we hiked out and we were off to Boise. My one-week eye appointment was waiting for me on Tuesday and then we'd be off to McCall to "car camp" with my family.

Family Camp Trip
The family assembled at Ponderosa State Park. We would spend the next several days camping, eating and filling our days with activities and just hanging out, part of which was at PSP and part of which was further south on Cascade Lake. Among the activities were a group mountain bike ride around Payette Lake, another ride near the failed ski resort of Tamarak, a road bike ride up Warm Lake Road near the town of Cascade, a few jogs and a rather long hike near McCall encompassing Boulder Lake and Louis Lake. Good times.
The smiling ladies taking a break on the hike; this was before they knew how damn long the hike was going to be.

Strolling from Boulder Lake to Louis Lake

 Priya and the pristine Louis Lake

 Another room with a view - Cascade Lake

Osprey nest - very bird friendly park
 If it looks like Danny's going to fall, it's because he does.

 At the end of the Tamarak ride, we're all on our feet.

 The ride around Payette Lake; generally considered not safe to take photos while riding.

Chilly evening around the "fire".

 Rich and Priya's night to prepare dinner - two tons of food on skewers consumed by an overactive family. 
The photo shows less than half of what was eaten altogether.

Watching the fireworks - according to height.

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