May Wandering – Where thou road turns

“Not all adventures are measured in days or thousands of miles traveled”

Our long winter now behind us and with the oppressive snow steadily receding I decide it’s time to get the DRZ out of the garage. Time today only allows for a short day ride, which is ok. I’ve come to terms that a succession of day rides combined together can equate to longer adventures…. why not?

The loop for today will take me over Adalpe Summit out of East Boise. From there I will work my way north though Clear Creek, up Grimes Creek, and through New Centerville and Pioneerville. I want to see if there are any effects of last years Pioneer Fire along this particular route.

The approach to Rocky Canyon Road-

Rocky Canyon, the dirt begins here-

Top of Rocky Canyon, Adalpe Summit-

The run up to Adalpe was cooler than anticipated. The clouds hung low covering the near ridge line. Sprinkles of rain fell with small puddles present as a sign that more significant rain passed through earlier. My OBR ADV Gear Grip Mitts kept my fingers agile and on the controls.

Forward progress equated to dropping down the east side and heading north towards Clear Creek Summit …

Rd 261

At this point I ran into a couple of guys on mountain bikes who also enjoy a bit of dual sporting. Their adventure today is going to take them into Placerville … my initial thought is that’s quite and ambitious loop! … but they look fit for the day.

Through Clear Creek and up Grimes …

Rd 364

You always here the term “Super Bloom” … but what about “Super Green”

Evidence of tom foolery …

I run up on a group of six or so trail riders also enjoying the day … I’ve ridden my share of trails in the area, but these guys give me sense that there is much more to explore than I realize. I make my way by with a wave and keep on course.

The road twists and turns by New Centerville and proceeds north towards Pioneerville. Traction is at a prime with the DRZ on it’s game. The DRZ is the multi tool of bikes … you can take them any where and they will get the job done … some situations maybe outside it’s comfort zone, but fast two track … this bike is planted and predictable. On the throttle with full drift!

Beaver pond off Rd 382-

High flow-

A bit further up the road I pass an old homestead … I’ve passed here before multiple times, but from the opposite direction and can’t recall these steps? … rode right past I guess.

Evidence of heavy run off is now becoming ever present. Heavy flow within the creek and fairly deep washouts are starting to appear. Residual snow along the hill sides is evidence that Winter is still fighting to retain her grip.

Surprisingly evidence of last years Pioneer Fire has not shown itself … the western flank must be further east. I make my way past the intersection that will take you to Pilot Peak, still snowed in I’m sure, so I head up to Grimes Pass.

Garden Valley from Grimes Pass-

Atop Grimes Pass and behind a fence lies a series of graves. Memorials from way past to reasonably present. The largest being for the gentlemen that the pass is named after, George Grimes. Part of the local mining history I’m sure.

From this juncture I need to decide if I need to drop down into Garden Valley for fuel or take a road from the pass that runs west along the ridge connecting to Alder Creek Summit.

Alder Creek Summit it is, Rd 395

Road 395 is a tight two track that flows west and brushes through ridge top timber. It’s a fun road that gives a sense of solitude and exposure once on top.

The ridge opens up with a view of Garden Valley and the Payette River upstream drainage.

Some of that snow I spotted a bit earlier, up close

Pruning required… I thought this day would contain no yard work?

At this point I’m starting to wonder if passage of this road is an option. I figure that I will clear out just enough to get past this deadfall and see what the road presents. I pull out my folding saw from my OBR ADV Gear Tool Pouch and get to work clearing a path.

…. and about a 1/4 mile up the road

There is still a good 12-18″ in spots. Passage not possible this trip.

The road made up my mind for me … double back and head down Grimes Pass towards the Payette and Garden Valley.

Intermission –

 

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

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.”

                                                     – Aristotle

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.”

– 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!

 

Situational Awareness

We’ve all had those moments where we find ourselves riding a bit to overconfident only to find that our reactions are not in sync with road info that is being presented to us …. or we’ve had that moment where the hair stands up on the back of your neck right before you meet a car mid corner, travelling the opposite direction on a back road …. This article caught my attention from Motorcyclist Magazine, April 2016, written by Ken Condon (MC Garage, Street savvy)

“Let’s say that you are an expert road racer with a shelf full of trophies. Will your ability to brake and corner to the extreme edge of control keep you from harm on the street? Those trophies didn’t win themselves, it’s true, but if you were quick to answer “yes” then you are fooling yourself.

