Two Track into Loon Creek – Part 7 … Back to the truck

After finally reaching Sunbeam I find myself on a stretch of Hwy 75. This particular section of Hwy 75 I find quite enjoyable as it twists and turns continually for the next 10 miles making it’s way towards Stanley while scrubbing my tires side knobs of any residual soil from the past miles of dirt.

Hwy 75, Stanley

Hwy 75, Stanley

After a few miles the Sawtooth Mountains start to come into view …

Hwy 75, Stanley

Information on the Salmon River Scenic Byway, which I find my self traveling along ….

Hwy 75, Stanley

Hwy 75, Stanley

Entering Lower Stanley … my map indicates a potential bypass around Stanley that I have yet to travel over. The Road (633) is not clearly marked and I actually ride right past it the first time, but a few parked cars prompt me to reverse direction and jump back onto the dirt track.

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

The track winds it’s way around Stanley and regains elevation. It crests a pass with the Sawtooth Mountains coming back into view along it’s southern edge …

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

Pano –

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

With recent fires it is nice to finally have reasonably clean air providing a view …

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

Never have traveled this short section of road is proof that your next adventure might just be one road away. Passing a section of Hwy 21 that I have traveled over dozens of times to only reveal fresh views just a mile or so off the main Hwy proves that sometimes it might be worth slowing down every once in a while taking the road less traveled.

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

Old homestead …

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

Rd 633 finally winds it’s way around reconnecting with Hwy 21 … with the day getting long I put the final few miles of pavement behind me concluding one more daily adventure ….

Stanley, Sawtooth Mountains

Speed limit 65 ūüôā

Two Track into Loon Creek – Part 6 …. Sunbeam

Passing over Loon Creek Summit the road opens up into a southern exposure overlooking the Yankee Fork drainage. A single lane two track guides me down past exposed edge and through multiple switchbacks.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Blind curve-

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Visible in the distance is the old Sunbeam Mine site currently under reclamation.

Sunbeam Mine

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

As I near the Sunbeam entrance … the road widens from it’s previous stature of single lane two track.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Riding this loop in it’s clockwise direction … I take note of buildings that I have previously flown right by …. it’s evident that there is a long mining history in the area, as with much of wild Idaho.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Old mine tailings deposited by the Yankee Fork Dredge many years ago. As disruptive as they were to the landscape .. it still amazes me how in their era they were able to float such a large piece of equipment down a relatively shallow low volume creek.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Yankee Fork Dredge

Yankee Fork Dredge-

Yankee Fork Dredge

The area surrounding the dredge was once a very active community … Custer to the Northeast and Bonanza just down the road. Life here at the time was hard and full of challenges and sacrifice…. all for the sake of carving out a living within the gold industry of the day.

Custer, Bonanza

Custer, Bonanza

Bonanza Guard Station

Bonanza Guard Station

Custer, Bonanza

Bonanza Cemetery-

Custer, Bonanza

Custer, Bonanza

Peaceful rest-

 

Bonanze Cemetary

Custer, Bonanza, Yankee Fork

A few more miles down the road and the Sunbeam Dam appears.

Sunbeam Dam

The dam only operated for a few short years supplying much needed power up to the Yankee Fork operations, but gold/mineral prices of the day barely covered operating cost, which lead to the shut down of the dredge to where it sits today. The dam was breached years later to help restore lost Salmon runs.

To be continued…

 

Two Track into Loon Creek – Part 5 …. Loon Creek Summit

Just past the bridge is the main population base …. Loon Creek Guard Station and the Diamond D Ranch. The Diamond D is an all inclusive guest ranch with all the amenities required as a getaway from the 9 to 5.

Up the road-

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Diamond D-

Diamond D Ranch

Loon Creek Guard Station-

Loon Creek Guard Station

The run out-

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

The road runs hard and fast along Mayfield Creek before veering up and south towards Loon Creek Summit.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Down Stream-

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Before the summit-

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek, OBR ADV Gear

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

The road tops out at 8600 ft. A wide area allows for multiple vantage points back into Loon Creek and the Frank Church. The minerals within the surrounding mountains present an impressive mosaic of colors that are difficult to capture with the cameras lens.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek Summit

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek Summit

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek Summit

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek Summit

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek Summit

Next stop Sunbeam –

 

Two Track into Loon Creek – Part 4 …. Into Loon

Remaining snow levels up top of Pinyon were minimal, So I concluded that the road must be open down into Loon. Proceeding down the ridge my optimism faded as I rolled up onto this drift.

