Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Camping in the SNRA

We went camping over last weekend at Alturas Lake near Stanley, ID. Alturas is the southern-most in a chain of lakes that runs along the Salmon River valley, at the edge of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It tends to be the quietest, probably because it's the farthest away from Stanley. The best campsites are nestled into the trees along the lakeshore.

We got there around noon and set up our tent. We brought the large canvas vertical-sided tent because my husband wanted to be able to use the heater in the morning. Good thing too, as it got down into the upper 20's F overnight. With the tent set up, we decided to go for a short hike. We drove to the end of the lake access road to the Alpine Creek Trailhead. The hike led us up along Alpine Creek to the meadows at its head. Only about 400-ish feet of altitude gain. Very pretty scenery, with the steak-knife jagged Sawtooths looming over us to the north, big white clouds snagging on their peaks, and some leaves already turning yellow, orange and dark purply-red.

We puttered around in the meadows awhile, taking pictures and admiring the creek, looking for fish. About 4pm it looked like rain, so we headed back down.

That night we used the double air mattress, with a wool blanket spread over it, our sleeping bags, and two blankets spread over us. I wrapped the dog's crate in a blanket as well, hoping that would help. It got pretty cold, but we slept well. I woke up a few times when I heard noises outside. At least twice I heard the yips and howls of what I thought might be coyotes, but they could have been wolves. It was a group, so more likely wolves. I've always had the impression that coyotes are more solitary. The first time seemed distant, but the second time sounded pretty close - within a mile of us. Although that could have been a trick of the geography. Another time I heard an animal walking past the tent, probably down to the water. Could have been a deer or elk. I really wished I could see outside to see if my guesses were correct or not. But you forget just how dark it can get when you're nowhere near any source of artificial light!

The next morning my husband brought the heater into the tent - such a difference! It was very cold, but not frosty outside. To warm up we sat in the sun on a log next to the lake, drinking our coffee. Alturas is beautiful in the early morning; mirror-smooth, steam rising from the water in swirling patterns or hovering on the surface like ground fog. We'd forgotten to bring eggs, so we had bacon, tomato and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. Then we packed up, and drove to Petit Lake for another hike.

This one was from the Tin Cup Trailhead, at the end of the Petit Lake access road. We headed towards Alice Lake, but only went about two miles, as far as the Petit Lake Creek waterfalls, which are very pretty. Took lots of pictures, hoping to get one nice enough to enter in the local paper's "Wild Idaho" contest.

I do want to get up to Alice Lake sometime. Maybe we'll be up for it next time. We want to go camping again in October. It really is wonderful without all the crowds of summer. More like my memories of camping when I was a child.

This coming weekend is the local Boise Highland Games at the State Fairgrounds. Our Scottish Country Dance group will be doing two demonstrations. We'll perform two dances, Napier's Index and Da Rain Dancin', and try to get folks up for an audience participation dance, January Welcome.

This means my husband and I have to be there before 9am to unload our group's booth stuff and drive off the site. It's a 40-minute trip from our house, so we'll be there most of the day. For the past few years the weather has been relatively nice. September is iffy here. You never know if you'll have pleasant 80F days, or pouring rain. My first year, 2003, it was cold and rainy. And I had to hang around all day in a white satin dress and fleece jacket. Brrrr! This year they're predicting rain by late afternoon. Our last demo time is 3:45pm, so we'll see how it goes. If it's raining too hard we won't want to be running the sound system or dancing on the somewhat-wobbly elevated stage. You can bet I'll be more prepared with warm clothing after the '03 experience!

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