For over 20 years staff members at ICL have toiled to protect the amazing landscape known as the Boulder-White Clouds. Their hard work, along with that of many others, paid off this past August when Congress passed a bill to designate 275,655 acres of the Boulder-White Clouds as wilderness. President Obama signed it into law a few days later.

Since joining ICL five years ago, I have been privy to the stories of the highs and lows of the Boulder White Clouds saga. But I had yet to step foot into the area.

I finally got the chance to see what all the fuss was about when I received a coveted invitation to join a group of  sisters on their annual backpacking trip; this time into the White Clouds Mountains. Our objective: to climb  Castle Peak and enjoy a weekend away from our loving yet taxing families in alpine  nirvana.

I was doubly excited about the trip -not only had I  never been into the White Clouds, but my last couple of backpacking  trips, planned for the end of summer, had been thwarted by  the extensive wildfires burning throughout my North Idaho backyard. So I was  going backpacking after all! And into the White Clouds to boot!

The White Cloud Mountains, I came to realize as have so many before me, is a stunning array of eye candy-jagged peaks, crystal clear lakes and streams, unexpected white limestone and granite crags, and delicate wildflowers.

I was awestruck by the incredible beauty and dichotomy of what I was seeing. Stark, pale rock formations and hillsides stood in deep contrast to lush meadows with meandering streams gently flowing past. Hillsides dotted with lingering wildflowers pushed upwards into inhospitable looking boulder fields with razor sharp peaks.

And where was everyone else? Hadn’t they heard this land was their land? Was it the time of year, or did so few souls venture past the first lakes just a couple of miles from the trail head? We had this paradise all to ourselves.

It left me wanting to extend this brief two-night trip into at least a week of exploring. I want to get to the top of more peaks, I want to explore the east side and those chain of lakes taunting me from the map in my hand. I want to traverse the breadth of it-from the Galena Lodge to the East Fork of the Salmon. I want to see it all.

I will be back.

Enjoy more eye candy from the Boulder White Clouds.

Plan your own trip into the Boulder White Clouds.