The Perfection of the Hike to Sawtooth Lake

I’ve been delaying writing this blog about my hike to Sawtooth Lake mostly because any words that come to mind have seemed wholly inadequate to describe the majesty and extraordinary beauty of the trail. Since however the construction site is closed I don’t have as much work to do and no real excuse to not start blogging again except my hesitation to put words to the experience. So here we are.

Gail and Abbs and I began the 5 mile trek to the lake from Iron Creek Trailhead, gradually gaining elevation through the fir and spruce forest. Though this first section of trail was heavily treed it provided gorgeous views of the jagged mountaintops surrounding the valley we were approaching and we found our excitement growing. Breaking out into said valley was a whole new level of beauty however, the lush green grass and gurgling creek providing a picture-perfect setting. Unfortunately my phone decided to randomly delete these perfect pictures from this section of the hike however, leaving me with just one picture of the trail and one of the surrounding peaks that were taken on our return. But, it was lovely.

After getting our feet wet on a couple crossings we started a more serious ascent up the rocky slopes towards the lakes, watching as the clouds gathered and darkened to the north, casting an ominous appearance over the green valley that had been filled with light not even 30 minutes before. With such stormy skies closing in we debated on whether to skip the short spur trail to Alpine Lake but decided that a) getting caught in the weather was going to be inevitable and b) the forecast we’d read earlier didn’t mention prolonged thunder and lightening so we decided to stick with the plan, making the sharp descent to the shore of Alpine.

The weather held out during our side-trip but once we were back on the main trail and switchbacking up to the Sawtooth Lake basin the clouds broke open releasing a decent amount of cold rain. Because of this our photos of the small lake below the outflow of Sawtooth were dark and moody, though we were extremely excited to explore the rough granite outcroppings and weathered silver bark of the old beetle kill that surrounded the small body of water, overall happy to sacrifice good light for the pleasure of just being there.

The next section of trail led us across the first of many snow crossings as we hopped our way across the rocks in the creek up to the big lake. Approaching Sawtooth we were immediately entranced by views of the deep blue waters dotted with ice flows under the leaden skies – but heartened by the growing patch of brightness on the horizon. By the time we’d done a thorough exploration of the north shore, and having taken dozens of photos, the sunshine was definitively pushing away the storm clouds in the direction we were traveling, the only hint of earlier bad weather to be seen when we looked behind us.

The far end of the lake should have been our destination according to our plans but the spectacular views and wildflower-dotted alpine tundra made it impossible to consider stopping once we arrived. Passing the tip of Sawtooth Lake and cresting the saddle we could see more clear glacial blue water ahead, dramatically nestled in the boulder fields below the spiky mountaintops, and all thoughts of turning around ceased immediately. Silently agreeing to continue, we began crossing the rock and snow fields towards the chain of lakes, bright and vibrant with suspended sediment. I really don’t know what to say except that it was some of the most perfect landscape I’ve had the privilege of seeing.

Needless to say, we walked quite a few more miles than we anticipated as we followed the trail past the chain of glacial lakes, across the scree and snow, down to grassy shores with clusters of wildflowers and wind-beaten fir trees – and then back up to the saddle and onto Sawtooth Lake. Blessed with increasing sunshine and natural light on our return we took even more photographs, gratefully extending the moments spent in such a wondrous and special place. It was, simply, a day I will never forget, one that can’t be captured in the hundreds of photos and videos, and certainly not in the selected few I post below. Despite that, I believe pictures can do a far better job of representing this miraculous place so I’ll leave you to it: