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I was surprised to see quite a few pieces of rusting machinery between Emerald and Sapphire Lakes. I found out later what they were: a tank and a winch, an air compressor, Pelton waterwheel, two derricks, and piles of granite blocks. Apparently, back in the 1890's, men, horses and mules labored to dam these two lakes and divert water through systems of ditches to a mine on Oregon Mountain, some 30 miles away. Kind of gives one an idea how determined they were to extract gold back in those days, doesn't it? Well, the lakes are doing just fine now, thank you. It was noon when I reached Sapphire Lake. I took a very quick dip in the lake's icy water to refresh myself and set-up camp.
I headed back down early the next morning to take on the steep switchbacks on Caribou Trail. My objective was to check out another series of lakes on the other side of Sawtooth Ridge: Snowslide Lake and Caribou and Lower Caribou Lakes. I caught up with two women who were a few hours away from finishing a weeklong walk through the wilderness. They shook their head when I told them I'm going up to the ridge, 2200 ft. above the trail. "You know, back in 1982 someone died from heat exhaustion going up those switchbacks." I'm sure they meant well, but in my warped mind, that just made the prospect 3 times more attractive. I lightened my pack, stashed my other gear somewhere, and headed up. And steep it was! But the vista more than compensated for the effort. Stupendous (is this really a word?) views of snow-capped Sawtooth Mountain to the south, the canyon below, the ridge above...
(Left): Looking west, the view from Caribou Trail's 90 or so switchbacks. Visible are the 3 lakes, progressively higher (Emerald, Sapphire, and tiny Mirror Lake).
(Right): The wonders of a remote controlled camera. Looking southeast towards Morris Meadow and Siligo Peak. The ridge is very windy and exposed. I had to hold on to my empty water container to keep it from flying away.
(Below): Serene and deep-blue Caribou Lake, as seen from Sawtooth Ridge.
I came down and started my hike back to the car. I caught up with the two women. They were very exhausted, but gamely pushing on: their ride arrives in 1 hour and they're 3 mostly uphill miles away. They seemed surprised to see me alive.
(Right): A very tall, very old, and, unfortunately, very dead Douglas fir.
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