|10-05-2010, 09:44 AM||#1|
Long time Idaho rider
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
Four Brothers, Four Days along Idaho's Nez Perce Trail
Mild afternoons leading up to the Labor Day weekend gave us little reason to expect a rare encounter with thundersnow. Lightning flashed brilliant red and blue (its spectrum cut apart in the reflection of falling snow) and thunder roared around us like muzzle blasts from a cosmic cop, hot on our trail.
More than the usual planning was invested in our third annual brother ride. We were interested in seeing some new country and tried to find a practical route into Mallard-Larkins, a rugged expanse of high lakes isolated among rock-faced mountains that has been on our wish-list for a couple years. When I calculated that Joel and Jesse would need a full tank of gas just getting to Mallard-Larkins and back, it was time to consider alternatives. It wasn’t enough just to get there. We needed to continue mountain riding for four days!
So the plan shifted somewhat south where gas is marginally more available, we could follow the historic Lolo Motorway, visit the Great Burn, a rugged area to rival Mallard-Larkins, and all in fewer miles.
Seasoned GS riders will tell you that the clanks and thunks reminiscent of a vintage tractor are only the big bike’s happy ruminations. Since I’m not yet a seasoned GS rider, I decided to prepare for the trip by changing gear fluids to see with my own eyes that the drive-train was in good shape.
Good news: there were no chunks of metal, the fluids looked clear, and the shaft splines were clean. I’ll worry less about the noises. The exercise, however, would factor into a later adventure (stay tuned).
My trip from Boise to Moscow was an uneventful highway ride. Temperatures were moderate and traffic was light as I listened to hours of science fiction podcasts.
This was the first year our brotherly quartet would be complete. Like me, Jeremy would spend a day traveling to Moscow—in his case, from the Seattle area. Since he is between motorcycles, I started making calls in the spring to shops in Boise and Moscow. I wasn’t surprised to find that nobody rents motorcycles.
Seeing Toni in June during our Hells Canyon and Wallowa Valley ride, I was reminded that he is a University of Idaho student and so would have his motorcycle in Moscow come Labor Day. His KLR would be a good size for Jeremy. My discomfort at asking such a large favor was allayed by Toni’s graciousness.
I gave Toni a call once Jeremy showed up in Moscow. Toni offered us unique German beers left over from his twenty-first birthday party as Jeremy and I stepped into his apartment. What a guy! It meant a lot to us that Jeremy would be able to join the ride, thanks to Toni.
Back at our mom’s place, Jeremy worked his gear into various configurations—an effort not unlike stacking cards—validated with a brief test ride.
With the bikes ready, we turned our attention to securing rations (beef jerky, granola bars and whiskey). Well, except for Joel. Jill prepared individually wrapped meals and two snacks for each day in the mountains, complete with labels and cooking instructions. Abundant twue wuv apparently left Joel incapable of his own preparations. “What, no toilet paper? I think I saw some leaves over there ...” The rest of us weren’t about to share with mister I-have-everything-made-for-me.
Joel’s Saturday afternoon snack
Jeremy and I sat the next morning to a mom-made breakfast. Our rations and gear were compressed to portable dimensions, ready for travel. Casey would be joining us again this year on his XRL, our token non-Abbott. Although it’s a “brother” ride, we don’t mind having someone along to absorb the trip’s misfortunes, as seems to be his fate.
Soon Jesse and Casey arrived and we were just waiting for Joel. And waiting. Finally we got word he’d been called into work to fix an issue. Darn. Jesse needed to adjust his chain so we went to his place to finish our wait.
We would take Highway 8 to Elk River and mystery roads thereafter. We were barely out of Moscow when Jeremy lost a new water bottle to the unforgiving asphalt. We stopped in Troy to check straps and fend off further losses.
Jeremy hadn’t been this way in many years. Memories popping to mind gave him a bobble-head, eyes bouncing left and right at sites along the highway.
We stopped at Huckleberry Heaven in Elk River to give the bikes some gas and ourselves some sugar for the miles ahead. It was the end of highway riding.
