I remembered this epic YouTube video I had watched years ago. I pulled it back up and we rewatched it. Less than ten minutes into the 45-minute show, we decided we wanted to attempt The Grand Sawtooth Loop – a 75 mile trail around Redfish Lake and Grandjean.
Watch our own epic YouTube video from our trip, here!
It was definitely not your typical honeymoon and every person who asked us where we
would be going responded with either “why Idaho?” or “y’all are crazy”. The later became a
very accurate statement as we went along the trail and questioned a few times why we weren’t just sipping daiquiris on the beach and instead camping in 45-degree weather. But the first question was so easy to explain to people, “because the mountains are calling us and few
people are bold enough to venture out there”.
My now husband, John, and I have lived in Colorado for the last five years. That was until two
weeks before our wedding in May, when we decided to change our lifestyles completely and
move back home to Mississippi to be closer to family and start a homestead farm. It has been a complete whirlwind since about February with planning the move and our wedding in Mississippi, so our honeymoon was pretty much the first break either of us had while in the midst of packing, unpacking, painting, and then celebrating.
It all seemed a blur until we crossed the state line from Nevada into Idaho and those mountain views we had grown so accustomed to in Colorado, came back into our line of sight. In that moment, I think we both realized how special this journey would be.
It finally felt like the start of our new life together when we talked about how much we had missed seeing mountains and decompressed from the stress of the last few months. It was surreal how calming the site of a mountain range we had never seen before could be, but it felt so welcoming to witness after a few months hiatus in our new home among the pine forests.
Read and watch other things we did during our entire honeymoon road trip from Mississippi to Idaho!
We had spent about a month after our wedding planning and packing for this trip, yet when we arrived at the trailhead I couldn’t help fear that we had forgotten something or not packed
enough. Some of that nervous fear came from the fact that it was only 47 degrees at 10 am when we arrived at Redfish Lake and I grew concerned that the clothes I packed weren’t going to be warm enough at night. The other part of me knew that what we were embarking on was something we hadn’t done in an entire year together, and those first backpacking trip of the year jitters really sunk in after I lugged my nearly fifty pound pack onto my back.
Those concerns of being warm enough quickly faded as we started our first ascent from The Redfish Trailhead up to The Alpine Way Trail. By noon the temperatures were
approaching the 90s and I couldn’t believe that as we were climbing in elevation it kept getting
hotter, but it did.
The wildflowers were still out strong even though it was approaching the end of July. Each
bright yellow, white, and magenta bloom stood out to me. I was so excited because we had specifically delayed our trip in hopes of catching their blooms. Seeing each new flower reminded me how much I truly loved the high alpine summers.
The most surprising part of the start of the trail wasn’t the warmth or how strenuous the initial
grade of elevation felt on my body, instead it was the smells. The sage brush surrounding us
filled my nostrils with the most beautiful aromatics. Then, as we approached the heavily
wooded forests we could smell the pine trees in a way we don’t get in the muggy heat of
Mississippi. These pine trees instead almost stung my nose with a piercing clean scent. It
brought me right back to some of our first trip memories through The Great Smoky Mountains
and other places with little to no pollution, cars, or people around.
I held my husband’s hand as he filled out our wilderness permits at the backcountry line. I
knew that this trip was going to mean something unforgettable to us and help me officially
close the chapter of my single Colorado life, and prepare us for our new journey into marriage. I was both nervous and excited.
Not long after we entered into the wilderness the first views of the peaks we would be circling
came into view. We gawked along the ridgeline with an elderly couple who shared with us that this year was going to be their 39th wedding anniversary. They congratulated us and wished us good luck on both our marriage and the trail we were starting.
The rest of the day, we didn’t see anyone else on the main trail. That was until we set up camp at the base of Thompson Peak and hiked with minimum gear to Thompson Lake. We saw one woman on the thin and narrow trail and one other couple leaving the lake when we arrived after the steep and sketchy scramble.
