This is the view that greats you at the trail head parking lot in the Seven Devils. I just got back from a leg burning, mud sloping, breath-taking overnighter. So a couple weeks ago I called up a friend to see if he wanted to get out of town for a couple days over this weekend, he told me that he was already going to be out of town on a pack trip. So I was able to tag along on the trip that he and some friends of his had planed, 5 days 4 nights hiking a 30 mile loop around the Seven Devils range here in Idaho. I have heard a fair amount about the SDR but had never packed let alone even seen them in person.
So the plan was to leave Boise at 5:30 Wensday morning and drive up to the trail head, load up and hike the first leg into some lakes at the far western edge of the range. So my wife dropped me and my gear off at my buddies house late evening on Tuesday. He and his wife finally got there packs loaded about midnight and went off to sleep. I got the couch and lay wake for several hours with pre hike night anticipation. Finally the alarm on my Ipod went off in my ear jolting me awake like an electric shock. We blasted through town and met up with the rest of the group, shuffled packs and dogs around to fit everyone into 2 SUV's and cruised 160 miles up to the turn off from the Hyw for 17 miles of dirt road up to the trail head. Everyone was just about set to go when my buddy discovered that he had failed to put his supper feet boot insoles back into his boots after dried them out overnight. So he and I raced back down the mountain road to the small town of Riggins, to search from one store to the next trying to find something to due in his boots. After checking several stores we finally found some gel heel inserts at the general store/gas station. We raced back up the mountain, garbed the turkey sandwiches that the others in the group had made and left for us and tore out of the parking lot after them. We ate wile we raced down the trail at a pace that we hoped would catch us up to the rest of the group in the first few miles. They had over an hour lead on us and were still going.
For the first 3/4 mile the trail drops steadily down before leveling for a 1/4 mile until you climb back up the next hill side for a solid mile.
Much of this area had gone through a fire in the last year or so. Much of it though was filled with signs of rebirth, new plants, trees, and wild flowers were everywhere. We were just about to take a break after an hour of pushing hard from the car when we rounded a corner and nearly crashed into the rest of our group. We had caught them in one hour and two miles that had taken them over an hour and a half. Totaling 7 people and 5 dogs we began the next leg -- down hill steeply -- that would take us to a stream an the first spot to get water along the trail. As we dropped through a dozen very steep switch backs then across a very steep scree walkway views of the Seven Devils began to peak around corners at us.
Finally reaching the bottom of the hill we crossed the valley, followed the trail up the next switch back littered hillside, climbing to a saddle were the trail forks. From this point the trail again drops steeply into the next valley only to climb to the next ridge and finally weave between small lakes and ponds--our destination for night one.
We passed by the first few looking for a good spot to accommodate 3 sets of tents and one WB BB
I hung my tarp and hammock off just a little ways from the others, partially due to finding trees of adequate size and spacing, and partially so I could snore the night through.
We all had a large meal and turned in by 10. I plopped into my BB sank my head back onto my new climashield pillow I made and was passed out within five minutes. I woke two or three times to change positions and adjust my UQ only to pass back out till very early in the morning to the sound of rain pattering on my tarp. I shrugged and slipped back off into blissful sleep for several more hours till I began to hear the rest of the group stirring. I got up, cooked my breakfast and made a bottle of hot chocolate while relaxing in my hammock. The rain I had heard before had quit so I packed my gear and joined the group wile they finished their breakfasts (sitting on the ground ) and then packed up their groundling shelters. Just as we were set to get packs on it began to rain, and rain, and then pour. We headed out to push on through the next section. We hiked up the ridge beyond our camp with the rain coming down in bucket loads. When it let up for a few minutes I grabbed this shot of the area we had covered the day before. The lake we camped at is in the center and the knob on the skyline above it slightly left of center is the hill were we met up with the group and where we came down just after meeting up.
We continued on up out of the basin with the small lakes as the rain moved back in on us. As we approached the trail junction that would either take us south on to the rest of our loop or a spur trail that would take us back to the trail we had come in on the day before, we began to discuss options. The rain, especially the volume, that we were getting was extremely out of the norm for Idaho in the summer. Most of us were not prepared for this kind of storm with only minimal rain gear and most of us with out pack covers. So as the trail turned to 2 and 3 inch deep mud and puddles ankle deep in many spots the decision was made to push hard and bail. After several miles of slogging through the mud we made it back to the first of the scree fields to descend.
In the bottom of the valley the trail turned into a flowing stream. And the clouds again began to close in around us.
Finally we reached the second scree field and began to climb up to the ridge as the clouds choked off everything but the 50 feet in front of us.
It made for some cool looking photos though.
As we pushed over the top and down the other side the clouds lifted a bit.
Only to close back in again.
Finally we toped back out at the cars, with soaking wet gear, dogs, feet and burned out legs.
In the end what had been planned as 30 miles spread out over five days turned into 16 miles doubling up on the hardest section of trail in two days.
It was an amazing area to hike in and some day we will go back I am sure but we will wait for a year with normal weather, here in the middle of August it should be close to 100 out my front door, but instead it feels like late October with temps only hitting the 70's and rain poring down this morning for a bit.
Maybe next time