Day three of our September 2018 Sawtooth Wilderness backpack (click here for day 1 and here for day 2). As usual, we were up early and were able to enjoy some star gazing while we had our coffee. The thing about backpacking in September is you really notice that the days are getting shorter! It had been another clear night with temperatures dropping into the upper 20’s and another sunny fall day was dawning on the horizon.
Our stay at Alpine had been spectacular, but it was time to move on to Crammer Lakes. We hit the trail around 9:00 and soon passed two young men who were trail running up to Baron Lakes—man you’d have to be in great shape to run there and back from the boat dock in one day! A little further down, we met a single woman in her 50’s. She was camped at Flatrock Junction and had day hiked to Crammer the previous day and was day hiking to Alpine this day. She said she felt safer doing it that way since she was alone, but reported that it had been much, much colder down along the stream (a phenomenon we have repeatedly observed in the Stanley area).
Fall colors looked a little more brilliant than they had just two days earlier and we enjoyed nice views to the south in the direction of Crammer Lakes. The highlight of this stretch was coming across two bucks in the middle of the trail. They seemed little phased by our presence and continued to graze along the trail for some time. They looked to be the same size and their racks looked identical leading me to speculate that they were twins (a relatively common finding in deer).
As we dropped to Flatrock Junction, the temperature rapidly dropped about 10 degrees and we noted the foliage was now covered in a light frost. Typically you think of lower elevations as being warmer, but cold temperatures really settle into these high mountain valleys. It was going to be a chilly crossing of Redfish Lake Creek if we couldn’t find a dry crossing! The creek is shallow by September, but the crossing is wide enough that a dry crossing is not guaranteed.
We reached Flatrock Junction and the crossing of Redfish Lake Creek at about 2 miles from Alpine Lake and after a 1,000′ descent. Happily, we managed to rock and log hop our way across and arrive on the far bank dry footed.
The first mile or so up from Redfish Lake Creek was rather pedestrian as we hiked through the forest with no views. We slowly started getting glimpses of peaks to the north in the direction of Alpine Lake and soon enough our views had improved significantly so that it was an enjoyable remainder of the hike.
We arrived at Lower Crammer Lake at about 3.2 miles and 1,000′ up from the crossing of Redfish Lake Creek. This was a pretty little lake surrounded by meadows full of red huckleberry bushes and backed by some nice peaks. There was a good campsite just off the trail, but we had an even more spectacular goal ahead.
After another 0.3 miles, we came to Middle Crammer Lake. There was a beautiful waterfall at the upper end and the mountain peaks were becoming even more impressive. There were a couple nice campsites at the outlet and a couple more along the north side just off trail, the best of which was at the base of the falls. But again, we continued on.
We climbed a short distance up the trail and came within sight of Upper Crammer Lake (elevation 8,394’). We turned right off trail and explored the strip of land between the upper and middle lakes where we found several very nice campsites. To our delight, all were empty and we picked what we thought was the most scenic and private one. From our tent we’d be able to see both the middle and upper lake and we were within ear shot of the waterfall.
While the lower and middle lakes were very scenic, Upper Crammer was exponentially more spectacular. Like Baron Lake the previous day, the cliffs rising from the lake provided one of the most stunning backdrops we’d ever seen. I haven’t seen any photos that truly do it justice—it is a place you simply have to experience in person to comprehend its grand scale and beauty. It is sometimes hard for me to fathom that such rugged beauty still exists in this world that we’re destroying.
First order of business was to setup camp and get water. This was the afternoon we had a 40% chance of rain and the sky was starting to cloud up a bit as we were arriving at the upper lake. The temperature was just in the upper 50’s and it was becoming quite breezy—it certainly felt like something was moving in and we didn’t want to get caught out in the rain if there was a downpour.
With our camp chores done, Jason set off to do a little fishing. He made his way across the outlet stream between the upper and middle lake and then down to the base of the waterfall where he got into a few trout. The sky continued to look threatening at times, but we never did get rain and conditions cleared later in the afternoon.
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