Last week we drove through the Sawtooth Mountains, and it made quite an impression on us. (This is dated for when we were there, not when I actually wrote it)
We started out driving to Boise, Idaho on the interstate and headed up the marked scenic route 21 on our road atlas. We went past a reservoir that must supply much of Boise, and up a fairly winding road into the dry dusty red hills North of town.
As we drove up the into the hills, with the road going up alongside a creek, we started to notice the sunset. The sun was going down, and the hills opposite were getting a beautiful golden-red at the top, making two tiers, a darker, lower mountain ridgeline that was the shadow of the other side and higher, glowing ridgeline in the direct sunlight. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
As we continued to wind up the road we started seeing more trees and it got steeper….and darker. We started worrying about whether we would find our campsite, and actually turned back, got directions at a beer oasis, then discovered it was only a mile past where we had turned around. We set up our tent, made dinner, and had a nice but cold night.
The next morning we continued up the river valley, which twisted and turned and got steeper. We stopped at a ranger station and got more information about the Sawtooth National Wilderness Reserve from a nice young woman. It was distracting, talking with her, because she looked like a twin of Sharonne, our former housemate!
After a brief argument with Peepcar (don’t worry, it’s fine now) we got going again and went up … and up … and up …. and finally over a pass. On the other side were huge burned areas, including the remains of homes. Suddenly, we were in a very broad, very flat valley with mostly pasture land. There were split-rail fences of a type I hadn’t seen before, that zig-zagged along and had two vertical posts wired together to hold them in place. We continued down this valley to the town of Lowman, and were now really getting into the Sawtooth Range.
The peaks are jagged, like the teeth of a saw. I took loads of pictures of them too as we were going in! I hope I can find some of my pictures that do it justice because my words wouldn’t.
Continuing through this broad valley we found more ranching, and then passed through the tiny town of Stanley, up in this valley right below the Sawtooth Range. Since Meps’ ankle was doing better, we selected a nice little hike up Fishhook creek on the advice of another ranger (who didn’t look like anyone we knew).
The trail went up a hillside away from the creek for a little and we were able to appreciate the aspens with white bark and yellow and orange leaves right next to the sagebrush (and other sage colored plants I’m sure) on the hillside. (Yes, we took even more pictures along here) Along the creek, we saw the river plain with golden dried grasses and red-gold turning willows among the trees. At the end of our trail, we found a meadow, where we had an breathtaking view of the peaks of the Sawtooth range, a little shrouded with distant high clouds and mist.
Back in Peepcar, we started down Route 75 again and found ourselves climbing back up … and up … and up … twisting and turning again to Galena Summit. We could look back over the entire valley leading up toward Stanley, and further.
As we were going along, I asked Meps “Can we go check out Sun Valley?” It’s a famous ski resort just two miles off the road. She wasn’t enthused, but agreed. We weren’t likely to be back nearby for many years and our Lets Go guide mentioned it as a world-class ski area.
Going down this beautiful river valley, we started seeing signs of civilization. Once in Ketchum, we were amazed. Everywhere were expensive-looking shops and restaurants and cars. After a full day in the wilderness and several days camping, it was a shock. How similar rich resorty areas are! (we have visited others before). And here, where water was limited (at least in the summer), everyplace had a close-cropped bright green lawn. We found more of the same in Sun Valley–Condos or time-shares, with huge parking lots (mostly hidden tastefully from the road behind rows of trees).
As we headed out of town, the road looked much wider and busier–obviously to allow throngs of people to head into Sun Valley. A few miles down the road was Hailey, which seems to accept all the things that aren’t quite “perfect” enough for Ketchum and Sun Valley–the auto repair shops and suppliers, the cheaper motels for folks who want to ski but can barely afford the lift ticket. And the housing for workers in the resorts, perhaps? Not screened tastefully from the road!
Finally, we started getting back into ranching country–it was a relief and much more suited to us than the resort we had just passed through. Suddenly, we passed something so cool we had to make a U-turn and check it out: A large group of scupltures called “Makin’ Hay” by Tom Otterness. It had three 25-foot figures made of huge cylindrical hay bales and iron. Whimsical art like this was just what we needed to restore our spirits! We continued on our way to Craters of the Moon National Monument, back on quiet roads and heading east.