“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” (Henry Miller)
With winter still yet to settle in, another Sunday has presented itself with opportunity for another daily adventure …. so, today I decide to drive the loop over Thorn Creek Butte with my sights fixed on the fire lookout tower that rests on top of it’s 7500ft peak.
Driving up Hwy 21 out of East Boise, I make my turn along the Atlanta/Middle Fork Road. The first site of significance is the old Arrowrock Dam. Being one of three, Arrowrock is a concrete arched structure built back in 1912, the project intentions were of flood control for the Boise Basin and improved irrigation for downstream farmers.
“Arrowrock Dam is a concrete arch dam on the Boise River, in the U.S. state of Idaho. It opened in 1915 and is located on the border between Boise County and Elmore County, upstream of the Lucky Peak Dam and reservoir. The spillway elevation for Arrowrock is 3,219 feet (981 m) above sea level and its primary purpose is to provide irrigation water for agriculture”
… on display is an old retired gate valve ….
Once past the dam, the road winds precariously along the lakes edge before making the connection to Cotton Wood Rd …. at least once a year a vehicle plunges from the road to the water body below …. volcanic cliffs exposed along the opposite shore detail the geologic diversity of the area.
-Cotton Wood Road-
Cotton Wood Road continues north past the old Cotton Wood Ranger Station. It used to make the connection over Cotton Wood Summit to Hwy 21, but a number of years back a slide blocked the road with the USFS electing not to reopen to vehicle traffic. It does however remain passable by bike and ATV.
-Cotton Wood Ranger Station-
The road continuing up towards the ridge junction …. is in surprising good condition ….
….. but does start to get a bit more primitive once past the ridge junction and heading up the ridge towards the peak.
Overcast skies with some low hanging clouds down in the valley …. The road continues to narrow as it climbs up the ridge …. with spectacular views opening up to the south.
As the top nears the timber starts to appear …..
-Scary water crossing-
-Destination Thorn Creek-
-The hobbit forest-
After passing a few tent cities (Hunting Camps) …. the final stretch.
Thorn Creek Lookout … Built in 1933, this lookout is staffed each year.
The wind was howling, so I made a quick lap around the observation deck before making a quick retreat back to the warmth of the truck.
Working my way back down to Hwy 21 ….
As I make my way down I pass two trucks on their way up that are fully chained …. we’ve had a few days of rain, so I guess they are preparing for the worst since they were also pulling large trailers.
I near the bottom and round a corner to find three pickups stopped. One is pulling a full sized hard side camp trailer that is starting to slide towards the downhill side of the road, which also presents a significant drop …. pulling his truck in the same direction. Now I understand why the previous trucks were chained up.
Myself and a couple of guys who came in behind me walk down to eyeball the situation. The road surface is so slimy it is difficult to walk across. With the number of rigs already on the scene I determine that I do not really have any assistance to offer. It is obvious that this group is going to be in full recovery mode for some time, so I backtrack my way back up to the ridge and nervously head over to Meadow Creek not knowing if I might find similar sections of mud.
The road over to Meadow Creek is windy and narrow, too narrow for trailers, limiting traffic to zero. The road conditions along this track end up being excellent … no mud to be found. I continue over Rabbit Creek Summit and make my way down to Idaho City, then Hwy 21 back home …. my day only to be delayed 45 min by my required reroute.