Posts Tagged ‘Idaho’
Posted on July 3, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 28: July 1, 2010
Letha, Idaho to 12 miles west of Cambridge, Idaho
Hot day of relatively quiet highways, mostly flat, but with significant long grades between Weiser and Midvale. Traffic increasing as the Fourth of July weekend approaches, but not particularly bad. Lots of RVs and cars loaded for fun at reservoirs and lakes.
The town of Weiser in the heart of onion agriculture is an eclectic blend of historic and honky tonk. The old Union Pacific train station is undergoing major restoration. The Athena Lounge looks like it might be a going concern. The Onionskin players have a new show coming on soon. And although the Beehive Restaurant might look like its going out of business, it’s got the best breakfast in town, served all day. (I’m rushing through this, but I loved Weiser, and spent a lot of time thinking about how awesome it would be if Weezer player Weiser. They’re pronounced the same.)
Down the road, Midvale, is a whistlestop on the grain route, but its market is holding on, fully stocked on shelves and fixtures installed when the building was built in … 1904 or 1910? The clerk can’t quite be sure.
In Cambridge, the swimming hole is under the bridge north of town. It’s deep and accessible and rive runs cool. After a dip, while I eat at the diner, someone lets the air out of my tire. What is up with that?
Posted on July 3, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 27: June 30, 2010
Kirkham Campground to Letha, Idaho
Continued descent through ponderosa scenic byway along progressive forks of the Payette River system until they reached the mainstem at Banks. Wound my way along back roads to the Black Canyon Reservoir. Went for a swim. Continued to meander through farmland until I cross the swollen, but pastoral – as opposed to raging – Snake River (first I’ve seen of it,) and called a stop to the day behind a fire station outside Letha.
It’s been a rainy spring and summer and Idaho is ready to go outside and play in the sun.
Katie and Robert took a break from Payette, fished the Snake then took lunch to a reservoir dock, which is where I found them and followed their lead into the water. Thanks Katie and Robert. Congratulations on your December expectations!
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.
Posted on June 28, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 24: June 27, 2010
Shoshone to north of Hailey, Idaho
What wind arose was blissfully at my back and the ride to Hailey was an easy glide through the wacky lava-disrupted Idaho plain. If I had a fortune cookie, it would read: Big things lie in your future. But it was nice to have a relaxed day with a layover at the curio stand that is the Shoshone Indian Ice Cave and a delightful visit with Laura Lundquist who drove up to Hailey from Twin Falls for dinner.
The geologic hotspot now giving rise to Yellowstone once birthed Idaho’s Crater of the Moon area, though to a much darker, disrupted effect. Here, huge volumes of lava
forced their way over and under the landscape, creating faults and fractures and a circulatory system, a series of tunnels or tubes, through which lava was forced during eruptions. Through various quirks of physics – air pressure, water condensation, temperature – one of these caves became a great natural propagator of ice. Even in the heat of an Idaho summer, thick walls and floors of ice persisted in this cave.
In the late 1800s, legend has it, a ranch boy looking for a lost sheep crawled through a tiny gap in the rock and found his passage blocked by ice. In the summer! Word got out, and, according to my guide Shawn, the government got in. The government gets blamed for a lot in Shawn’s telling of this story, and it all could be so. This cave was unique and warranted further exploring, federal protection and general exploitation for tourist purposes (I have a hard time believing the last part really was a motivator.) As part of the exploration, a bigger entrance was blasted and some back doors opened and the delicate balance of a low pressure air exchange was thrown off. The cave stopped making ice, ice started melting and the government lost interest.
The people of Shosone, 17 miles to the south, however, were keenly interested in having ice in the summer and they did with it what sensible people do: They put it with their beer. So it is that Shoshone, Idaho, claims to have served the first iced beer in August west of the Mississippi. The ice was cut and hauled, people visited the cave, skated in it, slid on its natural ice slides, and the ice melted until it was all gone.
