Northern Idaho County Highpoint chasing
It was time to get out and do something again since I hadn't done anything for a bit after breaking my right hand on Mt. Whitney while attempting the Mountaineer route back on August 3rd. Well, my wife and I had done several California highpoints on the way home but I really hadn't done much of anything since that trip so it was nice to have Bob ask the question "Dean, are you up to doing some Idaho stuff? this coming weekend?"
Of course, my answer was a resounding yes. We planned on getting Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone and Clearwater counties on a long three day weekend. Bob was going to drive from Vancouver Washington and pick me up in Kennewick after he got off work on thursday. From my place, we would drive up and find a campground as close as we could to the trailhead for Boundary. After getting Boundary, we'd go get the others, with hopefully Bonner and Shoshone doable on the same day. Then we'd finish up on the 29th with Clearwater county which we planned on doing with Dan Robbins, who was getting close to finishing all of the Idaho counties. Only two others had accomplished that feat, Bob Packard and Ken Jones, both of whom co-completed Idaho on the same day. So a plan was in place, now all we had to do was implement it.
Bob got to my place about 7:30 on thursday evening and we immediately drove north and around twelve p.m., we were safely camped at Smith Lake campground, a few miles north of the town of Bonner's Ferry. Bob slept in his 4runner and I slept in a little solo tent that I can put up in just a few minutes. The next morning, we awoke to threatening skies but first headed back to Bonner's Ferry to find a cafe that would cook up a mean omelet. With that mission accomplished, we found our way to the Fisher Peak trailhead. It sprinkled off and on so we donned rain gear for the first part of the trail and soon were making good time up the Fisher Peak trail as it quickly started to gain elevation.
As we came to a switchback in the trail, Bob, who was in the lead, stopped and let out a "wow, look at that". What he was looking at was a HUGE pile of bear scat (scat=bear do do) Fortunately it wasn't steaming and looked like it was a couple days old. However, it was a bit unnerving to have the reality of being truly in Grizzly bear country dawn upon us. There were no signs warning of grizzlies but then anyone who lives in northern Idaho just automatically understands that they live there. From that point onward, Bob and I kept close together and kept up a loud and continuous conversation. The trail continued to climb and zigzag from time to time and at one point crossed a clear cut where the trail was a bit fainter but still easy to follow. At the clear cut, we got our first look at where we were heading but much of the highpoint area was hiding in the clouds at that point in time. The drizzle had stopped so we took our rain gear off and stuffed it in our day packs, making certain that it was easy to get to.
We continued up past the clear cut and headed for Farnham Ridge, from where we'd start going cross country. Many of the zig zags don't show on the map but the trail is always obvious. We reached this point
on the map and left the trail and started going cross country. It was pretty easy going and in places you could see that others had preceded us. We crossed a way trail a bit further along and used that on our way back as it intersected the trail a bit lower and eliminated some of the cross country that we ended up doing. We actually went almost to the top of this peaklet (HERE)
before dropping back down to a saddle area where we had a snack and waited out a bit of a rain storm. From the saddle, we could look over and see our intended route that would take us up to the top of peak 7709
Checking our route out
It didn't take long to chew up the distance from the saddle
to where we wanted to go up and although one of the cohp trip reports mentioned class 2 terrain, we found ourselves dealing with several spots of class three, although even with my hand still splinted up, it posed no real problem at any point. In fact it was probably a bit more fun the way we went up (we saw the class 2 route on our way out). Once we attained a ridgeline, we probably went not more than a couple hundred feet when Bob noticed an outcropping that had a cairn atop it. Hidden in the middle of the cairn was a glass jar containing a one page sheet of paper left by Bob Packard, who had visited the spot 4 years earlier. He noted that there was another spot nearby that also vied to be the highest spot so after signing the register sheet, Bob and I went looking for the 2nd spot.
Moving along the ridge a couple hundred yards, we spotted a cairn over towards the trees and sure enough, when we got close enough, we could see that it had a "baggie" register, although it was in poor shape and the piece of paper that was serving for the info was very wet and soon to be useless as the moisture was ruining it. I took a pic which I have posted here to preserve the entries but if I were to return to this highpoint again someday, I'd bring a new register and a better container. Still, it was fun to find the second one and preserve a bit of the history.
It started raining on us again so it was time to head down, but the sad aspect of this whole trip was the fact that we had no views. The clouds would lift from time to time but just as quickly shut back down and so it did me little good to keep my camera out. I took more pics of the two cairns and registers than I did of the surroundings. I will attach the few that I have but I wouldn't mind seeing this area some time when the sun is out. In going back down, we pretty much retraced the way we came with the exception near the end where we took an obvious use trail back down to the normal trail. No, we didn't see any grizzly bears but then Bob is my secret weapon. Grizzly bears are afraid of him and so he is good to have along.
Northernmost cairn and register
Glass register jar at cairn and the register sheet is at the right
Southernmost cairn and register
This shows the second cairn and register and right one shows the deteriorating page that was inside register
The remainder of the trip
After we did the Boundary cohp, we were heading for Bonner county's highpoint when the heavens opened and it really started raining. We tossed a two headed coin, calling heads we stay in a decent motel or tails, we camp out in the rain and heads won. The next morning, we headed up to do Scotchman Peak, the highpoint of Bonner county but by the time we were done with it, we knew we had a long drive to get to where we'd meet up with Dan Robbins and so we figured we would save Shoshone county for another day. On the 29th, we did Rhodes Peak, a very memorable hike as Dan Robbins was able to pick up one of the few remaining county highpoints that he needed in Idaho. Bob and Dan also saw a wolf during a cross country effort we were making. Northern Idaho is a beautiful area, very scenic and you often will not see any one else while you are hiking.