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I left early Friday morning to capitalize on the last weekday of my stay in McCall. I hoped to see wildlife, but all I saw were tracks and scat. This time of year most of the wildlife is in town, grazing on sweet grass and apples, and avoiding the onslaught of camo-clad hunters.

My destination was a mere two-mile hike with a 700-foot elevation gain to a lake I’d visited before with a friend.

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The sun is about to embrace Boulder Mountain

This time, being alone but for my camera, I strayed off trail to practice photographing moving water. I ended up losing the trail below the lake and had to boulder and bush wack to the source of the waterfall.DSC_0476The morning was yet young. I hadn’t seen a soul. In the shelter of Boulder Lake’s boulders, I ate my apple and relished the view.

Boulder Mountain stands guard near the outlet of Boulder Lake.

Boulder Mountain stands guard near the outlet of Boulder Lake.

In the summer when it is full, Boulder Lake has a waist where the lake forms a butterfly shape. This time of the year, the water is so low that the waist actually bisects the lake.

Taken from the sand bar that now cuts Boulder Lake in two.

Taken from the sand bar that now cuts Boulder Lake in two.

Buckhorn Peak in the distance and a lovely forest trail beckoned. The trail continues on to several other lakes. When the trail split, I chose Summit Lake just one mile further on. DSC_0462

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From above Boulder Lake the waist now bisects the lake. The brown haze is courtesy of the still smoldering Tepee Springs forest fire.

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Female Spruce Grouse, aka Fool’s Hen

The trail crosses a high meadow and skirts the ankles of Buckhorn Peak. I was beginning to question my sanity as I trudged on in search of the lake, which finally popped into view between a screen of pine trees.DSC_0522Here I ate a small candy bar and drank stingily from what remained in my half-liter water bottle. I did have a steri-pen in my pack, as well as an old-as-the-mountain protein bar. But I wanted to make it back to the car with just what I had brought with me for the day. It’s a pride thing. Go figure.

Thinking about the downhill return made me euphoric. Later I would discover that I had climbed about 1500 feet in four miles. All would have been wonderful if I hadn’t lost the trail below Boulder Lake.

A last glimpse of Buckhorn Peak before I lost the trail

A last glimpse of Buckhorn Peak before I lost the trail

This has happened before and I grumbled with myself. As if the bush wacking in the morning hadn’t been enough, now I was climbing up and over SUV-sized boulders with rickety rocks in between. The lowering sun was still strong and slanting into my eyes and burning my lips. My tired legs and feet were less reliable than they had been on the way up. Throughout my trip I had been blessed with wondrous solitude. About now, though, I would have been happy to hear voices and footsteps guiding me toward the trail that I knew was . . . somewhere.

After climbing high and low over the boulders, and finding nothing but thick brush and brambles, I had a little talk with myself, checked the map again, and decided to lose elevation sooner rather than later. I bouldered down toward the waterfall below the lake. And then the miracle happened! The barest outlines of a trail! Blast marks on a rock verified that, indeed, I was at last on the trail. It was now downhill all the way. My own private Idaho!