10 and 2: Into the Sawtooths


I’ll be continuing this week’s blog in Idaho.  When I left off last, we had just left the blazing hot temperatures of Riggins, which were remedied by a 6,000 foot climb on a minimally-maintained, thoroughly washboarded road to Heaven’s Gate.  It seemed like the whole state of Idaho was on fire with all the smoke in the air.


After leaving Riggins behind, we set our sights on the outdoor mecca of south-central Idaho — Stanley.  I had never heard of this fantastic place tucked beneath the towering Sawtooth Mountains until several people we met on our trip firmly told us we HAD to go there.  Turns out they were completely correct. “Downtown” Stanley is a single block with a couple of restaurants and bars and a single US Post Office, but its real feature is the unadulterated panoramic view of the Sawtooths, which glow orange and pink as the sun sets.  We happened to roll through town on a night where the locals and tourists (there are more of the latter than the former) get together for a street party; live bands play on a makeshift stage in the middle of street, and there’s plenty of dancing and plenty of beer flowing.  Needless to say, we joined in the party and had one of the most memorable nights of our trip so far.



One of my favorite parts about the mountains are the alpine lakes – particularly those that hold fish.  We arrived at Alpine Lake after just a few easy (i.e. no switchbacks) miles into the hike, and, like always, I immediately made my way down to walk the lakeshore and look for fish.  To my surprise, I was met with much larger than expected cutthroat trout cruising the shore line, indiscriminately eating any bug that made the ill-fated decision to land on the lake’s surface.  I quickly put my fly rod together, tied on my go-to dry fly (the Adams), and started making casts toward the sunken trees pushed into the lake by avalanches.  Like clockwork, a trout ate my fly and I soon released a beautiful, golden cutthroat trout back into the iceberg-cold water.  I continued making casts and catching fish until I landed my final trout, a 15” textbook cutthroat.  On that note, I packed up my rod and continued up the trail (now filled with steep switchbacks) towards Sawtooth Lake.


Several miles later, I was back at it, casting to hungry brook trout in the clear water of Sawtooth Lake.  As much as I was distracted by the potential for fishing, I found it difficult to fish for too long while I was in the shadow of the peaks above.  We hiked around the lakes and tried to take in as much of the scenery as possible, although I’m pretty sure I could spend the entire summer in those mountains and never get enough of them.

We decided to pack up and continue down the road towards Ketchum, Idaho and its celebrity twin, Sun Valley.  If you’re into the idea of mountains and beautiful scenery with access to the outdoors, but want to come back to a plush, luxury experience, Sun Valley is for you.  For those a bit more like me, there’s also plenty of remote camping to occupy your nights, along with a few great bars to help rejuvenate your trail-weary legs at the end of a long day before you stretch out in your tent.

Although I could have easily spent the remainder of the summer’s shortening days in the area between Stanley and Ketchum, I headed south towards Salt Lake City. I was scheduled to catch a flight to New York to attend the horse races at the Travers Stakes, where all 50,000 tickets sold out upon word that American Pharaoh would be racing.  Fortunately, I was trackside at the top of the stretch and had one of the best views in the house. Today, I find myself with one last evening lakeside in the Adirondacks before heading back to Utah, then north towards the Tetons and Yellowstone Valley.  Hopefully post-Labor Day travel to the park will reduce the number of tourists and clear up some river space for me to chase fall brown trout in Montana.




So what is 10 and 2? Meet Ryan and learn about why he’s on the road with Crown & Caliber.

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Ryan O’Connor is recovering from a decade of work in the investment management industry. He’s currently living out of his van and traveling the United States with his girlfriend, taking a very long route to Texas. In addition to long walks on the beach, sunsets, and production paperwork, he digs photography, fly fishing, hunting, rye whiskey, and Texas BBQ.

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