The summer of smoke. Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by 97707, Aug 30, 2017.

  1. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    I left home in Central Oregon on Mon 31 July 2017. The weather looked good and the last minute gotta-do list was scratched off, it was time to roll. After lots of time spent studying maps, working out routes and getting the bike ready, the day was finally here.

    I pointed the DR east and made it past Burns to a camp just short of Seneca on night one.


    2017 Strwberries from Logan Valley.jpg
    Strawberry Mountains from Logan Valley, Oregon


    Tuesday 1 August, 9:00 departure. Nice morning ride up the Silvies River. Fueled at Seneca and headed east on NF 16 thru Logan Valley and Summit Prairie, past the North Fork Malheur and the Little Malheur River. This is familiar territory for me. We hunt, ride and explore all over this country.

    Fueled again in Unity, it was hot by mid day, and rode up Hwy 26 and 245. Turned north on Pine Creek and up Burnt River Rd for some good dirt road thru scenic country. Then it was paved Hwy 7 along the Powder River into Baker City, OR.


    2017 Hwy7 Baker.JPG
    Twisties on Hwy 7 west of Baker City. This burn goes on for miles.


    Visited overnight with old friends Dan and Vicki. Dan and I were hunting buds for years before he moved. Now he’s headed down to Texas, so no telling when I’ll see them again.


    upload_2017-8-30_18-7-53.png
    A snap of the route from Bend to Hells Canyon, as I planned it. In some places my actual track departs from the map.

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  2. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Wednesday 2 August. Did some errands in Baker and headed east on two lane blacktop, Hwy 86 to the sweet little town of Halfway, OR. Got my tank of fuel and an ice cream, and Hells Canyon was just down the road. I poked about up the Snake River a little and around the dam and the parks. Great place to enjoy a dip on a hot day.


    2017 Wallowas from Halfway.jpg
    Wallowa Mountains from Halfway, Oregon



    2017 Hells Canyon.jpg
    Hells Canyon


    From there it was up the Kleinschmidt Grade road, which climbs out and gives some panoramic views of the canyon. Three thousand feet later, you’re on the high country between the Snake and the Salmon, which are only 12 miles apart at Riggins. But we’re not there yet.


    2017 Kleinschmidt Grade.jpg
    Kleinschmidt Grade


    The idea for this trip goes way back, and has a story of its own. Last winter I spent metric buttloads of time studying the gazettes and examining Google Maps, sussing out what I thought would be a best route and some alternates. I made KML files and GPXs from them, checked them on topo and satellite views, then loaded those on a Garmin Montana. I had them backed up on an Etrex. I had Osmand on a cell phone for more backup. And I carried a pack of sheet maps and Benchmark map books. No way I was gonna get lost.

    The Council-Cuprum road is nice two lane blacktop. It would have been a piece of cake to stay on it southward and end up in Riggins the long way. My route said cut off at NF 143 and follow it north and east thru the woods to Hwy 95 at Smokey Boulder Rd.

    The problem is, what Google Maps recognizes as a road, and what some folks would call a vanishing jeep trail sometimes get conflated. I followed the track up, and as it got steeper and sketchier, I started wondering how far will I have to backtrack. After several false turns up dead ends or wrong way roads, I sniffed my way, off the track, over to NF 123 and 127. Which got me to a camp at Lost Valley Reservoir for the night. Pretty little spot, and it was nice and quiet there.

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  3. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    This was before I got tangled in the maze east of Bear.


    2017 view from Council-Cuprum Rd.jpg
    View from the Council-Cuprum Rd.




    2017 Lost Valley Res camp.jpg
    Lost Valley Reservoir


    I can imagine how it got its name. The maps don't look nuthin like the roads.

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  4. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Thursday 3 August. I usually like to get going early, take advantage of that nice morning light and temps. But I must need my beauty rest, cuz I’m dozy in the mornings with nothing I have to wake up for, and I’m taking and hour to pack the kit. So its 9:00 before kickstand up again. Oh well, this is vacation . . . right?

