Fish Lake Guard Station Cabin Hosting - September 16-19, 2016

We headed out from the Wilderness Gateway trailhead along Boulder Creek Trail, just outside of Powell, Idaho, on a cool fall morning in September.  Chance and Sam (7 yrs.) rode Paintbrush and Ella Mae (5 yrs.) was solo on Poco, Bear (our 6-month old Chocolate Lab) at the heels, Kit and Ruby (Mules) stacked high with our backcountry supplies and gear, while mama (Jen) picked up the rear on foot.  I thought I was in for a real challenge with the pace everyone set for the first couple of steep miles of trail, as the animals were raring to go, and I was being left in the dust, literally.  But as I’d anticipated, a few miles in, the livestock and the trail steadied off to a reasonable pace and we maintained a consistent speed and started putting miles under our hooves.  We rode in to Horse Camp, which is about the half way point, shortly after noon for a quick break and to check packs.  The day brought us blue skies and sunshine, couldn’t have asked for nicer weather.  After a quick snack and leg stretch, we gathered back up and headed on, thoughts of a cabin at the end of the trail to greet us enticing us onward.  Late afternoon, when we were close to our limit and still several miles from our destination, we crested the saddle and had a glorious view of Fish Lake, the airstrip and the valley below.  The several mile final downhill climb led us to a quiet, peaceful camp in which to rest our trail weary bones.  Needless to say rest came easy to us all that eve. 

The weather the first week was overcast, cloudy and cool temperatures, with plenty of rain.  The moisture prompted Fish Lake Creek to flow again, as it hadn’t been running since July.  We quickly established a daily routine which included gathering several wheelbarrows of firewood (most of which we burned daily to keep warm), collecting water from the creek, schoolwork, journaling, reading, cooking and cleaning. 

Our main tasks throughout the trip included cabin cleaning, maintenance and inventory; stockpiling wood; some trail maintenance (cutting downed trees); repairing the hitching post; as well as recording and welcoming visitors. 

We explored the trails north and east of Fish Lake, the Wounded Doe Ridge Trail, the Fish Lake Saddle Trail and the rocky crags north of the cabin, as well as the boggy flatlands south of the cabin.  We caught several meals of cut throat trout in the lake.  We saw tracks and scat from Elk as well as white tail deer. 

Anna Bengston, the Wilderness Ranger, came in with her horse and two mules, to resupply us the first Wed in and stayed for a night.  She contributed sausage and morels to our rice and lentil dinner, which was much appreciated.  Sam had worked on his Junior Wilderness Ranger Badge and was sworn in by Anna during her visit.  Before the trip was over Ella Mae would also earn her badge, doing some wilderness study and sketching in lieu of some of the more advanced activities.  They were both proud badge recipients.  We enjoyed visiting and getting to know Anna better during her stay. 

We appreciated reading the cabin record, which mentioned that our retired Forest Service mules, Ruby and Kit, had been in a dozen or so years earlier to mow the air strip.  We were glad to be bringing them back in for a pleasure trip.

Late in the second week when the weather broke and the blue skies returned a group of 6 hunters set up camp on the west end of the runway near the cabin.  We also had a number of people land for brief stays on the strip (206, 185, 182, 180, super cub).  Sam was our official recorder and would head out to collect tail numbers of the airplanes for our records.  Everyone was friendly and we shared good conversations with all visitors, assisting as needed.

A stormy weather system was moving in on our last weekend, so Chance came a couple days early to pick us up in his 182 and we flew out.  He would need to make two trips, one with people and one with gear.  Leland, a commercial pilot for Choice Air out of Hamilton, was bringing in some clients to fish and offered to take our gear to Moose Creek for Chance to come back to pick up so he could avoid any bad weather issues coming into Fish Lake.  We were sad that our time went so quickly and we enjoyed our stay and hope to return again in some volunteer capacity in the future.