In June my friend Andrew contacted me and asked if I would go on a hike into Buckhorn Lake. I said sure, but one problem. I have never heard of Buckhorn lake. I asked my brother, Jason, who knows the area well and he said he had never heard of it either. After much searching around on Google Maps, we found the lake. The trail to the lake comes out of the East and starts at a trailhead that is over three-hour drive from McCall. I called up my friend Andrew and asked him about this and his reply was, no, we are going to start from Lick Creek. I looked again at the map. Clearly, there was no trail Lick Creek to Buckhorn Lake. Andrew began to explain how there was this old sheep herding trail up Idler creek that took you to a saddle above Buckhorn lake. He also said he had gone up and cleared all the logs and re-established the trail. Only in Idaho would someone consider this. I agreed to go on the trip and my brother Jason threw in as well.
Trailhead day came quickly. Andrew had invited a bunch of other friends on the trip as well and decided he was going to pack gear on llamas. My brother and I being the purist backpackers would accept no such luxury. We decided to forge ahead without the other members of the group in knowing with llamas they would probably catch up to us. We started at an established trailhead at Lick Creek. All we had to do is hike up and find the crossing at Idler creek, hang a right. Sounded easy, except my brother and I completely missed the turning point. We spent the next hour traversing through the wet brush to intersect the old sheep herder's trail up Idler creek. We finally found the trail. It was not really much of a trail, but at least the logs had been cleared.
My brother and I made good time after that, reaching the saddle about five o'clock in the evening. Our feet were soaked and our legs were tired after reaching the highest point of the hike at 8,000 feet. But there it was, Buckhorn lake below. Now we faced a very steep slope and the trail, well that disappeared about a mile ago. We were now finding our own way to Buckhorn Lake. We could see the lake, but it was still very far away and out 2,000 feet elevation below us. We started our descent down to the lake and the brush became thicker than we anticipated. We reached the lake, but we were not where we wanted to be. We had come to a cliff on the backside of the lake. We decided to brave the cliff, but you know this would have been an easy decision but with tired legs, the challenge only became ten times worse. Finally, we were at the banks of the lake, but there are no camping spots. We had to then forge our way through thick brush to the east side of the lake where the outlet is and we found a remnant of an old campsite. We were done! We made camp.
We waited for the rest of the crew to show up. Finally, at about 9:00 P.M. we saw flashlights. Here they came, but they made the same mistake we did and came down the wrong side of the lake. Well, that late at night and llamas, they were not going to be able to make it to our campsite, so they made camp on the opposite side of the lake.