The 21 Lake Tour – 56 Hours Off Trail and 28,000 Vertical Feet


Jeff Lubeck paddles on Warbonnet Lake.


21 Lakes Route. Inset the Sawtooth Wilderness. Map © EB Phillips – all rights reserved. Overlay Jeff Lubeck















The Redfish Lake drainage in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) situated between the towns of Stanley, and Ketchum Idaho is a geologic masterpiece.  No doubt about it.

Most people call the south end of the lake and the first few miles of the trail on Redfish Lake Creek Shangri-la. Buttressed by Elephants Perch on the south and Braxon Peak on the north it is easy to understand the claim.

For the vast majority of day hikers – Flatrock Junction – the 3.75 mile one-way trip from the south end of the lake on the Redfish Creek trail is the farthest travel distance.  It is a wonderful thing to experience.

For the hearty hiker an additional leg – up the steep but exceptionally well constructed trail – to Alpine Lake and on to the Baron Divide encompassing 6.5 miles one-way – is worth every single ounce of energy.  The journey is memorable.

For the over-night trail oriented back-packer a superb trip is 18 mile round-trip to and from Cramer Lakes.  Complete this trip and you can look locals in the eye with a gentle nod of acknowledgment.

But Wait There is More…

However, these trips are is simply the start of the treasure to be found and enjoyed in this region of the Sawtooths.

For me and my regular teammates Chris and Sara Lundy of Sawtooth Mountain Guides we establish an additional level of adventure and fun is to be had by venturing off-trail and cross-country to the south and west of the aforementioned trail-bound trips.

This adventure takes 61 hours – of which only four hours and 7.5 miles will be be on-trail. It encompass 21 lakes, climbing three high elevation passes, covering three drainages and summiting Reward Peak. As an added part of the adventure the team floats on the three highest lakes in a Alpaca Raft.

The 21 Lake Tour represents the ninth photo-shoot the team has performed together over the past few years. The photo-shoot takes place from Thursday August 25th through Sunday August 29th. The photo-shoot starts and ends at the wonderful Redfish Lake Lodge.

The challenges on this photo-shoot are many. On the first day the smoke from the Pioneer Fire greets the team late in the day at Verita Pass (9,600) which requires crossing over a mile of large boulders at a steep angle from the Baron Creek drainage to the Warbonnet Lake Overlook followed by a 700 vertical foot descent on unstable scree to the lake.

On the afternoon of the 2nd day smoke greets the team as it reaches the Cony Lake and Cony Peak area. We confirm smoke at high elevation is not much fun.


Sunrise from Cony Lake – Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

On the afternoon of the third day, the last 189 vertical feet to the top of Reward pass requires the teammates to follow each other in lock-step one step at a time on terrain that is best described as sand blasted to a fine grain with little to no foot grip.


Lake Kathryn (near) and Redfish Lake (distance) from the summit of Reward Peak. Copyright – Jeffrey H. Lubeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Each of the challenges mentioned above make for a colorful narrative but are easily outweighed in enjoyment by a factor of 100x given the remarkable beauty of the region with virtually no evidence of human impact. And truth be told – the challenges are not really all that tough in the first place.

A Story Rich in Irony about Lean Men in Lean Times: Hell or High Water


The setting, characters and storyline for Hell or High Water directed by David MacKenzie (Starred Up) and written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) make for a otherwise superb film.  It is a film where the viewer can easily become attached to good guys and bad guys.  Who is ultimately to be viewed as the good and bad is left to the viewer.  Regardless, the viewer understands the position and plight for all involved.

The magic of Hell or High Water is the richness by which every character’s role is presented – small or large.  Each seems to possess and reveal life’s contradictions.  Be it a bank teller who speaks her mind, a waitress who challenges the law, a lawyer helping ensure a plan is executed to perfection and completed with an exclamation point, or a lawman pretending to be an old-coot racist when his heart is really 180 degrees the other way.

In present day West Texas, the have-nots look tired from the day at-hand and life in general. While the have-nots of West Texas are not overtly complaining about their apparent hopelessness they do look to be trying to figure out how to tread-water until their time on earth runs out.

Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is one of the have-nots.  He too has wasted away into something of which he is not necessarily proud.  By nature Toby is a gentle person and considerate of others. He has never committed a crime or is a violent person. However, Toby cannot find steady work, is divorced, behind in child-support payments and about to lose his family’s property via a reverse-mortgage scam given his mother’s recent passing – for which he was her care-giver.  Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) is Toby’s older brother.  Tanner stands in about the same spot, but arrived at it through violence and prison time.

Toby has asked his brother to assist him in a plan to square things for his children.  Toby has carefully thought this plan through and Tanner – who will do anything for his brother – knows exactly how to execute it.

The execution of the plan forces the introduction of Texas Rangers into the storyline. Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are the team to apprehend the perpetrators.  This case is Hamilton’s last gig, and he wants to finish his career on a good note.

Thus begins the cat and mouse game between the Texas Rangers and the Howard Brothers.  Hell or High Water executes on all cylinders through to competition.  There is no Hollywood ending in Hell or High Water. Simply one that is very interesting.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

The look of the Cowboy and Cow Poke.

In the middle of last century, Hollywood’s version of Cowboys and Cow Pokes from the Old West feature men who are shorter and prettier than the women. Alan Ladd in Shane (1953) Montgomery Cliff in Red River (1948) best come to mind.  Terrific actors, damn handsome, and wearing the best cowboy outfit the Costume Department can produce. A few decades later, Hollywood’s version of present day Cowboys and Cow Pokes were taller, buff, full bodied and often shirtless – think Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.  Chris Pine as Toby Howard is lean, really lean and scruffy.  If you did not know otherwise you would think he was from West Texas.

Location, Location, Location.

Although set in West Texas, principle filming for Hell or High Water was in eastern New Mexico – Clovis, Portales, and Tucumcari.  I have spent a fare amount of time in this region.  The TV Series of the 1950’s Rawhide used similar locations.

Dropping into Born Lakes For A Visit

born Lakes 01

One of the Born Lakes with Lonesome Peak in the background.

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.

Ants Basin Born Lakes 2048

Antz Basin, Born Lakes and the headwaters of Warm Springs Creek in the Boulder White Cloud Wilderness – from the near the ridge-line at 9,970 feet elevation.

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.

Steve Weston & Linda Lubeck Born Lakes Antz Basin DSC00758

Steve Weston & Linda Lubeck

Ridgeline Born Lake Ants Basin DSC00861

Top of the Ridge and Wilderness Border













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Off the top of the ridge and into the basin. Can you spot Linda Lubeck anywhere in this photo? Where is Linda Lubeck?

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Passing by on the way to the lake. Shae dog (off camera) greets the mules and horses.


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First pack on its way.

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Jeff Halligan with his horse and the 2nd pack.

Born Lakes Hike

The route

Fire Near The Cabin in Stanley

Park Creek Elk Meadow West of Stanley DSC00751

The Dry Creek Fire west of Stanley, Idaho as it crosses State Highway 21 – © Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck

While driving from our house in the Wood River Valley to our cabin in the Sawtooth Valley I noticed a large plume of smoke appear near the cabin. As I approached Stanley the plume of smoke got bigger and darker.  Angle and distance can always prove to be deceiving but the fire looked to be extremely close to where we live. As I turned left onto state highway 21 in Stanley a state trooper zoomed past me towards the fire.  I followed the patrol car directly.

The fire now looked to be only a couple of drainages from our cabin.  The patrol car – with me right behind – came upon the fire.  US Forest Service staff were running away from the fire towards patrol car.  It was a wild few minutes.  Our stopping point was a road that leads to my friend Gary O’Malley’s home.  Gary soon approached with everything he could collect from his home as the fire was moving swiftly in his direction.

The next few minutes, hours and days would prove to be hectic.  The story as it appears in the Idaho Mountain Express is located [here].

A Boost from Government or Other Institutions? I don’t need no stinking government or other institutions, I need dignity and freedom to create Betterment!!!


