To fully enjoy Idaho’s backcountry, you oughta go backpacking

I know that I’m totally blessed. I live in Idaho and get to hunt and fish all of the time. But, my most fun trip of the year is when I go backpacking with my daughter. It’s just her and me with no distractions. No Facebook, no Instagram, no TV, no leaky pipes, no yard to mow — you get the drift. No interruptions.

But I about died on this trip. It probably wouldn’t have been so painful if there weren’t 30,000 forest fires burning causing us to suck down half smoke/half oxygen every breath. Plus I overloaded my pack with everything including the proverbial kitchen sink. But, still, we had a blast.

I’ll write a Backpacking 101 article soon and cover what gear you need to carry, but this week we’ll just talk about the recent trip and the fun we had. Kolby had an appointment with her college adviser and then she was going to run home and we’d take out. Of course she rushed home and I was still working on articles and had a four-part series I had to get submitted to a new website so we got off a minute later than planned.

We soon arrived at the trailhead and started strapping everything to our packs. I’m still old school and use an old frame Kelty pack I’ve had since 1998 or 1999. I did just order Kolby a Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor internal frame pack, which is lightweight, but it didn’t arrive until the day we got home.

We threw on our packs and hit the trail a little later than I wanted. We wouldn’t hit our camping spot until well after dark but the only other option was to camp at the trailhead, which meant we’d have had to unpack our gear, throw up a camp and then tear it down the next morning, repack etc. etc. Plus, we’d done that one year and got woken up at 1:30 a.m. by a bear rubbing the tent.

It’s never fun hiking in the dark. If you stumble off a trail in the dark with a heavy pack, you’ll go tumbling off the side of the mountain down into the river below. One year on this trail my buddy rolled two horses and a mule down into the river and barely got them out alive.

We finally hit our spot, unloaded, slapped up our tents and hit the sack. I was beat. This trip we’d taken our ALPS Mountaineering Taurus 2 Tents. They’re a hair heavy for backpacking but they’re nice in that they’re larger and have awnings on each side that you can store your gear under.

The next morning I woke up and had to go drown some of my new flies from (I had a bunch). I fished for a while and then ran back to camp and whipped up a hot cup of coffee and some oatmeal for us and woke up the little sleepy head. Nothing is better than a cup of coffee in the morning up in the mountains, is there? Even if it’s just a motel pack from the last business trip. We’d grabbed a couple of coffee creamers at the last gas station and dined like kings and queens. Well, at least by hobo standards!

Some rotten little field vermin had climbed the tree and gotten into our food bag and nibbled on a few items. But I set traps and caught two mice per night the rest of the trip.

We strung up our fly rods and took off down the river. The water was lower than it normally is in late August. Which is good because it congregates the fish in the holes which helps fishing.

We were having a great time fishing and then disaster struck. We passed through a spot that was loaded with huckleberries and raspberries. Kolby slid to a screeching halt and it was all out war on the berries. No hurry. We were going to be back here for four days. Normally we’ll half fill a water bottle with huckleberries to make a fruit flavored drink but this time we only had our Aquamira filtered water bottles to store them in.

I finally got her pried away from the berry patches and back on track. I lose track of what day we caught what. We didn’t catch as many fish as normal but still caught enough. Somewhere in the mix Kolby hung a really big cutthroat. I mean he was big! I saw him slash the water and he had a big girth. I bet he was 17 or 18 inches. She had on a light tippet and he soon snapped her off.

Like I said above, it was smoky and in late afternoons the smoke would really roll down the canyon and cloud things up. You could hardly make out the far ridge. Kolby would ask me every night if I thought we needed to get outta there. We’d end up staying only to wonder again the next night. You don’t want a forest fire racing over the top of the mountains while you’re sleeping.

Well, our time finally came to an end. We loaded our packs and hit the trail. Great trip.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Post Author: By Tom Claycomb

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