Perhaps I clicked some option in the DeLorme mapping software along the lines of “avoid every convenience.” Outside of Elk River, we were routed in short order from pavement to gravel and then jeep trail. We were surprised those trails were even known to the GPS. It was fun going but made us question whether it really was the right direction.
After other uncertain but entertaining trails, we settled onto the gravel Aquarius Road leading to the upper end of Dworshak Reservoir. By then we had taken to calling Jeremy the freshman as he struggled to keep his camping gear attached to the bike, particularly on washboard roads.
Noticing his absence from our mirrors, the rest of us would stop.
“Oh, he probably just lost something again.”
Some would light a cigarette and I would shoot a few pictures to pass the time. It seemed safe to laugh it up a little since we’d all experienced the same hassles our first year out. Jeremy appeared to understand but didn’t laugh as much about it himself.
We stopped on Grandad Bridge to enjoy the view from high above Dworshak Reservoir. I think we also enjoyed seeing our route validated. We’d arrived somewhere as intended!
We seemed to enter a different ecosystem as we climbed eastward from Grandad. The forest around was lit beautifully by golden afternoon light as we passed in cool shade under moss-laden branches.
We saw hardly anyone across the forty miles of dirt and gravel we’d come from Elk River. That all changed when we arrived at Highway 11. It was like a series of RV dealerships along the road. I think the population density of most cities is lower than it was along the highway there. A peculiar “get-away” I thought.
When we saw the Pierce gas station only serves 87 octane we turned up our noses and remounted our bikes to find alternatives. At the opposite end of town, some twenty seconds later, we realized there weren’t alternatives.
According to the GPS, our journey should follow a curious route immediately east of town. We climbed up a little side street to what seemed like someone’s gravel driveway before the road opened onto a small clearing. Where next? We saw only an ATV track heading into the woods. That must be it.
A lengthy climb through trees was a little challenging but everyone continued without mishap. I think we were curious to see, once again, how this could possibly be the right direction. We dropped briefly onto a gravel road before the route directed us back to more ATV trails. It was fun going even as we went deeper into the woods and the trail narrowed.
Some challenging sections are fun—up on the pegs, modulate throttle—but when the trail became the slippery and rutted course of a little stream, I was just feeling lucky, moment-to-moment, that I hadn’t dumped it. It was time to turn back—too early in our trip for tumbles.
Fortunately, we’d passed another trail not far back. Casey’s and my GPS didn’t show that it would get us through, but hey ... that’s why it’s called adventure. We weren’t about to backtrack farther than that. God forbid.
On the other trail, we soon passed another intersection and chose the direction most likely to intersect our original course. But no. The dirt track ended abruptly at a muddy mine entrance. Not a good sign for our route but neat nonetheless. We took a few minutes to explore. We were able to walk quite a long ways back into the mountain, much deeper than other mines I’ve encountered lately.
What next? We were sure that God still forbade backtracking so we would try the other direction at the intersection. The trail curved and it didn’t take us long to realize we were connecting back to our original route, back to an actual dirt road. Hooray! It all worked out. Surely there are life lessons in there.
We had seen camp trailers and RVs stacked along the edge of Highway 11 like driftwood along asphalt shores. But in the miles and miles of dirt roads across valleys and ridges since then, back on our route, we saw no one. Well appointed campsites were empty—no people. Their loss, our gain, we figured.
I had marked Rocky Ridge Lake and Horseshoe Lake as campsite candidates. Although I thought we were close, I wasn’t sure how close, so when we came across Camp Martin, two large, adjacent campsites with stacked firewood, a table and iron fire ring, we decided to call it a day. It was hard to do better than that.
Making it even better, we discovered a freshwater spring just fifty feet down the Nez Perce Nee-Me-Poo Trail that runs between the campsites. Although probably safe, we filtered nonetheless, and in so doing realized that Jeremy, Joel and I all have the same filter. Who knew filter selection was genetic?
The large Coleman lantern that had played a lead role in Jeremy’s luggage woes finally had a chance to redeem itself, hoisted above our heads with a system of ropes in a show of Jeremy’s camping prowess. We were all illuminated, turning skeptics to believers.
