After Big Baldy
My friend Dennis
and I had just come from a three day effort to get Big Baldy
, the county highpoint of Valley county and we had planned to follow that one up with a dayhike of Snowyside, the county highpoint of Elmore county and a dayhike of Cramer Peak, the county highpoint of Boise county. Taking the day after Big Baldy to drive to Pettit Lake campground as a rest day, Dennis and his wife headed for that location by hitting the blacktop (athey were pulling a camp trailer) the whole way while I cut half the distance off by taking dirt roads that hooked into the highway 22 miles from Stanley. I enjoyed my drive through the middle of some neat country and I arrived at Pettit Lake first and selected a campspot and Dennis and his wife showed up about 3 hours later. They had stopped in Stanley for a great lunch and I had failed to be as smart so I was eating stuff out of my camp food bag (not as good).
As it turned out, we settled for doing a dayhike of Snowyside as we would have had to put another big day back to back and to be honest, at our age, a day off in between big hikes is a blessing. We didn't have the extra day that required so Snowyside was the peak we went for. No way would I have wanted to do Cramer the next day but then, on with the story.
Basecamp (aka Pettit Lake campground)
Dennis has the good fortune of having a wife who enjoys camping and will put up with the bugs and the heat as she provides a "basecamp" during his hikes
and climbs. The pop up travel trailer they bought is just the right way to do that type of camping and it was great to have her along. They include me for many meals and I can attest to the cooking skills that she brings to our "basecamp" experience.
We camped at Pettit Lake in the campground there and while it isn't the greatest campground that I've stayed at, it was sufficient for our needs since we could walk from the campspot and be on the trail in just a few minutes. I have refrained from putting pics of the campsite or anything else pertaining to our campcivilized setting as this presents the picture of us as being "softies" (which we are). Fortunately the pumper truck arrived the same day we did to pump out the "outhouse" that had become a toxic waste site of mega proportions. The campground host then spent an hour or so trying to make the place presentable again and gratefully, he was mostly successful. No pics are posted as this is a sensitive subject but a clean pottie is a wonderful thing.
The hike up
Up early (to beat the heat), we headed up the trail at 6 a.m. Dennis and I were happy to not be carrying overnight backpacks but rather the much lighter daypacks containing mainly water and food for our day of adventure. We mentioned to Dennis's wife that we'd probably be back at 6 p.m. as we anticipated the 18+ mile day would take us about 12 hours round trip. Both of us are in our sixties so we tend to take our time both ways and that saves wear and tear on our ageing bodies. As it turned out, Dennis walked back into camp exactly at 6p.m. and I was there ten minutes later so our prediction turned out to be pretty accurate.
We elected to go both ways via the Alice Lake/Twin Lake trail and save the loop trip which includes Toxaway Lake for another time (if ever). The first mile is pretty level as you hug the shore of Pettit Lake for most of that mile until you enter the Wilderness where you are required to fill out a permit and wear it until you exit later.
Another mile and a half brought us to our first water crossing where we found that there wasn't a bridge to aid our effort and so we stopped and waded across, and continued on up the trail to another water crossing, this time aided by a log. Two more log aided water crossings were made as we worked our way up to Alice Lake, six miles from our "basecamp". Just short of Alice Lake, I was stopped by a hiker who was with some scouts and was surprised when he asked if I was "Dean". It turned out to be none other than Robbie Wayment, a guy who I had been emailing back and forth with for the past year. It was nice to meet him and he and his group were finishing up a three day backpack trip that had included a climb of Snowyside Peak.
After that neat experience, Dennis and I soon made our way past Alice Lake and its tons of mosquitoes and then past Twin Lakes on our way to Toxaway Pass. A neat trail I might add, very scenic and filled with breathtaking scenery. A foretaste of what was to come.
To the summit
At the pass, we took a way trail that headed towards Snowyside and worked our way up to the ridgeline by following use trails in the talus and rock areas. Dennis was leading the way and ably found a good way to go and soon we were scrambling up the ridgeline that leads to the summit.
Several sections of class 3 made for careful hand and foothold selection but nothing difficult. I tried to make note of where I had been so that the return effort would be without problem. Dennis is much more comfortable on that type of terrain than I am (I took a nasty fall a few years back on similar terrain when a handhold pulled out on me) so I was happy to follow his lead as he easily went up (and later back down) the ridge.
When we finally saw the wooden triangulation tripod on the summit, I knew we had it made. The summit itself is very nice and the views from that summit are some of the best I've ever had. We counted 23 lakes and during that time had the summit all to ourselves. Looking through the register, I came across the entry that Robbie had left and appreciated the nice comment he had made. One boy mentioned how "scared to death" he was but I know it will be an experience he will never forget and I can also understand the "scared" part since there is some exposure on the route.
After snapping some pics and having a bite to eat during the hour we spent on the summit, it was time to go back down. I did place a cell call to my daughter who was celebrating her birthday and managed to leave a message on hers. We had taken 6 hours to get to the summit and it would take us five to get back to our camp. No, we aren't very speedy but we enjoyed our timein this beautiful area. It certainly has a wow factor and often either Dennis or myself had to stop to take a picture or two of what we were seeing. Unfortunately, pics will never capture the true beauty of an area and that is probably to be expected.
Down and out
On the trip down, we met a couple from Olympia Washington who knew a friend of mine so it is always a reminder of how small a world it is. I will admit to being "dog" tired when I got back to camp but a great meal put on by Dennis's wife soon had me feeling great again. Thank you thank you thank you.
Overall Stats: 18.7 miles (we took a different route back to the pass)
Elevation gain: Probably in the 4200' range.
Actual time hiking: 10 hours and with summit and stop to talk times, another two hours to make our day a 12 hour one.
Overall impression of the area: Outstanding (but watch your step due to the horses that use the trail)