Railroad Ridge (2014)

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads”

– Rosalia de Castro

So, the weekend immediately after our Ross Fork trip opens up and I figure it might be a good time to plan a day loop out of Stanley. I contact my brother in law, John who with no hesitation is up for some riding.

We load up early Saturday morning and make the 2 1/2 hr drive finding a nice spot to stage a few miles past Lower Stanley along HWY 75.


We arrive right around 10:00 am, the air is cool and should make for a nice brisk start to our planned loop.

Off loading the mighty DRZ’s


The start of our trip requires about a 10 mile run along HWY 75, following the Salmon River.



Salmon River

We make good time along our initial stretch arriving at the old Sunbeam Dam.


Sunbeam Dam

This will be our turning off point up Rd 013 along the Yankee Fork. We enjoy a dust free ride all along the Yankee Fork until we hit Bonanza and the old Yankee Fork Dredge.



The colors present in this part of Idaho are nothing short of amazing … my camera doesn’t do a very good job at pulling in the colors, but the green of the forest in contrast with the red rock makes me want to stop constantly to take pictures … I resist knowing that we do have a long day ahead of us.


The Dredge …


Yankee Fork Dredge

Just past the dredge, the road splits … 172 heads up over Loon Creek Summit as part of the loop over Pinyon Peak … this will be a ride and report for another day because today we are going right along 070, the Custer Motorway.

Once we’re past the Yankee Fork Dredge and turned east onto 070, the Custer Motorway, we immediately hit the small mining ghost town of Custer. The Forest Service has turned this into an attraction, next to the dredge, to give people a glimpse of what mining life was back in the day. While well intentioned I still don’t think all the pretty displays or staged buildings really reflect the true hardships that these people endured.




Hello Mr Forest Ranger on the porch …



A little farther up the road we come across more structures along the hill side …..


and then ….




… again it seems a bit staged for the benefit of the viewing public, but the cemetery did exist for the poor souls who’s remains could not make it to the main cemetery due to weather, etc.

Hopefully when I go it won’t be for being “Over Drunk” … on the other hand you know the saying …

” Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but to rather skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting … Holy Shit, what a ride!”

After the sights we head on down the Custer Motorway, sliding sideways, but hopefully avoiding any graves …


The Custer Motorway is virgin ground for me, so I’m excited to see where each corner and bend in the road takes us …. I take notice that the road surface is hardpack with loose gravel on top, making for a bit of a loose “skittery” ride.



Eleven Mile Barn … Evidently the Custer Motorway was also a main stage line between the Yankee Fork and Challis. There are multiple stopping points along the way where the stages could and would exchange horses for fresh teams. These stopping points also offered accommodations for travelers should the weather turn bad.

Eleven Mile Barn/Tollgate Station/Homestead Station


Homestead Station before Mill Creek Summit … another stopping point for the stage. Another stopping point is also on the other side of the summit. The sign describes a long and arduous climb for the horses … I figure the stages of the day probably had 4-6 horse power, but today we are atop 40 hp which over comes the pass with ease!



Mill Creek Summit ….


As we crest Mill Creek Summit and after the signs we had read up to that point I was expecting (or hoping for) a grand view with maybe a panoramic perspective, but the summit actual passes through a saddle, so the views are of the road fore/aft … and of the tree’s … we all like tree’s …. right?



The summit is nice and temperate being at 8800′, so we opt to stop, take a break, and eat our lunch. We are kicking back when we hear the faint sound of what I thought to maybe be a UTV, but as the sound grew near and they popped into view it was actually another set of riders, one on a F800 and the other on a GS1200.

We chatted for a bit, realizing that they were both from a small town in Southern Oregon from where I had originated, Grants Pass …. small world again. Sounds like these guys both log quite a few miles and were on there way to Montana…… They pushed on.

As do we ….


The motorway continues to wind it’s way east along Mill Creek and through the forest for a number of miles. The road surface starts to clean up a bit with a bit less of the loose rock allowing us to pick up the pace without fear of drifting off the road.

As Mill Creek veers off away from the road the landscape starts to take on a different look. The last few miles we had run parallel along some impressive rocky hillsides and we are now starting to climb back up to pass over a grassy saddle before our last stretch into Challis.


From where we came….


To where were going ….


Once over the last saddle were are treated with the view of a nice glacial valley ….


We drop down into Double Spring Creek … the surroundings open up with a bit more flavor of the desert and we make our way into Challis.


I have never been through Challis before, but as we roll in it has that small town feel that most smaller ranching communities have in rural Idaho. Along the old main drag I could get a sense that there are small businesses making there way in like coffee shops, art shops, etc.

Challis Idaho


Challis will be our refueling point before heading down HWY 93 …..