I don’t think we realized how the long ride had worn us out until we sat there around the crackling fire. We found no energy for shenanigans, no energy to escape the gravitational pull of our tents, sleep and dreams.
Jason Abbott screwed with this post 07-28-2011 at 10:35 AM
|10-05-2010, 10:47 AM||#2|
Joined: Oct 2005
Location: Boise, Idaho
Did you happen to see the map in the back room with all the pins locating where people visiting Elk River were from?
Boise to Baja, 2 weeks, 2 up, 1200Adv
DVDaze 1200GSA 2UP
Idaho West Mountains - Payette River
Southern Utah - 2UP - A Photographic Journey
Riggins - Burgdorf - 7 Devils
Selkirk Loop & the Canadian Rockies - 2UP - 1200 Adventure
Along the Magruder Corridor and More....
Into the Mountains - North of Boise
|10-05-2010, 10:56 AM||#3|
Long time Idaho rider
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
|10-05-2010, 02:58 PM||#4|
Joined: Nov 2006
Location: half-life, Washington
Great Start to an awesome Ride Report
I live in eastern washington and am interested in exploring that beautiful country! Ride Safe and keep the great pictures coming.
03 KLR 650
|10-06-2010, 08:53 AM||#8|
Long time Idaho rider
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
Next post is ... so close. Would have been up but our nine-year old was three hours late riding his bike home from school. Phoned his friends. Not there. I bicycled all over the place, asked passers-by if they'd seen a blond boy—couldn't find him. Finally I see him on some out-of-the-way street. He had been watching chickens. Where he found chickens in Boise, I don't know. He's grounded a bit.
|10-06-2010, 11:58 AM||#9|
Joined: Mar 2010
Location: Murfreesboro, TN
Riding with brothers
You picked a great location, are taking very nice pictures and doing it all with your brothers (+1).
My 2 brothers and I spent a couple of weeks together last year riding around the Grand Canyon area and it was truely a wonderful time. Glad you're able to do this ride. Thanks for sharing it.
|10-06-2010, 07:55 PM||#10|
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Philippines and Seattle
Oh, come on Dad, two things you can't ground a kid for is watching chickens or motorcycles.
(But, you sure think of a lot of scary things when they are not where they should be.)
Very nice Ride Report.
|10-07-2010, 08:55 AM||#11|
Long time Idaho rider
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
As the grey morning light turned golden, I laid in my tent, listening, hoping someone else would make the first move to start a fire. Although the sky had been clear through the night, it remained curiously warm—almost uncomfortably warm—but it seemed no less necessary to begin the day with a fire.
With stowage capacity for a good-sized percolator, I had volunteered to be camp barista. And so when I poked my head out of the tent and caught sight of Jesse doing the same, rather than a friendly “mornin’” he had just one thing to say: “coffee!”
We watched with curiosity those who brought freeze-dried pouches for breakfast. With safe and simple alternatives like a granola bar or packet of oatmeal, why risk it? Freeze-dried sausage and eggs? There was, not surprisingly, little enthusiasm for the result. “It kind of tastes like eggs.”
Joel, of course, was occupied with a gift wrapped “Saturday Breakfast.” Jill, you may remember, prepared, packaged and labeled all his food (something he’ll likely never hear the end of). He tried to sell us on the idea: “It’s great. I never know what I’ll get.” Great.
Jesse, Jeremy and Casey
There was no reason for haste after breakfast yet packing alongside my brothers always feels slightly competitive. I can’t let Jesse finish before I even start! And is that Jeremy already taking down his tent? I need to hurry up!
After packing and preening, our motorcycles whinnied and rumbled to life, five baritones to greet the morning with the song of internal combustion. A sign adjacent to our campsite told us we would be entering the “Historic Lolo Trail Corridor,” following at places in the steps of Lewis and Clark and before them, the Nez Perce people.
The pace I expected to set was impeded by angular rocks embedded within the hard and rutted road surface, threatening the incautious rider with catastrophe. Twelve and fifteen miles-per-hour were sometimes teeth rattling speeds.
