With the latest round of snowy weather, the Salmon River Mountains of Idaho are under 2 feet of snow, on the higher peaks, with a few inches lingering still in McCall, at 5000 ft. It seems like, because it was, only a few weeks ago that I was enjoying some mid-autumn hikes to Snowslide Lake, and to Deep lake.
The Salmon River mountains are a mix of all kinds of conifer forests. Douglas-Fir, Western Larch, Sub-Alpine Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Lodge-pole Pine, and many more. There are pockets of hardwood stands mixed throughout the higher elevations, but they are less prominent, and often are smaller shrubs. As you can see with some of these photos, the colorful display is still eye catching.
The first group of pictures were taken at Deep lake, 30 minutes from downtown McCall, up into the vast head waters of the North fork Payette river. Fire is an ancient force in Central Idaho. Its effects are uniquely displayed here, with the autumn colors out in force. Fire also opens up the vast, granite landscape. The Salmon River mountains, are a sub-section of North Americas largest batholith, the Idaho Batholith. An ancient, and enormous blob of granite magma that floated up from within the Earth, cooled, hardened, and is slowly being exposed, and chewed up with the forces of plate tectonics, and erosion. Interestingly enough, some of the bright yellow you see, are young Western Larch conifer trees, and their succulent yellow needles. Larch trees are in a class of their own in the conifer world, as they are not, “evergreen”. Deep lake is a mellow 2.6 miles, with 600 feet of elevation gained. Great little half day hike. Plenty of minor peak bagging to be had up there though, which could extend the adventure out a day or more.
The next group of photos were captured at Snowslide lake. A few ridges, and one major ancient glacial drainage (Lake Fork creek), to the East of Deep lake. It is a short 2 mile hike to the lake, but you climb nearly 2000 ft to get there. The lake has the most vibrant frog population I have ever come across. Year, after year, small frogs abound at this lake. The whole shoreline looks like it is moving in some spots! Another 1000 feet of elevation or so up from the lake, the trail takes you to a perfect ridge top saddle. From there you can head down to Maki lake, and the East Lake Fork creek drainage, or scramble like we did, along the ridge line. South along the ridge, and you can get to Snowslide peak. North takes you to Sawtooth peak. The views of the Lick creek sub-range, of the Salmon River mtns. are top notch. If you know what you are looking for, you can see into the South fork Salmon, and Main Salmon river breaks. I have it on my fun radar to camp at Snowslide lake, and bag both peaks next year, as we only had the afternoon on this day.