Along Middle Fork Road, there is a campsite called the Queen’s River Campground. Ambrose and I could have stopped our drive there and parked if we could find an open site, but instead we turned onto the narrow(er) China Basin Road and eased our way to the Queen’s River Trailhead. The trailhead actually did boast several campsites and even a toilet. It was also completely empty of other people. That’s where we decided to spend the night before setting off into the Sawtooth Wilderness to explore the first 5 miles of the Queen’s River Loop trail.

We had the campsite to ourselves – though a few ATVs did drive through.

At least, that was the plan…

Surprisingly, this view is in the opposite direction of the wilderness area.

Looking down at the Queen’s River from China Basin Road.
The trailhead and the road, along with some convenient posts for hitching. 

After a nice night in our large car camping tent, we packed up our day packs and set off for the wilderness. The water in the Little Queen’s River was high and wild. As we walked near it, the white noise made conversation difficult. Ambrose led the way (so he got to feature in a lot of my photos), and pulled well ahead of me several times since I was stopping to take pictures. When he abruptly stopped, I thought he was letting me catch up, and so I didn’t have the camera out in time to catch the deer leaping across the trail and up the side of the ridge.

The trail is a loop, but we wanted to explore the side to the left of the sign today.

The trail meandered upriver, crossing the river with a nice, sturdy and unexpected bridge (because wilderness area). Unfortunately, it was the last bridge we encountered, and not only was the Little Queen’s River flowing high and fast, so were the tributaries that crossed our trail. For the first crossing, we used wet logs to cross the small gap. And it was small – Ambrose could almost have straddled it with better traction and balance. Then we got to use another wet log as a stepping stone to get across a gap about twice as wide.

The Little Queen’s River rushes below the trail.

We would have turned back here if not for the bridge.

Looking back at the small gap and wet log crossings. 

The next tributary crossing involved a dry log, but it had some complexities to it. The end lodged on the far bank was sheared off so that the last portion of the crossing was on an edge about two inches wide. And the bank was crumbly with ash, because there had been some fire damage. As fun as it was crossing in that direction, I was not looking forward to the return trip when we would have to start with the edge portion.
The sun was beginning to climb over the canyon wall as we hiked on. According to the map, there would be another crossing of the Little Queen’s River, and based on the flow, I knew we would likely have to turn back if there was no bridge (or log that could be used as one). The trail turned, and we easily crossed a shallow tributary before coming to the end of the day’s journey.

The sun is starting to show up.

Ambrose found some snow!

I don’t know if it would have been impossible. We did have rope in the event that we needed to make a difficult ford. But I didn’t want to do it. Cold water up to my waist and flowing fast just didn’t sound like a good time. The river sounded hungry, eager to suck me under. Ambrose was ambivalent. He was prepared to give it a go if I wanted to.

Crossing the shallow tributary was easy.

I did not want to attempt this crossing.

I searched upriver for possible alternative crossings, but there was nothing. So we turned back, planning on trying the trail in the other direction of the loop since it was barely 9am and we had plenty of daylight left.

On the way back, we found a place where a lot of old metal was lying around. It was probably a mining camp way back when. We tried to find a better crossing than the edge log, but couldn’t. We did make it back across that one without incident.

Rusted odds and ends in the wilderness.

The rust color almost blends in with its surroundings.

I got a bit of dampness on my leg making the next crossing, and then… I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking. I guess, I thought that the small gap crossing was smaller a bit closer to the river, so I edged down to where some bushes grew across the gap. I had one leg braced on a branch and stepped the other leg across. For a moment, I felt stuck. I had one leg on either side of this flume and I needed to fix that, preferably without getting wet. I leaned my weight across and grabbed the wet ground, sliding the braced leg over its branch and pulling it under my body.

Ambrose was impressed. I was glad that it had worked… whatever it was.

Heading back down the river.

Before long we were crossing the real bridges and then headed back to our campsite. I wanted to use the toilet since we would be coming so close to it anyway, and we also took the opportunity to have a snack while sitting at the picnic table.

To be continued…

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