    Still off the GPS track, so I follow signs . . . what looks like a path of least resistance east to Hwy 95. But not content to just follow the hiway to Riggins, I get off at the Mud Lake road to try and pick up my GPS route. That turns out to add a couple hours, but hey it was nice country. And if I wanted a paved trip I’d be on a different bike. I was in Riggins by mid day. It was the high season for rafting, lots of folks on the river and on the road to and from. It was 108 degrees and in my helmet and armor, I was wishing to be on the water too. I called home, got fuel and groceries in Riggins, and a decent burger at Kate’s, and pointed it up the Salmon River Rd.

    2017 Salmon River above Riggins.jpg
    Salmon River above Riggins, ID. Nice beaches.


    Here was the second place my pre trip navigation led me wrong. The track said go up NF 318 which is the Centennial Trail to the Corduroy Meadows road and Burgdorf. Google Maps thinks that’s a road. I bumped up a steep and rocky goat path for about two miles, thinking to myself if it don’t get better I oughta turn around. Then here comes a couple of Razors the other way and I stopped and talked to them. They said it doesn’t get better, it gets worse and they had been since 11:00 AM coming down. This was about 3:00.




    2017 Salmon River rafter.jpg Salmon River rafter



    I might have went for it on my XR, but not loaded as I was, with a heavy bike. So I turned around and made camp on the Salmon River at French Creek for the night. Baptized myself in the waters and ate a steak. No regrets about that decision, after I saw how much there was to climb the next day.

    2017 French Creek camp.jpg
    Camp at French Creek

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  5. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Friday 4 August. Its only 25 miles from the Salmon River to Burgdorf on the French Creek Rd, but it’s a 4,000’ climb with a lot of switchbacks. Smoke had moved in Thursday night, turning the sunset red, and Friday morning all the distant mountains were lost in a blue-gray haze. The road up is in great shape, tho and the ride was a pleasure.

    2017 French Creek climb out.jpg
    The French Creek road and smoke settling in


    I had heard about Burgdorf years ago, how it was this great hot spring deep in the woods, with cabins and history and a lot of character. Its all that, tho looking a bit tattered too. I can’t say what the pool is like, it was mid day and hot when I stopped there, and I decided to keep moving. As it turned out, I stumbled on to a more interesting way to spend that night.



    2017 Burgdorf aging.jpg
    Burgdorf is quaint

    2017 Burgdorf pool.jpg
    Burgdorf pool


    Another thing I saw worth noting up along the high country was the tribes had quite a few folks there snagging fish out of Lake Creek. Whole families, kids and all; they had large steel hooks on poles about 12’ long . . . no baiting, just snag them and haul them out.

    Friday afternoon I was in McCall, picked up some vittles and things I needed, then headed east over Lick Creek summit. I had planned to go around the Warren Wagon Road from Burgdorf and down Big Creek. But the Missouri fire had that way closed, so the revised route was taking me down the Secesh and up the East Fork of the Salmon to the little town of Yellow Pine.


    2017 Lick Creek summit.jpg
    Lick Creek summit


    Turns out, the first weekend in August is party time in Yellow Pine, ID. They had a music fest in full swing . . . with the streets blocked off and visitors filling a camp area next to town. Music stages, food vendors, drinking in the streets. No fights, no police problems . . . just mellow summer celebration.

    I didn't get good pics, but here's another guys take on it
    https://offonanotheradventure.wordp...ellow-pine-music-and-harmonica-festival-2015/

    I rolled into the camp with no foreknowledge what it was about, and I guess these guys saw my ADV sticker. They were on a Ural hack and an Africa Twin, plus a toy hauler. Right away they asked if I need a place to set up. That’s our tribe . . . thanks Mike and Dave and Marc. It was good to meet you there.

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  6. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Saturday 5 August, they were making breakfasts at the community center, so we did that and I said goodbye to my new friends. They almost convinced me to hang a day and do some local rides and beer drinking. Maybe I shoulda, but I was on a mission.

