Stories From Stanley, Idaho

Into the White Clouds: Bears, Untamed Wilderness, and Stories Untold

Into the White Clouds: Bears, Untamed Wilderness, and Stories Untold

I grew up an Idaho boy.  Spending most of my youth in the Northern half of the state, I had never set foot in these mountains.  In September of 2010 that all changed.  

I had arrived, spit out by the winding river road, just barely light enough to see. I pulled off the side of the road arrested by the magnificence before me.  I was on a mission to backpack four mountain ranges in Idaho. My first stop was the White Cloud Mountains.  I remember it like it was yesterday.   

I started up Fourth of July Creek that morning, as the sun began to crest the mountains. The morning light struck the Sawtooth range across the valley The back end of my old Ford Ranger, bounced and skipped up the washboard road.  The aspens shivered in the cold morning air, glowing in their fiery fall colors.  The peaks stood like monoliths above the scorched timber. I was about to embark on a four-day journey through the white sloped peaks, lake basins and mountain meadows that lay before me. 

Those four days in The White Clouds changed my life.  18 months later, I packed up my things and moved my life to the heart of Idaho.  Eight years later, I have explored most every creek, fished the mountain lakes, climbed a number of those iconic peaks, and been humbled in its merciless wilderness. But still, a big piece of the puzzle is missing.    

I've looked down onto it from Strawberry and Iron basins. I've perched high above it, on the peaks of O'Caulkins and Patterson.  I've drank from its headwaters at the borne Lakes, but the 21-mile trail that follows Warm Springs Creek to the Salmon River, had never touched the soles of my boots.  I was determined for this to be the year. 

It's May 29th 2018: I slurped the remainder of my coffee and started up the trail out of Robinson Bar.  The plan is to let my feet carry me as far as they'll take me up the winding trail.  The morning clouds hung low in the canyon. Out of the gate, I made the first climb.  At the top, the trail emerges from the Douglas Fir, providing views upstream and across to Robinson Bar Ranch. The trail quickly descends back to stream level.  The bottom is lush from Spring rains and the creek is flowing with all its might. The morning dew quickly soaked my boots. In a matter of minutes, water began to seep in.  I looked down, mumbling "they don't make em' like they used to, as a dark shape moved into my vision across my brow.  I looked up.  A large black bear was grazing no more than 20 yards in front of me.  I instinctively went for both my camera and my .45.  I yelled, "HEY BEAR!" Expecting the bear to look at me for a moment and bolt into the brush, I began to lift my camera.  Just then, confused of my location, the bear looked the other direction, turned his shoulders and began running towards me.  I let go my camera and quickly drew my gun, yelling "HEY BEAR, HEY BEAR!!!" The bear stopped in his tracks.    My heart beating rapidly, sweat dripping from my forehead, once more, in a trembling voice, "heeeyyyyy bear." I watched my glassy reflection in his eyes as they grew in astonishment.  The bear lumbered off, taking one last glance as he slipped into the brush.   

Taking a deep breath, I continued up the trail, a bit more nervous than before, gun still drawn.  After a few minutes, I calmed down. 


The trail had moved away from the creek a bit and according to the map, another challenge lies shortly ahead.  I slowly hiked along, enjoying the sun as it began to emerge for the fog, weaving through the trees, examining the flora and fungi carpeting the forest floor.  Suddenly, I found myself back at the creek and the trail was leading directly into it.  The crossing was swift, deep, and frigged as the snow from which it came.  I searched upstream, but the steep canyon walls made it impossible to travel further.  I searched downstream with no options close to being safe.  My trip had come abruptly to an end.  Locked out by the forces of nature. 




Making the best of the situation, I set up camp next to a small stream. The day was still young, so I climbed up the canyon walls in search of a better view.  The hills were draped in sage, bitterbrush and balsamroot. Elk and deer fled from the benches and saddles.  I climbed until the snow blocked my path.  I basked in the sun, looking across the landscape.  As the sun began its decent, so did I.  I headed back to my truck early the next morning, know that I would soon return.


~Blog and Photography by Adam Gulick 














Featured Local Events

DATE: March 2 - 4, 2018

TIME: Multi-times

LOCATION: Park Creek Ski Area, Alturas Lake Ski Area, Community Building, Stanley, ID

March 3rd & 4th, 2018 — Sawtooth Ski Club 16th Annual Ski Festival

  • SATURDAY, March 3rd, Park Creek Ski Area
    Highway 21, 7 miles W. of Stanley
    11am-2pm Homemade Chili & Treats
    Poker Run!!!
    Winning hand called at 1:30 pm
  • SATURDAY EVENING 5:30-8:30pm
    Stanley Community Building
    Dinner Extravaganza
    Incredible Silent Auction, bring your checkbook!
  • SUNDAY, March 4th
    Alturas Lake Ski Area
    Highway 75, 20 miles S. of Stanley
    11am-3pm Soup Kitchen Social
    Great ski trails and a great time!!!

The Sawtooth Ski Club will host the 16th Sawtooth Ski Festival March 3rd and 4th. Come ski, play, feast, dance, shop and socialize, all while supporting Cross Country Skiing in Stanley Sawtooth Country! At 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 3rd at the Park Creek Ski Trails, homemade chili and treats will await eager participants at the annual Poker Run. Donating fun lovers ski or snowshoe a fun course, stopping at stations to collect cards and when the game is called at 1:30, whoever has collected the best poker hand wins a most excellent prize! At 5:30 Saturday evening at the Stanley Community Building, our ski club celebrity chef will present a delicious dinner and at the same time an amazing silent auction will take place. Many local businesses, arts and crafts people and friends of the club donate lovely things, wonderful services, ski and fashion accessories and deliciously fantastic items to the auction. At 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 4th at the Alturas Lake Ski Trails Soup Kitchen Social, enjoy great skiing along with with trailside soup and cookies. All events are donation based, so be sure to bring your check book or cash for the donation jars. The Sawtooth Ski Festival is our only fundraising event of the year. We depend on memberships, donations and Ski Festival proceeds to fund our efforts to provide quality groomed cross country ski trails at Park Creek and Alturas lake. Call Karen Keiski at 208-774-3487 if you wish to volunteer for any of the events or donate to the silent auction. See you at the Festival!


LINK: http://sawtoothskiclub.com/

TEL: 208-774-3487

CONTACT: David or Karen keiski@ruralnetwork.net


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