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The Land of the Lost River Range by bruce reichert, host, outdoor idaho

“Outdoor Idaho: Land of the Lost River Range” premiered December 2nd on Idaho Public Television. It will be available for viewing, free, until January 1st, here.

We’ve all heard of Mt. Borah, Idaho’s highest peak, at 12,662 feet. I climbed it more than 20 years ago with some friends, trying to get llamas to the top. Needless to say, a little thing called Chicken Out Ridge put a stop to that idea! Some of us got to the top, but the llamas stayed below.

Walking toward Chicken Out Ridge, with Borah summit to the left. Photo by Tim Tower.

The Lost River Range may be a thousand feet higher than everyone’s beloved Sawtooths; still, many people would be hard pressed to find Idaho’s tallest mountains on a map.

The fault scarp from the 1983 earthquake. Mt Borah in background. Photo by Bruce Reichert.

This is a mountain range that, for most Idahoans, has remained in the shadows, ominous and brooding, waiting for that precise moment when its fury can force us to pay attention… a mountain range still growing by fits and starts, as evidenced by the 1983 Borah earthquake.

Moving cattle on a ranch near Mackay. Photo by Bruce Reichert.

But those who live in the valley created by this Basin and Range upheaval speak of these mountains in reverential terms. “There’s other mountains, but not like these, not in my mind,” says fourth generation rancher Kevin Donahue. “They’re so majestic. They draw you home.”

Endurance runner Kelly Lance near Leatherman Peak. Photo by Terry Lee.

The 12,000 foot peaks have also become a place to test oneself. In fact, we profile endurance runner Kelly Lance, who climbed all nine of the state’s 12ers in record time. And he did it when he was 49. He’s even thinking of doing it again, at the ripe old age of 50. Pretty amazing!

The towns of Mackay and Challis epitomize to me the struggle to succeed in a fast-paced world, while hanging on to what so many residents appreciate. “As a local, I don’t want a stoplight,” Challis rancher Kathy Piva told us. “I don’t want it to change too much, because that’s what gives us our uniqueness.”

Ranch in the Pahsimeroi valley. Photo by Bruce Reichert.

But it's the back side of the range, far from the towns and Highway 93, that was such an unexpected treat. The rugged beauty of the high mountain lakes, the lush meadows, springs and streams, was a contrast to the other, more populated side.

Mountain meadow near Pass Lake, backside of Lost River Range. Photo by Tim Tower.

In our two days on the east side, we hiked to three lakes: Merriam lake, Pass lake, and an unnamed lake with no trail at the very base of ole Borah.

Unnamed lake at the base of Mt. Borah, Idaho's tallest peak. Photo by Bruce Reichert.

The only downside to the backside: the roads. Expect to spend several hours traveling the last 20 miles, even with a 4-wheel drive rig.

Pass Lake on the backside of the Lost River Range. Photo by Jim Hadley.

For our program we also visited some of the annual events that make the Lost River area so special, like the rodeo and the free barbecue in Mackay... and the Braun Brothers Reunion in Challis.

Braun Brothers Reunion, Challis. Photo by Bruce Reichert.

Our visits to this part of Idaho convinced us that we had ventured into one of the friendliest parts of the state, a region that in many ways still resembles the old West.

(Cover photo by Daniel King)

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