SAWTOOTHBy: Kelly & Brendan • vancrafted.us
After driving for two months, from Brooklyn through the midwest and finally out west, our journey brought us to Idaho. With an itch to leave the van for a night and sleep amongst nature in its purest form, we found a hike that would take us up 1700 feet in elevation amongst trees, lake, and snow. Iron Creek to Sawtooth Lake was a 5 mile trek, and most people in the area described it as an "easy" day hike.
We prepared our usual breakfast of eggs, bacon, and freshly ground coffee and began packing for the hike in - tent, sleeping bags, MRE, all the essentials. Brendan had me try on my pack to make sure it wasn't too heavy. "It feels great!" I said naively (it was my first backpacking trip and I hadn't even added my water supply yet).
We departed around 1:00 pm after talking to an eccentric older couple at the trailhead for a while. They each wore the same Peanuts t-shirt featuring a happy Woodstock that said "Happy Camper" in large letters across the front. The first two miles of the trail were at a moderate uphill tilt but nothing too drastic. We stopped for a peanut butter and jelly lunch on a fallen tree and gave ourselves a break from weight of our packs. We began to realize that "easy day hike" did not translate to "easy hike with a pack of overnight camping gear." The snow-capped peaks and brooks babbling by distracted from the pounds that weighed on our backs.
The next three miles were a succession of switchbacks at an increasingly steep incline. Brendan led the way with encouraging exclamations of YEA! and WOO! As we neared the final stretch of the ascent, my weariness turned the corner into determination and deliberation. Eyes shifted between rocky footing and the breathtaking views above the tree line.
We passed another alpine lake and were tempted to stop for a brief respite, but pressed on for fear that the break would turn into a permanent campsite for the night. As we neared Sawtooth lake, the our packs became feathers and the peaks rose right out of the lake.
We saw mountains perfectly reflected in a mirror-still lake. We saw streams plunge into waterfalls. But it was what we didn't see (yet heard)that made the biggest impression. Exhausted from the hike up, we hit the sleeping bags just as the sun set over the ridge. At around 10pm, my eyes flew open from a sound near the tent, very near. Brendan was still seemingly sleeping next to me as rocks loudly shifted around. The rocks had been large and even human feet walking on them would not have moved them. The animal must have been much larger. I could hear my heartbeat echo off the sides of sleeping bag as I tried to calm my breath. Eventually, the noises stopped and I fell back to sleep. In the morning, Brendan asked if I had heard anything last night. He had heard my heart beating last night too. He had also heard the bear.