A Love Affair with the Sawtooth Wilderness By Bob Becker

The Sawtooths have a special place in my heart for many reasons. In 1971 I worked for the U.S. Forest Service out of the Challis National Forest Ranger Station in Stanley. I was the first wilderness ranger for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The new ranger station had just been completed in its present location.

Me looking into the mouth of a snow cave at the inlet to Goat Lake.

While waiting for the backcountry snow to melt off the pack trails leading to a small cabin across the Middle Fork from Indian Creek Landing Strip, I helped landscape the new ranger station grounds and also accompanied John Rember, the wilderness ranger for the Sawtooth Wilderness, on trips into the Sawtooths. Back then there were few hikers and backpackers, especially deep into the mountains. I instantly fell in love with the ruggedness and solitude of the Sawtooths.

In 1976 I married my sweetheart, Lesa, already an avid backpacker. In 1978 we began backpacking throughout the Sawtooths, starting early in the season at lower elevation trails and lakes.

Lesa carrying a 50 lb pack while crossing Iron Creek on the Alpine Way Trail. Lesa is obviously showing signs of fatigue as she rests at the trail junction. She thinks she looks awful in this photo, but I totally disagree. Lesa looking down on Hidden Lake. We were on a multi-day backpacking trip from Redfish Lake Lodge to Atlanta. It rained on us every day of the trip!

As the snow melted off the higher trails, we moved to multiple day backpacking trips deep into the Sawtooths, including trips from Redfish Lake to Atlanta and Grandjean. We backpacked to nearly every lake in the Sawtooths, and often would not see another person.

Because there were no hiking/backpacking guides, we took extensive journal notes and photos for the purpose of publishing a guide book. Unfortunately for us, Margaret Fuller beat us to the punch. Nonetheless, witnessing the beautiful lakes, streams, meadows, peaks and wildlife was a spiritual experience for us.

This is me reading a topo map at Goat Lake. The photo won an honorable mention in a Backpacker Magazine photo contest.

To this day we can still remember those trips. I vividly recall the first time we backpacked into Goat Lake. You could hardly find the primitive path straight up next to Goat Falls. When we arrived at the lake, it looked like no more than a handful of hikers had ever been there. Of all the lakes we hiked to, Goat Lake remains our favorite.

Does the sky get any bluer than this view from the pass above Sawtooth Lake? I am here with PIka, our Shetland Sheepdog. We named her after the adorable pikas we would see high up in the Sawtooths.

Sadly, for health reasons I can no longer hike. But Lesa and our sons, Sam and Joe, try to hike into Goat Lake at least every five years just so Lesa can say she is able to still do it. Me, I hike the trail vicariously in my mind through them.

(Photos by Bob and Lesa Becker)