Don’t get me wrong. Your highly advanced track skills can save your bacon when dealing with a curve that tightens suddenly or when you have to stop rapidly to avoid a collision. However it is a fool who relies on superior skills alone to arrive home unscathed because, unlike on the race track, street hazards are unpredictable and less forgiving. You might get away with it enough to think you’re doing fine, but you will eventually face a hazard that even your awesome skills will not be able to handle.

What trumps badass corning and braking talents is superior brain power that avoids the need to use those bitchin’ skills in the first place. Up first are strategies to deal with common hazards. You already have a lot of these strategies in your pocket. Some are so obvious that you might not even think of them as strategies. Examples include slowing down when approaching a busy intersection even if you have the green light, changing lane position to be more visible, weaving just enough to catch the attention of a driver waiting at the intersection, and covering your brakes to reduce reaction time, just in case.

Having expert-level control skills and smart strategies are great, but even they aren’t enough. Without situational awareness you might recognize when a hazard is developing and fail to act in time. Situational awareness makes you alert to clues that allow you to “read” the environment and predict when a potentially bad situation is about to unfold before anything obvious actually happens. Unusual changes in traffic flow or the sight of unexpected brake lights can indicate trouble ahead.

The best riders have finely tuned, hi-def  radar that can pick up subtle anomalies like a flash of sunlight off a windshield or the head and arm movements of a drive about to advance across your path. Scan the road ahead and ask yourself if the “picture” looks as it should. If not, then slow down and cover the brakes!

Situational awareness covers more than just your most familiar senses. It also includes your sixth sense. You know … that gut feeling you get when something just isn’t right. Developing your sixth sense takes a deeper level of awareness and conscience attention. Start by recognizing what your intuitive voice sounds like and pay attention when it speaks. Every time you listen to that little voice it makes it louder and clearer.

Situational awareness is critical when mixing it up with other drivers, but it also plays an important roll when it’s just you and the open road. Stay sharp so you can spot the often subtle clues that help you identify a corners radius and determine whether conditions require a reduced entry speed or altered cornering line. Does the surface camber slope away, reducing ground clearance and grip? What are the chances of sand, gravel, or a recent rockslide just around the corner.

Remember the superior cornering and braking skills are your second line of defense, not your first! Developing your physical skills to a high level will allow you to respond correctly and accurately if things go wrong. But believe me, your odds of a crash go way up if you think your physical skills alone will save you. Dulled attention leads to knee jerk reactions and the need for heroic measures that might not save the day.”   

Hopefully this article, or just parts of it, will hang in your sub-conscience making you just that much aware during your next ride. Returning home safe ready for the next ride makes for a great day!

 

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.

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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

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

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Salmon River

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

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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.

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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.

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The Dredge …

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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.

Custer

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Hello Mr Forest Ranger on the porch …

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

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and then ….

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… 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 …

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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.

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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

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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!

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Mill Creek Summit ….

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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?

:D

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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 ….

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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.

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From where we came….

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To where were going ….

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

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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 ….

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Road Creek (Dry Gulch)

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

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Pass on the backside of Anderson …

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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First glimpse of Railroad Ridge ….

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Heading up ….

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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.

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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 ….

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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.

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

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

OBR ADV Gear

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John’s arrival to Railroad Ridge …

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

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

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Crater Lake at the base of China Wall …

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View northwest …

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Mighty Z’s

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John … (China Wall – Crater Lake)

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Yours truly … (China Wall – Crater Lake)

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View down Railroad Ridge …

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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 …

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Rocky Road …

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Almost back to the mine …

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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.

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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.

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… towards snow covered ridgelines

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

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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

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-Toy Pass

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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)

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

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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

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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 ….

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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 ….

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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)

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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

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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 …

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Y Stop Store will be out next meet up …

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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!

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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….

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…and looking forward

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

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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.

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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.

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Looking back ….

