Friday, August 1
By late morning Friday the camp setup was pretty much finished. Three of us (Jan & John Jacobsen and myself) decided to explore a trail off in a different direction from where other people were going, so we headed off down the gravel road (variously numbered FS 3955 or County 727) towards Imnaha. We passed the Fish Weir, deciding that we could stop on the way back, if time permitted.
Being so involved in our conversation, we drove right on by our inconspicuous turnoff to Saddle Creek, and we were about 8 miles beyond before deciding to turn back. (When coming from Coverdale CG, it’s the sharp right turn just across the third bridge over the Imnaha on Road 3955. When coming from the town of Imnaha, Sullivan’s directions should work fine.)
We were on the trail by 2 p.m.—a bit late to start, but at only 5.4 R/T miles, it wasn’t to be a long hike. (The distance varies depending on what source you’re reading—the camp book gives 6.5 miles R/T, but the signs on the trail say only two miles to the saddle, for a R/T distance of only four miles! Some of the discrepancy may be due to the trail having been recently reworked with more hairpins to decrease its grade, but it’s hard to believe that that alone could have added 1¼ miles to its length!) It was a real sweat-fest, with temperatures in the mid- to high 90s, and almost 2000 feet to climb.
The trail starts on the left side of the trailhead sign. (The trail on the right side may presumably be used to do a loop hike of about twice the length.) It climbs steadily, but at a nice, moderate grade, first through a patchwork of pines, service berries, willows and grasslands, then, after passing through a dense stand of Doug Fir, up a seemingly endless series of hairpin turns through dry, grassy slopes and rocky bands.
Jan & John stopped about 2/3 of the way up, as the heat was overly oppressive, while I hurried on ahead to check out the view from the saddle. Alas, it was a bit of a let-down—Hells Canyon was too far away, and not really visible. It was a relief to get back to the air-conditioned car.
It would have been a much more pleasant hike earlier in the day, or on a cooler day (or both), and perhaps a month earlier when the wildflowers would have been nearer their prime.
— Wayne Deeter
— photos by Wayne Deeter