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The Sawtooths are a great group of mountains for the backpacker and mountain climber. There is a large cluster of granite peaks and mountain lakes with well made (though not always maintained) trails though out the mountains. This trip will start out on the Northwest side of the Sawtooths at Grandjean and head up Baron Creek over a pass and down Redfish Creek with riding a motor boat across Redfish Lake to the lodge. While camped at Upper Cramer Lakes for two nights I take the extra day and summit Decker Peak.
July 4, 2012 - The first few steps
With taking an extra day off of work around the Fourth of July, I had a five day weekend set aside for this trip. The adventurers for this trip was going to be John, Archimedes and myself. The first day was mostly driving and logistics. We met up at Redfish Lake early in the afternoon to drop off one vehicle and check on the boat schedule. We then drove around to the trail head at Grandjean and put our packs on for the weekend.
By the time we got on the trail it was almost 5pm, but we still had plenty of day light. We just needed to hike for a few hours at most and get on the trail and knew that camping was to be found at the trial junction between the north fork and main fork of Baron Creek. It was a nice few hour hike to get use to the pack (this was the first I have carried this year and it was packed full of yummy food as always). Packing the night before I ended up creating a list of all the food I was going to carry. So this list (plus a few treats from John) was going to feed us for five days.
After a few hours of hiking we got to the junction of the North Fork of Baron Creek. To my surprise the nice fallen tree that was our bridge when we walked up the North Fork a few years ago had been broken down and washed out so we had to find a new way across the raging creek. The Sawtooths still had a lot of snow in them but the recent heat had started it melting and all of the creeks were bursting. After making it across the creek we set up camp and rested up for the long hike tomorrow.
July 5, 2012 - Baron Lake
Our first real day of backpacking was ahead of us. But we were already on the trail and after a good nights of rest and a belly full of tasty food we put our packs together and started up the trail. Our goal was to get to Baron Lake for the night, but it was going to be a long 7 miles up the valley with having to walk up and around Baron Falls.
Trail was in good condition and well designed up the valley. In contrast to the North Fork of Baron Creek which the forest burnt out and now it is regrowing and is vibrant of lush the main fork was a nice healthy older forest. This was a relief for us because it is far cooler in the shade of old trees on what is going to be a hot and clear day. The first park of the hike was a nice mellow grade in the shade so we made good time up to having to start to go up and around the falls.
Water was gushing out of the Sawtooths. The canyons were roaring with the echo of the clear fresh mountain water rushing down and feeding the rivers. Baron Creek was filled with water falls racing near vertically down the sides of its canyon walls. Each water fall we passed was more impressive than the next. And finally we get our first glimpse of Baron Creek Falls a massive falls on the main creek.
The trail up to this point had been fairly mellow but now some elevation was needed to be gained to get up and around the falls. The trail itself was well designed and started us up around the falls in plenty of time to keep a nice grade for pack horses and only a few switch backs. By this time the cool of the morning had passed and afternoon was with us. So in the heat of the afternoon we slowly walk across the rock slides up and over the falls.
The lake basin up behind Baron Creek Falls was impressive and to our surprise there was still a good amount of snow packed away up there. We had a few miles to go to get to the main Baron Lake but it wasn't long until we were in the forest and crossing major snow drifts. Lucky for us others had already made this trip so we just needed to mostly follows others foot prints around the drifts. The trail ended up winding across the creek a few times before we got to the lake and with all the melting snow we took our time finding crossings hoping to not have to ford because it looked cold. After slowly making our way over the snow drifts we found Baron Lake and a lone camper enjoying the now evening sun. We go and find ourselves a nice little camp sight right along the edge of the lake.
Baron Lake was a wonderful place to camp. The valley was still muffled and had a crisp feel to it. The recent full moon lite up the clear night. A very brave deer spent a good part of the night trying to find some food near our camp and kept digging up our piss spots (for the salts I believe). After yet another filling meal to replenish us from carrying our packs into the lake, I take a few ibuprofen and crawl into my bedroll for the night.
July 6, 2012 - Cramer Lakes
Morning at Baron Lake was amazing. It was a bit chilly but I pulled myself out of bed and got to see the setting moon with the rising sun. After a very peaceful morning followed by yet again a good meal we packed up our bags and started out for the days journey.
Today we were going to walk up and over a pass above Baron Lake and then drop down into Redfish Creek. Once at Redfish Creek we then head back up until we got to the Cramer Lakes. The trip was going to again be about 7 miles and it involved dropping a few thousand feet of elevation into Redfish Creek, only to gain it again to get back up into the Cramer Lakes. So we set out but first we have to get up over a snow covered pass.