The bright blue water was unlike anything either of us had ever seen and the pointed rock spires above it jutted out of the ground like a hand reaching for the sky. We stood at the first
viewpoint just amazed that a place like this could exist in the world, and that we were blessed
enough to be standing there together, alone, in such a peaceful place. We had never been in a place so beautiful.
That moment only lasted so long, because my husband decided to strip down and take a nice
cold plunge into the water. When he did, I placed our condensed bag down and accidentally set off our bear spray can. This mistake would become the bane of my existence the entire duration of our trip. We both felt nothing at the time it went off, but slowly throughout the trip different parts of my body would feel like they were on fire when they came in contact with the expelled spray. Including my lips which burnt first as I took of sip of water on our way back down to our campsite.
I slept that night with a burning feeling in my left arm and lips that tingled, but I still felt
refreshed after a night under the stars with our rain cover off, just breathing in the fresh
Our second day was a fairly uneventful day compared to our first. Luckily, this time without any negligent firings of our bear spray. We hiked towards Goat Creek through the dense forest and blazing heat again until we set up camp around 4pm. Exhausted, hot, and hungry.
I forget how strenuous backpacking can be on my very frail 115-pound body, and sometimes I do not eat more calories than I burn carrying my over-packed 85L backpack. So that evening while I complained how tired I was, my husband cooked up a huge pot of homemade dehydrated gumbo. We ate and were in our sleeping bags around 7:45 just waiting for the sun to go down and the temperatures to cool off enough that we could get some rest. We agreed it would be a good idea to get up earlier the next day and to beat the midafternoon heat on our ascent up to Sawtooth Lake.
The next morning we managed to get up and climb the roughly 4-miles up to Sawtooth Lake
before 11am. Our plan was to do a little fly fishing and eat some lunch before heading over
The McGown Lakes to make our descent towards Grand Jean.
After I caught four fish and my husband got fed up and tangled up with his line and lack of
production, a storm started to roll in. We could see lighting and thunder off in the distance
heading our way. It was only about 1pm but we decided we needed to go ahead and bunker
down. We tried at first just setting up a makeshift shelter with our big blue tarp, but when the winds started to pick up we realized that wouldn’t be enough. We quickly got our tent up right
in the nick of time before the rain started.
We cooked up some taco soup that we were saving for dinner and pulled out our map, knowing good and well there was a slim chance we would be able to hike anymore that afternoon. We started to reevaluate our route because I knew that there were a few trail options that led out from Sawtooth Lake.
We had given ourselves a 7-day window to complete the entire Grand Loop, but we had plans on the backside to visit our friends in Colorado at a concert we already had tickets to, so we had to stay firm on this deadline. Having only done 4 out of the 12 miles we had planned for that day, we grew afraid that if we encountered any other storms like this that we wouldn’t make it out in time.
We made a decision that evening to cut about 25 miles off of the route and take The North Fork Baron-Sawtooth Lake Trail to Baron Lakes and circle back to Redfish Lake from there, instead of going all the way around and up from Grand Jean. It wasn’t a decision either of us necessarily wanted to do, but we felt it was necessary.
It continued to rain and storm the entire evening. We woke up early the next morning to get on
the trail so that we wouldn’t get caught in another midafternoon downpour. We were glad we
did, first of all because even though the rain had cooled the temperatures down that morning they began to rise steadily before noon. But secondly, because that day of hiking would turn
out to be one of our favorites, and we had it all to ourselves for several hours.
The views leaving Sawtooth Lake were some of the most spectacular. The two unnamed lakes behind Sawtooth were unexpectedly stunning. Then, as we descended down the trail Moolack Peak popped out from behind the trees and we stood in its glory, just mystified by how an object so tall could be hidden for so long from view until just the right moment.
It was in that reflection I remembered why I loved backpacking and hiking so much. There are some truly remarkable places in the world and you have to be willing to go out of your way to see the most special. That was really how this entire trip had felt. I felt eternally grateful that we both have a love for finding those spots that many people will never see in their lives, just because of the sheer will it takes to get to them. We are also both incredibly lucky to have our health and each other. We overlooked the valley below us and started our descent to Moolack Creek, simply awestruck how vast the forest below us seemed.
