Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wildernesses

We both were very excited to get into some backcountry after our trip to Redfish Lake. I did a lot of research to find our next camping trip in Idaho. It would be in the Big Boulder Basin lakes in Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness.

Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System in 2015 when the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act were signed into law by Barack Obama. It borders Sawtooth Nation Forest to the East. This Wilderness is home to bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, mule deer, gray wolves, bears, fish, wolverines and many more different wildlife. For a few days in July 2018, it was home to Laura, Cohen and me as well.

We would have three nights to spend in this backcountry area. We packed our backpacks and started the hike up to Walker Lake were we would make our base camp. We planed on day hiking to the upper lakes to fish each day. Cohen had a hard time with the water crossings at first, so I had to carry him across. By the end of the trip he was a pro at them.

I have to admit I was a little out of shape for this hike. It had been a year since the last backpacking trip and being at elevation. Boise is only 2,700 feet above sea level. This hike starts at around 7,000 and ends up at just under 10,000. I was breathing pretty hard on the way up.

We finally got to Walker Lake and set up camp. Not a bad place to spend the next three nights

Walker Lake
Walker Lake Campsite

We spent the last hours of daylight fishing Walker Lake. The trout in this lake are not very big. On average they were about 8″, but boy are they hungry. I had fish jumping after my dry fly just about every time it hit the water.

The next morning we started up to Sapphire Lake. The way there is considered cross-country because there is not a maintained trail to it. For the most part we could follow a path people had made before us, but a few parts were hard to follow. We did get off the path a few times on the way back down. We got “cliffed-out” a few times. That is where you come up on a cliff that is too big to get down. The only thing to do is go back and try a different way. This can be very frustrating when you are tired and have a 40 lbs pack on. Thank God for gps. We use an off line phone app called OnX. It has been a lifesaver on these trips of ours into lands we don’t know.

The last part of the hike up to Sapphire Lake is pretty steep. You have to go up a cliff side to a saddle and back down into Big Boulder Basin. The top of the cliff has a great view and is a nice place to rest your burning legs.

These lakes are something to behold. Our second day up there was a Sunday and we spent the day there all alone. We caught some of the most colorful cutthroat I have ever seen. What a day, and what a place. These few days we were able to be here will be with me forever.

This seemed to be a pretty popular place. We saw a few backpackers and campers. It is a fairly long and hard hike to get there, but I can see why people what to complete the challenge of getting to these lakes. White Clouds is a pack-in, pack-out area. Whatever one brings in, they have to pack out.  You will have to dig a hole at least 6″ deep to do #2, and you will have to pack out your used TP. I say this because we saw where a few people who didn’t want to do this and left their TP to be packed out by a ranger we saw cleaning up. As the saying goes “The only thing worse than packing out your own TP is packing out someone else’s”. If you are not willing to use the restroom like this and pack out everything, then maybe you should not go to places like this.

OK OK OK, enough with the preaching already. This trip just got our thirst for backcountry camping and fishing even stronger. Good thing we are in Idaho and have what seems like endless options to quench that thrust. We have a few more trips to share, and trust me they are good ones. We can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Until next time..

Wes

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