The terrain was steep and the trail had large sections covered in snow drifts. With this combination we took a look at the lay of the land and just slowly worked our way up to the summit. We followed the trail a bit but instead of following its switch backs into the middle of a large snow drift we just slowly worked our way straight up to the saddle. After a few hours we made it to the saddle and noticed that the other side had far less to no snow and we had gotten out of the snow filled Baron Lakes.
The trail from the saddle works it's way down the steep walls of Redfish Creek from Alpine Lake. The trail was well built and made it's way with plenty of switch backs though all the cliffs and we finally made it to Redfish Creek.
Right above the Apline Lake trail junction the main Redfish Creek trail fords the creek. There is a nicely made ford but the creek is full and fairly deep at the moment. To ford a creek we first take off our socks, boots and pants. We then take the insoles out of our boots and put the socks, pants and insoles in our pack and we put our boots back on. this way we have the support and sole of our boots against the rocks and snags on the bottom of the creek but only the leather which can dry fast will get wet. Next we find a large stick for balance. With the large stick we wedge it against a rock at the bottom of the creek and use it to help us walk across the rushing water.
After fording the creek the trail walks up a nice forest and quickly gets up up away from the creek and works it's way to the upper valley. Over all the trail was nice and I just found a good pace and worked my way to the upper valley. Once in the upper valley the trail mellows out and it is a very nice hike to get to Cramer Lakes.
There is a lower, middle and Upper Cramer Lake. The Upper lake's outlet quickly drops off a water fall into Middle Cramer Lake. The top of the cliffs right above Middle Cramer Lake near the top of the water fall is filled with nice camps. You can either choose to camp down near the outlet right next to Upper Cramer Lake or up on the cliffs above Middle Cramer Lake and look out over both. We chose to camp up high above both the lakes at this amazing spot.
We take our time to gather some good firewood and set up a nice camp that will last us two nights. Cramer lakes will be a nice day of not having to carry the backpack after two long 8+ hour days we had previously. I will spend the next day doing a nice solo climb of Decker Peak while John and Archimedes will spend the day walking around the lakes and relaxing.
July 7, 2012 - Decker Peak, 10,704'
Decker Peak is the third highest peak in the Sawthooth mountains at an elevation of 10,704 feet. The climb from Cramer Lakes is fairly straight forward. Head up the drainage to a saddle south of the peak. Then follow the south ridge up to the top. It is mostly a class 2 climb with a few class 3 snags that are fairly easy to find your way around.
From our camping spot I basically started heading up towards the upper drainage to get into the base of the peak. My path first took me to the top of point 8734 where I took a nice break to take in the view. After a quick break I then headed into some denser forest and worked my way to tree line on the other side.
After getting to the tree line I had a view of Decker Peak, but the valley I was going to climb up to the saddle was still a bit off. I had to first climb up and around a steep waterfall area of the creek to get to that sliver pond just below the peak. From there climb was straight forward. Head up to the south saddle over a boulder field, then work your way up the ridge to the peak. There were only a few crags to get around on the ridge and a spotty pseudo trail to get up to the peak.
The afternoon on top of Decker Peak was nice. The skies were mostly clear and there was only a little breeze. When the breeze would stop just for a moment lady bugs would fly around the peak. It was nice to see the lady bugs, and there were a good number of them. There are a few peaks you get up on the right time of year that are covered with lady bugs. They come up to the peak tops in swarms and all huddle together in the cracks of the rocks for warmth and to protect them from birds. In comparison there were few lady bugs atop Decker Peak, because when you catch the right peak at the right time the rocks are literary swarming with lady bugs.
After spending a good hour or so just sitting atop of the mountain, watching the lady bugs fly around and enjoy the view, I started back to camp. The way down was straight forward as I basically headed straight for the lakes. In retrospect I should have gone down towards the lower lakes and not have had to deal with the steep forested section dropping into the upper lake.
Was back in camp at a decent hour and now the trip was near complete. We decided to get an early start and so we cooked up the rest of the food and made our packs as light as possible then went to bed with the notion of waking up early and quickly walking down to Redfish Lake.
July 8, 2012 - The journey out
As planned we got up before the sun was rising and put our backpacks together. We ended up getting on the trail fairly early and the cool and nice graded downhill trail we moved fairly quickly and made it to the ford before the sun was shining on us as we were in the mountain's shadows most the morning.
Forded Redfish Creek again, took a small break to dry out. We now only had a few miles left until the back side of Redfish lake in which we hoped to catch a boat. So we put our packs back on and make a decent pace in the mid morning and get to the Redfish Inlet Transfer Camp around 11am. Sure enough it was a busy weekend and there was a jet boat that had brought a group of hikers to the Transfer Camp. We hitched a ride on the jet boat across the lake and finished another successful adventure.
|©Jaimos F Skriletz 2004-2018.|