August 26 – September 8, 2019

At 9,400′ near Sand Mountain Pass in the Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho

Jason’s Guilty Pleasure

If Jason could have a guilty pleasure, a hobby he could indulge in without concerning himself with cost, it would be owning a classic car. His favorites are muscle cars (Chevelle, Barracuda, and Charger) from the late 60’s through early 70’s. I think his heart goes pitter-patter if he finds one of those in orange. Fortunately for me, Jason is financially pragmatic and he satisfies his guilty pleasure by going to the occasional car show like the one held in our hometown every August. I even found a classic RV setup that I couldn’t help but drool over!

Edith and Edna Lakes Backpack – The Old Lady Lakes

Jason fishing at Edna Lake

Our regular followers know that Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness is one of our favorite backpacking destinations. This year’s trip took us to two of the “Old Lady Lakes”. The Old Lady Lakes are not an official location but rather a collection of alpine lakes deep in the wilderness with names that sound like old ladies—Edna, Edith, Ingeborg, Imogene, Ardeth, and Virginia. None are easy hikes and you’ll feel like an old lady by the time you get to them!

Arriving in the Stanley, Idaho area, we needed a place to car camp for the night. We drove through a few of the numerous Forest Service campgrounds, but shunned the idea of paying $16-18 for a tent site with only basic amenities and neighbors. We found a nice at-large spot near the Alturus Lake Creek Trailhead that satisfied our needs for the night. We had a flat tent site, were within walking distance of the trailhead’s pit toilet, and our only neighbor was a hooty owl. All for the reasonable fee of $0.

We awoke to a chilly 28 degrees the following morning. With a light frost covering everything, we sipped hot coffee while putting the finishing touches on our gear. From our campsite, it was a short drive to the Tin Cup Trailhead (elevation 6,996′) at Pettit Lake where our adventure began.

Old Lady Lakes
ready for the next adventure!
filling out our free permit at the wilderness boundary

Most of day one was a repeat of the final day of our Alice Lake backpack from September 2015. We departed the Tin Cup TH at Pettit Lake and climbed 500′ up and over the ridge that separates Pettit and Yellow Belly lakes. From there it was a gradual and steady 1,000′ climb past Farley Lake to a trail junction between Farley and Toxoway lakes.

fresh water from a crystal clear mountain stream

At roughly 6.5 miles from the trailhead, we split from the Toxoway Lake trail and turned north toward Edith Lake. The trail steepened and the final mile was a climb along rocky trail with intermittent views of the towering peaks of the White Cloud Wilderness to the east.

White Cloud Wilderness views
climbing toward Edith Lake

Arriving at Edith Lake (elevation 8,650′), we found nearly all the campsites closed for vegetation restoration. I had read about this, so it wasn’t a surprise. With a little hunting, we found a beautiful site just below the lake along the outlet stream. Behind us, it was just a couple minute walk back up to the lake. In front of us, the ground dropped off over massive boulders that had been sculpted by great glaciers eons ago. We had spectacular views to the south of the peaks separating Toxoway and Alice lakes. To the east we could see down to Farley Lake and across to the White Clouds. We usually prefer to camp on a lake, but this ended up being one of our favorite sites ever.

Edith Lake
view from camp

Jason fished Edith for a bit that afternoon. The only thing biting was small brook trout. I talked to another fisherman and that was his experience as well.

Day two we hit the trail early and had a pleasant morning climb to Sand Mountain Pass. The climb from Edith Lake to the high point above the pass (elevation 9,400′) was my favorite stretch of trail with stunning scenery and views while the short stretch before the pass was my least favorite with narrow tread and steep drop offs.

morning at Edith Lake – look at that blue sky & equally blue reflection!
looking back down at Edith Lake from the beginning of our climb to Sand Mountain Pass
the low point to the right is the pass over to Imogene Lake
looking west from Sand Mountain Pass with Rendezvous Lake at bottom right

From Sand Mountain Pass, we had stunning 360 degree views. From there, it was an easy hike down past Rendezvous Lake to a trail split just above Edna Lake (elevation 8,480′). We guessed most people would be camped to the left around the inlet stream, so we took the trail to the right toward Virginia lake. Our hunch paid off and despite several parties camped at Edna that night, we had a private spot on a granite boulder strewn peninsula past the outlet stream.

Edna Lake view from camp
Edna Lake view from camp – can you believe how beautiful that water is?!

Jason enjoyed some swimming and fishing at Edna that afternoon and the following morning. Edna is a popular lake for fishing and camping. There were several other parties camped at the lake that night, but it was peaceful on our secluded end of the lake.

On the afternoon of day three we made our way back to Edith Lake. It was a warm climb up to Sand Mountain Pass, but the afternoon light helped for great shots east toward Farley, McDonald, and Yellow Belly lakes and the White Cloud Wilderness.

Farley and Yellow Belly lakes and the White Clouds
trail junction above Edith Lake

Back at Edith Lake, we set up camp at the same peaceful and gorgeous site we’d enjoyed on night one. After talking with a couple gentleman from Colorado and Florida at Sand Mountain Pass, we didn’t see anyone else the rest of the day—a real treat in the Sawtooths!

On day four, we awoke to our first clouds of the trip. As we packed up camp, the sky got pretty threatening looking and a few drops of rain fell, but it was otherwise just a cloudy hike out.

Statistics for this backpack were 25 miles with 4,300′ total elevation gain. This was a nice trip with some beautiful scenery; however, it wasn’t as stunning as some of our previous Sawtooth adventures. For anyone interested in visiting Edna and Edith, I’d recommend adding on the Alice Lake Loop or Imogene Lake. Admittedly, some of my lack of enthusiasm on this route was my being ready to exchange our backpacks for day packs. We’re both really looking forward to our upcoming extended RV trip with all it’s spectacular hiking destinations, but with better food and more comfortable sleeping arrangements at the end of the day!

The Goodbyes Begin

Returning home from the Sawtooths, we were hit with reality. The departure date for our seven month RV trip was just two and a half weeks away. Packing kicked into high gear and we made as many dates as possible with family and friends. A beach day with my parents, a family BBQ, lunch dates with my mom, visits with Jason’s parents and brothers, a final camping trip with dear friends—these memories will need to last us many months on the road. It is a great feeling knowing we have so many people to welcome us home in the spring, but saying goodbye is definitely making these final days very bittersweet.

Jason’s brother Chris and his wife Janet threw us a wonderful going away BBQ – we had a great time seeing family & visiting late into the night!

6 Replies to “Old Lady Lakes Backpack & The Goodbyes Begin”

  1. I enjoyed all the wonderful pictures and the eloquent telling of your adventure. I was surprised to see the wooden pathway in the middle of the Sawtooths!

    1. Thanks Mom! There are a few of those wooden pathways in the Sawtooths in places where the trail remains wet and muddy year around. They sure go through a lot under all that snow every winter!

    1. Thank you Patty! First up are a couple “less traveled” locations in Nevada that should produce some beautiful photos. I’ll be starting to do weekly posts and it is great to know you’ll be joining us on the adventure 🙂

  2. Love Edna Lake! Water is crystal clear. May you and Jason have the trip of a life time filled with wonderous adventures. Lord willing, maybe we can catch up with you guys somewhere 🙂 Most certainly will miss you guys!!!

    Love you!!!

    1. We love and will miss you too!! Sure hope you guys can come visit us in the warmth when it is cold up north later this year!

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