We set off from Redfish Lake Lodge on the 9:00 am shuttle, headed to the inlet of Redfish Lake Creek, on the opposite side of the lake. The seven minute boat ride, covering five miles, is well worth the $16 charge. Redfish Lake is somewhat of a tourist attraction. The beautiful glassy lake is surrounded by subalpine fir. There are several benches which lead to the glacier scraped granite Sawtooth peaks. There are 57 peaks in all, which are over 10,000 ft, each one magnificent beyond belief. The views alone make it seem as though you’ve left civilization for a wilderness, which is exactly what we did.
Although I have lived in Stanley seven summers, I have never before ventured to Elephant’s Perch, or as some call it, Shangri La. Today I am finally making the journey, with a friend in tow. As we hike away from the lake’s edges we talk about our winters, new legislation in Idaho, and wild flowers. So much so we nearly miss the turn off two miles up, which crosses the creek. How foreshadowing, as this won’t be the only misstep of the day.
There is something magical that happens when you live a ‘seasonal’ life. Each summer you say goodbye to your winter friends, your ski buddies, just to see your summer friends again. A sense of community is gained with each late May hello. Each person telling of their winter adventure in St. Thomas or Alaska. With each reunion I feel grateful to be a part of this forever flowing life.
Crossing over the inlet of Redfish Lake Creek seems easy enough and onward we head on the not-yet-recognized trail toward Saddleback Lakes (aka Elephant’s Perch aka Shangri La). We pass beautiful views of mountains, waterfalls, and boulder fields. Their beauty so distracting we lose the trail completely, go over a quarter mile of boulder field, end up on the wrong side of the waterfall, which was the perfect place to get a photograph.
As we learn from our misadventure, we discover the trick of this particular trail, stay left, which becomes our motto of the day. Stay left of the waterfall, the boulder field, the enticing old growth Douglas Firs (I think I have a problem of wanting to touch old trees.. sounds creepy right?), just STAY LEFT.
After retracing our steps across the boulder field, we find ourselves skirting a sheer wall, 1200 feet in height, which climbers have already begun to crest. This allows me to gain perspective of my place in this universe. A mere onlooker of the magnificent. As these thoughts melt my ego, I stumble upon the first Saddleback Lake. It’s crystal clear, Caribbean looking water, take me by surprise. We made it.
The surrounding mountains, reddish in color, jut from the ground, giving this small lake basin a cathedral like feel. The water so clear I can see boulders in the middle of the lake, a fish swimming in a nearby ‘hole’, the perfect reflection of the peaks above, situated on the water’s surface. We make our way to the unimaginably huge boulder, a half acre on the surface we can see, and begin to eat lunch. Putting off the need to get back to catch our ride across the lake, I lay back to revel in this truly awesome moment.
Exploring these mountains, I know, will take a lifetime. They were here before me and I feel as though I can hear their stories of the past. In a magical trance, the beep of my watch reminds me of the time, signifying the end of our day at the Elephant’s Perch. Hiking down, we are reminded of our motto, STAY LEFT, as we once again miss the turn off to cross the creek. Just in time, we make the 5:00 pm shuttle to cross Redfish Lake. The seven minute boat ride hurling us back into civilization, not long enough.
As I sit at the Lake’s beach, trying to capture each lovely moment I’ve experienced in my journal, I realize it’s not possible. The details of the day cannot fully be captured by words, only felt. My hope is that you get a glimpse of my experience, and go see for yourself.