Even though we did more dayhikes that we normally do in the off season this year, my husband and I are still ramping up the length and distance of our backpacking trips. After spending the night only about a mile from the trailhead in Sheep Creek, we upped the ante to a hike 5 miles out into the Sawtooth Wilderness for a relaxed overnighter the next weekend.

Ambrose putting our permit in the box.

By now, we’ve done this first section of the Queens River Loop trail, going up the Little Queens, enough times for it to be familiar. I’m never at my best first thing in the morning, so I decided to hike behind Ambrose to start. I also was feeling extra fatigued, possibly due to allergies or allergy medications, so sticking with him wasn’t too hard.

And, as a matter of fact, Ambrose’s hiking speed has increased since last year. Instead of it being a chore to stay behind him without stepping on his boots or hitting him with my trekking poles, I was able to walk in a comfortably low gear behind him – at least on the short uphills and the flats.

More not-morel mushrooms.

And if I had to stop for any reason, such as taking pictures or a pit stop, it wasn’t hard to catch up with him after.

Catch-up speed time!

I was feeling more tired than usual, possibly a bit dehydrated considering I hadn’t gotten up even once to go to the bathroom the night we spent at the trailhead. So we took it easy and got to the first ford about an hour after we started.

The water was not so high as to be impassable, but it was close. And it was freezing. Okay, not literally freezing, but the water was very cold. We took off our boots and socks before crossing. I rolled up my pants legs while Ambrose let his get wet. I wore my sandals for the crossing and he used his new gym shoes, because they’re lighter than his sandals.

I watched Ambrose cross and decided on my route based on how high the water was on him. If the water is low enough, I can go almost straight across, but with the water so high I decided to go up the bank on my side before angling across. This did mean, however, that I had to walk straight into some bushes.

I made it across, but the water came so high that it collected in my upriver pants leg, even though it was rolled up over my knee. After I got out of the water, I hurried to dry my feet off and get them back into the warmth of socks and boots. Ambrose offered to let me go ahead, but I wanted to stay and see how he did on the first challenging uphill section of the trail.

Pretty flowers.

Just before we started up the hill, I needed to take a pit stop, so Ambrose went on ahead. I caught him easily enough, but then he surprised me by not stopping at all as he made his way to the top. Yay! Soon after that, we stopped for a snack, sitting on the trail and listening to the river roar by below us.

Burned, but recovering.

As we hiked on, I was pleased to note how the areas with burned trees were recovering. The dirt was filling in with the greens of grasses and flowers, and I’m sure there were baby trees still too small to distinguish themselves from bushes.

But not all the burned areas had come that far yet.

Lots of dirt, but with signs of hope.

And this was around where I finally got antsy. Ambrose kept stopping and I just wasn’t up for extended periods of standing around. So I set off on my moderate pace, which quickly left him behind. I arrived at the next ford and began to prep, though I wouldn’t cross until he arrived.

When he did, he pointed across the river. I had been looking at him (and a ground squirrel that had crawled out very close to me), but I turned and saw another hiker getting ready to cross. This guy did not have trekking poles, so he walked upriver a bit before taking his pants off and crossing. I crossed and thought to greet him, but he was too far upriver. And Ambrose crossed to me before the guy crossed to him, so we just waved at each other before going our separate ways.

Once Ambrose was safely across I headed out to the Scenic Lakes trail junction. I knew that this junction was well marked and all, but I can’t forget the Snowslide Lakes so easily. So I planned to wait for him there.

More flowers!

I trusted Ambrose to take the right path at this junction 😉

These orange beauties were quite striking at a distance, brilliantly orange.

I made good time to the Scenic Lakes trail junction and settled in to lay down under the tree on which the sign was fastened.

Large cairn, easy-to-read sign – Okay, I knew Ambrose wouldn’t miss this one. 

It was nice to have some quiet time to myself. I didn’t need to do anything like I would if we were camped. I just lay there, looking up into the tree’s branches and listening to the birds. One bird in particular was singing quite quickly. It made me think of “Flight of the Bumblebee.” I saw (and heard) someone do that on a xylophone when I was in high school. That’s some skill.

Eventually, I heard voices and sat up to look around. A couple of guy hikers were coming down the trail. I said hello when they passed and one of them responded with a polite, “How are you?” It was at least spoken in motion so I had a cue not to take it seriously. As they walked off, I heard, “It should be right here.” And I wondered if maybe they were looking for the trail to Scenic. But they were gone before I could decide to speak up.

A few minutes later Ambrose walked up. The guys had asked him for directions to Scenic, so they were coming back. Ambrose and I hiked to the crossing of the Little Queens, noting with disappointment that the best camping spot had already been taking by a large group of tents. We hunted around for a spot and finally dropped our packs just to get some food. At this point, we were both hungry and thirsty. And that made us cranky. We ate and then took the ground cloth in hand to find a better spot.

I wanted to cross to the other side of the river to camp, but there wasn’t a place we could easily ford and Ambrose was stubbornly insisting on staying on the side where we were. To my eyes, there weren’t any good spots on that side of the river, but we finally found an adequate place and went back to get the packs.

But by the time we dragged the packs back to the chosen spot, the food had kicked in, improving both our moods. So we ended up crossing the river on a very convenient fallen log and finding a decent spot there. Ambrose set up the tent and I filled all our water bags.

The trail to Scenic heads up that-a-way.

I thought we might go exploring up the trail to Scenic, but since Ambrose wasn’t going to go and I was more tired than I expected, we just hung out the rest of the day at our camp. I read and kept a lookout for the campers across the river, but I ended up not seeing them. Ambrose had a yelled conversation with one and found out that the area within a mile of Scenic was still snowed over, which is why they were camped down here instead of up there. They also had dogs with them. Ambrose said they looked like bears they were so big.

And so the day slipped away. We ate dinner and then I read some more before falling asleep.

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