Over the last several weeks we were spoiled as we enjoyed one mountain Lake after another.
However, as we descended off of the divide between Montana and Idaho, we walked into a new habitat realm of rivers and forests that have been overcome by fires in the near and distant past.
Wind storms from the previous winter knocked down countless dead trees as well as fresh and healthy trees near a ridge line above Kelly Creek. The dead trees were easy to step over since they lacked extensive root structure and branches. However, the trees that were still alive and green across the trail were in massive tangles that took multiple hours to push forward through. Our resistance to the lack of flow we so much enjoyed initially dampened our spirits. We would have to adjust our outlook on the trail ahead if we were to continue enjoying ourselves.
The expansive views of seeing for hundreds of miles were now replaced with limiting or localized views. Flowers, plants, insects, reptiles, scat, and tracks became our good friends and allies which fueled our desire to see more of the interior of Idaho. Stepping over downfall soon became an acceptable pastime that no longer triggered or drained us emotionally.
Following Kelly Creek, the cool mountain tops were replaced by the heat of the lower river valleys.
Many Idaho Creeks and Rivers are well known for their fly fishing potential.
We essentially used them to cool off at every chance we could take.
From Kelly Creek, we ascended once more into the mountains dodging and climbing scattered downed trees from winter storms. After reaching Switchback Hill by sunset (Above Photo), we hiked into dusk to Windy Bill Saddle. Unbeknownst to us, in the morning we slightly descended upon a trail that fell off the ridge and to the east which ultimately confused us. The trail on the map was up on top of the ridge.... however.... there was no longer any trail up there. It was defunct. We were flying now in the dark even though it was broad daylight but with great subalpine views and fresh flowers everywhere. We could only guess where this trail would take us next. To make matters more interesting, the trail landed in the Fourth of July Creek Valley which was completely under snow. For a few miles we imagined correctly where the trail was beneath the surface of two to three feet of compact snow. Luckily we finally came to a signed Junction where we climbed West back up and onto the ridge which brought us back in alignment with the trail shown on our maps that we had on the smartphone. Snow finally became a footnote in this treks history.
Once on track again, we decided to go off track once more, but on purpose. Instead of descending into the next valley where we would have to ford a creek only to climb back up onto a ridge... we decided to stay on our current ridgeline up high which took us to the 12 Mile Saddle trailhead. From here we opted on walking in Lewis and Clark's footsteps until we rejoined the imaginary line that we were following on a map.
From the ancient route of Lewis and Clark, we finally descended to the modern corridor of Highway 12 that would take us back into civilization. It was now time to hitch into Kooskia some fifty miles away and to rest and resupply before improvising our way through the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness just due south of us.