So you think jobs creation by government, closely held capital available for investment, the grace of benevolent institutions or a single person who states they will serve you well is what makes the world a great place?  No so says Deidre Nansen McCloskey the conservative economist – a key person in the Milton Freeman Chicago School of Economics way of thinking – in her book Bourgeois Equality.

You can read the 650 pages of text and 137 pages of notes in the third installment by McCloskey in this line of thinking – like I did.  However, the bottom-line is that McCloskey proffers that if people are afforded basic human dignity (which has been the norm since 1840-ish) their insatiable appetite to better things (i.e., Betterment) is what has led to a 30-100 times improvement in quality of life.  It is the desire to improve (i.e., quicker, better, faster) that has allowed us to live a life with a remarkable standard of living (and also to take virtually everything that is part of our daily life for granted).

McCloskey is bold and brash. She is willing to critique (often harshly) the hypothesis posited by every well known economist and theorist.  I would pat McCloskey on the back but her hand is already there.  None-the-less Bourgeois Equality is great reading for a geek like me.

My only question for McCloskey?  Then why haven’t the Cubs won the World Series since 1906?


All The Way – Or Very Close To It

All The Way

All the Way – Home Box Office’s version of the Tony Award winning stage play – is a rewarding watch.

Starring Bryan Cranston (AAN Trumbo, Argo) Written by Robert Schenkkan (from his play) and Directed by Jay Roach (Trumbo, Meet The Parents, Austin Powers) All The Way tells the story of the 36th President of the United States; Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) during his years as Chief Commander.

All The Way overcomes – for the most part – two major constraints.  The ground that needs or could be covered in a Biopic and all of the characters and story lines are from an age that print media, radio, and television existed and presented to the public.  All The Way succeeds by focusing on the battleground of politics and civil rights.  All The Way succeeds because Cranston’s performance as LBJ is uncanny.  Whereas Cranston’s 2015 Academy Award Nominated performance as Dalton Trumbo felt like a wonderful caricature of the real man, he feels to be the real LBJ in All The Way.

If All The Way falls short in any manner it is that it portrays some major historical characters essentially as prop pieces in areas where in real life they were a key or principle character. For example, Anthony Mackie as Reverend Martin Luther King is good in his role. However the screenplay, while not inaccurate, is not forthcoming about King’s leading role in civil rights or the relationship and interaction between the two men.  This is a small complaint, as with any Biopic the center of the universe is the main character and the story is about them.

All The Way is highly worthy of your time.

Money Monster – Not Quite Either

Money monster

A movie with George Clooney and Julia Roberts as the principle actors is certain to please on some basic front.  Clooney and Roberts star in Money Monster and they deliver with a natural chemistry that would be expected given they have been friends outside of work for 15 years, and have worked together successfully on four films (Oceans series and Confessions of A Dangerous Mind).

Combine Clooney, Roberts and an interesting premise and you have Money Monster in a nutshell.  Move past 30 minutes of viewing and Money Monster – while not failing – starts to move from being categorized as a clever film with a good cast to an okay film with a good cast.

Roberts and Clooney are spot on in good roles – highly believable. Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) playing the bad-guy and victim is additive to the good performance in a good role status for Money Monster.

As for the rest of Money Monster; good actors playing pretty typical roles working with a substandard script. You will easily recognize Dominic West (Hannibal Rising, 300, 28 Days), Caitriona Balfe (Super 8, Outlander), Giancarlo Esposito (Fresh, The Usual Suspects) and Christopher Denham (Argo, Shutter Island).  These are good actors. Unfortunately their actions and lines feel as if screenwriters used something such as AutoPilotScript for the the iPhone to complete the remainder of the screenplay.

Money Monster is not certain money or a monster film.  However it is a decent feature film, and if you have a scheduled date night or the extra time will be worth a trip to the movie theater.

What to do when the Opportunity Presents Itself: Lean and Hungry

New Voices

Is there an opportunity being presented?  If so, should it be acted upon?  And if acted upon, what will be the implication?

Roger Lubeck’s One Act Play – Lean and Hungry – currently showing at the Sixth Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa, California is a Tac sharp offering. The combination of dialog, staging and acting successfully draw the viewer right into the the middle of the situation.

