Livin' in a Van Down by the River in the Sawtooths

As we left Ketchum and made our way up the winding mountain roads, it became clear that we were in for a different experience of the sawtooth range than expect (although we generally don't know what to expect). Smoke began to fill the air and the sun struggled to burn through it, resulting in a brilliant orange sunset glow in the middle of the afternoon. I'll never forget the moment we crested the last ridge as the sawtooths came into full view. I'd heard stories of these jagged mountains, but had never seen a picture. There's just something about snarled and dramatic mountain peaks that makes my blood pump faster and renews my zest for life.

We caravanned our way through the subsequent valley and with a bit of searching and aid from our Hailey friends, settled at a nice camping spot right next to the Salmon River. Wasting little time, Meisha and I stuffed our faces with sandwiches and jumped in Melissa's car to head to Red Fish Lake.

Livin' in our vans down by the Salmon River!

Red Fish was certainly a unique experience for me. The "sandy" beach was more or less a form of light-colored gravel and not particularly inviting. But hey, what can you expect at 10,200 feet elevation? As we walked along the gravel beach, I began to dread the inevitable descent into was must be freezing cold mountain waters.  Meisha walked right in with no problems (as she usually does) and I timidly made my way in.  I did surprisingly well compared to my normal wuss-type cold water entry... until I began to swim.  I tried telling Meisha "it's... alittle... hard.. forme... tobreathe" and that's all I could muster.   We all swam out to a dock at spent a bit of relaxation time while floating on the water and staring into the smoke-filled skies.  All-in-all, not a bad day at the lake 😀

Later that night, we found ourselves sitting around camp, unable to make a fire and wondering what to do.  We decided there was only one thing to do... explore!  We set out for a walk under the moonless sky and began traipsing our way up through brush, pine boughs and downed lodgepole trunks until we came upon a road.  We marking our entry back into the woods by hanging some brightly colored flowers on a roadside pine tree (smart, right?) and set out upon the darkened mountain road.  As we found ourselves in a clearing, it became apparent that photos must be taken of the moonless night sky with the forest fire glowing on the horizon.  We followed yet another road, which was labeled "Employees Only", but figured at 2AM nobody would know or care.  We ended up hiking up to the crest of a hill and discovering another grassy clearing to snap a few photos and take in the night sky but then... headlights!  We scramble to find low spots to lie and waited out the passing car and emerged undiscovered.  That little adventure was enough to send us scampering back to camp for the night!

Over the next several days, we enjoyed our time moving from campground to campground as we followed the Salmon River north toward Montana.  A few of the highlights were our classy campground table at Deer Gulch (as seen in the photos below) and a wonderful conversation over coffee with the ladies at a motel in Challis, Idaho.


The route along the Salmon River is littered with tons of beautiful and free camping!  We could have easily spent a month making our way up this road.  The easiest way to find these camp spots?  Just ask!  Everyone we talked to was more than helpful in pointing us in the proper direction of their favorite campsite.

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