Pinyon Peak

I’ve seen this drift once before a few years back. The geographic position of the ridge is a wind funnel that during winter blows snow over the top accumulating into a sizable drift. The drift freezes solid, slowing it’s melt so that once the surrounding snow has since melted off, the road still remains impassable … at least for 4 wheeled vehicles.

I stare at the drift for a few minutes with options reeling through my mind …. do I chance it and drop over the edge? … or do I reverse course playing it safe and head back to the truck? … Decisions such as these do not come easy. I, like most, once I have a route decided in my mind I find that I have an internal drive to finish that intended loop … today is no different.

Off the bike I walk over to the lower edge and survey the road surface below. I do see bike tracks, along with a few ATV, and even a set of vehicle tracks. This is good as it does present heavy evidence that the lower road is open. I now direct my attention to the actual embankment. How does it look?¬†Remaining cognizant of the one golden rule of off road “Do not ride or drive down anything that you cannot ride or drive back up” …. I’ve broken this rule a time or two and have no desire to do so again today.

I identify a track where other bikes have dropped over the edge, so I walk this track assessing if I can actually get back up if the lower path ends up be impassable. I conclude yes, so over the edge I go …..

Loon Creek or bust …

Pinyon Peak

Once over I continue on my course down the backside. Thankfully the road ended up being clear the rest of the way down with only a few wash out sections that were easily navigated.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Road cleared … thankfully as the size and qty of this dead fall would have ended my forward progression.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

I pass by an old mine that we stopped at on our trip last Fall. In the Fall as we were checking out some of the old buildings we met the owners and operators of the mine. Evidently it is still active to some capacity and they didn’t really want anyone around … fair enough, but in our defense nothing was posted.

Now it is ….

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek, Packer John

I continue down the hill with my next objective Loon Creek ….

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

I reach Loon Creek and a sign declaring the ridge impassable due to snow …. Ha!

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

Loon Creek is a beautiful little river that runs north-northwest into the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Fishing on this small tributary is reported to be pretty good. One of these days I’ll have to pack in my fly pole.

Pinyon Peak, Loon Creek

…. to be continued

 

Two track into Loon Creek – Part 3 …. Decisions

Clicking along Rd 172. Rd 172 runs along a high ridge for approx 6ish miles before passing below Pinyon Peak. The views on either side of the ridge are incredible on clear days. Closer up towards the peak the panoramic perspective really opens up.

Pinyon Peak

The views off the ridge section of 172 are amazing …

Kidney Lake, West side of Ridge (Note all the burned/dead trees, all too common these days, a staple amongst Idaho’s forest)

Pinyon Peak

Down Canyon, East side of ridge (More burned trees)

Pinyon Peak

What once was …

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak, 9800 ft

Pinyon Peak

This draw drains into Loon Creek with the Diamond D Ranch residing at the bottom.

Pinyon Peak

I asked Bambi if I could pass, she said yes

Pinyon Peak

In short time I arrive at the junction of Pinyon Peaks driveway. I snap a few pics before I continue down the north side. Most that know me also know that I’m not a real fan of visiting manned lookouts. Early season or late season yes, but these days it seems that some of the individuals working the lookouts like the seclusion a bit too much … apparent in their lack of interest in visitors. Not all, but a lot these days don’t seem to thrilled when you ride up. ¬†I always get a sense that I’m intruding … and to a degree I probably am as this is their home for the season.

Pinyon Peak, OBR ADV Gear

Pinyon Peak

Taking it in …

Pinyon Peak

Panoramic sequence …

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

I remount the mighty DRZ and continue over the top, down the backside …. only to run into ….

Pinyon Peak

Decisions? …. To be continued

 

Two Track into Loon Creek – Part 2 …. Beaver Creek

Over the hill and around the next corner … that is what drives adventure!

Pinyon Peak

Continuing up Rd 172 … it’s almost like a new road. Creeks that I’ve passed by a few times in the opposite direction present themselves in a different light.

Cliff Creek …. who’s Cliff?

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

I pass by a number of over grown tracks that I decide explore…. they all eventually conclude as old hunting camps …. (I’m making mental notes of potential¬†¬†camp spots for future trips and the fact that they all have accessible water)

Over the bridge and up the next hill ….

Pinyon Peak

No name lake …

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

NW Overlook …

Pinyon Peak

I stop at the first saddle … the overlook is to the East. The valley is vast as are all the burned trees… Oh what this must have been with Green timber.

Pinyon Peak

Pano … and were not even to the top yet!

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

Pinyon Peak

(One of these days I’ll purchase the software that will allow me to stitch photos, but for now I’m too cheap)

Continue the climb … so far the road is relatively easy, but do take into account I’m on a light bike. A fully loaded ADV bike will require a bit more skill and attention.