Once fueled up (No corn 91) we depart Challis and head south along HWY 93. Our next destination is approx. 25 miles (+/-) off 93, Road Creek Rd …

HWY 93 right outside of Challis …


All along our southern route on 93 we are running parallel to the west side of the Pahsimeroi’s, part of the Lost River Range. These mountains are so impressive that both John and I rode the almost entire 25 miles gazing off to our left. There are a few routes on my to ride list over the Pahsimeroi’s that I have yet to complete…. after seeing these at a distance … I’ll be back for sure.

As we ride south the HWY approaches a canyon…. I’m impressed how the road builders did not advert around, but ran right through.


It’s a short section, but fun as hell … riding twisties between sheer walls as the sound of our four stroke’s echo through the canyon!

We arrive at Road Creek and stop for a quick break and pic ….


Road Creek (Dry Gulch)



Road Creek circumnavigates around Anderson Peak, through desert and pines …..


Pass on the backside of Anderson …


John making his way up the pass …. the distance was far enough across the valley that I could her John before my eyes could pick him out as a little spec of movement.


Once underway our road winds downward to intersect with Walker Creek Rd … there was a cattle camp below with a cowboy riding along the road … he promptly step off the road with his two horses to let us pass … I wave, but he seemed less than amused, sorry dude … public road!

White Clouds and Railroad Ridge in the distance …


Road Creek follows the ….. wait for it …. Road Creek drainage. It very much desert and warm (not my favorite), so my inclination was the blast through in search of more favorable temps and scenery.


After a number of miles we finally pop out on the East Fork Rd (Salmon River). This little valley is primarily populated with ranches all up and down the river. It is impressive how these folks have carved out their niche in life in these remote places.


We ride about 10 miles down the East Fork before we intersect with Boulder Creek. We head up Boulder Creek with enthusiasm knowing Railroad Ridge lies ahead. This rock arch (diamond in the rough) caught my eye.


First glimpse of Railroad Ridge ….


Heading up ….


Right at the end of the main road, just past the Boulder Creek Trailhead, which was friggin’ busy as hell!…. then we come across this old mine … Livingston Mine.


Livingston Mine

Regardless of your political views of past mining… one fact holds true, most of these roads accessing these beautiful locations would not exist otherwise.

The road turns primitive at this point and continues up the mountain … Railroad Ridge is close!

Just past the rows of cabins we pass part of the old mill … evidently the mine had constructed a tram system that ran for 3 miles up and down the mountain. Evidence of the tram is still only apparent by some old cable lying dormant on the ridgeline above ….


We continue up the rocky two track for a mile or two before we crest the ridge…. there is an established two track that runs along the ridgeline that steers us in the direction we need to go.

Once on top the views in all directions are nothing short of breathtaking. The air is clear, the sky is blue, and the wind is only a breeze. The view is so ominous that we are conflicted to what part of the ridge we wish to venture to first. We have a complete panoramic view off Railroad Ridge over to China Wall, Crater Lake, around to the north in the direction of Challis, the Pahsimeroi’s, and back around to the White Clouds. Railroad Ridge is truly one of those places that is impossible to describe, one needs to venture up on their own for their own experience.

Looking back down the Boulder Creek Drainage …. our route was up the bottom of the drainage with the road up to the ridge visible to the left.


The mighty Z at 10,300 ft ….. bike was actually running great!


The coming soon OBR ADV Gear High Basin Tank Bag …. seemed like a fitting back drop for the High Basin!




John’s arrival to Railroad Ridge …


For what it’s worth … a panoramic sequence of Railroad Ridge …











There was a make shift memorial on top of the ridge where some artifacts and oddities like corral had been left.


Crater Lake at the base of China Wall …


View northwest …


Mighty Z’s


John … (China Wall – Crater Lake)


Yours truly … (China Wall – Crater Lake)


View down Railroad Ridge …


As we were departing the ridge a group of ATV’s rolled up the track. A lady told John that there is actually access to the lake from one of the lower side routes. this we did not explore since we had a few miles still to ride back to the truck, but does give us an excuse to return another day.

Back down the road …. Railroad Ridge on the right …


Rocky Road …


Almost back to the mine …


John and I make our way back down Boulder Creek, down the East Fork towards HWY 75. Once we hit 75 we have approx. 25-30 miles back to the truck.


All in all what an amazing days ride in some amazing country!

One of the reasons that I wanted to complete this ride …this year is that we have a movement by certain environmental groups to establish the Boulder-White Clouds as a National Monument. This action I personally oppose because to me all it equates to is more governmental control of our lands and likely restricted access to places such as this. Now I do not feel that motorized access is appropriate in all places and the current SNRA manages this access as it pertains to motorized and non-motorized users.

Proponents of the monument will say that it is to curb development and mining …. the current SNRA restricts both to not harm or deface the scenic values of the area. They state to curb errant OHV use … show me where errant OHV use is occurring?

In the end it is really about certain political entities attempting to create a legacy for themselves and/or for certain special interest groups to limit access to any user groups that “they” do not approve of.

I think we would all agree that our natural resources are seeing a higher level of users than in years past, so lets allow local land managers to manage with common sense instead of a lock and key.

