A hike to Fourth of July and Washington Lakes in the White Cloud Mountains is a relatively short and easy excursion. It is only 1.75 miles to Fourth of July Lake from the trailhead with minimal elevation gain – a great hike for those that want to wean into trekking in the area. Beyond and above these lakes lies Antz Basin and Born Lakes – situated in the newly designated Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness Area. The Born Lakes are just a tick short of 4 miles from the trailhead. The ascent from Fourth of July Lake junction (9,360 ft.) to the ridge-line (9,970 ft) is short and moderately strenuous. The trail-bed is of high quality. The descent into Antz Basin and Born Lakes is shorter and steeper – dropping 587 vertical feet rather quickly. Once in the basin it is a level trip to the lakes. On this day clouds would gather in increasing levels of darkness but no measurable rain would occur and occasionally the sun would break through for dramatic effect.
Lonesome Peak towers above the lakes to the north and east. Lonesome lake sits just below the peak and is the last in the magnificent chain of 12 that start with Frog Lake. The USFS staff says that about four people or less reach Lonesome Lake in any given year with even fewer attempting the Class 3 rock scramble to the summit. Linda and I are in this small group of people.
Linda and I started the trip alone. However we came upon a gentleman who was part of what would ultimately become a team of volunteers from the Idaho Trails Association that planned on improving the trail in the basin over the next week. The gentleman’s name is Steve Weston; who is also known as the In The Wild Chef. Steve’s role was to rehab the trail and also prepare gourmet meals. Steve’s book [In The Wild Chef: Recipes from Base Camp to Summit] has sold almost 60,000 copies. We left Steve with the task of having to make Swedish Meatballs (from scratch) for 10 people. Eight pack mules had already freighted in a good portion of the outfitting. The 2nd set of mules were about an hour behind with the remainder of gear lead by Executive Director Jeff Halligan and another lead.