Queens River Loop – Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho

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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

Trip Itinerary:
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.

Hiking through a lush, grassy meadow on our way to Nanny Creek on day 5. Photo by Judy Paul.

Trip Map:

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Beautiful alpine lake between Pats Lake and Everly Lake. Photo by Judy Paul.

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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.

Trip Story:

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!

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Atlanta Natural Hot Springs were a treat after 6 days on the trail!

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.

Photos:
Check out more trip photos by Judy, Kelly and Maria.

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Inks Lake State Park (primitive camp site this time)

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Kelly, Bettina and Judy in front of primitive camping site #3. Photo by Maria

Destination: Inks Lake State Park

Date: September 27 & 28, 2014

HikeCampHikers: Judy, Maria, Bettina, Kelly (Suzanne broke her toe and couldn’t make it )

Travel Time from Austin: 1.5 hours

Campsite: Backpack Primitive campsite #3. The primitive campsite ended up working great for us. You can’t park your car at the entrance to the primitive camping area but there is a unloading spot that we parked and hiked in, set up our campsite then hiked back to the car and parked it inside the park area and started our Saturday hike from the trailhead at the parking lot that is near the park headquarters.

The website for Inks Lake doesn’t have the Hiking Trail Guide posted so I borrowed this from https://www.sctxca.org. You can get a copy of this map at Inks Lake park headquarters.

Saturday Hike: The primitive campsite we stayed in is located along the yellow “Pecan Flats Trail Camp” area. We hiked the yellow trail to red to the blue loop and back to site 3 in the primitive camp area.

Sunday Hike: We packed up and hiked yellow to green and then on through the park to the trail in the Devil’s Waterhole area.

Camp food: We brought an ice chest so we could expand our dinner choices (and cold beer and wine!). We had a chicken salad contest between Russell’s bakery and Upper Crust Bakery. It was close but Upper Crust won.

Pedernales Falls State Park

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Sunday hike along Trammell’s Crossing Trail. (L-R)Judy, Bettina, Maria. Photo by Suzanne.

 

Destination: Pedernales Falls State Park

Date: January 25 & 26, 2014

Travel Time from Austin: 50 minutes

Participants: Bettina, Judy, Maria, Suzanne

Campsite: We stayed in site #56. Sites 31, 33, 34 & 36 looked to be some of the best in the park but they were taken when we arrived. We had reservations but you can’t reserve a specific site. We are finding out that if you want to camp anywhere in central Texas, reservations are a good idea!

Saturday Hike: Wolf Mountain Trail, 6 miles. The trailhead is not far from the park headquarters. This is the only trail that the park describes as challenging but it was about the same or maybe even easier than the Trammell’s Crossing loop we hiked Sunday.

Sunday Hike: Trammell’s Crossing Trail, 6 miles. Trailhead is between campsites 33 & 34. Watch out, we had to cross the river and it was freezing and slippery! A great hike! If I only had time for one of these two trails, I’d choose the Trammell’s Crossing Trail.

Here’s a link to the Trails Map and the Park Map. Below is a detail of the Trails Map with our hikes highlighted.

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Bird of the Trip: Ladderback-backed Woodpecker – we visited the Bird Blind and I highly recommend it! I’m so glad we have our birding expert Suzanne in the group, I would have probably never thought of visiting the bird blind without her suggesting it.

Camp Food: Broccoli Cheddar Soup

This soup was seriously good and perfect for a cold night under the stars. Thank you Bettina, your home-grown broccoli was delicious!

Equipment highlights: We were impressed with the performance of my new Baja Burner stove by snow peak. We also loved our new lightweight chairs – Maria has the REI Flex Lite Chair and I have the Alite Designs Mantis Chair. They were great for sitting by the fire! Bettina and Suzanne  spend their first nights in their new backpacking tents by Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 and gave them a thumbs up.

McKinney Roughs Nature Park

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Giant Pecan Tree on the day hike at McKinney Roughs Nature Park. Suzanne, Judy, Bettina, Kelly. Photo by Maria.

Destination: McKinney Roughs Nature Park

Date: December 8th

Travel Time from Austin: 30 minutes

Participants: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Maria, Suzanne

Bird of the Trip: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! Because it’s such a great name. And we saw lots of them!

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Enjoying Lebkuchen cookies by Bettina. Pictured: Suzanne, Kelly, Bettina, Maria, photo by Judy.
Camp Food: Bettina made German cookies called Lebkuchen (german for delicious I’m guessing) here is the recipe:
8 eggs
1/2 pound sugar
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Allspice
(if you want to – add fresh grated ginger)
1 pound  ground almonds
1/4 pound currants
1/4 pound sultana raisins (yellow raisins)
Mix first six ingredients, slowly add ground nuts, currants and sultanas. Greased aluminum foil on cookie sheet, put mixture on it and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.
When cooled down, put icing on it (powdered sugar and lemon juice) and cut in squares.

Hike: This month we had so much going on for the holidays and snow (yikes!) was expected for the weekend we were planning to go camping that we just decided to go for a day hike. McKinney Roughs is a great destination for a day hike being only 30 minutes away from Austin and having around 18  miles of hiking trails. It’s a day use park and the main entrance is closed on Sunday (the day of our hike) but you can drive to the Highway 71 trail head, east of the Main entrance and start at the Whitetail trail. We hiked for about 5 hours with a break for lunch at the Giant Pecan Tree. I’ve highlighted our hike on the map below. Here’s a link to a PDF of the map.

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Photos:

See more photos from the McKinney Roughs Nature Park here.

 

Lost Maples State Natural Area

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Lost Maples Primitive campsite E on our Sunday hike – Maria, Suzanne, Bettina, Judy. Photo by Kelly.

Destination: Lost Maples State Natural Area

Date: September 14 and 15th

Travel Time from Austin: 2.45 hours

Participants: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Maria, Suzanne

Saturday Hike: Backpacked from the parking area at the East Trail trailhead to B primitive camping area. About a 3 mile hike with a steep climb to the camping area after passing the pond.

Sunday Hike: Hiked from B primitive camping area to the parking area at the trialhead of the East trail put our packs in the car and hiked the West Trail to the G primitive camping area and back to parking area at the East Trailhead parking area. Maybe 5 miles.

Bird of the Trip: Black-throated Green Warbler They’re such pretty birds and they’re migrants so it was passing through on its way from the northeast to central/south America for the winter.

Campsite: B primitive camping area

Camp Food: Incredible Pulled Pork Tacos by Kelly, Parmesan Cheese Crisp from Whole Foods by Suzanne. A few varieties of apples with honey crisp apples being the tastiest. Beer to go with the pulled pork was Hops & Grains Zoe Pale Lager. We wrapped each chilled beer in newspaper and then packed them in an insulated lunch bag. They stayed cold for over six hours. Yay! The breakfast from Suzanne: Natural High Strawberry Granola with Milk was really good.

Below I’ve highlighted our hikes on the park map:

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Photos:

See more photos from Lost Maples State Natural Area here.