The Sawtooth

From Salmon we drove about 150 miles south to the center of Idaho and the Sawtooth National Recreation and Wilderness Area.  Most famously known for nearby Sun Valley Ski Resort, the draw for us is the natural beauty. We’ve said lots of “Wows” on this leg of the journey.

First we headed into Ketchum, the closest town with a Verizon store. Replacing the broken iPhone is a priority but in these parts, your priorities are not their problem. After a number of calls and an uncomfortable store visit we left without a viable solution. The last photo my phone took was a call to 911, which I didn’t make.

So, we are working on one phone for the time being. The scenery, however, makes up for it.

Our first destination here was the small town of Stanley and the nearby ghost towns of Bonanza and Custer. This is gold rush country from the mid 1800s through 1960. In Custer we toured the ghost town that once held a large population, all there to work the nearby mill, built to process ore from the mines. Relics from the early miners litter the ground of this historic site.

Along the way to Custer we passed the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, which is a 988 ton relic of gold mining from the 1940s and 50s. There are 71 one-ton buckets on one continuous chain and each bucket could hold eight cubic feet of dirt.

The dredge dug into the valley over a six mile swath to recover gold by washing and separating the rock, gravel, and dirt from the gold.  Having cut a large swath of land through a beautiful valley, the old dredge still stands as a testament to man’s search for wealth. We toured the four story dredge which over a 12 year period turned out gold valued at  $1.2 million in 1958 dollars.

The next day we hopped on the bikes and rode from our campsite to the nearby Pole Creek Ranger Station. Pole Creek is the oldest Forest Service construction in the Sawtooth National Forest and was home to Ranger Bill Horton for 22 years.

The station is on the National Register of Historic Places and shows how tough and hard working rangers like Horton were. 

The remainder of the day was spent at the popular Redfish Lake. With a lodge, visitor center, and white beaches, Redfish is popular with hikers, paddle-boarders, kayakers, and boaters.

We walked the Fishhook Trail from the visitor center and came across the Kokanee Salmon, a relative of the Sockeye in the nearby creek. It was spawning season, so the red fish were thick, having come up stream from Redfish Lake. Once they hatch and grow they will go downstream tail-first to live and enjoy the beautiful Redfish Lake. 

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is filled with campsites, streams, and trails. We spent some time on the Harriman Trail, an 18 mile mountain bike trail that runs along the Big Wood River. We rode just a section of the trail, which was a good workout with incredible views. 

From there we headed to nearby Pettit Lake where Steve did a seven mile trail run while I rode the bike a little more. Steve’s run took him from Pettit Lake to Alice Lake. Along the way he had incredible views and scenery. 

The campgrounds were beginning to fill up in anticipation of the upcoming long weekend, which is our cue to move along. We really loved our time in the Sawtooth area and hope to return to explore more trails by foot and by bike. 

We are heading south towards Twin Falls for our next set of adventures.