Large and regular signage along the route kept us apprised of history and geology. We didn’t stop for every one. I think we were more interested at the time in our own adventure than those of our fore-bearers. We knew we could Google it later.
“I’m glad we didn’t try to stay here,” I remarked as we pulled alongside Rocky Ridge Lake some miles down the road. A jolly band of senior UTV and ATV riders occupied every campsite. We had to park our bikes on the road.
We sauntered over to the lake and returned to banter with our four-wheeled, fellow travelers. A round and ruddy fellow with grey hair poking from under a camouflage ball cap told of stopping at some out-of-the-way bar to find it taken over by a bachelorette party. “That was a good time,” he laughed.
They were surprised when we told them about the ATV trail we’d taken out of Pierce and seemed to know who owned the mine we ran into. They were very familiar with the whole area and suggested other routes and stops we might enjoy.
Rocky Ridge Lake
We shared well-wishes then got back onto the Lolo Motorway a few more miles, as far as Weites Butte Lookout. We parked at the tower and I set to climbing the several flights of stairs. There was no attendant so I wasn’t surprised to find the platform door locked. It was still a nice view.
From Weites Butte we continued along the Lolo Motorway.
We stopped at a couple less remarkable buttes along the motorway before reaching the turnoff to Castle Butte. Our Rocky Ridge Lake friends had insisted it was worth a stop. It didn’t disappoint.
Getting up to the lookout was a minor challenge on the GS. The road at the top was nothing but large, loose rocks threatening to send me careening in a hazardous direction.
An old Ford truck with a flat screen TV box in the back suggested an attendant was on hand, though he or she never made an appearance. Windows all around the lookout let us see the new TV hung up in a corner but little else.
Castle Rock Lookout
As we parked to take in the view we couldn’t help but notice sheets of rain hung from dark clouds sweeping rapidly towards us. We knew it would hit in just a few minutes. We hustled to turn around so we could retreat to trees and setup shelter.
My brothers on their lighter bikes were quickly on their way. Casey and I were a minute behind and couldn’t see where they’d gone. Marco? Polo? The rain was already on top of us so I decided to stop and setup our own shelter rather than continue searching.
Just as I finished securing the tarp, ready for wind and rain, the sky cleared. Of course. Beeping horns helped reunite the group and soon we were back on our way down roads just wet enough to help traction and settle dust. Nice.
A sign said Horseshoe Lake was only a mile from the Lolo Motorway but it seemed twice that. An ATV trail was the only access to the lake’s edge where we might have camped if we’d come this far the day before. There was nobody there (though a group showed up on foot a little later).
Joel finds an easy-chair
It was too early for that day’s camp, though, so after looking around we got back to the road.
Indian Post Office Lake is right off the motorway, part of a pair of lakes. We stopped to check it out near a jeep that was pulled off the road. Inside, a teenage girl eyed us briefly from the back seat before rolling up her window and locking the doors. Having some experience with teenage daughters, I wanted to suggest she should have accepted her parents’ invitation to a little hike, then she wouldn’t be at the mercy of motorcycle gangs.
Indian Post Office Lake
Not far beyond Indian Post Office, we turned onto Doe Creek Road to descend from the mountains for gas at the Lochsa Lodge by Highway 12. It was a great road, fast and curvy, and in one of my favorite settings, in a narrow valley along a small shaded creek. The others were patient to let me stop for a couple pictures.
Granola bars or jerky at every stop meant I wasn’t too hungry for lunch but I thought a milkshake at the lodge might be nice.
After gassing up, we were seated in the dining room and I began checking and double-checking the dessert list on the back of the menu. How could they have à la mode items but no milkshakes? That’s just crazy.
“Can you make me a milkshake?” I asked our waitress. “No,” she said curtly, her round face expressionless within a circle of dishwater blond hair. “I think you just have to add milk to some ice cream,” I suggested, trying my best to be charming. “No,” she repeated as she walked away.
I had fish-and-chips with a side of disappointment.
