Avoiding Snow on the Idaho Passes

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by ryanwilliamcantrell, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. ryanwilliamcantrell

    ryanwilliamcantrell Get Out and Ride!!

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,864
    Location:
    Nampa, Idaho
    This summer has seen limited riding opportunities due to school, so when Phil suggested a death march over the 4th (a week break between classes), I sat down with a map to cram in as many miles as we could ride over the 4 day break. This proved to be a PITA.

    Our first choice was Magruder. Snowed in.

    Second choice was Mackey Bar and the Gospel Hump. Followed by the Lolo. Snowed in.

    We looked into running French Creek and Allison Creek. Snowed in.

    We called to inquire on Sleeping Deer. Snowed in.

    Big Horn Crags. Snowed in.

    Antelope Pass into Copper Basin. Snowed in.

    Every pass over 8000 ft... snowed in.

    This make trying to plot a 4 day route through Idaho a real PITA, because most of the passes in Idaho get over 8k. We had to get creative.

    I'd been contemplating new luggage approaches to keep the weight off the tail rack, where it carried the weight high and made the bike handle poorly when loaded for multi-day rides. After researching the different systems for the XR650R, I got the Coyote from Giant Loop, because it kept the weight low without adding any hardware like racks. If fact, I actually removed my tail rack, to make the Loop fit better... so I saved about 5 lbs by pulling off the rear rack. The XR650R lacks a subframe, so I was glad to have the Turbo City subframe under my fender, which supports the Giant Loop perfectly. It hooks solidly onto the fender, then straps (in my case) to the frame to hold everything in place with a very snug feel. So sliding around or moving while your running through the whoops and bouncing through potholes. Here's a shot of mine; I strapped the chair to the outside on the right, and my LuxeryLite Cot on the outside on the left, and kept the back free of luggage, so I can run my Camelpak and not have anything touch my back (which I prefer, since I HATE having things directly behind me, that push me forward). The Loop sits so low, that it runs under my Camelpak, and all the way back off my seat on the fender itself.


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    After gassing up in Hagerman, we stopped by Balanced Rock on our way to the South Hills of Twin Falls.

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    I lived in Twin for a few years, so I got to explore the South Hills quite a bit. They're an anomaly, because it's a section of beautiful, lush, green hills... amongst a vast high desert of desolate sagebrush.

    Since the snowmelt was about a month behind across Idaho, it meant that it was a late summer flower season across the state.

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    We stopped near the pinnacle of the hills to have lunch and relax in the shade. Moments after finishing our lunch, a massive summer storm front moved in, and we scrambled to set up the Kelty tarp to keep us dry. Moments after getting the bikes under the tarp, the clouds opened up, and DUMPED rain so hard, the drops shot water back into the sky two inches when they pelted the table. I was grateful we had the tarp to keep us and our bikes out of the downpour.

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    The rain continued for 2 hours, so I pulled out my pillow from the Giant Loop, and napped on the ground under the tarp. Phil dozed off too, and when we woke up, the rain had stopped and the clouds were breaking up. We packed up our things, and continued east on FS500 toward Oakley.

    Everything was going great, until we rounded a corner at 7500 ft and saw a massive drift covering the road.

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    I got off the bike, to test the snow, and found it to be pretty stiff. This was the same road that turned us back in JUNE of of 2010, so I was pretty grumpy to see a drift still here in JULY of this year.

    I made up my mind. I had new tires on for traction.... so I was going to try and ride over it... very carefully.

    Well. I made it... most of the way. :huh

    By the end of it, I was trying to dig my heels in and pull the bike back up to keep it on the 'trail'...

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    but it was little use. I missed the edge of the road by 12 inches... but it may as well have been 12 ft, because I rode that bike like a bobsled down the snow, through the end of the snowdrift.

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    My 1st inclination was to check the luggage, and make sure it all survived the ride ~ everything was still in place, and none the worse for the wear.

    No parts of pieces missing off the bike, either.

    As luck would have it, as I was contemplating my pickle, a FS truck pulled up to see what the fuss was. I thought for sure I was going to get a ticket for being off trail. :cry

    FS asked if I was okay, etc, and Phil and I indicated that everything was 'great'. :lol3 Being off trail was, of course, mentioned, but he said that it was clearly accidental, so I wouldn't be held accountable for it. :clap I was grateful, because I clearly had not done so intentionally... just a result of stupidity.

