Posts Tagged ‘Idaho hiking’

Camping in the Idaho Wilds

July 27, 2014

In mid-July, David, Eric and I stole away to the Idaho wilderness for a weekend camping trip. I started asking David exactly where we were, and he provided me with this ‘you are here’ visual, compliments of Google maps:


We’re camped at the pink dot. That dark drippy looking blob in the lower right corner is the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Above that you see the town of Arco. Thirty miles northwest of Arco is Mackay, Idaho. 15 miles beyond Mackay, you turn left onto Trail Creek Road, and drive about 15 miles. That’s where we’re camped. You can continue down Trail Creek Road another 30 miles through the mountains over to Ketchum, Idaho.

Friday, 6 PM -July 11 – Our 1973 Bell camper is packed and ready to go!


(Aren’t you just seething with envy? – have I shown you the interior?)

David, Eric and I hit the road in David’s truck pulling the trailer. An hour later we pass through Arco – where we meet the Lost River Range. I snap a photo out the right back seat window:


The mountains grow in magnificence as we approach Mackay.


The highest peak of the Lost River Range, Mount Borah, comes into view:


We pull next to Ken’s Club in Mackay about 7:30 PM and grab dinner. Just before 9 PM, we’ve turned onto Trail Creek Road – the first 8 miles are paved. I took a couple of photos:



We arrive at Garden Creek campsite before dark. It’s the weekend of the full moon, but the sky is cloudy and spitting rain. We don’t even bother with a campfire before turning in for the night.

First order of business Saturday morning: Brew up boiling water and ground coffee in our French press. Eric has just crawled out of his, uh,


‘Tent-cot’ – I think is what it’s called, – he’s downsized a tad from the pickup with extended camper rig he camped in last time.

Oh, and I see Eric’s wearing his “Godzilla Kitty attacks NYC” t-shirt.

We are keen for a hike, but not a death march (of which we have to constantly remind Eric). Eric directs us to a trailhead a few miles from camp. We’ve already hiked a mile before we reach this sign:


Where a discussion ensues.


It seriously won’t break my heart if I don’t hike eleven more miles to “Betty Lake” and back, or to “Surprise Vally” (for real? Seriously. That’s creepy. What sort of surprise awaits you in ‘Surprise Vally?’).

“No, Eric, we won’t have to come back and do it because we didn’t do it today. Which, we’re NOT doing it today…”

“How about you take our photo with that marvelous peak (that we don’t have to claw our way to the top of) in the background!”


We’re hiking back out now…


and boiling hot by the time we hike the one mile back to the truck. It’s strange how even a hill can make us feel so small.


We decide to drive Trail Creek Road all the way to Ketchum (uh, let’s see – sit and boil at the campsite, melt on another hike, or spend the rest of the afternoon in air conditioning…) I shot a few photos of the scenery along the way:




We arrive in Ketchum just before 6 PM – so of course, we get dinner. At the Pioneer Saloon on Main Street. Steak Kabobs, fresh salad, baked potato … just the kind of camping dinner I love!

Drove the 30 miles, mostly dirt road, back to the campsite. Built a big honking campfire.

Sunday, after breakfast, we hike a short trail to the Big Lost River to fish. Not fly fishing, mind you. Fishing grosses me out. At least the “worming the hook” part, demonstrated here by Eric.


They don’t feel a thing, right? The worm is SCREAMING as the total length of his body is gored to the hook. Could you hear a worm scream? Yeah, well have you ever really listened?

(By the way, although it may look like worm guts on Eric’s hands, it’s actually furniture stain, as he refinishes antiques as part of his Antique Business – just wanted to clear that up!)

Eric and David caught about 10 trout, rainbows and cutthroats.


Threw them all back.

We packed up camp about 2 PM Sunday and headed for home.


Driving back on Trail Creek Road toward Highway 93 now. The Lost River Range is sprawled out in front of us in brilliant splendor.




We’re on highway 93 now, near Mackay:


We arrive back in our driveway about 6 PM – about 48 hours after we pulled out. That’s just about as much camping as I can handle, as long as it includes dinners eaten out at restaurants.

Oh, did I mention that we discovered a plumbing leak in the camper as soon as we turned on the kitchen faucet at the campsite? Yeah. So we basically didn’t run water in the camper. Luckily we brought along a few extra jugs. So when we got home David had to find the leak and fix the plumbing. Oh, and before we went camping we had to buy and install a new battery, new fuse, new interior light bulb, and new locking valve for the water tank.

But hey, it looked mighty fine by the time we hauled it back into storage. I took photos – you DO want to see the interior, don’t you? (Eat your heart out.) Here’s the tour:

The breakfast nook. (the original blue flowered upholstery!):


The kitchen (double sinks!)


the stove and fridge (uses block ice!)


And the bench (dig that lime green!)


As David backed the camper into it’s costly covered storage space (and I directed) I noticed one tail light was out. Oh well. No worry. The last time we took this thing out was three summers ago. (I actually blogged about it.) At that rate of use, this camper should be around for generations to come. Our kids will be ever so thrilled!

Palisades Creek – Part 2

June 8, 2014

To continue … it’s a little after 1 PM on Wednesday, May 28. David and I have hiked four miles along Palisades creek (near Swan Valley, Idaho) up to lower Palisades Lake, where we have now parked our tired bodies on a flat rock for a rest and a snack.

We thought we might meet other hikers and even overnight campers up here, but we have the whole area to ourselves.


The last time we were up here we saw three moose – a cow and a bull, and a young calf – grazing on the left bank of the lake. They crossed the lake to the right bank and sauntered away.