(Since this posting a compromise was made to establish a portion of the Boulder/White clouds as wilderness. This wilderness boundary encircles some of the higher elevation areas that 1) I do feel are not appropriate for OHV use 2) were not open to OHV’s as is, and 3) retains most of all other common OHV routes. The scaled down wilderness option allows the USFS to retain control vs the National Park Service …. lesser of two evils. The downsides are that 1) the local mountain bike community, not careful in their alignment on the issue has lost some fantastic mountain biking trails and 2) the enviro’s are probably back room planning another assault on our access)

Get out and enjoy your access to beautiful locations!

Bachman Grade

No more greater joy can come from life than to live inside a moment of adventure                                                                             

                                                                                                   – Frosty Wooldridge

As winter recedes and spring inches near, our high passes start to thaw with potential once again of reaching their summits. One in particular has peaked my interest as a possible looping route on our dual sport motorcycles. The Bachman Grade, or Triangle Road, that climbs over Toy Pass, sitting just shy of 6000′.

The Bachman Grade/Triangle Road appears to make a nice loop opportunity for the Owyhee Backcountry Byway … otherwise known as Mud Flat Road. Bachman Grade makes it’s way over Toy Pass and then into Triangle where a couple of options are present either along Flint Road or Antelope Ridge in reaching the Byway. A 4 wheel recon trip is in order to assess snow line and road conditions!

Triangle Rd starts it’s advancement towards the pass from the small ranching community of Oreana.  The landscape out of Oreana is typical rolling high desert with scattered sage brush that runs along the ancient shorelines of Lake Idaho.


… towards snow covered ridgelines


The road starts to develop more character as it meanders through one drainage into the next …



As the road climbs signs present themselves warning passing travelers that requesting rescue from the local Sheriff will incur a hefty price, literally get stuck and pay the bill. Sounds fair enough …. onward!

Bachman Grade starts its ascent and winds gracefully up the mountain side. The road surface is wet, but in otherwise great shape. After about a mile or so I start to make my way into the lingering snow. It is not deep, but consistent enough that I stop at the next available wide spot. Not familiar with the road and whether or not there is ample opportunity to turn around just ahead I decide to not push any farther. The snow covered pass is visible in the distance … but I’ll leave it for yet another day. No point in tearing up the road and/or getting stuck!

-Back towards Oreana


-Toy Pass


I’m parked just below an unnamed peak that is insistent of even better views, so with bluebird skies … I make the hike.

-Panoramic goodness from unnamed peak (Left to right)





See the truck! …. Boone, Quicksilver, and Hayden Peaks in the distance ….




I find some interesting rock formations, both natural and manmade atop unnamed peak. The man made portion appears that of a wind break for a campfire …. quite the view!



With Toy Pass in my rearview I head back towards Oreana and the cutoff road ….



Being in close proximity to the Mountain Home Air Force Base … the Owyhee Desert (1) (2) has a scattered history of once holding launch sites for ICBM Trident Missiles. Long since gone leaving behind imaginative what, when, and where were these sites? Dirt Biking the washes in the past I remember an old bunker that sits prominent against the desert landscape…. this site, evidently not part of the Trident program but of an Army Pershing 2 rocket program that was scrapped. This site was never activated and was ultimately dismantled. Today I can afford a closer look at what’s left over!



From here I continue along the cutoff road until it intersects with Mud Flat Road …. I’m curious, not ever being on Mud Flat before, so I head west with the intent of turning back after about 15 miles or so.


Snow and a soft road surface has other plans and right about the 15 mile mark points me back in the direction I came.



My goal today was not to complete the Byway, so I head back towards Grandview leaving this crossing for another day ….


I follow the straight line into Grandview and connect to the Baja Road, which follows the Snake River along it’s eastern edge. The Baja Road is in surprisingly good shape, again straight, but drives nicely towards Swan Falls where I reconnect the pavement and make my way home.

Dust, to snow, and back to dust …. Final shot


Goat Lake (2014)…

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

                                                                                                      – Mark Twain

So a couple weeks back I receive a message from my friend Jason. Jason is planning a multi day trip at the end of August and was wanting to recon the area around Ross Fork Basin for a possible route from Smiley Creek.

Of course I’m in for this, so Yeah lets go. Next question, single long day or as an overnight? …. my vote is overnight!

I’ve been wanting to explore up into the Ross Fork for a while, and now is my chance. I have mulled it over on the map multiple times wondering what might be at the end of these roads that wander up into the southern tip of the Sawtooth’s. The weekend was set!

As the date drew near, Jason started sending route options. Our plan was to bee line it up into Ross Fork to a little puddle called Goat Lake. We would then drop our gear and explore some of the surrounding trails as short cut possibilities for his up coming dual sport trip.

Route selected ….


