“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 …. 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
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.
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 ….
Not fun at all ….
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!