Only problem: this was a record snow year. The week before our slated departure date in late July, Bub called to check on trail conditions at Steens. No go. He was disappointed but started checking into other options, only to have repeated conversations with Forest Service personnel along the same lines: No, you can't get up there yet. Any other year.... After inquiring as to just how many hours I could stand to drive in a day, he almost decided on the Wasatch above Salt Lake City, but then discovered it was to be the weekend of Pioneer Day, the biggest outdoor recreation holiday in Utah. Too crowded.
So, after much map-reading and more phone calls, he settled on the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. Neither of us had seen much of that state before, and we surely didn't do more than scratch the surface on this trip! But it was enough to give us a healthy respect for Idaho's beauty and huge areas of wilderness. Bubba is excited to think all that is only 11 or so hours away.
We left the boy in the care of his generous Grandma Suess, and I'm sure he had even more fun than we did. Meanwhile we snuck out early on Saturday morning and headed north to Bend. Bubba wanted to make the most of his road trip by covering different roads on the way there and back. So after hitting Costco and REI, we turned east....
Painted Hills, John Day NM. Terrible midday light...
...but still fantastic.
We spent the first night in the Strawberry Mountains, near John Day. We hope to come back for a longer stay so that we can do more hiking and see these larch trees turn golden:
Strawberry Lake. There are mountain goats up on that rock!
The Strawberries from Prairie City--the prettiest part of Eastern Oregon I've seen.
We arrived in Stanley, ID the following afternoon and were wowed. The Sawtooths were strongly considered for National Park status, and it's not hard to see why, with its jagged, precipitous granite rising above huge lakes:
Minimalist (but free!) campsite right on the Salmon River. (Bub made that stove table.)
We spent early mornings shivering and waiting for the light...
Mount McGown from Stanley Lake
The Northern Front
Can you tell I'm undecided when it comes to composition? Please help!
Which of the three above do you like best?
Stanley has a reputation as the coldest spot in the lower 48,
with winter lows reaching 40 below, and chilly summers too.
We were lucky it was just a little frosty.
It's my belief that cows improve every landscape. Unfortunately these were on the
wrong side of the road. They were unfazed by the chill.
Of course, I spent much of my photographic energy on the flowers:
It was a lovely time. Hope to see you again soon, Idaho!