    The bike was, of course flooded, so I got the privilege of trying to un-flood it, and kick it, on the incline. :puke1

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    Once it started, Phil and I spent some time coaxing it back on the road, without tearing-up the land. It, of course, started to rain again as we were trying to work the bike back on the trail. It was a bizarre experience to be sweating nearly to death, in the rain, with snow in my boots and pants.

    We eventually got the bike back on the trail, and I took a very different line with Phil's Z, and made it through without incident.

    We continued on FS500 into Oakley for fuel, before heading back into the hills via Elba Rd, up to Elba Pass. It's a steep grade, that climbs 3000 ft very quickly, and provides and excellent view of the valley.

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    On the top of the pass, are some trails that take you around Independent Lakes. We found a nice campground, that was next to the creeks coming down from the lakes, but never saw the lakes themselves, because we were trying to stay ahead of a storm.

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    We decided to camp at the Sublett campground that evening, so we continued on through Malta and gassed up at Interstate 84, where I met Phil's date.

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    We continued on to Sublett Campground, along Sublett Creek, and stayed the night there. About 300 miles on the day.

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    We woke up in Sublett, and it got hot, quick. We knew we'd be in for a pretty grueling day of heat, because we were crossing the desert. However, we lucked-out, and it was overcast and breezy for most of the day.

    I gingerly broke down camp, because I'm managed to burn the hell out of my poor thumb the night before, burning the rope to keep the ends from fraying.

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    I took my tragically-wounded thumb, and headed north on Houtz Canyon, which was a very nice and scenic ride.

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    It did, however, quickly change to desert as we continued north up Fall Creek Rd to I-84.

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    We fueled-up in American Falls, then hit was seemed to be the longest, straightest gravel road in existence as we headed north to the Big Southern Butte

    I got us moderately lost on the three million Y's of the desert south of Arco.

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    We eventually decided 'to hell with it' and just set a general direction north... knowing we'd get there eventually. The butte was 'hard to miss'.

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    We stuck to the two track, and had a lot of fun through the twisty turns.

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    I was haulin' down the road, and hit an unexpected cattle guard at 60mph. I stopped to warn Phil of the rise, and had a bit a of 'here, hold my beer' moment and decided that if I could do it once... I could do it a 2nd time for a picture. :lol3

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    It wasn't until after I landed I remembered the Giant Loop back there. I reached back to make sure everything was still in it's place ~ hadn't budged. :thumb

    We continued north, to wrap around the face of the butte.

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    I'd seen on the map that there was a LO on top of the butte, and I was dying to see the view from up there.

    The road immediately looked to hold some potential as we started up it.

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    Turned out, the road held a little too much potential for Phil, and he decided to take a Powerbar break instead.

    Turned out to be a handful. Just enough to be real entertaining on a 650, but my old 950A would be been pure work and pain for the first mile and a half.

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    It rose 2500 ft in two miles of trail. Most of that in the first portion. :evil

    After that, it got really pretty, really quickly.

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    From the top, we could see all the way back to American Falls, over past INL, to Craters of the Moon and north to Arco. Great view.

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    It was apparently a destination for hang gliding, as there were multiple signs warning hang gliders of the unusually high cross winds in the area.

    We continued north, gassed-up on and ate lunch in Arco, than hit pavement to Dubois, since all the passes were closed.

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    From there, we took A2 to Island Park area.

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    As we rolled in, the temp dropped 20 degrees, and as we got closer to the park, I could see 1/2 inch of hail on the sides of the roads. :eek1 It's July!

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    We fueled up again in Island Park, and the headed north to connect to Red Rock Pass in Montana. Turned out to be the most beautiful portion of the trip.

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    We were butted up behind the Centennial Mountains, which were shedding their snow faster than the land could shed the water from them.

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    Despite being a fast gravel road, we were traveling at a snail's pace, soaking in the scenery.

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    We passed something that resembled a campground around Bean Creek, so I pulled off, and asked Phil if he was ready to throw up camp. It was 7:00 pm, and we'd put on 330 miles that day.

    He looked at me, and innocently asked, "Where's the nearest hot springs?"

