My First Trip Out West & A Few Other Firsts

Way back when, in my late 30s, I took my first trip out west. It was also my first camping/backpacking trip out west. Heck, it was my first for a lot of things.

Our orginial plan was to go to a caving event, the NSS Convention. At the time, caving was what we did for adventure, not much backpacking.

So 7 of us, which included my husband Danny, my brother Louie and 3 other males and 1 female, set out to backpack first, do the high point, then end at the NSS convention in Boise, Idaho.

Well, we never made it to the caving convention. We loved the back country of Idaho so much we stayed and continued camping. The thought of going to the convention and pitching our tent in the middle of a field in the hot sun no longer sounded like fun. Fun was getting lost in the Sawtooth Mountain range.

We drove north towards the Sawtooth Mountains and I can still remember seeing those mountains in the distance for the first time, thinking – WOW, they are huge!

These mountains were like nothing I had ever seen before. I thought my head was going to explode. I can’t even put it into words, it looked so amazing! I just knew and said out loud – “This is were I want to be for the next week”.

The pictures below are from this trip back in July of 1999. This is before any of us had a digital camera so these pictures are scanned, not the best quality but as I continue to go through old photos I thought I share one of my most memorable backpacking/camping trips ever!

And the 7 of us who took that trip are still friends today and we still do tons of outdoor adventures together. We’re a little slower now but still loving the outdoors after all these years. In fact, I said to my husband, we should plan a 20 year reunion back to this very special place, how cool would that be!

I’ll continue the story about what we did and share some of my firsts I experienced on this trip. I’ll try to make this short so as not to bore you because I could go on and on about this wild trip, that how much fun I had.

Idaho Mountains

Idaho Mountains in the distance .

We got to those mountains in the distance late and weren’t sure where to camp (we didn’t think of everything on this trip) so we decided to pull off to the side of the road along the Snake River and sleep out under the stars. This was another first for me, I always slept in a tent, never without a roof over my head.

I had thoughts of bad things happening, like creepy crawlers getting into my hair but nothing did except, I woke up freezing. There was frost on my sleeping bag, brrrrrrr. Not what I was expecting for the middle of July.

Dock at Redfish Lodge

Waiting at Redfish Lodge boat dock for a ride to the trailhead for Alpine Lake

We started our backpacking trip up to Alpine Lake at Redfish lodge boat dock. A short boat ride across Redfish Lake took us to the trailhead and cut off a few miles of our backpacking. Yeah!

Another first for me, I have never and haven’t since gotten a start on the trial by boat. The cool thing is they’re still doing this today. Check out Redfish Lodge website for details. This was a blast, I highly recommend it!

Then, it was up, up, up about 5.9 miles up steep switchbacks through thick forest opening up at times to show it’s jagged edges of the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains. These pictures don’t do it justice, it was magnificent!

Sawtooth Mountains

Beaitoful views hiking up to Alpine Lake

We made it to Alpine Lake before dark and I’ll just say, it was a workout. I don’t think any of us were ready for this kind of hiking and especially coming from the east coast at near sea level to an attitude of about 8,000 feet, the highest I’ve ever been (another first for me). So it took longer than expected but it was so worth it!

Alpine Lake Tina Louie

Tina and brother Louie chilling at camp at Alpine Lake

Packrat Mountain, at 10,240 feet, kept starring at us all evening (see picture below) So the next day we all had the crazy idea to climb it. Actually they decided to climb it, I went so far and turned around.

alpine lake with packrat mountain in the background

Danny swimming in Alpine Lake with Packrat Mountain in the background.

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Looking down on Alpine Lake

View from as far as I went up Packrat Mountain.

I came back down the same way I went up but everyone else scattered, going in different directions trying to find an easier way down.

Luckily we had radios and were able to talk to each other because a few in the group did not make it back until dark. Not a smart thing to do and looking back in hindsight, we wouldn’t pull a crazy stunt like this again. Don’t split up, stay together as a group, your life may depend on it.

After that boggled trek down Packrat Mountain we headed out the next day, down the mountain to the dock, taking a boat ride back to Redfish Lodge and off to Borah Peak, the high mountain in Idaho, standing at 12,667′ elevation.

I didn’t go on this hike but 4 out of the 7 of us did, with Greg video taping it all. This story is for another post but I will say, they made the summit and were back to camp by dark and that’s all they talked about that night, how epic and intense this adventure was.

The last leg of our trip took us back to the Sawtooth Mountain range to Iron Creek Campground where we camped, swam, drank, ate and had a big fire that night, raving around the campfire about how much we loved Idaho.

The next day was filled with a hike to Sawtooth Lake with Mt Regan in the background, one of the most photographed Mountains in the USA. In an earlier post I wrote, there is a picture of me, with Mt Regan in the background and below is the same picture but of course without me.

Mt Regan Idaho with Sawtooth Lake in the foreground

Sawtooth Lake with Mt Regan in the background

You can see more Mt Regan pictures here at, a great place to look at mountain peaks and trails.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures and my story, I tired to keep it short but, well, you know how wild adventure stories go, sometimes they tend to be long 🙂

What’s your story about seeing BIG mountains for the first time? Tell me in the comment section below, I’d love to hear about it.


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