    2017 East Fork Salmon River near Yellowpine.jpg
    East Fork Salmon River near Yellow Pine


    Up Johnson Creek was scenic and no traffic on a good dirt road, so I made time on NF 413 and 597 to Hwy 21. Mostly all dirt from Riggins to Stanley. That was dirt across most of Idaho, if you include the part from Hells Canyon to Riggins. There was plenty daylight left, so even tho I had places I would have camped at around Stanley . . . I bought a couple steaks and salad at the grocery, an ice cream and fueled . . . kept rolling.



    2017 going up Johnson Creek Rd.jpg
    Johnson Creek smoked out


    Pashemeroi Valley was more scenic and fun riding than I expected it to be. A mix of lush ranches and open sagebrush. Too bad the mountains on either side were shrouded in smoke. I want to go back and visit on a clear day.


    2017 Pashemeroi Valley.jpg
    Smoked out Pashemeroi Valley


    The road runs over 80 miles north to southeast, and on both sides is a range of peaks on public land, with roads disappearing into them. I image you could spend a few days poking around there before you got tired of it. I camped up one of those side roads called Big Gulch. Saw a cow moose and deer and bear sign in there.


    This was my intended track from Halfway to Stanley
    snip Halfway to Stanley.JPG

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  7. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Sunday 6 August. From the junction at Hwy 33, paved road takes you thru flat farmland and then broken lava and sage badlands to Rexburg. It looks like a big enough town to replenish most of your needs, but it was like the day after the living dead on a Sunday. At least no bad traffic.

    Henry’s Fork and the Snake come together there, and lots of brushy riparian habitat. You can imagine the natives who lived there long ago had good hunting.

    2017 Snake near Rexburg.jpg
    Snake River near Rexburg



    Going south down Hwy 26 thru Swan Valley passes big wheat farms and sweeping views of the basin.

    2017 Snake River at Swan Valley.jpg
    Swan Valley smoked out


    Right at the Wyoming line, in Alpine, I got there just in time to gas up and fetch my groceries before they shut down. Then I was at the beginning of Grey’s River, which was one of my prime destinations for the trip. Camped on Grey’s that night near the junction with Little Grey’s River and felt like I had arrived.


    2017 Gateway to Greys River.jpg
    Approach to Grey's River, smoked



    The intended route from Stanley, ID to Pinedale, WY
    snip Stanley to Pinedale.JPG

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  8. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Monday 7 August. The lower stretch of Grey’s River has a wide well maintained gravel road with quite a few camps on it suitable for larger travel trailers. Those camps were getting used and there was traffic on that part of the road. I spent some time poking up side roads and getting acquainted with the area.


    2017 Little Greys River.jpg
    Little Grey's River


    Little Grey’s is one of those side roads, with forks going in several directions to meadows and lakes and trails. You can see where hunt camps are set up there in season.



    2017 Little Greys basin 2.jpg
    McCain Meadow in the Little Grey's River basin


    Murphy’s Creek is another one, with some designated OHV trails in it to the west, with Bear Creek and Three Forks Creek also on the west. Deadman Creek has trails connecting back to Little Grey’s, on the east. Sheep Creek connects over the mountain toward Pinedale. You could spend days exploring all this country.


    2017 Little Greys trails.jpg
    Trails everywhere


    There were rain storms hitting all around, and I was lucky not to get soaked. Camped that night on Sheep Creek.


    2017 Sheep Creek camp.jpg
    Sheep Creek camp, with the sun trying to break thru rain clouds and smoke.


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  9. RideAbout

    RideAbout Mentally Retired

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    My kind of trip......keep it coming.
    :lurk
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  10. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    2017 Bear Creek off Greys River.jpg
    Bear Creek


    This one looks like its open to motorized vehicles.

    2017 Bear Creek trails.jpg
    Bear Creek trail


    This one goes up into some high basins
    2017 basins up Three Forks Creek.jpg
    Three Forks Creek road



    2017 Deadman Creek.jpg
    Deadman Creek

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  11. OCRedRoadster

    OCRedRoadster I really love riding and I ride alot

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    That's a great ride! I've done pieces of it but need retirement to happen before spending the days and days exploring out there. The smoke has been rough in the Rogue Valley. Actually making it cooler than expected for the time of year - but still pretty hot
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  12. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Tuesday 8 August. Grey’s River Rd gets narrower and rougher as you go up, with some washed out spots south of the winter elk grounds near Forest Meadow. If you’re looking for wilder country, head up there right off. If you like to bike and hike like me, there are dozens of side canyons and creeks to poke into.