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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.

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

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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.

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Lester Creek Guard Station …. no one was home.

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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 ….

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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!

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

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

West off Fleck Summit ….

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North off Fleck Summit, our direction towards Goat Lake…

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 ….

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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

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….. camp obrianmcc

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…. a few misc pics from around the lake

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

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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.

www.trailimage.com

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….

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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!

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Jason descending into some rocky fun …

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

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

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Our route below …

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Regrouping at the bottom …

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We continue our ride out along Bear Crk Rd …

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

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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!

:ricky

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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.

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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.

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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 …..

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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!

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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

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-Giant Pines

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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.

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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

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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.

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This road sucks …. :D

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Not fun at all …. :D

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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 …

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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

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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 …

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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 …..

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-Bear Valley, where I’ve been ….

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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.

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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!

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 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.
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 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!

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

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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!
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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!

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

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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.
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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

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Warm morning sun …
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All packed up and ready to head out …..

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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…
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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

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

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Rolling back over Bear Valley Creek …
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Back tracking through Big Meadow ….
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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

4x Snow Day …

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.”

                                                                       – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Back on a cold and snowy November day … for some reason, which eludes me, I thought it to be a good idea to grab the fly rod and see if I could make the traverse over Long Gulch from the Prairie side over to the Middle Fork of the Boise River. Mother nature had been giving us a bit of a smack down early in our season with most of our ski areas already in operating status. The possibility of snow was recognized and like the saying “Don’t touch a hot stove” … one must go!

With coffee in hand I made my way out via Blacks Creek Road … the weather had actually warmed the last few days, so clear roads were mildly anticipated …

I suspect that a thousand years from now Archeologists will be trying to piece together the story of why we waged war against road signage!

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Immediately upon Blacks Creek Road the surface evolved from wet to slush … like I said “mildly anticipated”

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… and then to fresh tracks!

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… there is a peace that comes over you as you start to break trail… the quiet calm that occurs when tires run over fresh snow. There were a set of tracks before me, but still plenty that I am able to make my own.

-“Fronty” glamour shot with the Owyhee foothills in the distance

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-Across the valley

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Over three Point Mountain and the snow gets deeper …

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Blacks Creek Road is one of our popular summer dual sport through routes as it provides back road access all the way through to Ketchum or Hwy 21 and Stanley.

-Anyone want to ride … not today!

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Further on down the road passes Willow Creek, another popular trailhead accessing the Danskin trail system and Fiddler Flat.

Look Ma, no bullet holes!

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-Back on top

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Obligatory view of the Arrowrock headwaters …

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-Inclement

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-Contrast

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-Neil Bridge

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-South Fork Boise Canyon

 

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-Eat Mor Chikin’

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-A single evergreen clinging to the edge

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The South Fork Boise River Canyon is an approx.  14 mile long basalt crevice that is commonly regarded for world class fly fishing and whitewater rafting.

“The 101-mile-long (163 km)[2] South Fork rises in northern Camas County in the Smoky Mountains and Soldier Mountains of the Sawtooth National Forest north of Fairfield, 65 miles (105 km) east of Boise. It flows generally southwest, descending through a basalt canyon to fill the Anderson Ranch Reservoir, then turns northwest in central Elmore County. It joins the main stream as the southern arm of Arrowrock Reservoir, 20 miles (32 km) east of Boise”  (Wikipedia)

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With this shot of the canyon in my rearview … I roll the direction of the Prairie Plateau and turn up Long Gulch. Not long after turning onto Long Gulch I reach the end of the maintained road and again start breaking trail up towards the Lava Mountain turnoff.

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This is the point where I start to question my plan of pushing forward. The road is untracked and actually quite fun, but with 20 miles of snow covered road that also includes a few small valleys to pass through … and the small fact that I am alone … it seems prudent to backtrack.

The closest fishable water from here being Neil Bridge … back we go.

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Back at Neil Bridge and just below the snow line … I spend the next hour or so swinging some flies. It has been quite awhile since I wet a line, so the fact that no fish were stirring was of no consequence … it felt good just to be outside, in the snow, the rain, with the only sound being the water passing by ….

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