Hell Hike and Raft: The Seven Devils – Part 2

After a demanding but exhilarating first day of the Hell Hike and Raft, you’d think I would have slept soundly. Not so much. My first night nestled in the forest of the Seven Devils was fitful. But that’s normal for me. It’s part of what makes me not a morning person. But if there’s anything that can take the sting out of waking up after a restless night, it’s the view of fog dancing over a lake while surrounded by excellent people.

Shelf Lake morning…

While this was certainly an epic adventure, unlike a lackadaisical vacation, I did have an obligation to document as much as possible of the Hell Hike and Raft to share upon our return to civilization. So I may have dropped a few grumpy F-bombs when I awoke in the morning to breathtaking gorgeousness. I know… poor me.

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The stunning beauty of Shelf Lake.

The reason for the attitude is that I like to wake up slowly and nurse my coffee before I jump headlong into the day. The stunning fog display meant I had to get my game on before I was fully prepared to in order to catch it before it dissipated. And that meant trudging back up to my tent for camera gear and getting my brain awake enough to figure out how to capture the beauty. I’m not sure I was successful but I did give it a good try under the bleary-eyed circumstances.

The rest of the morning consisted of breakfast and packing up. Breakfast was fantastic and I quickly realized our first night’s dinner was not a fluke… that we’d be eating like this the whole time. We were going to have to hike much more vigorously to stay in front of the calories we were putting away at each meal. Nay, each feast.

Stuffed full as a tick, I set to repacking my absurdly heavy pack, very grateful to be able to give my tent to John to pack on the horses while simultaneously kicking myself for not being more diligent about my pack weight. While I struggled to cram everything back in and not send my injured hand into fits of renewed complaints, Adam paused nearby and said “It’s snowing!” with a gleam in his eye. I gave him a pissy, under-caffeinated eyeroll and said “Dude, this was not in the brochure.” Florida-native girl, i.e. yours truly, was not terribly pleased by the idea of snow.

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A feast for breakfast.

Journey to Dry Diggins…

Fortunately Mother Nature was not serious about that snow and it stopped as quietly and quickly as it started. So we left Shelf Lake, destined for Hibbs Cow Camp for the night. The trail took us past the stunning blue Basin Lake where we discovered some pretty groovy trail art. And somewhere along the way Jeff and I made Tara choke with our commentary on one of our product sponsors, Fresh Balls/Fresh Breasts. I’m not sure it was appropriate for Tara’s young ears and that discussion is entirely NSFW so I’ll gloss over that part. Feel free to ask me about that over a beer sometime. 😉

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The Basin Lake trail art we discovered.

Later along Upper Bernard Lake, I came to really love this journey. I was enjoying it, yes. But I came to love it as we walked along the lake here and the beauty of the mountains, lakes, and wildflowers overwhelmed me.

Yes, there were Valgasms involved. And Adam’s words amidst his chuckles… “Take your time, Val,” as I gasped, grabbed my camera, and approached my blooming subjects like they were supermodels in a photo shoot. And they are to me, of course. But I didn’t want to hold up the group so I kept it short. A quickie you might say. But it was enough for me to regain my long-missing mojo.

We still had a side trip to Dry Diggins Lookout to tackle before our arrival at camp so we had some ground to cover. And so we pressed on. At the trail split, we abandon our packs under a tree to lighten our load for the climb to the lookout. We all felt light as air for awhile until the elevation gain and switchbacks took their toll. I’d left behind my lone trekking pole and realized that was a mistake.

But the view was extraordinary. I’d always wanted to see the Snake River in person ever since my first glimpse of Ansel Adams iconic image. No matter that his view of it was in Wyoming, it was still the Snake I gazed over from Dry Diggins. And much to my delight, the lookout itself was history frozen in time. Vintage appliances, furniture, and even a first aid kit told a story from a different era.

On a natural high from the day’s experiences, we set off back down to our packs with our sights on Hibbs Cow Camp. With one more mini-summit that gave us an amazing view of the Seven Devils, we descended yet again until we were finally at Hibbs.

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Renewal after a burn made for breathtaking contrasts.
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A kilt-clad Adam along the trail at Upper Bernard Lake.
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The view of the Snake River from Dry Diggins lookout.
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The Seven Devils from Dry Diggins Lookout
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A vintage first aid kit in the Dry Diggings Lookout.
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One last view of the Seven Devils before heading back down.

Hibbs Cow Camp…

Our first night at Shelf Lake had us camping in the shadow of rocky peaks on the lakeshore. Hibbs Cow Camp had a very different feel. Alongside a babbling creek, we set up our tents. Because there was no opening for a lake, the trees felt closer and more enveloping.

After our long day under the packs, we were more than ready for our Fishpeople Seafood night. Some of the non-seafood-eaters in the bunch weren’t thrilled because it didn’t suit their palates. I had no trouble offering to eat their portions since I’m a fan of the product. And in fact, I polished off enough Fishpeople to not leave room for dessert. Seems a fair trade in my book.

We spent the evening entertained by Tubbs-the-amazing-fetcher-dog and stories by Marshall in between rounds of dodging campfire smoke and general conversation. And like many cold nights after a long hike, it was an early bedtime for most of us.

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The Hell Hike and Raft crew ready for their Fishpeople Seafood fix.
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A whole lot of Fishpeople goodness getting ready to be devoured.
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Story time with Marshall.

More to come, stay tuned… Until then, here’s a short video of the dancing fog and the epic fetching dog.

And now for your moment of green…

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My Upper Bernard Lake beauties.


  1. “A quickie you might say” -Val in Real Life. Love your humor and wit, it comes through well in your writing! Great post!

    1. Thanks! It was a great trip and provided MANY opportunities for humor. 😉

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