Stats: 5 miles one way; 10 round trip. Elevation gain N/A.
Route: From Grandjean trail head to the South Fork Payette River Trail. Camp at Big Meadows.
Gear Notes: Standard overnight equipment. New sleeping bag.
The first thought that comes to us when spring hits is when are we going to Grandjean!? For the third year running we rolled the dice, pushed in all the chips and went for it. While we keep tabs on snow levels and weather, we never really know what to expect when going backpacking in April.
|Obligatory trailhead photo.|
I had a fairly good idea that we were in for little to no snow, compared to last year when we couldn't get down the road. After a quick stop for the finest sandwich in town we were jamming up highway 55 a few minutes past noon. Lucky for us, the road was clear all the way to the trailhead. Some fellow hikers were just finishing their day when we pulled up just past 2pm and they had reported ticks were out in force. Oh, great!
|Trail Creek. Denise Savoy photo.|
After the bridge across Trail Creek, the trail comes to a fork and we turned south towards Baron Creek.
|Denise Savoy photo.|
There is a big view of Grandjean Peak at the start of the hike and it really looks quite impressive. Its not as good as the view from the road, but it'll do.
|Gradjean Peaks west summit.|
After the long drive, it felt good to be on our feet.
|Crossing a small, unnamed creek along the trail. Denise Savoy photo.|
The trail was in good shape as we began our hike. No snow to be had, skies clear, temp 66F with an occasional light to moderate westerly gust. At 1.5 miles in, Baron Creek was flowing pretty good and the best option we had was to ford the calf deep cold water.
|Ford of Baron Creek.|
Deez went first and I followed. I didn't realize this was a take.
Well, that was nice and brisk!
As expected, the water was cold, but since we both lost the feeling in our legs about half way though the ford, that didn't really matter. As we continued down the trail, the hiking was easy and pleasant. The South Fork Payette River Trail does undulate a little, but it's never steep and does not gain much elevation above the trailhead at 5,200 feet.
After another 1.5 miles, we reached Goat Creek. It was flowing about the same as Baron Creek, but we found good logs to cross on so it was fairly innocuous. The day was fairly warm down in the canyon and we enjoyed the shade where we could.
|Looking south-south west from the trail.|
We planned to camp at an area known as Deadman Cabin which is in the area identified as Big Meadows on the map. I knew we were getting close to finding that riverside camp site that we were looking for. I don't think Denise was entirely on board with my optimism.
|View from the river bank near camp.|
It wasn't as long as a different version of the story may or may not indicate until we found this fine spot. Man, I hate being right all the time...
There is a memorial nailed to a tree near this camp site.
We were set up in camp and kicking back with our delicious sandwiches and a cup of wine well before sunset. With gourmet sandwiches, good wine and some great tunes, it's really hard to say that we rough it.
|Relaxing in camp.|
Up until this point, we had seen a couple ticks, but it wasn't quite the infestation that we were told about earlier. There were also man-eating mosquito's that prompted us to start a small camp fire.
The evening cooled off a bit but we stayed out sipping wine and stargazing fairly late.
The next morning brought us cold temps and a bit of frost on the ground so we both decided to sleep in. The sun finally hit the tent about 10am so it was about then that we decided it was a good time to rise and shine.
|Breaking camp. Denise Savoy Photo.|
|Looking west from camp.|
There was a large and diverse bird and water fowl population in the area, including a Bald eagle that Deez spotted. We tried to get a good picture but we couldn't get a camera out in time as it flew past us and landed in a tree well out of range.
|Snow free trails in April.|
After breakfast, coffee and hot coca, it was time to break camp and hit the trail.
|Crossing Goat Creek.|
We made short work of the Goat Creek crossing. It did prove to be a little tricky due to the swift current and the up stream angle of the log.
|Ford of Baron Creek.|
After a short distance of walking, I stated that we were close to the bridge over Trail Creek. I gave an ETA of 15 minutes to the trailhead. I gave Deez the option for the over/under; she took over, I took the under. We hit the car in 9 minutes, but hey, who's counting.
Backpacking in April? Yep. We do it. We've done it three years in a row now and every year has been different. This early season teaser just happened to go off without a hitch.
If conditions allow for it next year, I think we'll push up Baron Creek where there is a good camp site that is not too hard to get to. You know, change it up a bit.