Large Scale Central

Back Country Camping

So I have not been doing ANYTHING train related. But I figure I had better check in. About the only thing train related I have done is start to get my layout ready for the club meet. But I am no longer doing August but instead October. What has been on my mind since last summer has been backpacking and back country camping. Summer is refusing to start here. Its cold and wet still, with lots of thunderstorms. So I am just now getting starting. It has been probably 30 years since I have had a backpack on that didn’t have an elk carcass on it. I have not been back country camping since my early to mid twenties. But I miss it dearly. And no one wants to go with me, or is able to go with me, so I knew these trips would be just me and Pepper.

First on my list this year was St Joe lake. This has been on my bucket list since the early 90s. Its the head waters of my favorite river, the St Joe River. Its a 5 mile hike in. Most of the trail is a flat to gentle incline. The last 1.5 miles or so start to climb and the last 1/4 mile is pretty steep as it ascends a waterfall. Even though it was the first weekend of July, I still ran into a fair amount of snow. Like I said we are having a late start to summer. But nothing that prevented me from getting there. Very pretty mountain alpine lake and I was pleasantly surprised to have it all to myself for two nights and three days.

And this weekend I am heading for 3 nights and four days to a set of three lakes about 8 miles south of the Canadian border.

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That’s just an excuse to were your space blanket/tin hat … Looks like fun …

Beautiful pictures, Devon. I’m glad to see you are getting some time to relax and enjoy life and I’m sure Pepper is having as much fun as you. Be safe and share more pictures when you can.

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Wish I had a space blanket or something more like a wool blanket. When I started preparing for this I figured it would all be summer hiking. July through Sept. And in my area that is usually warmer than colder even at night. I have often slept under the stars on a warm summers night at 6500 feet and been plenty warm. So when I got my gear I got a very light weight sleeping bag and the hammock tent not ever considering I might get cold. But being elevated off the ground allows air all the way around you and in that 50+ degree sleeping bag I got cold. I am sure the temps where low 40s at night.

You will get more in the next week or so. Can’t wait to do this 5.5 mile hike into the Selkirk Mountains. These are tall (for the area) rugged granite peaks. Very stark contrast to the lower dark green forests. So they are very photogenic. And to get from lake to lake to lake you have to hike over saddles between exposed peaks. So it should be good for some nice photos.

those things alway make me feel like if a forest fire comes through I will be a baked potato

Very nice. My son does motorized back country camping in the Rockies. He has a Dodge Ram pick up all set up for off-roading with the rear set up to sleep in. He is taking my grand daughter out next weekend.

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That can be fun too. But much of our trail system that used to be open for off road full size vehicles have been closed for years now. Probably most have been closed for 30 years or more. You can take utv and atv on alot of them but they have to be under something like 40" wheelbase.

But a lot of where I am going I am trying to get away from even that. We have hundreds if not thousands of miles of single track trails. Foot or horse traffic. Not even many motorcycles. One place about where I live is there is no shortage of wild places to be.

Luckily you have a vent , like when you bake a potato … :kissing_smiling_eyes:

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Better than an over-crispy burrito, which is what you’d be if wearing an off-brand space blanket.

Great shots, Devon! Hope you’re getting in some great RnR.

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Which is about 30 degrees too cold! Beautiful pictures and handsome cattle dog! I have a soft spot for these clever pups ever since the late Mr. Otto adopted us about 10 years ago.

Stay warm, enjoy, and keep the pictures coming!



She is an awesome dog. When I set out to get a dog that was to me “my” companion that is the first breed I thought of. All of our dogs over the years have been family dogs but have gravitated toward my wife. Probably because she is a stay at home wife and is around them all the time. But when I started having my head issues I wanted a companion that was mine and would hang out with me. I have been around a lot of heelers/cattle dogs and they all have some similar traits. Loyal family dogs but gravitate toward a single owner. Small size with big dog attitude. Fiercely loyal and want to be with their owners. Naturally obedient and don’t require a lot of training to get a decent dog that minds. And though they are on the smaller side they are nimble and agile and can go pretty much anywhere a large dog can go. And with the active life style I have I needed an active dog but was small and would be easy to take on small boats and kayaks. She fits the bill to a tee. She is very much my dog and there is seldom a place I go without her other than work. When we are on the trail or out fishing on the rivers she is never more than about 50 feet away from me. I do not have to leash her or be at all concerned about her running off. And that isn’t from obedience training that is just her natural desire to be beside me. She does not bark or chase wildlife. She may run down the trail to see where they went but never leaves the trail in pursuit and does not bark at them other than maybe a single bark when they first jump. At camp she just lays in camp watching me do whatever it is that I do. This year was the first time we had the hammock tent. I bought a two person one specifically so I could have Pepper in it with me. She was unsure at first how it was going to work but she quickly curled up at my feet and wedged herself in. This trip she is getting her own backpack and will cart her own food and dish in. She really is a very fun dog and a great physical and emotional companion.

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You described Mr. Otto to the “T.” He was a pound puppy that previous owners abandoned at the Humane Society, so he had some quirks from his first three years (hated labs, bikes, skateboards, and uniforms…a problem as I was a drilling Reservist!), but he would lay down his life for us. Marvelous, marvelous companions! Keep having fun with Pepper!


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As promised here is more from my latest adventure. So this time it was to Hidden Lake and West Fork Lake just south of the Canadian Border (8 miles south) near Bonner’s Ferry Idaho in the heart of the Selkirk Mountains. The Selkirks are a collection of rugged exposed granite peaks and talus slopes poking up above dark green subalpine forests of Ingleman Spruce and Subalpine Fir. Average elevation of this area is not all that high, peaks are in the 6500 foot range. The lakes I went to are around the 5500 foot elevation mark. All of the lakes have been well stocked with Westslope Cutthroat Trout and there are a lot of lakes to choose from.

