Running and Backacking in the Sawtooths: 120 Miles of Bliss

  
This summer the Sawtooths – a stunning mountain range in centro Idaho – and I became aquantances during an 120 mile solo backpacking trip. I left from the Grandjean trailhead with a map, ten days of food, and my running shoes.

  

I love solo backpacking: I love pushing myself to hike all day, or waking up late and reading all morning. I love the days on end of solitude without a soul in sight, and of course, I love jumping into as many lakes as possible along the way. I love dropping my pack at the top of a pass to trail run an out and back I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, and I love meeting other backpacking lovers along the way. This place was truly a backpackers (and trail runners) paradise. 

   

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

    

     
    

   
   
My favorite day was when I did a twenty mile day run on one of the more popular trails (Alice and Toxaway loop) before packing up camp and hiking a mile or two up a switchback filled path to camp atop – looking down on the lake and out to the mountains during an epic (mosquito filled) sunset. 

    
    
    
    
    
 
I also enjoyed running in the southwest part of the Sawtooths where I didn’t see another human soul for three days and where the trails looked less used.

  
Logistics

I’m intentionally not laying out my exact route because a) I still haven’t figured out how to draw it on the map, and b) because I think that half the fun is not knowing here you are going or leaving the adventure open ended. Near the end of my trip I met a wonderful older lady who has been hiking in the Sawtooths for years who informed me about a small (not marked) offshoot to a beautiful lake and climbing area which I did a side trip to visit – something I wouldn’t have found had I planned my whole route in advance. Never the less, here is a photo of some of the trails and a rough sketch of some of the loops I completed (starting and ending from the Grandjean trailhead). I used Avenza (a map app) which had a really great map of the Sawtooths through Adventure Maps sale on it (I also had the hard copy of the same map).

Starting from the Grandjean trailhead (west in the middle of the map) then went south  until I got to the cluster of lakes (went west where the trails are much less used, then did the loops to visits all the lakes). From there I stayed at Toxaway to do the Alice lake loop then headed back north n a different trail where I saw the Barron  lakes. I ended with a twenty mile trail run circling where, on the map, it says Sawtooths wilderness.
Though the Sawtooths are quickly becoming more visited, they are still a relatively quiet mountain range especially when compared to national parks. With no reservations needed it’s easy to do your first backpacking trip amongst this stunning scenery along the Alice Toxaway loop or do some longer, less visited trails in the other parts of the wilderness area. It’s easy to find water due to the dozens of lakes you stumble across, though come prepared because in July and August those bodies of water definitely attract Mosquitos.

In September I drove back through the Sawtooths (hoping to backpack through the White Clouds just next door only to find them covered by two feet of snow). Boy where they still beautiful the second time around!

   
                 * this post has been pre-scheduled as we are currently out of service!

From La Grande to Astoria and What’s Up Next

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in so I figured I would catch y’all up on our last year since New Zealand before we begin our next cycling adventure through Oman in just a few weeks! 

  
After New Zealand Kevin and I moved to La Grande, a small town in Eastern Oregon, where Kevin restarted his job as a seasonal wildland rapeller (firefighter who rapels from helicopters into small remote wildland fires) and I restarted my job in wilderness therapy five hours away based out of Bend (as I work eight days with six days off the commute is managable). I ended up going on quite a few adventures throughout the summer including an 120 mile solo backpacking (and trail running) trip through the Sawtooths (Idaho), as well as a road trip through Yellowstone, the Tetons, and part of Utah. Blog posts about those places and what it’s like to be a wilderness therapy instructor are to come.

A photo Kevin took of his friend as they watched the total eclipse this summer!

  

Some photos from snowshoeing around Crater Lake last spring. Talk about the snow making everything more beautiful!! 

   
    
    
    
   

A few photos from cycling around La Grande.

   
   

  

  

  


And of course some trail running photos from eastern Oregon as well.

   
    
    
    
    
 
Once Kevin finished up his job in October we moved in with his dad in Astoria for a few months so that Kevin could work with his brother installing heating and cooling units while I continued  (after a four week break to spend some time with Kevin) working in Bend, commuting nearly the same amount as I had been during the summer just in the opposite direction. We have spent the winter with family, especially with some of Kevin’s siblings and their awesome adventure loving kids.

   
    

 
On our way back from our one week winter elkless hunting trip (more like relaxing road trip in Eastern Oregon) Kevin and I went from talking about our planned five week road trip in the southwestern US this winter to buying flights to Oman. After reflecting on what we had heard from a fellow cyclist who told us, years ago, about Oman’s friendly culture, beautiful mountains with steep dirt roads, and free wild camping everywhere it just seemed too perfect: we have five weeks of time off which fits in perfectly with the thirty day visa, and when we found flights for under 1,000$ we decided it made more sense to do Oman this year and save a (longer) road trip for another winter when we will make more time for it.

  

Since we both needed new passports we quickly got together what we needed to send our old ones in, bought flights and thin long sleeve shirts for cycling, and started the (short) countdown to our flight! Though we haven’t ridden our bikes much since last year in New Zealand we know that the physical aspect of cycle touring will return to us once we are truly on the road. We are also purposely doing virtually no research (except we did find out the capital is called Muscat) so we get to be surprised once we arrive. 

Since this is such a short trip we won’t be bringing our tablet with us and will therefore write about the trip once we return to the States in late March. Until then, I’ve written a few posts about the Sawtooths, about some wonderful backpacking here in Oregon, and a post about being a wilderness therapy instructor which will be appearing in the weeks to come.

Until then, may be the winds be ever in your favor!