Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Winter Hiking to Redfish Lake

This winter Anthony, Jay and I drove up to Stanley, Idaho for their Seventh Annual Stanley-Sawtooth Winterfest Weekend (February 19 - 21, 2016).  We had dry and snow free roads during the three hour drive to Stanley from Boise with the exception of watching for elk, deer and wild turkeys grazing on the side of the road.

They were expecting quite a bit of snow on Thursday in Stanley that never arrived but Friday evening it really started to fall.  We had dinner at the Kasino Club Bar and Grill and by the time we left the restaurant to return to the motel the truck was completely covered in snow.  They did have a Beach Party and Glow in the Dark Pub Crawl on the evenings agenda but I think we were at the wrong bar at the wrong time and with so much snow coming down we are not sure if they ever got the crawl really going.  It was actually nice to have the restaurant to ourselves for part of the meal while we sat and relaxed next to the fireplace. 

We were staying at the Mountain Village Resort Lodge in town so fortunately we did not have far to drive while the snow was really coming down.  Anthony was a good sport hustling to get the snow off the truck after dinner as it was falling quite quickly.

Lodging:  Mountain Village Resort
Dinner:  Kasino Club Bar and Grill
Breakfast:  Mountain Village Restaurant
Hiking Destination:  Redfish Lake (most amenities are closed in the winter) 
Directions to Redfish Lake:  Redfish Lake Lodge is located 2 miles from U.S. Highway 75. Turn by the bridge at the junction of Redfish Lake Creek and the main Salmon River on Highway 75, near milepost #185.

On Saturday we parked on the side of the main road (U.S Highway 75) and hiked on the snowmobile groomed road to Redfish Lake.  Our total hike was just over 4.5 miles.  I have never hiked in the snow before and found it to have the feeling of walking in slightly wet sand.  There is a lot more effort required with each step than just walking on bare roads in the summer.  Snowshoes were not needed.  I just wore my waterproof hiking boots the entire day.  We had the road (trail) all to ourselves and enjoyed looking out over the frozen lake as it was amazingly peaceful and quiet.  A lot of our hike was overcast but the falling snow was very minimal in the morning and the sun tried to break through the clouds off and on.  We did finally see other hikers (and dogs) on our return trip to the truck.  I guess everyone was sleeping in after the party in town on Friday night.  One advantage to being first out on the trail is you really get the serenity and peace of the hike without any distractions.

I learned a lot about postholing on this hike as I did it quite a few times on the trek to the lake when we left the main road and also on the way back to the truck.  If you are not familiar with postholing imagine the type of hole a fencepost sinks into: Narrow, straight, deep. Now imagine taking a step on what you think is hard-packed snow, only to hit a soft spot and sink straight down into it. Your leg creates, then immediately occupies, a posthole in the snow.  Once you've started postholing, the only way to make forward (or backward) progress is pulling each half-buried leg straight up out of the snow before you take your next step. This takes a lot of energy and shortens your stride quite a bit. If you sink in really deep, say up to the hip, just extracting your leg from the hole it made is a real chore.  Anthony found my postholing quite numerous on this hike as I sank in up to my hips a number of times and found myself crawling through the snow back to the trail.  Thank goodness Anthony did not have his phone out.   All and all this was a fantastic winter hike and the views of the lake and surrounding mountains was breathtaking.

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