Middle Fork Lake

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The Middle Fork of Lake Fork is a worthwhile challenge.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Art had wanted to hike to Middle Fork Lake for some time. I explained that it was hard for me to do a long hike without bagging a peak, so he should take it as a sign of our friendship that I agreed to his plan. So we were off at the crack of 11 o'clock, crossing Lake Fork Creek on slightly slippery rocks.

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We cruised up the East Fork trail, then plotted our escape up the Middle Fork. Some maps show a trail, and there is indeed one there if your eyes and trail skills are sharp. With two of us working as a team, we did pretty well. We had some trouble at the beginning on the way up due to confusion caused by game trails and old sheepherder trails (yes, the trail is that faint), but were able to follow it on the way out.

And once on the trail and moving up the valley, started reaping rewards.

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This is an absolutely stunning area.

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Which includes some good-sized trees. At least by McCall standards. Art had just come off the PCT in Washington, so what looked like Giants to me looked less impressive to him. Still, worth hugging.

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More stunning scenery.

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If you clicked the previous photo to see the bigger version, you probably noticed this white tower in the upper left.

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More gorgeousness.

Near the right hand of the distant ridge is the summit of Buck Peak, which I had climbed with Fadgmo just two weeks ago.

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Idaho has a scenic attraction called Balanced Rock. But that one has been concreted and re-barred to hold it in place. This one is all natural.

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By this point, there was no trail. Nonetheless, we had been really enjoying the walk. And then came the alders. If you haven't bulled your way through a patch of slide alder, you simply haven't lived. Trailhead

Here's a taste of what it is like, although I should point out that I had the camera out, indicating that this is a relatively easy section. But note the evil combination of vertical and horizontal obstacles.

For us, the alder we encountered was in short sections, and I think we were following elk trails. So the longest part only lasted a couple minutes. Not too bad.

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And then back to open hillsides.

And getting closer to our lake, which is under a huge notch in the ridge, more or less where the tree is sticking up into the sky near the middle of the photo.

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We had spotted this little chute, and the map indicated a bench at the top. This looked much better than trying to sort our way through the cliffs under the lake outlet.

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Our hard work up the steep and slippery chute paid off when we found this 'bench'. Note the dark cliffs forming the right side of the notch. Just a few hundred feet of gain to go.

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And then we were at Middle Fork Lake, which sits right below Gunsight Notch. For those of you who have been to the top of Slick Rock, from there you can see this obvious notch off to the southeast. I had also looked thru it from the other side when I visited Buckhorn Mountain Lake years ago.

In our picture here, Art is standing just right of center, and Sam is in the water.

We plopped down and stared while we had a quick lunch. It was a little after 3pm, so it had to be quick or we risked finishing our hike in the dark. Art mumbled something about forgetting his headlamp. I pumped some water. And we were out of there.

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This is looking back down the Middle Fork from the top of our chute. Trailhead
And another view of our balanced rock. Trailhead

We were running a GPS, so had a trail to follow on the way out.

But we found Sam, our doGPS, to be much more useful. He stayed a few yards ahead of us (see the picture), following our trail to a 'T'. Once in a while Art and I would spot what we thought looked like a better trail, only to get stuck. Then Sam would give us dumb humans the stink-eye and wait patiently while we floundered back to what Sam had clearly indicated was the correct route.

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It wasn't dark when we finally got back to the East Fork trail, but it was getting close.

This valley is an incredible spot, but navigating up through it is not for beginners. Find a map that shows the old trail and take a GPS. Or Sam.

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Map.

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