Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 2015: Sheep Falls, Island Park, Idaho

Fathers Day Weekend at Sheep Falls

My son-in-law suggested we take just the boys and go on a Fathers Day Hike this year.  I thought that was a great idea.  The boys wanted me to come up with a hike so I suggested Sheep Falls.  What I have discovered is that just about every state in this region has a Sheep Falls.  They are named for Bighorn Sheep, rather than the domesticated variety.

We hiked to the Idaho version of Sheep Falls.  I am interested to see the Wyoming version.  I have driven past the trailhead for that hike but haven't ever stopped.  Soon.

Sheep Falls, Idaho is accessed by way of Highway 20, north of Ashton, Idaho.  The turnoff for Sheep Falls is currently not marked going north on the highway but is marked for the southbound lane.  To access it from the northbound lane, though watch for milepost 369 and take the first right after that.  It's approximately a quarter of a mile.  As far as landmarks go, though it is immediately after the second small roadcut after the milepost.

There is a fairly well maintained dirt road for about ten miles to the trailhead.  Well maintained, but that doesn't mean there aren't washboard areas or potholes here and there.  It's also a dusty road, so if you are going in more than one vehicle it's always best to be the one in front!  There is a temptation to go fast on this road.  I'd recommend you don't because it's narrow and I always see cars coming the other direction, usually around a curve.

We arrived at the trailhead and took the obligatory explorer photographs.  For this trip, it was just the male members of my immediate family.  All were present and accounted for except my youngest grandson who is a baby and my second son who is serving a mission for our church currently.

At different times during the hike, I let each of my grandsons take a picture.  Here's one of those shots, taken by the five year old.

The boys and me at the trailhead

The trail to Sheep Falls is not long and is fairly easy.  The little boys were able to manage it pretty well.  The three year old did most of his own hiking but eventually rode my oldest son's shoulders on the way back.  The trail has a few minor switchbacks.  I thought I counted three, then it's to the canyon bottom.  The falls are visible almost immediately upon reaching the river.  We arrived around 5:30 or 6:00 PM and caught a rainbow in the mist over the falls.  I'd like to hike this at sunrise and get the rainbow from the other direction someday.  I think it could be spectacular.

At the trailhead

Boulder and lichen on the trail


This is pretty standard for the trail.  If you don't watch where you are going, the rocks reach out and trip you.


First view of the falls

Immediately upstream of the falls

Pearly everlasting

I believe this is as well

Rainbow over the falls

Sheep Falls isn't a tall waterfall, and it isn't a plunge type.  It's more of a cascading waterfall.  It is popular with kayakers.  To me it appears there are two or three routes over the falls, but then again I'm not a kayaker.  All along the falls and the rapids and cascades downriver is evidence of ancient riverbeds and waterfalls in the lava rock.  As I looked at the ancient riverbeds I imagined what the place must have looked like thousands of years ago and decided this canyon must have always been spectacular.

Brink of the falls

Ancient riverbed

Brink of the falls, showing kayak runs

Closeup of water

Picture of grandsons taken by seven year old grandson

Downstream from the falls

More water detail

Across the river there is a natural spring that gushes from the cliff.  I call this the shortest tributary in the world

Rock in the river creating a rapid

Ancient pothole from when this was a waterfall

This is right next to it

Looking upstream

Looking downstream

More looking upstream

This pic was taken by the three year old

The last time we hiked to Sheep Falls, we went downstream for a short way and rockclimbed down to the river.  We found that spot and climbed again.  It's not a tough rock climb, though because the three year old was able to do it with help.

While we at Sheep Falls, I spotted some wild onions and showed them to my son-in-law.  He thought they smelled good.  I trust his judgement because he's a gourmet cook.

Heading downstream

Wild onions.  They smell good, I'd like to cook with them sometime

Pretty easy rock climb

Grandsons climbing down

More climbing

At the river's edge

Rocks showing scour from when it was part of the river

Best pic of the day

Son in law at the river's edge

Photo taken by the nine year old

More cliffs


More cliffs

I think this is arnica

True to my nature, when I hike somewhere I've already been, I always like to go further than I went the last time.  We looked downstream about a quarter mile and saw a bend in the river that looked like calm water.  We decided that would be our turnaround point.  We wanted to be out of the canyon and off the mountain before dark.

The bend in the river

Prairie smoke


Who doesn't like lupine?

Rock climbing

Goldenrod crab spider locked in deadly combat with a beetle.  I named him Paul

Rocky outcropping

Thirty feet above the river or so

We made it to the bend

Then the trail started to look like this.  Hikers be ye warned

That's a log in the river, creating the rapid.  At first when I saw this pic I though I had something on my lens.  I was wrong

With the little kids, the trail became basically impassible so we turned back.  

We reached our destination and after enjoying it for awhile, we headed on back up the trail.  As we hiked out, we saw a yellow bellied marmot on the other side of the river.  He chirped at us quite a bit.  I think he was chirping at his cousins across the river to warn them the humans were there.  They do that.  I've observed sentry like behavior among marmots before.

This appears to be the edge of a lava flow.  I don't believe this is from the Huckleberry Ridge eruption

Wildflowers across the river

Prairie smoke

Bigfoot wore shoes



Walking out


Checking us out

Marmots are cool

Ancient riverbed

A thousand years or so ago there would have been water here.  Maybe two thousand, I dunno

Boys in their natural state

Shrooms, don't know what kind they are

They look cool juxtaposed with the green leaves

Last view of the falls

Lupine and coralroot orchids

Wild rose

and her kids

Close to the trailhead

And the stinkbug

Obligatory shot of the Tetons

This was a very nice idea.  I got to do one of my favorite things with some of my favorite people.  What can be better than that?