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 ­čÖé

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?┬áRemaining 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