Caesar’s Sawtooths He came. He saw. He marked it.
The first time I set eyes on the Sawtooth mountains of central Idaho was during a last-minute Memorial Day trip with Ezra, my boyfriend of a few months, and his cat, Peaseblossom. Peasie and the rest of us were staying in Sun Valley, where Ezra’s family have spent summers since the late ‘60s. The valley is breathtaking from the top of Galena pass, about 30 minutes north of Ketchum. I remember thinking I hadn’t seen anything this open and lovely since the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. The Sawtooth Mountains, rising out of a sagebrush plain, are jagged and alluring like the Tetons. Peasie was fine as a companion, but I couldn’t wait to get back up there with my dog Caesar. Caesar was a houndy 90-pound mutt with intimidating black and tan markings and a goofy streak surprising in a mature dog. For nearly eight years, Caesar and I made the trek in my 1997 Toyota RAV4, summer and winter, to visit Ezra in Idaho. The well-used RAV had truck tires
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mounted, making it excellent for rocky back roads. When traveling from Salt Lake to central Idaho with a dog, I try to make the six-hour drive as easy as possible. Pack a sandwich and stop at a rest stop to let the dog have a break in the pet area. I recommend Hailey, Idaho—the Albertson’s has a shady street on the west side where you can park, pop in to grab a few groceries and give your dog a break before the hour-long homestretch through Ketchum, over Galena pass into the Sawtooths. The valley is part of the National Forest Services Sawtooth National Recreation Area and dogs can be off leash on most trails, but must be controlled. As you head up into the mountains, the Sawtooths to the west and the White Clouds to the east, you find yourself in wilderness, which mandates that dogs are on leash from Fourth of July through Labor Day. I’ll never forget Caesar’s silhouette against the sky as he sat on a knoll while we made camp on a backpacking trip to Alice Lake (about five and a half steep miles in from the Petit Lake transfer camp.) When we found ourselves in the sagebrush flats, I chose to believe Caesar’s chasing ground squirrels was play and not covered by the prohibition against harassing wildlife. To get a camping spot around one of the three largest lakes (Alturas, Pettit, Redfish) at the base of the Sawtooths means making a reservation early for busy summer weekends. If you’re willing to forgo pit
toilets and other amenities, there are many National Forest informal camping areas up any dirt road that strikes your fancy. A couple low-impact rules: Pick a place that has been camped in before and leave it as you found it. In the fall of 2012, sensing that every hike with Caesar, now 13, was gravy, I took him up Fish Hook Creek trail near Redfish Lake. It’s an easy mile or so up to a meadow with an amazing view. The hike was a deliberate excursion to focus all my attention on the dog who had chaperoned me through my 20s to Mr. Right. This
PHOTOS DEBBIE HUMMEL