From the lodge we crossed Highway 12 back onto a dirt road (Parachute Hill) toward the Lolo Motorway. The road was in good condition and we were able to maintain thirty or forty miles-per-hour until we came upon a group of ATVs slowly pulling trailers up the mountain. There was ample room to pass if they would ride to the right instead of the middle of the road.
I gave them a couple minutes to see us in their mirrors and then gave a friendly beep-beep of my horn. We still weren’t acknowledged. Okay then. I didn’t plan to ride in slow-motion, eating dust the next ten miles so as soon as there was a bit of a shoulder (it was a drop-off on the left) I shot narrowly by while telepathically suggesting they learn some trail etiquette.
As we drew close to the ridgeline, the forest around was suddenly transformed in character, like we’d entered another world through some dark closet. Lifeless trees were haphazard tombstones ten thousand strong—bodies stiff, skin turned white, marred black in a failed battle for survival. The late afternoon sun cast their hard shadows across our path. It felt like we were proceeding through the majestic courtyard of mountain royalty.
Vistas large and small continued to inspire veneration as we rejoined the Lolo Motorway across the ridge. We weren’t on the ridge long before leaving the motorway to cross a valley northward toward the Great Burn. The tiny Cayuse Lake reflected late afternoon sun like a mirror as we descended the opposite side of the ridge.
After passing two nice campsites along Cayuse Creek, and no other people in sight, we stopped for a conference. Should we continue up to the Great Burn or call it a day right there? We decided on the bird in the hand.
The campsite’s large open area gave too many tent options. It took some time to walk around and weigh the alternatives. By the creek with the sound of water? Under a tree? Over in the pretty, rocky area? Closer to the fire? These were weighty matters, settled, as usual, by giving up and going with wherever it was we happened to park our motorcycle.
With decisions made, we became like ants before winter, quickly and without comment focusing on our tasks—setting up a tent, gathering wood, filtering water and raising the lantern. Just to change things up, I guess, Casey decided to use a purification tablet rather than filter his water. We all learned a lesson: if you don’t like urine-colored water, don’t use purification tablets.
Fire building was more of a group effort. We had learned an efficient technique. Stack some sticks and let Jeremy see what you did. “What? How do you expect that to burn?! You can’t stack ‘em like that. Here, let me show you how it’s done.” Then sit back and enjoy the growing fire.
Shortly after settling in, we heard the rumble of ATVs, later verified as those we passed earlier, setting up at the adjacent campsite. They weren’t visible through the trees but we could hear their chainsaw. The valley eventually grew quiet as darkness fell.
A car passing slowly back-and-forth was doubly peculiar on a moonless night in mountains without any other passenger vehicles, as far as we’d seen. A guy our age finally emerged out of the darkness with a black dog at his side he called Cash. Us Abbott boys had read our dad’s Louis L’Amore enough to know the guy was an idiot to come upon us like that. A man could get shot that way.
Although wearing no uniform, he said he worked for the Forest Service. “Just as a consultant, now”, he clarified. “I used to work for them. I just got out of school and I’m doing some projects for them.” Of course. The visiting-campers-in-the-dark project.
I don’t know what his angle was but we were only minimally hospitable and he was soon on his way. His visit, and possibly those nips of whiskey, did give us some inspiration, though. “You know, we should take a couple of these animal crackers over to that other campsite. We’ll pretend we’re with the Forest Service, show them a cookie, and ask, ‘have you seen this animal?’”
Let me offer this wisdom before continuing: animals crackers—you know, the ones with sprinkles on white or pink frosting—are an excellent accompaniment to whiskey.
I can’t remember who exactly had the “have you seen this animal?” idea. It was such genius, we’re probably all taking credit for it now. We laughed so hard we cried as we held up cookies, acting the part of a concerned Ranger. So much did we enjoy the idea that there was no reason to actually do it. It couldn’t be any funnier.
Maybe you had to be there.
The belly laughs wore us out. All but Jeremy and Jesse retired for the night. We would hear over breakfast about the deer that kept harassing them, the spear they threw, and their walk down the dark road to encounter our night visitor sleeping in his car.
Jason Abbott screwed with this post 07-28-2011 at 10:19 AM
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