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Around Redfish Lake on Horseback

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We had done whitewater rafting, zip lining, mountain biking and a whole lot of hiking — but there was still one more outdoor activity we wanted to try: horseback riding. And we couldn’t have chosen a better place to knock it off our list than in the Sawtooth Mountains around Redfish Lake.

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Our trip was organized with the friendly folks at Redfish Lake Corrals. It was right at the end of the season, a spectacular fall day, when we met our guide Cody at the corrals. Cody the Cowboy. Perfectly named and a great guide; friendly, knowledgeable about the area, and patient with our bumbling horse skills.

I was eight years old the last time I was on a horse, and Jürgen has kept his distance ever since one bit him as a child. So we’re not exactly expert riders. Luckily, our horses, Bennett and Wyman, were tame as could be and easy to manage. After a few tips from Cody, I was up in the saddle and steering Bennett around with no problem. I asked Cody how I was doing. “Pretty good!” Just like a real cowboy, huh? [… silence].

Our 90-minute “Alpine Ride” took us up into the hills around Little Redfish Lake, offering unforgettable views of the Sawtooth Mountains in the distance. I was surprised by how quickly I became accustomed to being on horseback; it was comfortable and I liked getting out into nature without having to do any exercise myself. Bennett didn’t seem to mind carrying me around. He was a trusty walker… kind of gassy, but that only won him points since Jürgen was right behind us, groaning with every sloshy-sounding fart.

It was a memorable day out, and one I’d repeat in a heartbeat. If you’re interested, get in touch with the guys at Redfish Lake Corrals. I doubt it’s even possible you could be dissatisfied.

Redfish Lake Corrals – Website

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November 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm Comments (0)

Stanley and Redfish Lake

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With a year-round population of just 63, tiny Stanley has an out-sized reputation. Geographically, it’s in the center of Idaho, and it serves as a jumping-off point for adventures in the Sawtooth Mountains, which form one of the state’s most emblematic landscapes.

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Juergen and I made a relatively sizable addition to Stanley’s population for two days. As you might expect, there’s not too much to the town: a couple restaurants (the Kasino Klub is especially good), a nice bakery for breakfast in the morning, a couple dusty roads, a couple of hotels (including the Riverside Motel, where we stayed)… and that’s it. This is a real frontier town, which would have died out long ago were it not for its prime location at the foothills of the Sawtooths, and the proximity of beautiful Redfish Lake.

Six miles south of Stanley, Redfish Lake is named for the Sockeye Salmon which used to congregate here every year. The lake is rather narrow and small, with just eleven miles of shoreline, but boasts an unforgettable backdrop in the Sawtooths. Especially impressive is the view of Mount Heyburn — this craggy mountain towers over the lake, reaching a height of over 10,000 feet.

We were visiting after the main season had closed, and most of the facilities around the lake were closed, including the resort. But driving around was a fine consolation. The water was clear and still, and with no people around, incredibly peaceful.

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November 12, 2012 at 12:55 am Comments (0)

The Salmon River Scenic Byway

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Idaho has no lack of scenic byways. There are 30 which criss-cross the state, and during our six-week road-trip through Idaho, we made an effort to complete as many as possible. Each had something recommend it, from historical sites, to crazy geological formations or interesting towns. But for amazing scenery, none beats the Salmon River Scenic Byway.


This byway begins at the Lost Trail Pass, on the border between Montana and Idaho. From here, it’s a 161-mile journey along Highway 93 to Stanley, through Salmon and Challis. Both of these small towns are worth a stop, Salmon for recreational opportunities on the river and Challis for the Sacajawea Interpretive Center, but it’s the nature you’ll remember most. The byway hugs the mighty Salmon River along its southwest course, offering landscapes that have changed little in the past 200 years, when Lewis and Clark arrived over the Lost Trail Pass.

The road passes from the Salmon National Forest into the Challis National Forest, and wildlife-viewing opportunities are excellent the whole way. We stopped and hauled out the binoculars multiple times. Outside Challis, a bald eagle soared over our heads. White-tailed deer fed in distant pastures. And most excitingly, we found a large group of bighorn sheep grazing along the side of the river, 30 miles north of Stanley.

At first, we thought they were deer and whizzed by the herd quickly, but something about them made Jürgen take pause, so we looped back around to get a better look. Turns out, Bighorn Sheep are awfully similar in appearance to deer — at least the females and youngsters, who don’t have the distinctive, curly horns. Although safely off the endangered species list, they like to keep out of sight and are a rare sight.

As we approached Stanley along Highway 93, the Sawtooth Mountains came into view for the first time. With a number of peaks that reach over 10,000 feet in height, the Sawtooths are hailed as one of the last great “undiscovered” climbing destinations in America. Hundreds of alpine lakes dot the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and the region’s remoteness almost guarantees a lack of crowds, regardless of the time of year.

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November 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm Comment (1)
Around Redfish Lake on Horseback We had done whitewater rafting, zip lining, mountain biking and a whole lot of hiking -- but there was still one more outdoor activity we wanted to try: horseback riding. And we couldn't have chosen a better place to knock it off our list than in the Sawtooth Mountains around Redfish Lake.
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