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Lost River Ramblings By Kay Johnson, Outdoorsman

You can watch "Land of the Lost River Range" at https://video.idahoptv.org/video/land-of-the-lost-river-range-8d1pff/

My earliest memories are of my mother’s childhood home on the Little Lost River. It was a sheep ranch near Howe, a dusty flat spot surrounded by a farm house and out buildings. The flat spot itself was surrounded by towering mountains, the southern toes of the Lost River Mountains, and to the east the Lemhi peaks.

Family home along the Little Lost River. Photo supplied by Kay Johnson.

Two memories are still vivid: falling off a standing-still horse and fishing Spring Creek. Actually, it was more like herding than fishing, as there seemed to be hundreds of trout fleeing from my shadow.

My Dad was from Payette. He met my mom at the College of Idaho. Their courtship in this sparsely populated corner of Idaho was spent hiking all over the Lost River range. He often spoke of the mountains and of the sea shell fossils he found on the tops of the higher peaks.

Lost River Range from Little Lost River. Photo by Link Jackson.

When the opportunity to join the IPTV group as the camp cook was offered, I jumped at the chance to visit the playground of my parents.

Work had been hectic and I needed some alone-time driving my own rig to the peaks. Getting close to the destination, we turned off on a road that was really a wide path going south, with towering mountains to the west.

The driving was easy, if slow, and I had plenty of time to glance at the amazing wide open scenery. After seven miles we came to a sign that recommended only 4 wheel drive vehicles proceed.

The road that makes you think twice! Photo by Jay Krajic.

My SUV had 4-wheel drive, so no problem, right? The sign should have said, “Think twice before driving a passenger SUV on this road!” Seven nail biting miles later, I breathed a sigh of relief as we came to the end of the road.

I had been driving for miles through grass and sage brush, but suddenly at its end was forest and a small stream: the West Fork of the Pahsimeroi.

Camp sunset. Photo by Kay Johnson.

At sunset the last clouds of a dying thunder storm lit up the sky with a fiery promise of a beautiful next day.

The next morning, as we began hiking, every view was jaw dropping, making favorite moments hard to choose.

Just one of many meadows on the back side of the range. Photo by Tim Tower.

You never know what you are going to get when you fish high mountain lakes. The degree of difficulty getting into the lake does not guarantee great fishing; and even when fish are present, they may not be biting. Many of Idaho's lakes were planted with Eastern Brook trout, since they don’t need a flowing stream to spawn. In many cases they out eat the native cutthroat trout and become so plentiful that they become stunted from lack of food.

Kay fishing at Merriam Lake. Photo by Bruce Reichert.

Fortunately for me, the brookies at Merriam Lake were not picky, and I caught one almost every cast. Idaho Fish and Game is introducing a sterile cross between brown trout and brook trout to eat the stunted brookies; and then hopefully they can reintroduce the native cutthroat.

But perhaps the best moment for me was the hike to Pass Lake. My companion and I followed the trail into dense forest, but after a mile or so we broke out into a high meadow, with towering peaks looming over us like ancient creatures.

Leatherman Peak and Pass Lake on backside of Lost River Range. Photo by Daniel King.

The splendor of Pass Lake was breathtaking, and I now understand why my parents loved this country so much. My family photos were black and white and to be surrounded by the colored rock of these beautiful mountains brought to me a new understanding of my parents' courtship.

Indian Paintbrush at Pass Lake. Photo by Tim Tower.

(Cover photo by Tim Tower.)