Our chosen route would depart through southeast Boise taking the old Oregon Trail over to Blacks Creek Road. From there we would run Blacks Creek up to Prairie, then Meadow Creek Road (128) over House Mountain to Fall Creek Road (129), down to Lester Creek Road and to Pine where we would need to take on fuel.

From Pine we would continue through Featherville and along Baumgartner Road (227) to an area I refer to as Big Smoky. We would then head north on (012) following the S Fork Boise River towards Ross Fork Basin and our eventual destination approx. 140 miles from home.

Departing Boise along the Oregon Trail ….


Jason and I decided to stretch out a bit in order to mitigate dust inhalation. I would run behind Jason 5-10 minutes most of the trip, which worked out well. (Jason’s con trail off in the distance)


We agreed on preselected meeting points along the way so if any issues presented themselves we wouldn’t separate so far preventing assistance.

First stop … Bonneville Point


A quick stop with only enough time to snap a few pics, we’re eager to ride, so Jason departs. We’ll have a few miles of pavement before we jump onto the dirt of Blacks Creek Road. The air is still cool and the ride is nice …


Y Stop Store will be out next meet up …



Along the way there is an overlook down on the S Fork headwaters of Arrowrock. I stop here at this point almost every time I pass, so I kind of feel obligated. Our air is filled with a smokey haze propagated by regional wildfires … hopefully they won’t last and we’ll get our air quality back!



Another familiar spot along the S Fork Boise River canyon …. this particular point really details how the earth appears to have just cracked open.

Looking back from where we came in….


…and looking forward

We will peel away from the river at this point and climb up to the plateau referred to as Prairie.


Jason and I make our first meet up point at the Y Stop Store. We take a break, drink a pop, and play fetch with a local pup.


After our break we point the bikes east through Prairie towards House Mountain. Fall Creek Road will meet us on the opposite side, connecting Lester Creek Road into Pine.

Making our run towards House Mountain, backside of Prairie …. looking forward.


Looking back ….


Near the pass on House Mountain … the faint strip centered in the pic was our route out of Prairie. The Danskin Mountains in the background.


As we crest the pass and start our decent into Fall Creek we clearly see the aftermath left behind by a previous years wildfire.


Even though a lot of these fires are natural caused (I can’t recall the cause on this fire) … it is still a hard pill to swallow since this area was once lush forest. The effects of the fire run almost all the way into Pine. It was nice to see that they were at least harvesting the usable timber along Fall Creek Road …. whether or not this was facilitated by the Forest Service or private land owners, I don’t know?

Fall Creek Road / 129 Junction, North would take us up into the Trinities, but today the road takes us southeast to our next meetup point, Lester Creek Road.


Lester Creek Guard Station …. no one was home.


After encountering a few ATV’s along Lester Creek… man they can kick up the dust! … we arrive in Pine. Pine is our last fuel opportunity before Ross Fork, so we stop. It is noticeably warmer making our return to the road a priority …. after Jason stopped drooling over a 1190 KTM sitting in que! :D

After passing through Featherville, another small community about 10 miles up the road, we head east along the South Fork Boise
River ….



Jason and I make our next meet up at the Big Smoky junction. We stop to stretch our legs before heading north up Rd 012. The last section along Baumgartner Rd was nice, but we both commented that it sure seemed longer than anticipated …

After some good ole PB&J …. we head north into Ross Fork!


We turn our direction north up road 012 over the 6000′ Fleck Summit.


Our destination will actually be Bear Creek Road which will ultimately deliver us to Goat Lake ….

West off Fleck Summit ….


North off Fleck Summit, our direction towards Goat Lake…


Invisible Bike, Idaho Country! :clap … no potatoes up here! :evil


Once over Fleck Summit the road turns to 079, we continue on for a few miles until we reach an intersection ….


Right is the continuation of 079 and concludes in Ross Fork Basin. This would not be our destination this trip, but will be our excuse to come back and continue our exploration!

Left is Bear Creek, 080. Bear Creek is pretty much an old mining road. We follow 080 up for 5-6ish miles keeping an eye out for an ATV trail turning off to the right.

The ATV trail appears and makes a steady advance up the mountain side!

Goat Lake is up top there …. somewhere


The ATV trail resides itself to being a mix of loose rock included with a respectable grade. The bikes do there work and motor up with little difficulty so long as their pilots are able to maintain balance and direction. My only concerns would be the lack of fan on my DRZ and the constant 1st gear grinding as we head for the top. The DRZ did well only spilling a touch off coolant right when we reached our upper destination. Jason’s 500 KTM never missed a beat and flaunted it’s cooling fan every time we made a stop.


We arrive at the final stretch, approx. a mile of single track that will deliver us to the lake. A couple of UTV’s are parked at the trailhead, which was no surprise as Goat Lake appeared within some fishing discussion forums during my previous google searches.

….. the single track was a welcome change from the loose and rocky obstacle course of the ATV track. Both Jason and I are anxious to achieve our destination, which we know to be a short mile away.

