Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Heed the call of the mountains

Find your own independence this Independence Day


    Are you one of those outdoorsy types who considers the pursuit of personal independence a perfect way to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day?
    If your answer is yes, then you’re in luck. Officials with Sawtooth National Forest and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area are predicting excellent recreational access to the some of the highest elevations in their areas this year.
    Here are some of the best local bets:
l The altitude-inclined will be delighted to learn that the Sawtooth National Forest’s highest summit should be accessible this month. The most common access for climbing 12,009-foot Hyndman Peak is to drive up the East Fork of the Big Wood River through Triumph. Bear left at the intersection and continue along Hyndman Creek to where the road ends and park. Hike up the creek around the west side of nearby Cobb Peak before accessing the high saddle on Hyndman Peak’s southeast shoulder. Access the summit by climbing up the obvious northwest-trending ridge from there.
l Northwest of Ketchum, the Norton Lakes and Prairie Lake areas in the easternmost portions of the Smoky Mountains should provide snow-free hiking as well.
    Of the two, the Norton Lakes hike is the more strenuous, but provides those who arrive with excellent alpine scenery.
    Prairie Lake, on the other hand, is perhaps the Ketchum Ranger District’s most elevation-lacking hike.
    The Norton Lakes area is accessed by way of the Baker Creek Road, while Prairie Lake is best sought from the trailhead mid-way up Prairie Creek Road on the left.
l For the well-equipped SUV crowd, the drive to Dollarhide Summit can be a perfect snow-free excursion into cool upper-elevation forests this July 4. Excellent, dispersed picnicking sites exist on both the Warm Springs Creek and Little Smoky Creek sides of the pass.
    To access Dollarhide Summit, which is set at an elevation of 8,716-feet in the central Smoky Mountains, drive southwest from Ketchum on Warm Springs Creek Road until the pass is reached.
l While certainly not on the Sawtooth National Forest—instead it’s found on the adjacent Salmon-Challis National Forest—Borah Peak will also be a fine destination for skilled backcountry types looking for a slice of Idaho high-country heaven. The 12,662-foot peak—Idaho’s tallest—should be accessible.
    For those with a little more time on their hands, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area will also be a good bet this July Fourth.
    Water lovers may want to consider any one of eastern Sawtooth Mountains’ glacier-carved lakes located near the Sawtooth Valley floor. Crowds will likely be significant, but you shouldn’t have a problem finding your own personal patch of sand at Alturas Lake, Pettit Lake, Yellowbelly Lake, Redfish Lake, Little Redfish Lake or Stanley Lake.
    Many hikes in the SNRA’s Sawtooth and White Cloud mountains will also be snow-free, but you may want to double-check with the local Stanley Ranger Station just to be sure. The ranger station can be reached at (208) 774-3000. For additional information on recreational opportunities on the Ketchum Ranger District call (208) 622-5371.

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