For this trip I decided I could see three lakes in one trip. But only ended up seeing two. More on this later. In my investigation into this trip I thought the hike was going to be about 5 miles to the furthest lake. WRONG by way of GPS tracking it was 7.4 each way. I also new it was going to be steep but wasn’t really prepared for how steep. Here is a profile of the elevation profile over distance. Ignore the green that is a speed profile but the grey shows the elevation. I was not at all prepared for that. But I am proud of myself because I made it. Here is the details of the hike.

Took me 8 hours to cover the 7.4 miles. No land speed records set this weekend. At any rate when I hit West Fork Lake I decided all I had the energy for was to set up camp and eat and go to bed. I did make a couple casts and was shortly rewarded with about a 16" Cutthroat trout. I cooked it on a rock on the fire along with the rest of my dinner. Nothing tastes better than a trout you hiked to hell and back to catch.
To start my trip I stayed at a place called Dirt Oven Campground about a mile from the trailhead. To call this a campground is a real stretch of the imagination. It is just a place where people camp it has no facilities which is fine by me. It was a pretty spot in its own right.

The next morning it was time to hit the trail. The first lake you come to is Hidden Lake. Its 1.3 miles from the trailhead. I stopped there for a little break. then the steep climb began. But getting above the lake was quite a pretty view of a very typical Selkirk Mountains lake.

When you get to the ridge top you are greeted with a panoramic view of what the Selkirk mountains are like. Steep and deep country of rugged mountains and dark forests.

Once you get up and over the ridge and and get to the bottom of the canyon you run into a little cabin that used to be a Forest Service fire chaser cabin. As the story goes the original cabin burnt down and this new one was put up in its place very much a replica of the original. The Forest Service allows free use of the cabin year round on a first come first serve basis. I was lucky on Thursday no one was there so I got to explore it and eat lunch here.

The view from the porch was a nice mountain meadow

Once you reach the bottom of this canyon you get to go back up again on West Fork Creek And it is another beautiful granite valley with shattered and broken granite talus piles.

And then you get to West Fork Lake.

So I said I would explain why I didn’t see the third lake. From West fork lake it is another couple mile hike up to the top of the ridge where the lookout tower is and then back down a bit and over a saddle into the other lake. After the hike on Thursday I was beat. So Friday instead of killing myself again knowing I had to return back I took it easy and fished. I caught I don’t know how many fish. I ended up eating fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Friday. I walked around the lake and also gathered firewood and took a nap. It was very relaxing.

Saturday the plan was to head back to Hidden Lake and stay the night there. Wake up Sunday and hike the last mile and head home. But I was so tired by the time I got back to Hidden Lake that the thought of setting up camp just to take it down in the morning for a mile hike didn’t sound fun. So I took a lunch break at Hidden and talked with and watched the Forest Service mule team bring in a load of gear for the trail crew who would be rehabilitating the trail to a nearby mountain top. After visiting with them I threw on the pack and made my way tot he car. Both pepper and I were exhausted. Even she had sore muscles and I had to give her a good massage when we got home.

But all in all while it taxed me physically it was a very pleasant and peaceful mentally relaxing trip.


How often did Pepper turn and give you that " hurry up " look ?
Looks great and it also looks like you had great weather…

Well Pepper was a real fun story this weekend. Not sure if she was not feeling great or is starting to figure out this hiking thing. She was far less energetic and eager to play fetch the entire way. When I stopped (which was about every 100 yards on the climb, boy I am fat and out of shape) she stopped and laid down.

But the funny story was when she got attacked by a grouse. We stumbled on this grouse that flushed (which means they usually fly away) but then started flopping around in the bushes. She looked wounded. And then it dawned on me she was playing wounded because she had a nest very close by. Pepper kinda lunged at her and then all hell broke loose. The grouse full on attacked her. Feet, wings, and beak were flying right in her face. Thankfully Pepper wasn’t hurt by a claw in the eye or something. But pepper turned tail and ran, well no tail but ran wit the grouse hot on her heels. Then it was as if a light went on and she was like “why am I running from a bird” and she turned and tried to get the grouse. All this did was piss the grouse off more and she attacked me, banging my legs with her wings and beak. Here I was in grizzly bear and wolf country armed with a pistol and what was attacking me, a damn bird. Finally Pepper and I got far enough down the trail that she went back to where her nest was and proceeded to scold us as we left.

The other funny Pepper story was she discovered frogs. We have seen lots of frogs but this must be the first time she saw a big(ish) bullfrog. And she was fascinated by it. She followed it to the edge of the lake and even a ways into the water. She didn’t seem to want to attack it bur she was very curious about what this hopping creature was. After that every time she saw the smaller frogs that are everywhere she had to nose it and make it hop so she could chase it. Never once trying to bite at them.

And as for the weather it was perfect. Not horribly hot nor all that cold at night. Clear skies and no rain. And I got lucky because we are heading into our first real hot week of the year this week where it is supposed to be in the triple digits. So I timed that just right.

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Beautiful landscape, Devon. Sounds like you did more hiking than camping :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: I think Pepper was probably frustrated because her definition of camping and mine are very similar: walk a little while, sit on our a$$ and enjoy the scenery for a day or two, maybe fish a little, rinse and repeat :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Not walk up a mountain for two days and then turn around and walk back up another mountain to get out :wink:

Glad you and Pepper got the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and got home safely. Thanks for sharing your journey.

Thanks for taking the time to share your adventure with us!