The first quarter mile or so is fairly benign, a nice “flowy” trail bed with a few rocks and a couple of smooth switchbacks. I soon start to revel in the thought that the lake is near …. at about the time the mountain decides that we have yet to meet our rock quota, the trail bed transitions into basically a rocky creek bed… which for all purposes the bikes handled with ease. As we clear what were hoping to be the final section I look up to see Jason negotiating yet another switch back set, but this time he has stalled his bike indicating more rocky pleasure in my near future.

I stop at one of the below switch backs at about which time we hear a yell from above …. my first thought is of “Oh shit…. we’re not suppose to be in here” …. I hear the yell a couple more times and then Jason relays down to me that we are being told that the trail gets better above. :clap A series of recently cut deadfall was also an indicator of motorized access … not many hikers are going to pack in a chainsaw to clear trail.

We continue up through all the rocky goodness to meet two hikers on the way up and three coming down … we wave, give out thanks, and push on to the end ….

About a 100 yds past were we met the hikers we reach our destination … Goat Lake.





Both Jason and I are in awe as the lake comes into view … my first thought is that of disbelief that we are still allowed to actually ride to a destination such as this, but that feeling quickly turns to appreciation along with a stark reminder that responsible use of these trails is the only thing that will keep these trails open.

At lakes edge ….


As we rolled up to the lake we realized that we were not alone…. there were about six or so horses tied off. The riders were enjoying the view from the waters edge just behind some bushes. We wander over to say a quick hello and receive a friendly greeting back. We learned a bit about the area as they are frequent visitors, one of the riders actually trail rides on a bike a bit as well. I inquired if the had knowledge of some of the trails accessing Smiley Creek (Emma, Vienna, Etc) and their condition compared to what we had just rode up …. his response was that they were very similar with possibly a bit more technical in spots. This pretty much answered Jason’s question on whether or not to route through these parts during his up coming ride …. bigger loaded bikes on tight “techy” trails are not a good mix.

Shortly after our visit with the horse riders… they saddled up and departed with a wave. The hikers we had previously met on the trail had also arrived which we had a nice visit. They as well frequented the area and had good local knowledge of trails, lakes, and an old time miner that had worked this particular area. They departed after our visit leaving Jason and I to decide which camp spot would best suit us for the night.

…. camp Jason



….. camp obrianmcc



…. a few misc pics from around the lake




….. the shadows grow long, so we make good use of the existing fire ring with a camp fire.



We had originally planned to drop our gear at the lake and then continue to explore, but I think we were both a bit surprised at what it took to just reach the lake … the riding wasn’t necessarily hard, but in combination of riding a total of 140 miles just to get there I was feeling a bit beat. Every time I would stand up I’d feel dizzy and light headed. A quick splash in the lake helped, but my enthusiasm to ride more that day was quickly fading. It then dawned on me that we were at approx. 9000′ …. Altitude!

We both decided that chilling around the fire, eating some dinner, and sipping some libation :1drink sounded like a good tactical plan!

As evening drew close, the fading light and changing shadows altered the visual of the surrounding landscape enough that Jason decided another quick hike over to the creek was required to take a few more photo’s. Little did he know that the skeeters would be laying in wait within the foliage for the next passer-by. Fighting off the best he could of skeeter mania, he snapped a few pics and retreated back to the safety of the campfire.

I chose to stay behind and tend the fire just in case such a retreat was to occur! :D

We spent the rest of the evening sitting around the fire sipping beverages of choice ….:1drink

One nice thing about camping at a place such as this…. as evening falls and the sun sets, the sky becomes dark and the stars come out in force. It amazes me how long one can both stare into a campfire and at the stars, both having equal hypnotic qualities.

The Milky Way started to become visible, so Jason set up his camera for some extended exposure shots. One shot in particular came out awesome, which he has posted up in his blog.


Midnight drew near and beverages depleted, so we figured we better catch some :snore in preparation for tomorrows ride.

We woke up the next morning to a nice chill in the air, it wasn’t cold per say, but felt nice compared to the warmer temps we’ve had lately in the valley.

Morning by the lake….



We wasted no time in brewing up the morning joe … all coffee tastes good in the mountains! :*sip*

Breakfast was consumed, camp broken down, and bikes packed. Time to head down.

First switchback…. I attempted a reverse switchback maneuver where one turns up hill and hops the bike around to exit the switchback turn. I assumed the added rear weight bias might help, but I was wrong. My reverse maneuver turned more into a squid maneuver, but I made the turn in the end!


Jason descending into some rocky fun …



Contemplating his next move …. or the excuse he’ll give when he drags his brothers up here! :D


Off the single track we start our ride down the ATV track….


Our route below …


Regrouping at the bottom …


We continue our ride out along Bear Crk Rd …


Until we come to a creek crossing we had negotiated the day before (Bear Crk) ….


I opted to walk the bike across due to slippery slimy rocks along the stream bed … Jason wanted to retain his man card, so he rode across!