    "Well... that I know of?" I replied.

    "Ya."

    "Tendoy, but they're 120 miles from here."

    "Sold!" he shouted.

    Holy crap. 120 miles in 2 hours. "We'd better get on the cowbell".

    This is what is looks like, when a grown-man is huddled behind the headlight of a DRZ, with the throttle wide open for 120 miles.

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    We went as fast as we dared, up I-15, west on hwy 324, up the Lemhi Pass and down into the Salmon Valley.

    As you can imagine, the camera didn't come out too much.

    Lemhi Pass was too pretty, with the sun setting, to not get a couple pics, though.

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    To my amazement, we pulled up to camp, at 9:20pm as the sun went behind the mountains. We threw up camp and sat for a LONG soak in the hot springs, after a 450 mile day.

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    As you can see from the picture (taken the next morning), we just threw out in the ONLY flat spot int the area.

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    However, there were, apparently, horses that had already claimed our area. At 2am, a small group of them got within about 10 feet of my head and began letting me know how unimpressed they were with us. Scared the HELL out of me to wake up to those heavy suckers so close to my head. I shot out of head (after realizing they were just horses) and chased them off. Took a picture of the grumpy devils, once my heart slowed down, but by then, they were just and 'eye flash' in the dark. :lol3

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    They came back about an hour later, just to reiterate their point, so I had to move as close to my bike as I could get, and I spread my stuff out all around my cot in an attempt to keep from getting stepped on. :huh Swine horses. :lol3




    After a lovely evening of trying not to get stepped on by overly-friendly horses, and throwing all my crap around me like a moat, we awoke to the reality that were were way ahead of schedule (a good problem to have)

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    We looked at the map to determine where we wanted to go. Neither of us had been to the Charcoal Kins, so that was destination #1.

    We headed south on Hwy 28, where I thing EVERY bug in the county was spending their morning.

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    We stopped by, to look lustfully at Big Windy, which still had FEET of snow on top of it.
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    After fuel in Leadore, we headed to the Kilns.



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    I'm too lazy and unmotivated to provide the impressive history of these, but there used to be 16 of them, burning 40-80 cords of wood each. Imagine the man-power required for that... :huh

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    Heading south out of the Kilns, we found a heavenly piece of double track that ran south, paralleling hwy 28. It was the middle-of-nowhere, 50mpg - type of double track, that you want to last forever.

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    Because we couldn't get over Big Windy, we had to go ALL THE WAY back down to Arco (gas/lunch) and back up through the Big Lost Valley. It was okay, though, because it gave us a chance to up through Pass Creek, which is always an awesome view.

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    It was getting really got out, so we cut over to the Little Lost River range, and headed north to go swim in the Barney Hot Springs.

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    We got there in the heat of the day, and had the place to ourselves. It was great. The water is luke-warm and felt GREAT in the head of the day. To much water moving through it (snow melt?) that murkied the water to see the tropical fish very well, but I could still look down and see them through the blurry water ~ just not as well as when Heath and I were there a couple years ago.

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    We looked at the map after our dip, and decided Slate Creek Hot Springs would be a good destination for the evening, so we headed north on Little Lost River Rd to hit Doublesprings Rd.
    Past Summitt Res.

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    I got the bright idea to bypass a bunch of gravel, and just pointed by tire west, where I though Doublesprings to be.

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    All was going great, and we were having a ball on the double track.

    I mis-judged a rise and caught a tremendous amount of hang-time at a speed I don't care to disclose and nearly swallowed my heart. Luckily, I cleared the creek that was the cause of the rise. I slowed down after that. :lol3

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    We had multiple creek crossing, but then came on Burnt Creek, which was RIPPING.

    My general rule about crossing water this deep and swift, is, "Never without a Heath", and Heath wasn't on this ride... so we got turned back. :puke1

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    The ride around Doublesprings was boring, but scenic.

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    The Lemhi Range, containing Idaho's tallest peak, Mt. Borah.

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    I was really excited to get over and run Road Creek, as it WAS one of my favorite stretches in the state, due to it's velcro-traction in twisty jeep trail.





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    How can you ruin RWC's favorite stretch?

    Grade it.

    Damn government.

