On this day I am much like the Swallow returning to Capistrano. Only in my case it is to Horton Peak during the colors of fall. I try to reach the top of Horton Peak at least once each year. At 9,900 feet in height, Horton Peak sits at the southwest corner of the White Cloud Mountain Range in Idaho just across the Sawtooth Valley from Smiley Creek Lodge. The hike to the top is 2,780 vertical feet in 2.7 miles from the trailhead. Although 1,000 of gain per mile is relatively steep, the trail-bed is single-track and in superb condition. With each foot gained in the ascent, Alturas, Perkins, Pettit and Yellow Belly lakes are revealed on the other side of the valley, At times the lakes, combined with the view of the Sawtooth Range and its 41 peaks above 10,000 feet is nothing short of breath taking.
Although reaching the summit and taking in the fire lookout and The White Cloud Mountain Range is really cool and will be achieved, my real goal is to return to the spot I call the Golden Path. The Golden path is a section of Aspen trees between 8,600 and 8,800 feet on the trail. Each year I try to hike up and run on the trail back at the time of their peek golden color.
My son Kyle decides to join me. The trek is more of a surgical strike as we decide to make the hike after completing a few chores and dropping off the dogs for a Spa Day that includes nail trimming and a bath. Linda is working the Blaine County Health fair. We make it to the trailhead and leave at 12:30 PM. Kyle suggests we set a double-time hiking pace, so we can take pictures casually. We take pictures at all the spots I want and reach the summit a little after 2PM. We figure the hiking of the 2,700+ vertical and 2.75 miles was accomplished between an hour and a hour and 15 minutes. After a spot of water, more pictures and the completion of some human administrative tasks we depart at 2:30 PM.
On the trip up Kyle had mentioned how impressive our friend Dave Pruder’s basement/museum was on our recent trip to East Lansing MI. Pruder has completed 79 marathons and is one of the first people to have completed one in each and every state in the US. Pruder has a wall with a medal and time posting for each completed race. With Dave’s accomplishments in mind Kyle and I decide to do one of the things we enjoy together; running in the back-country in the mountains.
Although the route is tricky for running, we drop from almost two miles in the sky back to the Jeep in a little over 20 minutes. We trade odd running with the camera gear backpack. Kyle says that running through the Golden Patch section is one of the most enjoyable things he has done in life and the pictures are awesome. However, they do not compare to the feeling of experiencing it first hand.