When we arrived at Moolack Creek a few hours later we stripped our packs off and enjoyed a
lunch in the shade before removing our clothes and taking a wonderful freezing cold dip into
the small rushing creek. We felt refreshed and recharged after the frigid plunge, so we
decided to keep hiking a few miles to knock off some of the incline we would have the next day.
We got about three or four miles up the Redfish Creek-Baron Creek trail before a few raindrops fell on our faces. Within minutes of the first drops, fortunately, arrived at a beautiful campsite. We set up, threw our bear bag up in a tree, and were settled in right as the rain rolled into the valley.
We woke the next morning with fog still clinging to the nearby peaks and ate our breakfast in a chilly gray setting. Based off our maps we were afraid we would have a tough day of climbing up to the lake, but instead we found the wet and bushy trail easier than some of the other days. The only bad thing was that our boots and pants became soaked by the rain still clinging to the thick low lying underbrush.
This valley seemed so different from the others. My husband said it reminded him of a
scene from Jurassic Park with all the thick ferns and fog surrounding us. He was just waiting for a raptor to pop out and scare us.
We arrived at Baron Lake around 11am without another soul in sight. We couldn’t believe it. We knew this was a popular area for day hikers, backpackers, and horse trail riders alike. Somehow we timed it perfectly where the campers from the night before had already left and the groups for today hadn’t arrived yet. The rain and gloomy weather could have also held off some people, but regardless of the reasons we were so fortunate to enjoy this peaceful lake
The clouds were looming in the air but there was no wind. The reflections of the mountains onto the water were a clear duplication. It was overall my favorite place on the trip
because I had never witnessed the stillness of water like that in an alpine lake. Usually they are so windy.
We ate our fish packs and fruit snacks for lunch, before strapping back in and climbing over the pass to the other Baron Lake and down towards Redfish Lake Creek. The two and a half miles to our campsite felt like the longest miles of my life. Maybe because my feet were wet and the switchbacks were steep and unrelenting, but the entire time I couldn’t wait to arrive at our final campsite and be off the trail for the day.
We finally arrived and found a spot in the crowded creekside area and cooked a hefty
dinner under the thick tree canopy while the rain came pouring down. We played a few rounds
of cards in the shelter of our tent while discussing the experiences we had over the past five
We intended to do a day hike up to The Temple the next day, but when we woke up the fog and mist were still lingering around and our boots were still wet from the day before. We decided to scratch our plans and go ahead and leave the backcountry completely to try and catch a boat ferry at Redfish Lake back to our car. It wasn’t a decision we made light-heartedly but we felt it was going to be the most rewarding and safest.
It only took us an hour and a half to hike the quick four miles to the inlet of Redfish Lake. We
timed it miraculously. Just as a boat was getting ready to pull away we heard, “Hey! Do you all need a ride?” and we quickly jumped aboard.
We rode the ferry back with a sweet family we had met the day before. We shared our stories about dodging the rain and the places we camped, before we fell silent and just enjoyed the luxury of riding on a boat and not hiking the five miles around the lake.
My husband and I held hands and looked back at the shoreline from where we had come, not
quite ready to be back in the “real world” but feeling so proud and accomplished of what we
had done the last six days.
We have never done this many miles and spent this many nights in the backcountry. Even
though the trip didn’t go exactly as we had mapped it out, I felt so grateful to have been able to walk through that wilderness with him and now, as we sat on this boat, I looked forward to our next steps into marriage, excited to see what our future holds for us.
If we can handle the stress, pain, and difficulties we went through on the trail we can make it
through a lot of things life will throw at us. We learned how to support each other both mentally and physically, how to nourish each other, and how important it is to protect the other. But mainly, we fell back in love with each other and our adventurous spirits.
See other places we went in Idaho while on our honeymoon road trip below:
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read.