We don’t see moose today. We do spot a little chipmunk skittering around, peering up at us from several feet away. “We should throw him some nuts, to tame him, see if we can get him to approach us!” I say. David tosses out an almond. Sure enough, the chipmunk meanders around looking like he’s not the least bit interested, and then, cautiously hops right up to the nut, grabs it and starts munching …


Then another chipmunk shows up –


he too grabs a nut. Runs off with it.


Soon there are three chipmunks. Or maybe four. It’s hard to keep track of them.

These little critters are more tame than we thought. One approaches us from behind. Oh how cute!


Next thing, he’s hopped right between us and helped himself to our stash.


Is he going for the beer next?

“Hey! Outta there! Scat, you little varmint!”

He moons us as he makes his exit.


Should we check our pockets?

Here we have a chipmunk schooling humans on the art of eating a cracker. (No need to endure it to the end. We get the point!)

We’ve rested about half an hour now, our foodstuffs are gone (next time – pack extra in case of unexpected company). I photograph some trees around us …



They look like something out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Heading back to the trailhead now, with David in the lead.


Should take less time getting back than it took climbing up. Two hours to David’s estimation, you know, if we keep the pace…

At least we’re going with the flow (so to speak) this time.


Soon we hear some clop-clopping behind us. We step aside to greet two riders on horses


We engage in a friendly chat. They had ridden three miles further to the upper lake but had to turn around because the snow was too deep. We thought we were near the peak of the spring flooding but they allowed that no, there was much more snow to melt off and they thought the peak wouldn’t happen till the beginning of July. As we’re chatting away, the first rider’s horse chomps the end off a branch of a big prickly bush.


We stop our conversation to watch the horse chew on it. We couldn’t keep from laughing at the way the horse’s mouth was curling up around the prickles, as she determinedly chewed away as if she’d pulled a coup snatching that knarly branch in the first place. I lamented to the second rider that “Awwwww, your horse missed out on her extra snack” – he allowed that “Nope, she’s watchin’ her figure.”

We bid a hearty farewell to the friendly riders, David commenting to me, “Shouldn’t they be back at the ranch branding cattle?” He, himself, would be working a full day this coming Saturday to make up for taking off today.

We stop here to take in the view of the canyon behind us that we have just passed through


and to listen to the sound of the roaring creek. Creek? Yeah, it will be a creek again. “See that rock in the center of those rapids?” David points it out to me. “Notice it again later this summer. It will be completely exposed.”

The wildflowers are putting on such a show!



What? Fall colors already?


We bump into the riders again. And their horses.


The riders had dismounted and were waiting for us.


“We wanted to be sure you were aware of what’s up there on that ledge.”

“Mountain goats?” I ask.

“No.” He points up toward the cliff. “Look carefully by that tree up there on the left near the top …”

David and I both saw it at once. “A bear!”

“Yes, a cinnamon bear!” the rider exclaimed.

I snapped a photo.


Can you see the bear up there on the cliff? Look carefully beneath that tallest tree on the left. The sun is shining on his cinnamon colored back – he’s a cinnamon bear all right, albeit, not your quintessential graham or gummy variety cinnamon bear reminiscent of childhood.

The rider pictured in the above photo is a wildlife painter who comes up here quite frequently. He knew a lot about bears. He said the small bear was a young black bear, probably two years old. The baby bears stay with their mothers until their second spring, when, after they come out of hibernation, the mother boots them out to forage for food on their own, and she goes off to have another baby. That bear wasn’t that far away, and it was clearly aware of us. And although undoubtedly hungry, it certainly couldn’t just come after us over that cliff! Thank goodness. Soon it had disappeared.

We motored on – crossed another bridge. I snapped a photo. Just for my brother Eric.


This is the infamous bridge Eric descended toward on his mountain bike a couple of summers ago – Did a 360 flip right off the side, right there, right smack dab into the creek. Luckily it was during late summer when the water was running low. He pulled himself and his bike out of the water and rode on.

Somehow, the four miles back seemed like a much greater distance than it did climbing up.

The blazing sun set the trees aglow.


At some point, a wind kicked up – I captured it in this video:

It’s 3:45 and we’re back at the trailhead. Sure enough, it took about 2 hours to get back from the lower lake. We stop and check out the maps on the bulletin board beside the parking lot. The first map shows the Palisades Creek trail leading to the lower and upper Palisades lakes.

. IMG_8149

You can see from this first topographical map that you gain a great deal of elevation in those three miles from Lower Palisades Lake to the Upper Lake.

The second map is one of those “YOU ARE HERE” maps that I find so comforting. I linger at both maps for a while


– all chatty with David, acting very interested in the information to be gleaned from these two awesome maps. “You can totally see how close our hike is to Palisades Dam!” was one of my brilliant observations.

This sort of thing is interesting, studying maps, you know, if this sort of thing interests you.

Frankly, what I’m most interested in, at this moment, is stopping and resting my body – my feet hurt, my legs ache and my knees feel shot. Can I muster the strength to make those last 20 steps across the parking lot to the truck? I suppose I’ll have to bend my knees at least one more time to fold my body into the front seat for the ride home.

Yeah, well, we weren’t attacked or eaten by a bear, we didn’t get our pockets picked by wily chipmunks, nor get washed away by a raging creek. We saw those crazy, active tent worms, and the wildflowers put on a veritable fashion show. The horses made us laugh and their riders made us wiser. Even though that hike did kick my butt, it was totally worth it. I’ll feel this way tomorrow, too, even if I am too sore to get out of bed.