A man (Rusty Thompson as He) and a woman (Crystal Carpenter as She) who are connected through a third-party (the woman’s boyfriend) have shared a week of interaction together with the boyfriend away on travel.  Lean and Hungry has us join the interaction on the night before the boyfriend’s return.  He and She are attempting to establish answers to the first two questions.  The combination of natural dialog, body language and eye movement makes Lean and Hungry an engaging if not totally engrossing endeavor.

He and She work each other and the situation as if they are seasoned politicians or professional boxers – saying things that can easily be interpreted as meaning something or nothing at all.

While watching Leaning and Hungry I wanted to blurt out a number of things to He and She as expert advise.  Phrases such as “you two are playing with fire”, “there is Trouble in River City get out while you are alive”, “stop right now this is going to end badly”, “go for it right now and who cares about the boyfriend I bet he is a jerk.”

While He and She are circling around the first two questions (through some obviously good direction from Beulah Vega), I occasionally move to and from thoughts about answers to the third question.  It was exciting and exhausting just like Lean and Hungry.  And then just as in life – poof – all gone.  Wait… what did they really decide to do? Was that real or just in my mind?

Lean and Hungry leaves the answers to the three questions up to the viewer and their imagination or does it?  Perfect!

Lean and Hungry

Roger C. Lubeck, Author

Sleeping Bag, Matt

Crystal Carpenter, She

Rusty Thompson, He

Director, Beulah Vega

Festival Director, Lennie Dean

Executive Artistic Director, Craig Miller

Executive Director, Jared Sakren

Redwood Writers Play Contest Chair, Linda Loveland Reid

Criminal Is Almost A Perfect Title


Surely, a film with the poorest of screenplays and direction can be overcome and saved by a male cast of Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kostner, Gary Oldmann, and Ryan Reynolds and bookend by Gal Godot and Antje Traue as the female leads.  Surely!

Well… no they cannot and don’t call me Shirley.

Criminal is as bad a (professionally funded mainstream) movie as has been put into distribution in recent memory.  The title of the film is highly appropriate but for unintended reasons – for what it forces the viewer to endure.  There is almost nothing in Criminal that is worthy of our time and dollars – except the child.  And we should all feel bad for little Lara DeCaro as she will have to live the rest of her life knowing people can tie her back to acting in this film.

Another title for this film could have been Bad Derivative.  Criminal utilizes (to new lows) the lamest components from the worst of the poorly produced Hollywood Knockoff films. For example, the good ole’ Operation Room: it is filled with 6.47 million high definition screens and the same number of staff who are led every view minutes by Gary Oldman’s character walking in and shouting “Okay people listen up.”  As you have come to expect, the 6.47 million high definition screens and staff are able to track everything real-time – I mean everything.  I swear that on one of the screens The Bad Guy is throwing out the Opening Day pitch for The Chicago Cubs before returning to his secret lair.  Oh, wait a moment, I have to stand corrected. The screens and the trackers always seem to miss things of actual importance – not because the technology and people fail – but because of the huge gap in the plot that is so obvious it can be seen from outer-space.

Persistence, Patience & Voila

Have you ever had an expectation for an event, and despite best laid plans the result is simply not of which you had hoped?

I could list all of mine, but that would entail about 58 volumes of narrative.  In this case it involves my friend, partner, associate and son – Kyle.

Kyle proposes that we climb/skin on skis to the top and then ski down from the peak overlooking Headquarters Canyon and the Wood River River Valley just north of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area main offices  He suggests that due to the recent warm weather we make the attempt on Saturday morning just after sunrise, ascend while the snow is firm and then descend to the valley floor on a bed of soft corn-like snow as the day warms.  A perfect plan if ever there has been one.

Big Ski Boulders

Headquarters Peak – Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

Will Mother Nature abide and follow the directive?

