On day 3 hiking from Pats Lake to Everly Lake with Arrowhead Lake in the background. Photo by Kelly Fitzgibbon.
Destination: Sawtooth Wilderness, Queens River Loop with side trips to Everly Lake and Rockslide Lake
Date: July 4-11, 2015
HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Judy, Kelly, Maria, Suzanne
Pre-hike: Fly to Boise, spent the first night at The Beaver Lodge in Atlanta, Idaho
Day 1: Queens River Tailhead to Browns Lake
Day 2: Browns Lake to Pats Lake
Day 3: Pats Lake to Everly Lake
Day 4: Everly Lake for 2nd night with a day hike to Rockslide Lake
Day 5: Everly Lake to Nanny Creek
Day 6: Nanny Creek back to Queens River Trailhead
Post-hike: Eat burgers, visit the hot springs and spend the night at The Beaver Lodge. In the morning drive back to Boise and catch the flight back to Austin.
Special thanks to Michael Lanza and The Big Outside for his expert advice on this trip itinerary!
Hiking through a lush, grassy meadow on our way to Nanny Creek on day 5. Photo by Judy Paul.
Beautiful alpine lake between Pats Lake and Everly Lake. Photo by Judy Paul.
We were lucky enough to tour of some of the re-built, historic mining shacks lead by the artist/owner of the Atlanta School. Photo by Kelly Fitzgibbon.
Atlanta Idaho is so far off the beaten path that we almost needed the compass to us get there from the Boise airport. Exploring this charming, historic mining town was an unexpected bonus to our trip. We met the quintessential mom and pop owners of the Beaver Lodge and a friendly gang of artist on main street who spend their time making art and restoring mining shacks at the Atlanta School.
Atlanta is just a short drive to the Queens River trailhead so after breakfast at the lodge we piled in the rent car and headed out. Once at the trailhead we completed the self-serve wilderness permit and started the 10 mile trek to Browns Lake. On our way we encountered a bear, lots of burned trees from the fire in 2013, beautiful wildflowers and the only people we would see for the entire rest of the trip. Four people total in six days.
Day two brought us into higher attitudes with wide vistas of the stunning, jagged Sawtooths. As we made our way to Pats Lake we lost the trail when crossing a vast, lush meadow. We backtracked a bit, got out the compass, consulted the map, read the guidebook over and over and finally just went in the general direction we knew we needed to go and relocated the trail. This was the first of many times the trail seemingly disappeared. Eventually we weren’t that shocked when we got off track and mostly just kept going until the trail re-appeared. Navigational know-how, map, compass and guidebook were very helpful on this trip. By this point we were feeling pretty good about our outdoor skills such as using the PCT method of hanging our bear bags and when a huge dead tree fell one windless morning we were thankful we had decided that spot was too risky for our tents the night before.
We arrived at Everly Lake on day 3 and stayed 2 nights using it as base camp for day hikes. Kelly and Bettina did the 6 mile round trip to Rockslide and the rest of us took it easy with a walk to Plummer Lake where we were rewarded with the sight of a regal Golden Eagle overhead. Everly is a beautiful, remote spot with views of the rugged sawtooth mountains that surround the teal waters of this alpine lake. Mosquitos were thick here so our head nets came in handy.
From Everly Lake we hiked to the crossing of Nanny Creek and the Queens River, about a 6 mile trek. Based on the map and the guidebook description, we thought we were at the right spot where Nanny Creek crosses the Queens River but we didn’t see the creek. Eventually Bettina spotted a moss-covered sign high on a tree that said Nanny Creek so we knew we were in the right place. That evening we did some exploring and found an impressive waterfall about 1/2 mile east off the trail. We survived a dramatic thunder and lighting storm that night and the next morning we headed back to the Queens River tailhead. On the 6 mile hike back we encountered a few knee-deep creek crossings, a hail storm and several occasions of losing the trail. Thankfully we spotted a tiny orange flag on tree branch on one of the crossings that marked our way. Once back to our cabin we flipped coins for who got to shower first, ate burgers at the Beaver Lodge and soaked in the hot springs just outside of town. We can’t wait to explore more of the Sawtooths!
Maps and Guides: Earthwalk Press Sawtooth Wilderness Hiking Map and Guide, Backpacking Idaho by Douglas Lorain
Food Notes: Mary Janes Farm Outpost backpacking food was our favorite brand of prepackaged meals. REI sells it online and in some stores. Mary Janes Chilimac was the best of all we tried. Curry in a Hurry was Maria’s least favorite. Moon Cheese was also a big hit as was Backpacker’s Pantry Creme Brulee.
Gear Highlights: After trying three different backpacks, Suzanne loves her Osprey Aura AG 65. She says “Both the hipbelt and the harness are adjustable so I was able to dial in the fit. It also has a lot of great features like external pockets and the handy “stow-on-the-go” loops for trekking poles. It’s a keeper, for sure.” Maria and Suzanne both have a Sawyer Squeeze Filter System and we are all very happy with its performance and ease of use.
Birds of the Trip: Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, American Three-toed Woodpecker and the Black-backed Woodpecker.
Check out more trip photos by Judy, Kelly and Maria.