    It went from one of my favorite stretches of dirt, to miserable pea gravel with looming dust. :cry

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    As we passed the Chinese Wall, I was shocked at how little snow was left on it (10k). Made me wonder if we could have gotten up it.

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    We dumped out and ran a few miles of pavement until our turn off for Slate Creek which essentially takes your right 'behind', or north, of the Chinese Wall on the north slope of the White Clouds.

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    We threw up camp and gathered fire wood before we took off to soak in the hot springs. Note, no tent. My man, Phil, ditched the tent for this ride.

    No pics of the hot springs, since it was full of naked college students. :evil I might have seemed like a perv. :rofl

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    No horses, tonight, so we both slept like a log. About 300 miles on the day. :freaky

    We woke up and headed back to the highway, to wander our way home.
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    We went up Joe's Gultch, since I was told we were referring to the 'wrong Joe's Gultch' in referring to the steep Jeep trail going out of Stanley. So, we decided to ride the 'actual' Joe's Gultch.

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    It essentially took us to the same spot... just took longer to get there. :lol3

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    Dropped onto Kelly Creek and headed back to the highway.

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    We both said 'to hell with stalling out or bikes' today, and avoided the crossing.

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    There were a couple of FS roads up there I'd always wanted to try, so we tracked through them, to see where they went.

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    They ended without clear ways through (that didn't require getting into ATV or single track trail).

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    We headed back down, and went around Cape Horn, and onto Grandjean.

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    Passed some folks soaking in some hot springs.

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    We peeled off the highway, and took the long way home around Banner Mine, which made for some nice views of the valley.

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    A bit over 1300 miles on the trip, and no flats or mechanical issues. A great ride. :1drink
    #1
  2. MotoMitten

    MotoMitten Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    32
    Epic trip! love the photos too. That pic of the jump looks like you caught some serious air!
    #2
  3. Mercenary

    Mercenary Mindless Savage

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,110
    Location:
    Prince George, BC Canada
    Wow....incredible shots. Thanks for sharing!!:clap
    #3
  4. eddyturn

    eddyturn Wannabe

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,655
    Location:
    Hesperus, CO
    great report but I'm seeing the red Xs for most of your photos. Most of them as some are visible.
    #4
  5. HayDuchessLives

    HayDuchessLives Loquita

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,220
    Location:
    Anchorage
    I admire your determined spirit for trying to ride through that snowdrift! I am an avid hiker and enjoy sliding down snowfields on my rear or on a sled (with an ice ax for braking purposes) but I've never tried to ride my motorcycle across snow like this. That's quite impressive! :thumb

    If I had been there I would have offered to kick steps across the snow and go back and forth a few times to make you a nice little trail. We've done that before for our mountain bikes. Enjoyed reading your RR and hope all the snow melts soon. The WY and CO mountains got a ton of snow too.

    Happy trails!
    #5
  6. telejojo

    telejojo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Oddometer:
    585
    Location:
    Huntsville Ala. foothills of the Smokey's
    Great pics I would give up my front seat in hell and sit on a nail keg if I could ride that area.
    #6
  7. snowbilly

    snowbilly Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    246
    Location:
    Western NC
    Loved this RR! Too bad you didn't get any nice scenery. :thumb

    rw
    #7
  8. DAKEZ

    DAKEZ Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    19,778
    Location:
    Begin Op Zoom
    :thumb:thumb
    #8
  9. Gunga Galunga

    Gunga Galunga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Oddometer:
    228
    Location:
    Northwest Back 40
    Late to the party, but thanks for the ride. I really appreciate
    the Coyote review.How do you feel as time has passed?
    the snowdrift chuckle (we've all gotten squirrley on snow:D)
    and the general overall ride. Fun to see areas I've been and not.
    As far as mileage, on the XR you used what, 125 miles, as a safe
    zone, it looks like you have the 4.3?

    Thanks
    #9
  10. ryanwilliamcantrell

    ryanwilliamcantrell Get Out and Ride!!

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,864
    Location:
    Nampa, Idaho
    The Coyote is great. It's held up REALLY well over time ~ I've used it on 4 different bikes over the time I've had it. Fits well on all of them, and transfers over about as quick as I can transfer the exhaust shield over (5 min).

    I had the 6.something gallon tank on my XR, so I could easily get over 200 miles on a tank (roughly 40 miles times 6 gallons).

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    #10