Posts Tagged ‘hot springs’
Posted on June 30, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 26: June 29, 2010
Stanley Basin to Kirkham Campground and hot springs, near Lowman, Idaho
34 mph max
Stanley, Idaho, is the type of lovely mountain town where you drink coffee on a sun-soaked deck, making friends and enjoying the scenery until you take a little walk. Along the way, you make some new friend and someone offers you a beer and you’re on a different deck, enjoying a different view with other new friends and before you know it you realize you’d meant to leave and now you can’t remember how.
I’m not saying that happened, necessarily, I’m just saying Stanley’s that nice a town. And that hard to get out of.
If you look at Stanley on a map with an eye to leaving the state pretty much due west, you will see a loop of highways bounded, roughly, by McCall to the north, and Boise to the south. In the middle is a mountainous empty space with no way across except up the loop, or down. If you get out a more detailed map, say, the Forest Service map for that area, you will realize that the map is roughly the size of a queen bed fitted sheet, and about that easy to handle. Nevertheless, once you wrestle its folds into a useable shape, you will see lots and lots of forest roads that appear to cross that empty space. But upon closer inspection, all of them lead someplace roughly as inconvenient as Stanley is for crossing out of the state to the west.
Such was the source of the first hint of frustration with route finding I have experienced this whole trip. After talking to a variety of locals about my options, including a patient forest ranger willing to entertain every route I suggested, and an impatient museum docent who knew whatever I chose I would encounter close calls and unpleasantness, I made up my mind. I’d stick to the highway. I’d go around the loop to the south, not the north, which meant missing the very scenic (by all accounts) McCall, but also skipping the worst part of the relatively treacherous (by most accounts) Idaho Hwy 55.
So it was that I left the lovely mountain town of Stanley a little heavy hearted and a little heavy in the legs. I ground out 20 miles to the turnoff to Bear Valley. That was the jumping off point for my favorite forest service alternative so pushing past it felt a little like defeat.
The wildflowers helped lay that feeling to rest as daisies, penstimen, cinquefoils and colossal multi-blossomed shooting stars flowered in great bunches in wet meadows. The air, as I slogged along, got humid and more fragrant fanned by occasional bursts of vigorous wind that set up an impressive racket as the tops of beetle-killed pine clashed violently against each other. I pedaled up Banner Summit, and past the giant road closed gates that must seal Stanley off from the Boise area after big snows.
Then I was done pedaling. The next 22 miles of screaming downhill were relieved only when I stopped to marvel at the raging foam green river that had sprung to life far below, then just beside the road. It was my first glimpse of the Payette River system, and I was stunned. The hill went on and on and on. I flew past campsite after campsite. Idaho has this figured out. They post signs saying camp only in designated areas, and then they are generous with those designations. But I needed to make time because there was no way across the middle; because I had a whole half a circle ahead of me; because I wanted to make Joseph, Ore., by the Fourth of July. I pressed on because 22 miles of screaming downhill felt like a fantastic spree, an unexpectedly large withdrawal from the gravity bank, and I was spending it all in one shot.
All-Missoula deck party
Alex is from Tanzania, but he’s been adopted, for the moment, by the Aerie staff in Missoula. Darcy is doing one last teaching gig before heading off for some rock climbing in Alaska. And Damien is going to have to pull both their weight once he gets back home. But for the moment, the three of them were on the deck at the Stanley Bakery and Café, getting ready to teach CPR and other lifesaving skills to seasonal Forest Service workers.
“I’m going to get one more cup of coffee, so I’m really jittery,” joked Damien.
Patrick was on the deck because, although he is a freshly minted UM forestry grad and newly hired USFS seasonal hand, he has his Wilderness First Responder certification, also from Aerie, and so got the day off and could hang out at the Bakery. I was on the deck because waiting at the bakery is the very best part of washing all of your clothes in any mountain town.
Stanley is the closest I will come to Missoula on this trip, as the crow flies or otherwise, I think. So it was appropriate to find a hometown crew killing time there. Patrick recognized me by my Open Road socks, a critical omission from operation UnStink. I enjoyed their company so much I forgot to take a photo, but if you need a Kilimanjaro guide, Alex is your man. You can reach him through Aerie.
From ice cave to ahhhh
According to 16 USC 551:36CFR 261.58(j) I am a law breaker for at least a moment each night I spend in a national forest. But out of deep respect for the law, I dug up my one pair of underwear and kept on my jog bra and went marching off through the Kirkham Campground parking lot. Frankly, with my ungodly biker shorts tan lines the world would be better off just letting me break federal law 16 USC 551:blah blah blah. That is the law that says nudity is illegal in the United States Forests at any time, and that law is to blame for my orange-meets-red fashion situation as I floated in a toasty, then very very toasty, hot springs pool, watching a standing wave build then crash, build, then crash, in the middle of a wave train in the south fork of the Payette, just inches from my nose.
The Payette River system is the heart of Idaho’s famous hot spring scene and I although ice would have been better for any aches, my mind was greatful for the heat. I watched the waves until I seemed poached and the thunder started rolling overhead with a seriousness of purpose. I climbed into the tent as the rain and lightning started in earnest. My skin heated the tent even as the rain cooled it down and I closed my eyes, remembering the cold wind of the ice cave on a dry heat day.