June 26-27, 2011
Our planned 3-day backpack in the Ruby Mountains was thwarted more by illness than snow conditions. After two days in American Falls Idaho, Dave and I both suffered allergies and typical greasy road-food digestive problems, so opted for day hiking. The FS rangers also were not encouraging, saying that it was all snow and post-holing. We drove up Lamoille Canyon road just at dusk Sunday and were delighted to find a space in the beautiful Thomas Canyon Campground. Next morning we got up early and headed up the road to the 8,800 foot elevation trailhead. After only a few yards on a muddy trail the snow began, but it was firm with easy walking. At frozen Dollar Lake (9,700) Dave was feeling ill and turned back. I continued to Lamoille Lake (9,800) and on up to Liberty Pass (10,500). Only a few small benches above Lamoille Lake and the rocky top of Liberty Pass were dry with tiny dry patches not even large enough for a tent. Lamoille Lake was just beginning to melt. Descending the snow became a bit softer, but no post-holing. I think we could have easily walked in to Favre Lake destination, but would have had to camp on snow. After this 5 mile hike, we drove back to the campground for lunch. Dave went to town to get some more desirable food (we now only had backpack food remaining) and I headed up Thomas Canyon whose trailhead started from the campground (7,600). Lush greenery and a roaring creek lead upward with snow starting at about 8,600 feet. After about 3 miles I topped out into the wet upper cirque where Marsh Marigolds were in bloom. By now my feet were soaked so I just sloshed around in the swamp taking photos. I descended back to camp where Dave was waiting with roasted chicken, cantaloupe and wine. After dinner we slowly drove back up Lamoille Canyon to view the numerous waterfalls in the evening light. We even had great views from our campsite! Dave was still ill, so we cut our plans short and drove home. The Ruby Mountains were beautiful, but day hikes were more abundant than backpack opportunities. Most of the west side canyons, which would provide good backpacking early season, have no public access and the Crest trail was still under lots of snow. It was a good first try at the Ruby Mountains- we definitely will return!
Looking back at Lamoille Canyon
Liberty Lake from Liberty Pass
Looking down Thomas Canyon
Marsh Marigold in upper Thomas Canyon
Looking up to hanging valley in Thomas Canyon
Views from our campsite