As the sun rises on Saturday morning the temperature at the trailhead is 23 degrees.  A weather system producing snow and somewhat cooler temperatures predicted to pass-through the night before is delayed and is starting to materialize as we begin our ascent.  The contrasting colors and light are pretty cool.  Although the avalanche danger is pretty low we bring and check all aspects (beacon, snow measurement, shovel, breathing apparatus, probes and SPOT)  The trip is projected to entail 2,672 vertical feet of gain in 1.70 miles. Off we go and right on schedule.

About 10 minutes in my AT bindings are malfunctioning. Without intention they are moving from unlocked to locked mode.  This forces me to take my ski off and reset the binding each time.  This task on a steep slope and with heavy pack (that includes avalanche and camera gear) is less than fun. After about the fifth time in the first 30 minutes it is time to establish a fix. First we try a gerry-rigged approach – think Three Stooges.  Before we even test the method, Kyle and I determine it will fail.  We both I identify and discuss a possible new solution.  It works and will so for the remainder of the uphill part of the trip.


Although about 3-6 hours late, the weather front makes its full appearance.  The implication is the slope is very icy and the skins on our skis are not holding in the steeper terrain.  At about 6,900 feet elevation Kyle looks at me and says something to the effect – I know I am all about the uphill, but was hoping for a lot better than this!

Both of us have shared a treasure trove of great back-country experiences; many where every aspect of the trip falls perfectly into place.  However, it starting to look like this is not one of them.

At 7,200 feet elevation a fairly steep section is encountered and will ensue for good period of time.  The icy terrain exacerbates the situation.  We both agree it is time to put on our crampons. Hey that is the ticket! The steepest portions require us to side-step up the mountain. However, both of us determine there is nowhere near the need to move to boot-pack mode (skis in pack and climb on all fours with crampons).

At 8,000 feet elevation the pitch of the ascent starts to become very straight forward.  However, the weather front is producing material snowfall and near zero visibility conditions.  We climb for another 750 vertical feet in this setting.  Kyle and I both agree that we do not feel the situation is particularly dangerous – just not much fun.  We both agree that we can comfortably head back down the we came up – keeping the skins and crampons on until we reach the valley floor.

We climb for another 100 vertical and I have determined I have made a mistake and it will turn out to be a big one if a correction is not made.  Although I am about to turn 59 (June) I regularly make these kinds of ascents (with heavy pack) without the need for a full break. Despite being super close to the top (100-200 vertical feet) – I need a full break.  Kyle and I agree to stop for 5-10 minutes; get water and share some food.  Wow… what a difference.

Kyle starts back up first and within a couple of minutes establishes the summit – which has a 5-10 foot cornice top. He locates a level spot about 10-15 yards to its right.  Kyle reaches the level spot and confirms success.

As we sit at the top, the visibility has not improved.  We agree to sit and rest for a few minutes and see if the weather conditions improve.  And as if on queue, the clouds start to part.  The peaks around us and the Wood River Valley make an appearance.  Snow flurries continue for about 10 minutes, but it is obvious the storm is breaking up – for a while at-least.

The bowl we originally intend to ski sit directly below our skis.  Kyle suggests we change our gear into downhill mode and seize the moment.  We do.

Before we leave, I decide I need to get a shot with the snow flurries and breaking sun.  Of course the lens cap escapes me and rolls away.  Luckily the cap stays above the ridgeline.  Kyle skis down to the cap and reclaims it.  I take the shot just as he lifts his head.

As we start down the sun comes out in full force – with the clouds becoming puffy pillows on the horizon.  The fall line is long and at a superb pitch.  I secure my heavy pack and off the cornice I go.  The snow condition for the first quarter of the descent is quite good.  The middle half of the descent provides the snow condition we desire – soft corn-like that is perfect to ski on a warming day.  During the last quarter of the descent the snow becomes heavier.  We navigate carefully through the trees just above the valley floor down the the bottom.  What a run!

Kyle and I head back to the Jeep, take off and secure our gear.  Our next destination – The Sawtooth Brewery in Ketchum to replenish our body’s with the appropriate fluids and a full (not partial) burger with all the trappings.

Kyle on Top Big Ski Boulders

Kyle Lubeck, Lens Cap at the top of Headquarters Peak, The Sawtooth Recreation Area, Idaho