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10,190' Mt. Regan/Sawtooth Lake | by oldmantravels
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10,190' Mt. Regan/Sawtooth Lake

Soon after arriving at Sawtooth Lake, I chose to hike the east shore a ways and climb up on a rock knob, to take off my pack, have a bite to eat and rehydrate. It turned out to be an excellent place to get some photo from "lake level" of Mt. Regan.


It was at this "rest stop" that I was joined for my trail snack break by some exuberant golden mantled squirrels, who were the quintessential "professional panhandlers". They were good (and effective).


I had seen the Sawtooth Mountains from many vantage points but had never hiked among them. I have always admired their rugged character. Then, as is often the case, photographs from a flickr member inspired me to “take a hike” among them. Sawtooth Photography (a.k.a. Fred)..Thank you. Your world class photographs of the Sawtooth motivated me.


The Iron Creek to Sawtooth Lake & McGown Lakes saddle hike story:


After I left Garden Valley I resisted what I considered doing and that is taking the 11 mile trip up to Placerville and then return to the Garden Valley road, instead of heading over to Idaho City. I didn’t want to be late in getting in camp and getting a good start for the hike the next day.


There were two vehicles at the Iron Creek trailhead parking lot when I pulled in. I grabbed a wilderness permit from the trailhead box, so I could fill it in and have it completed when I started my hike the next morning.


Choice of campsite? No problem. Not one other person camped there on the 31st of August, 2009. I selected site #4 so I would be close to the restroom and a large bear proof garbage bin. I was set. I always keep my wristwatch and cameras on “Washington time” and operate accordingly, going to bed at a usual time and going hiking at a usual time (local time).


I woke up at 5:30 am; was done eating breakfast and getting ready by 6 pm and then drove over to trailhead, rechecked my maps, gear, and deposited my permit in the box. I also chugged a morning diet Pepsi (good caffeine source). I was on the trail to Sawtooth Lake by 6:30 am (7:30 am Idaho time).


The two vehicles that had been parked there the night before, drove by my camp late the night before, so my truck was the only vehicle at the trailhead when I started my hike. There would be 14 vehicles from Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Nevada - - when I returned at noon (Washington time).


I hadn’t gone far until I bumped into five or six young grouse, either feeding or gathering gravel for their craw, on the trail. They were completely unafraid of me and all but one, paid no attention to me at all. So I snapped a few low light photos of them. Soon after I found a folded five dollar bill in the trail (strange). The trail was a little muddy in a few places from the rain that had muddied the Payette River, but that held the dust down and was to my liking.


On the topo map I had made with my National Geographic topo map program, I showed it would be a bit over four miles from Iron Creek to Sawtooth Lake. The trail sign indicated it was five miles (lots of switchbacks). Whatever it was the hike was so scenic and enjoyable that I honestly didn’t notice the distance. Puffy white clouds in a blue sky overhead and far down below me in the valley, a log fog like cloud parked over the town of Stanley.


I arrived at Sawtooth Lake at exactly 9 am, two hours of hiking. I wanted to hike up to the saddle to McGown Lakes, so I could photograph Sawtooth Lake from up above and to see the lay of the land leading to the McGown Lakes (I had heard it was really burned over).


But after spending time at the small tarn below the outlet of Sawtooth Lake, I decided to hike south along the shore of Sawtooth Lake to get some photos of Mt. Regan (ten thousand footer). Then I found a nice knob along the lake shore, where I decide to mix some Gatorade powder with some of my water bottles and have a salty snack, before hiking up to the saddle. I still had not seen another hiker.


I soon found that a couple of cheeky golden mantled squirrels considered my chosen snack location, “theirs”. They really were pushy, coming up on my day pack and scampering down my leg as they checked out my “supplies’. I don’t know if it is a local adaptation but never have I seen golden mantle squirrels with such white fur over most of their body. We compromised and they accepted two cheese crackers and the crumbs from my Pringle potato chips as “blackmail” payment for letting me eat and drink my Gatorade in relative peace.


I stayed along the squirrel camp on the shore of Sawtooth Lake for quite awhile then shouldered my pack and started up the 1/2 to 3/4 mile trail that would take me to the high saddle over Sawtooth Lake. Here I came upon two backpackers who must have passed underneath me while I was at squirrel camp, as they had come from Granjean by that direction. They hadn’t seen me and I hadn’t noticed them.


The three of us hiked together to the saddle then visited at a sign post that had two fire fighter helmets hanging on it. They didn’t have a good map of the area, so I gave them all the topo maps I had made for this particular hike. The trail leading toward McGown Lakes through the burned over forest looked pretty “ugly” and having put in close to 6 miles or at least 5 miles by my maps, I decided to return the way I had come.


I met every version of hiker you can imagine on the way back down from Sawtooth Lake. Properly attired, properly equipped to the antithesis. Near the trailhead I met two young men and two women, with one of the men carrying a toddler in his pack. They had no water, no packs, nothing but what they hiked in and since they were obviously Amish or Mennonite, the two women wore head bonnets and below the knee, conservative, well pressed dresses and were hiking in street shoes. I don’t know how far they intended to go, but they were at least a mile up the trail when I passed them.


Noon at the trailhead. Decision time. I had thought about going down and camping near Pettit Lake and perhaps hiking up to Alpine and/or Twin Lakes as a second hike. I wasn’t sore or too tired from the hike I had just taken, but I decided that I would rather be lazy and explore some back roads by pickup truck, and then camp my way back home. First up in my thoughts was John Tucker’s (of Garden Valley) Placerville, Idaho. Though I didn’t know Placerville’s particular history I had read of the gold strike in the area and the area around Idaho City.


To read "The full Story" that goes with these photos, please open the "Sawtooth Trip Sept 2009" photo set folder and read the narrative contained within. Thank you. OMT

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Taken on September 1, 2009