Then around 1941 a guy name Russell returned to the area keen on restoring the caves. He labored for years, patching the entrance and the back doors, trying to understand and recreate the natural conditions that had allowed the ice to develop. While he was trying to figure it out, his family started a curio shop to lure in tourists passing on their way to Sun Valley. Ultimately, Russell got the mix of water and air dialed in and ice started forming again. Once there was a critical mass, the family went to work luring tourists off the straight dash highway up the Magic Valley to Hailey, Ketchum and Stanley.
If the giant sign reading Ice Cave and the five American flags flying on the highway hadn’t caught my attention, the lime green dinosaur and the ridiulous towering Washakie would have had me for sure. I stuttered to stop on the gravel and decamped and, after a brief tour of the kitsch, settled in to wait more than an hour until a sufficient number of other people were around to warrant the launching of a tour of the cave.
Down the lava stone steps 100 yards behind the red curio buildings we descended into a caved in portion of the lava tube. Passing through a plywood door on a feeble aluminum spring, we walked down more steps and across a boardwalk. A thermometer read 28 degrees Farenheit; we were some 140 feet below the surface. Below the boardwalk the floor of the cave was a layer of ice between 11 and 28 feet thick. Reflected in the feeble yellow light, the arched ceiling forms a complete circle and I have a sense of the complete tube in which we are standing and there for a moment, the cave is profoundly awesome. Then, I notice the penguin, carved in the style of Washakie.
Cheers! Catching up with Laura her first week of work
Beer is for drinking and water is for fighting, so the Twin Falls Times News is lucky to have Laura Lundquist on its side. Laura completed her Master’s Degree at the University of Montana this spring and started work as the environment and public health reporter in Twin Falls last week. She met me in Hailey for burgers and beers and some good old Missoula catching up.
Laura’s professional project was a three-part look at some key involving closed basin, exempt wells and Montana’s efforts to take inventory of its water rights. That experience will serve her well. She’s already got a major instream flow challenge to private water rights situation in her sights. And a fiddle contest in Shoshone next weekend. Laura’s an awesome Irish flute player. I have a hunch she’ll be playing with a band before July is over. Thanks for tracking me down, Laura!
Posted on June 26, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 22: June 25, 2010
Holbrook to Burley, Idaho
This was one long push from country to city. The Meadow Brook cutoff from Holbrook to Juniper at I-84 was a terrific route west, dirt, rolling hills through open range. Then about 25 miles of mixed dirt and loose gravel frontage road that just about did me in. The gas station/convenience store at the Malta exit on the Interstate was such a let down at 35 miles that I had to laugh – I didn’t need gas and it didn’t have much by way of conveniences, but it had a baby rattler exhibition that earned a chuckle. Then a windy dull push to Malta (Where Robert and Vicky picked up my lunch tab. Thanks you two!) Then 33 miles racing a thunder storm into Burley. I just had lunch at Hansen and plan on pushing on to Shoshone, so this is just to keep me from falling behind. The drivers in Cassia County, Idaho, earn the coveted No. 1 most thoughtful drivers award. It’s so nice to be on fast, narrow highways where almost everyone gives wide berth, slows down, and waves. Camped at Riverview RV park for its showers. $15.
Posted on June 24, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 21: June 24, 2010
Newton, Utah to Holbrook, Idaho
I crossed The Long Divide to Plymouth and made my way to Portage, lucking out by getting ahead of the chip/seal crew on the frontage road, but behind the guy who sweeps the road. It was a sweet rolling ride that put me at 45 miles as I rolled through Pleasantview and followed the signs westward toward Holbrook. A cool cloud cover had burned off and I was getting hot. A foot-long breakfast sub with plenty of salt had triggered a powerful thirst and I drank 85 ounces of water by noon. Sensing the Pleasantview intersection was my last chance to refill, I knocked on the door of an elderly widow and asked if I could refill at her hose. She said No, that water was lousy, and brought out a jug she fills in Logan at her son’s. After discussing thirst in general, she said it takes a 50-50 orange juice mix to slake her thirst, and she brought out a bottle. How could I refuse, so I went for 50-50 in two bottles and hit the road. All that was fortunate as the Holbrook road is a five-mile or so climb to a pass that wasn’t steep so much as persistent. I topped out and pedaled a dozen miles in the sun to Holbrook, where the mayor and constable were cleaning a shady park pavilion in anticipation of a reunion this weekend. I had intended to keep moving toward I-84, but the park was undeniably the most pastoral camping spot I have seen all trip.
