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 ūüôā

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.‚ÄĚ

                                                     РAristotle

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.

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.

Challis Idaho

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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!

Idaho Meadows-Mosquitos-and Fire Lookouts (2014)

‚ÄúI know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.‚ÄĚ

                                                                                                  РJohn 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!