    2017 upper Greys River.jpg
    Upper Grey's River


    2017 Greys winter grounds.jpg
    Elk winter grounds


    2017 Wyoming Range from Greys River.jpg
    The Wyoming Range from upper Grey's River




    Grey’s River tops out on a saddle at about 8600’ and the road continues south and east down La Barge Creek. I had really wanted to go up Coal Creek and down Indian Creek to Cottonwood, along the east face of the Wyoming Range.


    2017 Greys River tops out.jpg
    Top of Grey's River


    It started raining in the afternoon and looked to continue, with storm cells all around. I didn’t have local knowledge of the 10046 road, but I expected it would be high and unmaintained, and I would need to go refuel at La Barge first. So reluctantly I bagged the plan and rode out to La Barge and into Pinedale to weenie out in a motel and dry my gear. One of the regrets of this trip is I didn’t get to do that part.

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  13. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Awesome report and pictures, definitely an area I want to explore - Idaho looks like pure ADV heaven!

    Thanks for taking the time to post, be interested in your actual GPX tracks if you're willing to share :D:D
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  14. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Idaho is great. Feels like you could spend a lifetime exploring it and not see it all.

    I haven't pulled the tracks off the Garmin. I expect you'd want to clean them up before you would try and follow them, or you'd end up bumbling up all the same wrong turns I took.

    But you're welcome to them if they'd be useful to you.

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  15. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Somewhere around this point, the math on gas said go to La Barge on Hwy 189 rather than attempting Sheep Creek or Rd 10048


    2017 top of La Barge Creek.jpg
    Top of La Barge Creek was chock with wildflowers



    2017 middle La Barge Creek.jpg
    Descending La Barge Creek, looking back upstream


    I had been dodging the rain for two days. It caught up with me on La Barge Creek.



    2017 lower La Barge.jpg
    Lower La Barge opens into well watered ranch land. The area is rich with history from the days of the old west explorers.



    2017 retirees near LaBarge.jpg
    Retirees in the sage

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  16. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Wednesday 9 August. Turns out you can’t buy a beer at the market in Wyoming. They have liquor stores for that. My AT&T phone worked nowhere in the state, so I borrowed a phone to text a message home. Cute little town, Pinedale. You get the feeling you could get comfortable there for a while. I asked the lady at the motel why all the rooms in town were booked . . . some event going on? She said, “Yeah, its called summer in Wyoming.”

    2017 Green River on the way to the Lakes.jpg
    Green River on the way to the Lakes


    Dry gear, showered and fed, a haircut even, and I headed for Green River feeling good. There’s a ski hill, White Pine, out of Pinedale. And some good size lakes, Willow, Fremont, New Fork . . . that look inviting to go discover. But you have to keep your trip moving, so I skipped them.


    2017 Green River below the lakes 2.jpg
    Green River below the Lakes


    Hwy 352 is paved for about 30 miles going north, then its another 20 miles or so of good dirt road to Green River Lakes. A world class photogenic destination, Green River lakes is. And the river valley going to it is good looking country too. It was disappointing tho, that the smoky skies that had been with me since Idaho were smudging the views and making the picture taking a bust.


    2017 Green River Lakes.jpg
    Green River Lakes


    I had a chance to set up a camp and hike around the lakes before dark. At twilight, thunder started rumbling out of the hills and lightning flashed across the sky. You could feel the rain coming, so I dug a drainage trench around the tent as the daylight faded and sat back to watch the fireworks and let the rain come. Which it did, pouring down for about four hours.

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  17. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    Thursday 10 August. In the morning I was reminded of the rule, always set your tent on a high spot. Luckily, my bag and clothes didn’t get soaked, but a lot of other stuff did. Its 8,000’ there and morning was chilly and socked in. I spent a while to get a fire going with damp wood, thinking if it gets colder I’m gonna be looking at hypothermia. Finally mid morning, the fog cleared and sun started warming things up. Tent and groundcloth, jacket, sleeping pad . . . I had these things hung up till noon drying out. I hate to pack that stuff up wet.


