Sawtooth Wilderness : Alice-Toxaway Loop Hike

On Last Friday (flashing back to August 11), I drove into Boise for some hiking supplies, with the plan to return to Stanley and go on a long day hike Saturday. Unfortunately, Tivona ended up having problems and I ended up stuck in Boise until Sunday morning. Nonetheless, I drove the loaner car the dealership gave me off to the Pettit Lake area outside of Stanley and ended up doing the full Alice-Toxaway Lakes Loop Hike, as a day hike.

Everything seemed okay driving into and around Boise, getting the supplies I needed and getting started on my way. Even merging onto the freeway on my way out, everything seemed great at first. However, switching out of the far right lane, there was a large sound from underneath Tivona. I thought I ran something over. She seemed to still be driving fine, without any audible or obvious signs of trouble, but I quickly stopped into the rest area just outside of town to check her out.

Everything seemed okay, until I tried to start her up. A loud cranking sound. And nothing. Tried again. Not even the sound from before. Just nothing. She was out of commission.

Long story short, I ended up getting her towed into the closest Subaru Dealer in Boise, whose service department was unfortunately already closed by the time we got there. I quickly searched around for some nearby hotels, booked one for two nights, and took an uber.

As it turns out, the flexplate broke and it would take them at least a week to get the required parts and fix her. Thankfully, this would all be covered under warranty, but I was stuck with a loaner Forester for the next while.

Not to be defeated, though, I left my hotel room early Sunday morning with the loaner and drove straight to Pettit Lake and set out on my way to do this hike.

The initial climb to Alice Lake was relatively easy and enjoyable, although long and with a couple of creek crossings and other such hazards along the way. Finally arriving at Alice Lake itself through all of this was an absolute joy, with the beautifully clear water shadowed by the line of jagged peaks just behind it. I enjoyed walking down the view, taking it in as I began the climb up towards Twin Lakes.

Twin Lakes and the following Alice-Toxaway Divide were some of the most surprisingly scenic parts of this entire hike. Not even the rain that began to come down on me, prompting me to pull out my poncho, could take anything away from the pure enjoyment I had out of hiking in such a stunningly beautiful spot.

As I crested over the divide, the view of the Toxaway drainage just offered even more beauty as well. I was overtaken with joy and all of the stresses of Tivona breaking down melted away. I found myself descending down the seemingly endless switchbacks just laughing at really nothing but the pure joy of the hike overtaking me.

The first lakes, coming before Toxaway, don’t appear to be named, but the stunning clarity and color of the water took me away, only highlighted even further by the mountains towering overhead and the light drizzle still coming down from the clouds overhead. It just all created created a perfect backdrop for what I so desperately needed.

Of course, the easy hiking couldn’t continue. It wasn’t long before I finally came across a couple of snow fields, intersected by a large area of massive avalanche damage. Between the two, the trail was nonexistent. Taking a couple of steps at a time, I continued navigating through until I became convinced that something had to be wrong. I could at least find small traces of a trail or other footprints most of the way to where I had gotten, but those suddenly seemed to disappear. Stopping to look at my map, I realized that I was coming up on the wrong side of Lake Toxaway; the trail skirted the north side of the lake, and I was about to approach it on the South side. Getting lost is always a fun experience.

Thankfully, it wasn’t actually hard to retrace my steps, find a better way to traverse the rough terrain, and find my way back to the true trail again. And soon enough, plenty of other hikers (more backpackers, to be honest) started to show up along the trail, as views of Lake Toxaway came into sight.

At this point, I decided that I didn’t really care to actually stop and mess around with the various lakes along the way. I enjoyed the views as I passed them, but moreso, I was just enjoying the pure act of hiking. All I wanted to do was just hike. So I continued on the rest of the way, not stopping more than to give myself a quick break. Past views of Lake Farley and down into the thicker forests of lower elevation, I eventually came out of the wilderness and traversed over a small ridge back to Pettit Lake to finish the hike.

Overall, the hike came out to 20.31 miles with 5174.53ft of elevation gain. Especially given the rough conditions, I would call this a pretty extreme day hike. I finished it in just over 8 and a half hours total myself, giving myself to arrive back at camp outside of Stanley before sunset. It was everything I needed that weekend and a wonderful preview of what to expect in the following weekend.

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