Once across the creek and back on 079 we headed south back over Fleck Summit and into Big Smokey. From there we made our way back into Featherville and Pine were we stopped for fuel and food at a local café. This was evidently the same café that Jason said he had stopped at during an IAMC Group Ride, the group was large enough that the servers freaked out … evidently that was a lot of pop cans they had to open, but this day our business was welcome.


After lunch we made like bandits retracing our previous days route back into Boise. Jason jumped back over the Oregon Trail and I split off another way that was a bit more direct for my home base.

In the end I can conclude all bikes and gear worked flawlessly (OBR ADV Gear), that we had a great two days of riding, found an awesome camp location, and we gained knowledge of a previously unknown area. I definitely want to visit the Ross Fork again as there is still a lot of country to explore.

For the true story visit Jason’s Trailimage blog

…. his pictures will not disappoint!

Idaho Meadows-Mosquitos-and Fire Lookouts (2014)

“I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.”

                                                                                                  – John Muir

Unlike some of our neighboring states who are dealing with on going drought conditions, Idaho has been blessed with a fairly normal water year. Snow packs came in late, but packed up none the less delaying our adventures up into the high country.

Most of the common route selections out of the Boise Valley take us up over 6-7000 ft plus passes. These passes have up until this weekend been closed by the Forest Service to minimize road damage due to lingering snow.

I’ve waited long enough and figured it was time to venture out to see if these passes were indeed “passable”, so I set my sights on an area called Bear Valley Basin.

Bear Valley is a picturesque valley that is home to a number of large open meadows surrounded by high mountain ridges and flowing creeks such as Bear Valley and Elk Creek. Perfect for throwing down a tent!

My planned route this weekend would take me out of Boise and up over Bogus Basin to the North, to Harris Creek Summit via the Boise Ridge Road, stopping in Garden Valley, but plans change.


Packing only the essentials :D …. It sure seems that I pack way more crap than I actually need. Vision Dry Bags by AIRE work great for keeping gear dry. They’re available in 5, 10, and 15l capacities. The bags also have a clear side panel making it easy to determine the contents without the need to unload or open the bag.

Luggage system by OBR ADV Gear …..


Heading up Bogus Basin Rd out of Boise. Bogus Basin is our local ski area that sits just 16 miles out of town. Very close if your a ski bum needing to satisfy the itch during winter!


Once you reach the ski area the pavement ends and the Boise Ridge Rd begins. The Boise Ridge Rd is a “flowy” two track that runs north-south towards Harris Creek Summit. Harris Creek Summit is a four way intersection connecting the Ridge Rd with Harris Creek Rd



-Giant Pines


As I drop down towards Harris Creek Summit I start notice large dust plumes? …. perplexed as to what could be creating these plumes I assume that there must be heavy equipment running over Harris Creek. I round the corner only to discover road tape in place as a road closure was in effect due to a local Rally Race.


Now I normally find these types of events fun and cool, but this day I was in no mood to be faced with this delay. The summit was estimated to be closed for another hr with access over the rest of my planned route “unknown” since the main summit into Garden Valley, Alder Creek Summit was within their impact area.

Garden Valley is out of the questions at this point, so plan B will be to route through Idaho City for fuel. Back tracking at least an hour to make a connection to Idaho Hwy 21 is my only option …..

So after my run in with the Rally I re-traced my tracks back to the Bogus Basin ski area and beyond to an ATV trail called Eagleson. This dropped me down 263 to Crooked Summit along the Robie Crk/Clear Creek Rd. I figured this route to be a safer bet on actually getting to Hwy 21 vs dropping down the closer Pine Crk Rd with the pending closure of Grimes Crk Rd …..

Signage warning travelers along the bottom of Bogus Basin Rd of the planned road closures would have saved me two hours and probably a gallon of fuel. I made this suggestion to the Rally organizers via a friendly email, but have yet to receive any kind of response? (Response received, hopefully they improve sign placement for their 2015 event)

So with my route plans re-directed to Idaho city, I made a quick run up Hwy 21 stopping in IC for final fuel. (Sorry, no pics were taken while I attempted to re-establish a route and gain back lost time)

Sometimes a change in plans can be a good thing. In my case I am now forced to ride Hwy 21 from Idaho City to Lowman. This stretch is also called the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway and is a route of interest in the Butler Motorcycle Map of Idaho.

Hwy 21



Good pavement IMO can be a nice break after a rough two track or trail. The ATV trail I had just come down is OK in my book in terms of condition … so a bit of hard top was nice…. plus it helped to regain lost time.


This road sucks …. :D


Not fun at all …. :D


I think I rode past a speed sign stating the speed limit to be 45 mph …. yeah right, whatever!

The DRZ even loaded and with knobbies drops in and carves these corners like I’m running in a Moto GP ….. sort of …. still fun none the less!

