Tuesday, August 10, 2010

High Adventure 2010: Knapp Lakes in Idaho

Small alpine lakes near Crimson Lake as seen looking down from the high mountain ridge.  These lakes are on the opposite side of the ridge from Knapp Lakes where we had our base camp.

See that blue lake with snow and ice still on it?  I jumped in and quickly out of it...twice!  This previously unnamed lake is now affectionately identified on Google Maps as Double-dip Lake.  A spectacular waterfall runs from this lake down to Crimson Lake, which I dubbed "Reeve's Falls" for Mike Reeves who also took the polar bear plunge into Double-dip Lake.

I'm one of the adult leaders for a group of Varsity Scouts based in Eagle, Idaho.  Each year we plan an event called "High Adventure" with the goal of doing something challenging in the outdoors for a few days.  This year in mid-July we did a backpacking trip to Knapp Lakes, a cluster of several alpine lakes about 20 miles west of Stanley, Idaho in the Challis National Forest.  It required an eight-mile hike in, with several more miles of hiking to other area lakes.  It was literally a  "high" adventure.

Jason Talbot, the president of our youngmen's group, gets all the credit for these photos.  I left my camera at home.  I'm a big enough guy as it is and couldn't convince myself to pack in the weight of my nice new camera and risk ruining it.

View of the mountains from the trail.  At this point we had to go cross-country as no official trails lead to Knapp Lakes.  We just knew from the map that Knapp Lakes were somewhere out there in those trees at the base of those mountains.
The bird of the trip occurred right at the commencement of our backpacking adventure.  After a couple of hours in the truck and few miles of washboardy dirt roads, we pulled into the trailhead.  I had to relieve my bladder somthin' fierce.  While answering the call of nature, a woodpecker-type flew into the tree in front of me.  Still doing my business, I called to Jason, who is a respectable birder, to check the woodpecker out.  It had flown a couple trees away, but was still in my optic view...yeah, that's right...I can do number one hands-free while holding my binoculars to observe birds.  It was an American Three-toed Woodpecker! A life bird!!!  (That makes my 6th life bird obtained while going pee in the wild.  "What kind of sick freak keeps track of that kind of stuff?", you ask.  Well, I do.  Don't you?)

American Three-toed Woodpecker
Photo courtesy of Idaho Fish & Game, by Tom Munson
Below is the lake where we set up base camp at about 8000 feet above sea level.  Spotted Sandpipers serenaded us from all around the lake's edge.  Olive-sided Flycatchers and Swainson's Thrushes joined the evening chorus.  After a few hours on the trail, a few of us were reinvigorated by a plunge into the chilly waters (but significantly warmer than the lake I'd jump in the next day).  An Osprey kept watch from an old pine snag.

The fishing at this lake was a lot of fun for the guys.  Rainbow Trout and Cut-bows (hybrids with Cuthroat) were caught in large numbers.   We ate a lot of delicious fish each day.
We awoke to a beautiful morning mist over the still waters.  A Clark's Nutcracker called nearby.
On the second day we summited the mountains above our camp "to see what we could see".  Here is a view from the rocky ridge line overlooking some sister lakes.  Traversing that rock on such a steep pitch was one of the scariest things I have ever done.

Here's me on the ridge above Double-dip Lake with my trusty binoculars strapped to my chest at all times.  Notice where the ice berg is?  Now go back to the picture at the top of the post and see where it was when I swam in it.  Kind of cool that we documented it moving around.  It must have been about a meter thick and mostly below water.
The view from Crimson Lake back at the ridge we had just come over.  That was a hard climb; about 1000-1500 ft of altitude change.
Here is a view from the top of the ridge down on those sister lakes pictured earlier.  You can see a third lake in the back left.  We climbed down through the trees here rather than risk life and limb on the rocky face again.
Here's me...the caboose...along with X-man, Xavier Powell, hiking through a mountain meadow on the way back.  We were the two biggest guys and therefore the slowest of the bunch.  Though Jason easily is the best and fastest hiker in our group, he often hung back with us to see the birds with me.  We called ourselves the "nature appreciation group".  It was fun to unexpectedly run into fellow birders Rob and Karyn Miller as they tandem mountain biked into Knapp Lakes as part of their yearly tradition celebrating their anniversary.
Jason Talbot, a birder as a kid, who by association with me is a born-again birder, also an avid hiker, and fly-fisherman.  He has gained the reputation for taking scouts on rigorous character-building adventures known among us as "Talbot death marches".
So, we saw some spectacular scenery that not too many have beheld in person.  I got eaten alive by skeeters.  There were some cool birds along the way too.  Most importantly, I didn't die and only had some moderate soreness.  I already can't wait for next year's High Adventure!


  1. What an awesome adventure! Jason Talbot did great on the photos.

  2. Oh my goodness! What a great trip. The photos are beautiful. I envy your ability to do this trip! Congratulations on you lifer!

  3. Beautiful. [repeat to self "I am not jealous"]. Particularly love the mist and reflections in the fifth shot.

  4. Great post. Looks like fantastic country to hike through. I love the mist shot of the lake.

  5. Excellent blog, what a place to visit and the picture of the American three-toed woodpecker is brilliant! Great shot

  6. Looks a fantastic place to visit Bob. You have now set me a new task and one that might well catch on over here - compile a "P" list

  7. Oh, those Idaho vistas just take my breath away! Wow, I cannot believe you got to see a 3-toed woodpecker! What an amazing trip! This is quite a story and I love the scenery! I am reading a book right now called "Five Skies" that takes place in Idaho. It makes me miss it all over again! This post does also! Love your ladybug shot in the post above.

  8. Wow. Can anyone let me know more information on Knapp Lakes? I am helping to find my family's heritage. He is a Knapp. His grandfather was Stanley Knapp. You may email me at nativeknapp@hotmail.com

    Thank you!

  9. Great post Robert. Got here from today's post with other great shots of Idaho. I guess a man would have a better "P" list than a woman....we see ants and bugs of course! Marya and I saw an American Three-toed Woodpecker in Teton Valley last summer (at Targhee Ski Resort). I had seen one in Canada many years ago, but that was a treat!