Constable Arnie said I could camp, and Mayor Gayleen said there were rattlesnakes where I was headed. Who was I to argue? I pitched camp, cooked dinner and watched for over an hour the remarkable courtship of two great horned owls.
Posted on June 24, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 20: June 23, 2010
Huntsville, Utah to Newton, Utah
I chose to traverse the Liberty to Avon/Paradise “old road,” rather than descending to North Ogden, then reclimbing into the Logan Valley. The old road was five hard, dusty miles of loose rock and steep switchbacks. It’s the first time I’ve pushed my bike because I had to, especially on dusty switch backs, the trailer and bike would gang up to drag me into the pit. I got a trailer flat. I was a sweaty mess at the top, but the successful crossing – which essentially ducked behind both Wolf Creek Ski Area and Powder Mountain – has earned me the respect of every direction giver out here: “Oh, if you did that, this short cut will be no problem.”
The pass was resplendent with balsam arrowleaf flowers, and the gravel descent no problem if I kept it slow. After about 15 miles of that – 30 or so on the day – I hit pavement and proceeded through increasingly bigger towns until I got to Logan. No one smiles in Logan. I hurried through and overshot my mark to some degree, realizing I needed to work my way west in order to get across I-15. I started doing that on side roads, but ultimately found myself nearing dusk, uncertain which way to turn. I knocked on the nearest door and, after a moment’s hesitation, found kindness, and a place to pitch my tent for the night.
In the corner of a kitchen whiteboard crowded with family phone numbers and reminders, Natalie Larsen keeps track of a few extra observations in her life: Space shuttle and space station together. 3.5 earthquake. Venus, Saturn and Jupiter aligned. Without missing a beat, the dairy farmer’s wife and mother of five, makes room for a stranger at her counter, offers up dinner, slips three loaves of bread into the oven, and keeps the two middle children easily included in the conversation. Her universe is her nuclear family, yet her head sneaks off to the stars from time to time.
“I keep meaning to write them into a notebook,” Natalie said, nodding to her whiteboard notations of cosmic observations.
A border collie named either Nana or Bandit (leaving her open to Banana jokes, but the punchline is unclear,) had barked her warning, then slunk back under a bush when I knocked on the storm door. Jamie had given me a quick second look to see if I was a nut when I asked if her mom was home. But after Natalie said it was OK to pitch my tent anywhere it would fit, and then came out to ask me in for scones, well, Jamie and her older brother Nathan peppered me with some of the best questions I’ve been asked all trip.
We exchanged stories about places, and the reasons we go there – Did you know there is next to nothing on the west side of the Great Salt Lake? Nathan’s been there to buy tractor, and says it’s so. He’s also taken a back way into Old Faithful on a trip he earned by being an outstanding student. Jamie wondered if I got tired or scared, if I was married, and why I was taking my trip. The scones were a sweet fry bread with honey butter, a warm end to my sticky day. I am shy and feel awkward about barging in on people’s lives, a stranger showing up at the door. But Natalie and the kids let me in, and that was special.
I slept soundly out by a sad cow who clanked and lowed to be with the others. I was awakened by a powerful and familiar smell. Skunk! So powerful it seemed as though Emma had gotten stunk and come into the tent. The air cleared. Natalie’s husband came home late and left to milk at 4:30, returning at 7 in time to set me straight on where I was going. (The Long Divide, a winding gravel climb up and over a stout hill separating the Logan Valley from the I-15 corridor proved to be another shortcut that has raised eyebrows all day.) I’ve wondered all day if he gets to take a nap before milking again at 4. I hope so.
Nathan told me there used to be 15 dairies in the Newton area. Now there are five. When I woke up at dawn I could see the gregarious ninth grader shifting irrigation pipe up on the hill. Helping his dad, uncle and grandfather is his summer job. Big dairy consolidation has coupled with the bizarre tendency of milk prices to stay the same even as the cost of everything else soars, to make it hard to stay in the business. But dairy is what this family does, like meeting a stranger’s request for help with an extra serving of kindness.