I finally reach Lowman where Clear Creek Rd peels off Hwy 21 to the north …


Clear Creek Summit is technically closed, but with the warmer weather we’ve had the last week or two I’m willing to gamble that I’ll be able to slip through any snow that might be lingering. If the snow is too deep still the only available route into Bear Valley will be approx. 35 miles up Hwy 21 over Banner Summit ….

-Clear Creek Summit


Clear Creek Summit reached at just below 7100 ft, but I must descend the north side in order to reach Bear Valley and there are some tree’d sections that might just hold enough snow to turn me back …


Detour avoided! …. once far enough down the north side I became confident that Bear Valley would be reached. All remaining snow drifts were melting fast and presented no problem. In fact fresh truck tracks were present indicating clear access from the Bear Valley side.

Once descending off the north side of Clear Creek Summit and clearing what snow remained, the road then twists and turns all the way down to Big Meadow, which is the entrance to Bear Valley. Since the gate was closed… the ride down was at a spirited pace assuming a lesser chance of oncoming traffic.

Once reaching Bear Valley, the road forks in four directions, to the south from which I just arrived, to the north is Big Meadow/Bear Valley, to the East a dead end with remnants of a mining past, and to the west a climb up to Whitehawk Look Out.

My secondary goal for this trip was to actually make it up to Whitehawk LO. I enjoy making Fire Lookouts a destination as I find each one as something different to offer in terms of viewing the surrounding geography. Whitehawk LO I have yet to visit, so it will be on my list for this trip.

-Bear Valley, where I’m going …..


-Bear Valley, where I’ve been ….


Whitehawk LO sits atop the far ridge behind me in this last pic. I’ll hit the LO on my ride out tomorrow… today I need to locate a suitable camping spot.

The last time I passed through the valley I had spotted a nice looking camp spot that was to be my destination for this trip. Upon reaching the spot, I was further surveying the area for best tent orientation offering the best mountain views when the mosquitos started to buzz.

First there was one, then ten, then what seemed like fifty of these little bastards buzzing my ears. On went the helmet and back on the bike! My hope is that these crazy blood sucking critters are only concentrated along this particular spot since it sits next to a grassy meadow. Not to be so!

I figured at this point since the day is still young that I’d go ahead and ride the Bear Valley/Elk Creek loop, checking out other potential camp spots along the way.

As I made my way along Bear Valley Creek, most all of the camp spots along the creek are available, but experience tells me that anything within close proximity of the water is still going to be a mosquitofest!

I know that a few miles in there are a couple of good sized meadows, these meadows are on the opposing side of the road from the creek and might be a bit drier, and maybe mosquito free?

The first turn off is into Mace Meadow, this meadow was new to me as I have yet to visit it. Entering the meadow I ride into a series of buildings that appear to be ranching quarters. It doesn’t look like they have been used for a wile, but are still kept up ready for that next drive of cattle or sheep. I don’t notice any skeeters, but I’m not particularly interested in camping here, so I ride on.



The next meadow down the road is Cache Meadow. Cache Meadow is large with a nice view of Red Mountain. I’ve camped here once in the past and I recall the open sky and stars that were visible at night. But I’m still curious to what’s down the road, so I again… ride on.

As I continue my ride around the Bear Valley/Elk Creek Loop, checking out more spots as I go, I find a spot just past the Elk Creek Work Station that has a large open area, seems dry, next to Elk Creek, and open eastern views down the valley. There is a nice breeze blowing that I hope will help keep the nasty skeeters at bay! This spot we’ll call home for the night!



 It’s approx. 3:30pm and camp is set, views are nice, a breeze is blowing helping to frustrate the local skeeter polulation … for now, so I figure it seems like a perfect time to kick back and read a bit.

 This lasted for all but about 15-20 min before the skeeters fell back and regrouped only to storm forward with an assault regardless of the blowing breeze. My only defense at this point was to spray down with bug spray and keep myself occupied and moving around camp.

…… Oh look … pretty flowers …. skeeter attack …. move on!


Even the local deer population had it figured out before me…. defeat the skeeters by making them chase you!

I kept myself busy for the next few hours by wandering around the immediate area exploring and collecting fire wood. I figured a camp fire would help a little bit to maybe thwart off the impending skeeter hour attack. In order to defeat the skeeter one must understand the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent! Skeeters don’t like smoke!
The mosquitos remained relentless for most of the evening. Inevitable given that the ground is still moist from melting snow and some standing water still in the low laying areas. It’s early evening now, so I relent, I’ve had a mosquito net in my kit for years, never used, until tonight … on goes the net! Bite through this you little bastards!


Here’s an evening view down Elk Creek looking east towards Bruce Meadow ….

The view straight out my tent door is of Bear Valley Mtn. Bear Valley Mtn itself is constrained with the Frank Church Wilderness, but a road easement remains maintain access to it’s peak. On top is the old Bear Valley LO, an old steel tower that no longer see’s any official use, but remains to weather in the high mountain air.