Pinyon Peak

Finally reaching the ridge… the road snakes its way along a precipitous edge.

Pinyon Peak

Now into the wilderness … Rd 172 runs along a 100 yd easement into Loon Creek.

Pinyon Peak

… to be continued

Two track into Loon Creek – Part 1…. The beginning

“Adventure is worthwhile.‚ÄĚ

                                                     РAristotle

An adventure is an exciting or unusual experience. It may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome.[1] Adventures may be activities with some potential for physical danger such as exploring, skydiving, mountain climbing, river rafting or participating in extreme sports. The term also broadly refers to any enterprise that is potentially fraught with physical, financial or psychological risk, such as a business venture, a love affair, or other major life undertakings . ~ Wikipedia

Adventure, whether it be on two feet, two wheels or four …. I find is necessary to cleanse the soul.¬†Too many consecutive days of alarm clocks, project deadlines, and repetitive life cycles requires one to break from the life mold. I find that adventure¬†can be experienced through a single days¬†journey or of many, but the¬†desired outcome is the same …. a clearing of the mind, rejuvenation of the body, and cleansing of the psyche.

My ride time so far this season¬†has¬†fallen short of expectation. Usually by the time that mid summer rolls around I have multiple trips logged with many adventures to share. This season has proven to be a bit more challenging in terms of commitments and scheduling, so when a weekend opened up …. a cleansing of the psyche was needed!

Electing to not ride from the house poses the next question of where to ride? …. Trailering to some might seem counter intuitive to the concept of dual sporting, but I find that staging spots an hour or two out from the house helps to provide more quality track time vs spending most of the day riding transition.

This past Fall we completed a counter clockwise loop over Pinyon Peak. Caught early enough before the thick air created by the heat of Summer or inevitable wildfires … the views from Pinyon can only be classified as amazing.

-Boundry Creek Staging off HWY 21

Boundry Creek Rd

-Maps at the ready, my OBR ADV Gear High Basin Tank Bag includes a detachable map pocket that will easily hold two USFS maps.

High Basin

Boundry Creek Rd

I have only been over Pinyon a handful of times and each have been in the counter clockwise rotation. My one attempt at a clockwise circumnavigation was thwarted by a ominous snow drift just past the lookout.

So today will be perfect for another clockwise attempt …..

-Seafoam Rd, North off Hwy 21

Cape Horn

Seafoam Rd

Seafoam Rd

-Wilderness Kiosk ….¬†Idaho’s wilderness is rapidly evolving into forests of burned timber …. a long topic for another day!

Seafoam

From here of venture onto Rd 172, Beaver Creek Rd.

Pinyon Peak

Which is evidently steep and narrow …

Pinyon Peak

I contemplate the risk …

Pinyon Peak

… and off I go

Pinyon Peak

…. over the hill and around the next bend … to be continued.

April Extreme – Following the Pioneers

There are many paths through the Ring of Life. They are a constant movement toward self-fulfillment through growth of your mind.‚ÄĚ

– Frosty Wooldridge, Golden, Colorado

With a mild Spring and the urge to ride becoming more persistent, my friend John E sent out a txt …. “weather looks good, we should ride Immigrant Rd and Prairie“.¬† The route we had in mind was attempted about a month prior, but rains helped to maintain the roads in a slimy muddy condition that forced a postponement. However with sun in our forecast … this weekend we shall not be denied!

The first part of our days route will actually be following a section of the old Oregon Trail otherwise known today as the Oregon Trail Back Country Byway. As the Oregon Trail extended northwest from the Snake River plain, it followed along the foothills of the Danskin Mountains on what we know today as Foothills Rd passing through old stage stops and Mayfield pointing towards Boise.

TrailStart

While our equipment¬†is not quite as primitive as from the day …. the remoteness of the route still reflects the solitude that must have been felt along this section of trail.

oregontrail

Fueled up I point the DRZ towards John E’s house. The air is cool and perfect allowing the Z to properly atomize the on board fuel translating into flawless forward propulsion. I connect with John E and we head onto another staging¬†point where we¬†meet up with another friend of Johns … Mike who will also be joining us on this loop. John E and Mike typically ride mid week taking advantage of less congested roads, but they make an exception this weekend to accommodate my 9-5 schedule. We’ll refer to Mike as Honda Mike in this write up due to the 650 XR that Mike was saddled up on this day!

John E and the Mighty 690!

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We start our journey down Hubbard Lane …. a snake like country road that¬†consists of nice flow. John E and Honda Mike, both being on 600 plus cc fire breathers wick up the pace leaving my mortal 400 to play catch up!

After Hubbard we point our fenders east along Kuna/Mora Rd with Backs Creek positioned right along the tip of our visors.

