Wonderful granite peaks, splashed with snow at this time of year, formed a background for our drive through Stanley, Idaho. In the foreground were cabins and meadows, pole and rail fences. Tom and I were on our way on Wednesday, the day off from plant survey chores, to take a hike. We turned off the highway (75) onto the road leading to Stanley Lake (elevation 6,500 ft, located near the base of the Sawtooth Range) and parked in the hikers’ parking lot. A couple of hundred feet up the road was the start of our trail, obviously very popular and wide, but nonetheless, offering a
journey into some backcountry. Horses and bikes are also allowed on the trail, which goes through big, green meadows for about a mile, offering lovely views of the mountains. Pausing for more than a few seconds meant being food for mosquitoes though.
I saw wild strawberry plants, a few columbine, some tall shooting stars, the first of some white Mule’s Ears that would soon fill one meadow, lupine, tall penstemons, and yellow paintbrush. Paintbrush is semi-parasitic to adjacent plants (something I just learned). The bright reds and yellows are actually bracts, while the flower itself is very inconspicuous.
Many people were hiking this trail, including about 10 people from my group. Our destination was only two miles up the path. Some went on to the upper falls, although we later learned that involved a rather difficult stream crossing and that the fall was a misty fall, rather than roaring. Another group took a 14-mile round-trip trail that ended in snow and a frozen lake, plus one chilly lake that the two youngest people ventured to jump into. Our trail was nearly flat for the first mile and then climbed 300 feet.
When we arrived at a high point we met a couple who said they’d turned around when they found out about the crossing and had been told to come back to this spot and follow some ducks (cairns) that marked a side trail to the large stream. We hiked about a quarter of a mile and were soon in an area of polished granite and pines, reminding me of the Trinity Alps, Castle Crags and the Sierras. Purple penstemons were a bright contrast to the smooth granite protrusions.
We met a few people from the survey and exchanged information as well as taking requested photos. Suddenly I began to feel a strong need for food, getting a bit wobbly on the edge of the drop-off. We sat down to eat lunch in the shade of some boulders, out of the sun’s heat. After lunch we explored along the rim and discovered more sites from which to view the rushing stream below. There were numerous falls, white with foam, although no dramatic cascades.
I think we were the last of our group to hike out. Whenever we stopped we tried to find shade to stand in and a slight breeze was quite welcome. When we met others coming in we all spoke of our hands waving to ward off mosquitoes. Still, it was a beautiful hike. Along with all the wildflowers I noticed aspen, Douglas fir, hemlock, lodgepole pine, spruce and I think white fir. And in one spot along a meadow area I spotted a very small bird entering a hole in a snag, about four feet above the ground. When it came out its beak held fecal material. I think it may have been a pygmy nuthatch although I couldn’t stay long enough to watch it come out the second time because of the mosquitoes. We were so ready for happy hour and dinner that night!