    2017 drying out.jpg
    After the rain


    I had thought Green River Lakes would be a high point of the trip. Beautiful place, it should have been . . . but it turned out Union Pass outshined it. A good bad dirt road, most of it. Not crowded, most of it. Historic. And very expansive scenery. Another place you could spend some time exploring.



    2017 Union Pass road.jpg
    Starting up Union Pass


    2017 Union Pass going up.jpg
    The Union Pass road climbs to 9,000'


    Seems its on ‘the Great Divide Route’. I met several cyclers who were doing a great divide ride, some of them riding from Banff to Mexico. Made me feel I was cheating using petro power. Most of them I stopped and chatted, asked them if they needed water or anything. I was always impressed with what a compact light kit they had compared to mine.


    2017 DR on Union Pass.jpg
    The steed at a side road to Devils Basin


    Those signs on the fence advise taking precautions in bear country. You see them all over this part of Montana and Wyoming. Grizz remind us we're not always at the top of the food chain.


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  18. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    The high country goes on for miles with rolling green and pothole lakes. The rain cleared the skies locally, but the mountains all around were still faded in the haze.

    2017 Union Pass high country.jpg
    Union Pass high country



    This is looking back to the southeast from the eastern end of the pass road.

    2017 Wind River Range from Union Pass.jpg
    Wind River Range from Union Pass



    Looking north across to the Absarokas before dropping down into the Wind River valley.

    2017 Absarokas from Union Pass.jpg
    Absarokas from Union Pass


    The last few miles drops down fast from the high country to Wind River. Dubois was a chance to fuel and resupply. There were several groups of Harley riders in town. One of them told me Dubois was on the route to Sturgis, which had been in swing since August 1. I headed up Hwy 26 and camped near Brooks Lake and The Pinnacles that night.



    Some Union Pass history. Interesting, where the water goes.


    Union Pass history.jpg


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  19. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    2017 Pinnacles 2.jpg
    The Pinnacles


    Friday 11 August. By Friday I was riding into more smoke as I rolled up Hwy 26 and 191. Normally, the view of the Tetons is spectacular from Jackson Lake. On this day, you could barely see there were some mountains out there in the haze.

    This was the view

    2017 smokey Tetons.jpg
    Smokey Tetons


    It usually looks more like this

    2017 Teton-Oxbow.jpg
    Sunny Tetons


    At this point I had a choice, whether to spend a day in Yellowstone or use that day somewhere else. The park is one of my favorite places on the planet, but it gets loved to death and I’ve seen it when its overcrowded. Talking to some riders coming out of it, I decided to give it a pass and continue on.


    2017 Flagg-Ashton Rd.jpg
    Ashton-Flagg Rd


    There’s a road from Flagg Ranch, near the Yellowstone south entrance. It goes west along the upper Snake for a bit and over a saddle, past some lakes and along Fall River to Ashton, ID. It has the park to the north of it and the Teton Range to the south, so it goes thru a big roadless empty. You could say it’s a 4WD road, wasn’t very busy, has camps all along it. Scenic, plenty wildlife . . . so a better cruise than the RV traffic jam in the park.


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  20. 97707

    97707 Vulture capitalist

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    2017 Loon Lake.jpg
    Loon Lake on the Ashton road

    There aren't many side trips off it till you get to the west end, and its only 40 miles or so, but this road was a good ride and I'd do it again and maybe give it more time.


    I bought a mini pie from this lady and sat there and ate the whole thing.


    IMG_1319 2017 Ashton pie lady.JPG
    Ashton pie lady


    Resupplied in Ashton and headed up Hwy 20 with storm clouds west and north and the wind gusting gale force, thinking two things. One, I’m gonna get wet . . . and two, I wish I’d gone up the Fish Creek road like my track said rather than the hiway. I got past Island Park and camped on Henry’s Fork near Big Springs, with what I took to be cranes filling the air with their calls all evening and in the morning.


    This was the intended track from Pinedale, WY to Dillon, MT
    snip Pinedale to Dillon.JPG

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