As the evening wore on … the area became very active with the wildlife. The birds continued to sing well after dark, a lone wolf howled up stream, which did not deter the three elk from hanging just outside camp in the creek meadow who continued to call back and forth well into the evening.

With all this activity I’m hoping I can get some sleep!

The skeeters committed to one last assault, they threw everything they had at me and finally threw in the towel around 10 pm. With skeeters gone to bed, the camp fire lit, and the stars starting to appear, the evening was finally shaping up to be quite nice.I burned the last bit of firewood that I had collected and figured I’d better hit the rack intending on an early departure.

The night time temps had been dropping down into the 30’s in the Stanley Basin, and this night was no different …. it got down right chilly into the wee hours.

As morning neared, the sun started to appear over the eastern ridge and my inclination was to stay balled up in my sleeping bag, but I knew the smarter choice was to rise up to meet the morning, prepare some coffee and breakfast (yep in that order), get packed up and head out. I knew as soon as it warmed just enough the skeeters would commence their day two attack.

Morning steam off Elk Creek

Warm morning sun …

All packed up and ready to head out …..

My timing was about perfect. It was 8:30 by the time I was packed and ready to ride, which is also the time that the skeeters began to buzz…

So my plan for today was to get an early start, which I did. I was only about half way around the Elk Creek Loop and had a few miles to ride before Big Meadow, which is where the turn off is to ride up to Whitehawk LO.

It felt nice to be riding these sections in the cool morning air. Usually it’s mid -day when I pass through these parts with typical summer time temps. Not this morning … the crispness of the air required a jacket.

Elk Creek


Being that I had time on my side this day … I decided to explore some of the side roads which I had so many times just ridden past. Most concluded with a dead end, but they did reveal trail heads and possible camp opportunities should the need present in the future.

 Once hitting the intersection for Lowman off the Landmark/Stanley Rd, I would head south. Along this section you run along side another meadow of which I don’t know the name, but impressive like all the others.

A higher vantage point of Red Mountain, Cache and Mace Meadows in the valley below …

Rolling back over Bear Valley Creek …
Back tracking through Big Meadow ….
The barely visible far end of the meadow is where the access road for Whitehawk LO peels off to the west. Whitehawk LO sits atop the far ridge. Snow is still present along the ridge so I’m hoping that I can make it all of the way up. It’s going to take a hell of a lot of snow to stop me, so here we go!

I make my way back down to the southern end of Big Meadow via Rd 582 to where Rd 569 turns west and climbs up to Whitehawk LO, which sits just shy of 8400 ft.

The road up is your typical primitive two track that winds through the timber as it crisscrosses 4 miles up the mountain …. very scenic.

Right about mid way, I round a corner and pick up movement about 50 yds up the road. A second glance and I realize I’m looking at a cow moose and her calf.


I stop and shut off the bike ….. mama moose stops and looks back for a minute. She then directs baby moose down the hillside and off into the timber.

I continue up the road advancing over small snow drifts that are still barely clinging to the road surface. A truck has already made it’s way up and through, I figure a USFS crew most likely opening up the road for the up coming fire season.

I make my way up to the summit and find the lookout locked down waiting for this seasons attendant.


I was shocked at the view …. I was looking at a full panorama , Bear Valley to the east and below, the Sawtooth Mountains rising above to the east, the Trinities to the south, Deadwood Reservoir to the west, and endless ridge lines to the north.

Bear Valley (Big Meadow) … from where I just rode up from.

SE view into the Sawtooth Mountains …
looking west, Deadwood Reservoir

looking south towards the Trinities

looking east towards Bear Valley, Big Meadow, and the Sawtooth Mountains
looking north, endless ridge lines

I soak in the view for a few minutes and decide it’s time to head back down. Right at about the bottom I ran into mama moose and her calf once more before they again scurried off into the timber.

At the meadows edge there is an old remaining foundation with still erect poles running in line across the meadow, probably used for old communication lines. Curious …  I stopped at a FS kiosk that details the history of Big Meadow.


It told a story of feuds that erupted between local and Wyoming sheep ranchers who were attempting to stake claim to the meadow for grazing. The FS thought it best to station a ranger to the area in order to mediate and resolve conflict.

The meadows history ranges from ranching to actual dredging in the 50’s-60’s where they were extracting a rare radioactive ore exclusive to the area. The US government needed this ore for the manufacture of nuclear reactors.

The area was rehabilitated back in the 80’s to restore the stream bed back into it’s natural state for the local salmon runs.

I made my way back over Clear Creek Summit, finding an open gate, to Lowman, Idaho City, and home. The ride back was pleasant and uneventful. I chose to end my picture taking since I was just backtracking from the previous day. I had contemplated for a half a second to route home through Garden Valley, but I figure the Rally from Saturday is probably a two day event.

This adventure concludes with two days and 320 miles. Other than the required re-route everything went as planned. The bike never missed a beat and the OBR ADV Gear Soft Bags worked flawlessly holding all gear tight and secure!

Until our next adventure ….. ride safe!