More flow-

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John E and Honda Mike stop to let their beasts take a breather. They’ve been twisting it hard enough on the last stretch that we need to let some of the atomized air molecules catch up! … We reconnect along the Blacks Creek turnoff. At this point we are officially on the byway beginning as Slater Flat Rd, Foothills Rd, eventually connecting with Immigrant Rd.

Fresh knobbies were indeed harmed in the making of this ride!

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Redneck target practice-

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Mileage for this day is a little bit unknown. My DRZ will reliably get 160-175 miles out of my Clarke 3.6. I can extend another 50 miles with my Rotopax that is carried on my rear rack, and about another 20-25 miles from a couple of fuel bottles carried over my tank in my OBR ADV Gear Fuel Bottle Wraps.  A 250 mile range should be good for today.

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Foothills Rd flows smooth and fast over dragons backs and around hidden curves. The surface consists of hard dry pack with sections of loose gravel (that can turn to impassable mud if it is raining). Attention is a must if one is to avoid overshooting a turn.

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Foothills Green with prehistoric stone-

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Big Sky- John E and Honda Mike

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Over yonder-

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The Byway-

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Foothills Rd continues it’s south easterly path skirting the sage brush edge and the transition up into the Danskin Mountains first passing by the old ruins of Mayfield.

Old Homestead-

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Creek side-

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First point of interest would be Inscription Rock. Travelers of the Oregon Tail would lay over in the immediate draw. When boredom would win over few would write their initials on the rock using wagon grease.

Pioneer graffito-

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Moving on-

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Dust monkeys-

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Foothills Rd eventually bumps into Rd 167 (seen extending up into the hills in this shot) which climbs up towards Danskin Peak Lookout and connects to a few trailheads.

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Over the horizon-

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Yonder getting closer-

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Speeds naturally pick up through this section spreading out the group a bit, which is good as it allows a few moments for the drifting dust to clear out.

As the road continues its meandering path we crest over a rise only to quickly drop into a little creek side oasis known as Canyon Creek. This was another known¬†lay over point for wary trail travelers with an actual stage stop being built¬†sometime around the latter 1800’s.

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Just past Canyon Creek the road splits and we jump onto Immigrant Rd to the east.

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Over the pass-

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The valley from which we came-

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Over the hill to Hwy 20, our next stop-

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Once on Hwy 20, we make a 5-6 mile run to Prairie Rd otherwise known as Cow Creek Rd. Cow Creek Rd is subject to winter closures, but with our recent stretch of good weather it should be open.

Bennett Mountain-

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Cow Creek is a nice transition road that eventually drops you down into the South Fork of the Boise River, but not before displaying still green mountain tops with a contrast of snow.

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Cow Creek Bridge-

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We point our bikes north and run along the river for a few miles before¬†Rd 131¬†starts it’s ascent away from the waters edge and out of the canyon.

This stretch of the South Fork of the Boise below the Anderson Ranch Dam is a very popular stretch if you are keen on fly fishing. It is for the most part a catch and release section with monster trout if your so lucky to hook into one.

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That’s a view-

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Out of the canyon, we are now running over the Prairie Plateau.

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Next stop Y Stop-

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Our next planned rally point is to be the Y Stop, a local store/cafe’. From there we will grab some lunch and seek out local intel on snow conditions and whether or not we might be able to make it over Long Gulch to the Middle Fork.

Reports or in our favor …

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Long Gulch runs about 20 miles to the North out of Prairie. The road winds over a couple of passes (hence the snow intel) and through a few valleys. There is a mixture of open range land and recovering timber corridors from past fires. This particular stretch of road is really nice in the Fall once the Aspen trees change color.

-Re-group

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-Pressing on through one of those valleys

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-Honda Mike

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-John E

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Honda Mike takes point as John E and I leap frog each other on our way to the Middle Fork ….

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-John E stunting it up across the Long Gulch/Middle Fork Bridge

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From here we continue our run west towards Arrowrock Reservoir passing by¬† what ends up being the hords of lake sheep clustered together like cattle at a feed trough. BLM patrols … Boats and Jet Ski’s racing in every which direction as a simple reminder of why we enjoy dual sporting like we do … to escape¬†such chaos!

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The day is running long. We make Hwy 21 and promptly point our rides towards Boise. My mileage registers approx. 170 miles … I make note of this as my bike sputters to a stop before I can activate my reserve. No worries though … my 1 gal Rotopax sits in reserve on my rear rack.

-Top side of Arrowrock

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-Bottom side image from a previous ride

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…. and so comes the time at the conclusion of each ride where we split off on our own separate ways until the next ride!