CDT: Island Park & Sawtelle Mountain Resort

July 24-25 (Mack’s Inn Cut-off: 3.3 – 16.8) 13.5 miles

We awoke to a surprisingly dry interior. With the exception of our food bags having been soaked through, and the dampness of our rainfly, you’d have no clue it had rained with such volume and vigor. Today we would arrive into Island Park Idaho, and hopefully secure a room at Mack’s Inn or cabin at the RV park.

The abandoned logging road upon which the trail continued intersected with an unpaved, but fully maintained and travelled road. Driveways to cabins and summer homes veered off from here. It was hot, flat and monotonous.

We walked mostly down the middle, because we could. Several ATVs and trucks drove past us in the opposite direction. Some slowed to not “dust” us out, while most kicked up and left a lingering cloud of dust for us to choke on. When we reached the 3 mile blacktop paved section into Island Park, we hitched. We had no desire to walk aside such a heavily trafficked roadway. We almost immediately got picked by a nice gentleman in a new truck. We apologized for our dirt and stink. He had just dropped off his family further up the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River for a “float” down into Island Park. At our request, he dropped us at Mack’s Inn.

Once again we were thrust into droves of people, and constant, unending mechanical noise. Neither of which I am a fan. Based upon everyone’s attire, we were obviously over-dressed. Our backpacks didn’t fit in as well. We got quizzical looks and a few looks of disdain, like we were homeless or vagabonds. Which to be truthful, at that moment, we were.

One of the things with being retired is that the need (or desire) to know, or recognize, what day of the week it is, is not that important. Being mindful of the date, or time of day, is also not that crucial to our daily existence. The same could be said for those on a thru-hike, with the exception of collecting one’s resupply from the post office. As we had planned to resupply from the store here, we were completely clueless that we had arrived at Island Park on a busy Friday afternoon…in the middle of summer. Island Park normally has a population just under 300 people, but swells to several thousand once summer hits. With numerous dirt roads to explore and traverse via any assortment of ATVs, the 7,000 acre Island Park Reservoir nearby, and wide and lengthy river(s) to raft and/or fish, this place was awash with recreation. And, unless we wanted to shell out mega bucks for a one night stay at the newly built Springhill Suites, we were out of luck. There was no room at the “inn”. Any of them.

Dismayed, we decided that eating fresh food and drinking cold beer was a viable option. We toddled over the cement bridge spanning the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Cafe Sabor, a Mexican restaurant was calling our name. Al fresco dining on the deck, facing the river, we sipped a beer, while waiting for our food.

We were unexpectantly joined by the “youngsters”: Google, Bear Magnet, Timber and Coins. We thought they were long gone. Google and Bear Magnet had rolled into “town” last night, and were able to rent a cabin and do their laundry at the Yellowstone RV park at Mack’s Inn. Timber and Coins had also rolled in the night previous, and I believe had just finished their laundry. We told them of our predicament. They offered solutions, as to where they stayed, and almost had us convinced to join them back on trail. The problem was that I was on the verge of unrepairable peroneal tendonitis in both feet/lower legs. I did not want it to evolve into Tendonosis. Even if we had to stealth camp, I had to take more than a day off, or our hike would be over.

The Sawtelle Mountain Resort came to our rescue. While they did not have any rooms available, they did have a campsite (#12) for what we considered “dirt cheap”. It also had an electrical outlet in which to charge our electronics. $77.76 w/tax for two nights with laundry facilities and a pool and jacuzzi, and easy walking distance to two restaurants (Connie’s and Island Park Lodge) and Robin’s Roost Grocery Store and gas station, we couldn’t pass this up.

It was nice to be able to set up for more than one night, and to actually lounge upon a thru-hiker’s couch (aka. picnic table). As our seriously rank smelling hiking attire soaked in swirly suds of the Resort’s washing machines (of which they provided us with soap and fabric softener…the coin machines didn’t work), we alternated soaking our bodies in the indoor pool and jacuzzi, immediately next to the laundry room.

Sufficiently clean we headed to Connie’s Restaurant and Saloon for “Prime Rib Night”, a meal we were advised to not miss. Ironically we were not that hungry. In fact, the ravages of “hiker hunger” have not really hit as of yet.

We attribute this to the fact that we are generally making better food choices and have added a daily intake of added vitamins and minerals via Emergen-C packets, and for me 99mg capsule of potassium and 400mg softgel of magnesium to help with maintaining my heart rhythm.

Connie’s graciously allowed us to split the prime rib meal, and to add extra sides. The prime rib was perfect, and probably the best we have had in a long while. It is a restaurant that we would seriously revisit if ever in the area again.

The next morning we headed over to the Island Park Resort for breakfast and an endless cup of coffee. Then, to Robin’s Roost to complete our resupply to Lima, Montana. An unannounced and hellacious thunderstorm converged on Island Park. We retreated to the comfort of the Sawtelle Resort’s lobby to wait out the downpour. This enabled me to catch up, slightly, on my blog. We watched is awe as it rained. Grateful we had a dry and comfortable place to ride this storm out. It was like sitting behind a waterfall, the rain fell with such volume. This would be a true test of our tent. Over an hour into the constant and heavy rainfall, Paul decided to check on the status of our tent’s interior. Under cover of his Gossamer Gear LiteFlex Umbrella, he scurried to our campsite. So far, so good. Everything was dry. The fly and campsite drainage was working properly. The site’s tree cover was helpful in breaking up the heavy cascade of rain that fell on our tent. For nearly three hours it rained. Rivers of water ran through the campground drainages. During a slight “lull” we hustled over to Connie’s for dinner, and then hit the “hay” for the following morning’s Yogi’d ride up the road, back to the trail. We didn’t know how far up the road our ride would take us, but anything was better than walking the full 10 miles up the busy dusty, waterless road, beside a plethora of ATVs and vehicles on their way to Sawtell Mountain, and the giant “golf ball”, Ashton FAA radar tower on top of it.

Sawtelle Mountain
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