By Michael Lanza
Take three 15-year-old boys backpacking in the mountains and you never quite know what will happen. When my son, Nate, told me that he wanted to take two buddies out on their first backpacking trip, I agreed to it without hesitation. Over the course of three late-August days in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains—where we camped at two of the range’s numerous, beautiful mountain lakes—we saw one puncture wound (minor, from walking around barefoot), one case of diarrhea (I recommend against a diet consisting primarily of Slim Jims), and one pair of boots inadvertently dunked in a creek they were being carried across (I still don’t quite understand how that happened).
We also possibly created two new backpackers, and almost certainly forged some memories that three young men will carry perhaps for the rest of their lives, laughing hard whenever they recall this trip together.
Nate, his friends Kade and Iggy, and I backpacked a relatively easy and accessible, roughly 21-mile route in the Sawtooths that was perfect for newbie backpackers. We started with the short boat ride across Redfish Lake from Redfish Lake Lodge, then hiked about seven miles up the Redfish Lake Creek Valley to camp our first night at Middle Cramer Lake, which offered up a mirror-like reflection of the peaks surrounding it and a crashing waterfall across the lake. On day two, we hiked another seven miles or so over Baron Divide, a pass above 9,000 feet, to camp on a ridge between the upper and middle Baron Lakes—and the latter offered an even better reflection of the jagged line of pinnacles of the Monte Verita ridge and Warbonnet Peak.
On our third day, we humped back over Baron Divide and finished at the Redfish Lake boat launch.
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I’ll post a story with many more images about this trip later at The Big Outside. Meanwhile, see all of my stories about the Sawtooth Mountains, including “Photo Gallery: Mountain Lakes of Idaho’s Sawtooths,” “Jewels of the Sawtooths: Backpacking to Alice, Hell Roaring, and Imogene Lakes,” and my feature about a trip into one of the range’s most remote corners: “Going After Goals: Backpacking Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.”
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