Idaho Day One
Morning has come too soon and I am reluctant to get up since the Sun has yet to move above the surrounding mountains. Mike is still sleeping soundly. I was awoken by the wind and don’t think i will be able to fall back asleep so I think I’ll just get up and make some coffee.
Anxious to get the fark out of Dodge… er… Oxbow, I rouse mike and we decide that showers are in order considering that who knows where the next opportunity to take on will be. I grab my spit kit and head up to the showers.
I meet Mike on the way up and let him know that the showers have been closed for maintenance.
“Ya wanna just get the hell outa here?” he asks.
So we hop across the reservoir and head towards Idaho.
The road along the Brownlee Reservoir sits around 40 feet above the water level. Along the way we see a few fishermen out on the res soaking the sun and kinda fishing. On one of the outcroppings I get Mike to pull over and we take some self portraits.
After a few more miles we near the River crossing that leads us into Idaho territory.
The bridge lies below a dam that looks more makeshift than any I’ve ever seen. The downstream side literally looks like they just dumped a bunch gravel in the river. On the Oregon side however is what I would describe as a perfect tube-slide/death trap. Note to self: Next time I’m in Hells Canyon, bring a raft and a video camera.
Rolling down HWY 71 we follow along the reservoir a few more miles and then jaunt off into a smaller canyon towards the poppin town of Cambridge ID. We pass through a little bit of National Forest and its nice to see thick stands of trees again. They fade away soon though and its rolling hills again until we arrive in Cambridge.
The speed limit drops to 25 mph way to soon as we roll into town. First sight is the school, which must be on lunch break since there are kids wandering around all over. The way they all stare suggests that there has never been a red Ford Escort in this town before. It must have been a most exciting experience for the locals.
At the General Store there are more staring teenagers sitting in front. I now understand how hot chicks feel when they walk into a room and it goes silent. I think my fly is down, nope. Wait is there a stain on my shirt? Nope. I feel like a such piece of meat. MY EYES ARE UP HERE!
Okay so anyway we grab some cold caffeine and check in with the Moms. There is a lot of nothing between us and Garden Valley; the next stop. It seems like the best option is to barrel towards Boise and skirt across the North side of it through the small towns of Payette and Emmett to Horseshoe Bend. Trying to avoid Boise has been a goal since before we left PDX but this will have to do.
Now that we have made it to Horseshoe Bend, we are heading North again and are on the way into the Boise Mountains. The landscape takes a beautiful turn into the green covered mountains that we have been missing since the Cascades. I have made the switch to driver and am enjoying the scenery as well as making up time since Mike drives like my grandma. We make a right turn in Banks and are on the Banks Lowman Highway, which apparently was only paved a few years ago. The road follows a river which is a hotbed of whitewater rafters during the spring and summer seasons. Although tame this time of year, the river definitely looks like a fun one.
We make it through the pass and suddenly pop out into a large valley which contains the towns of Crouch and Garden Valley. Crouch is off to the left and we continue towards Garden Valley. As it turns out Garden Valley is much more a gas station than a town. We take a right onto one of the three roads and end up at Mikes Mom’s house. Now that we are here, the numerous phone calls, texts and directions we received seem ludicrous. ‘Go to Garden Valley, take a right,’ would have sufficed.
Regardless of the daintiness, this place is beautiful. Looking West there is a wall of a mountain and fertile plains all encompassed by more mountains. Not to mention that these mountains are producing more hot springs than we know what to do with.
After greetings and catching up, we go to the library in Crouch to check out some books on hot springs in the area. Crouch is a comfy town with two restaurant-bars, and a general store. The library is a small cottage hidden behind the laundry mat. The librarian helps us find the section and we find 2 books somewhat related, both at least twenty years old. We check them out and head back to Garden Valley.
Mom and Pop buy us a dinner at the Crouch Longhorn Restaurant Bar. They keep hinting and outright stating that we should just pitch tent in the driveway and stay another day in Garden Valley. ‘Its too late to make it to Lowman tonight.’ ‘Don’t you want to spend a little more time with your mother?’ Mike keeps his cool and brushes off the invitations politely.
So after dinner we have said our final goodbyes in front of moms house, a bit rushed as the sun is deep into its descent. We peel moms clinched hands off the bumper and pull out towards Lowman.
Arriving in Lowman is somewhat of a drag. The Banks-Lowman HWY just hits a stop sign, intersecting HWY 21. The gas station in front of us is a run down 30 foot long singlewide trailer, next to a pump with a large hand painted sign reading “ClOSED.” I want to see if there is anything else here before we head out. Unfortunately after circling around a couple of times we pull into the only establishment here, a Lodge. Judging by the bench barricading the front doors closed and a big for lease sign in the window, it has been abandoned.
So now that we are here, we have a couple of decisions to make. To the right there is a town deep in the mountains called Atlanta that sits on the edge of a river boasting 10 hot springs in a thirty mile stretch. The directions to this place are pretty ambiguous and also almost thirty years old. To the left are a couple hot springs with campgrounds. Behind us is a popular campground with a hot spring. A short discussion and we decide to go for broke and hit Atlanta. Its pretty late already and we have no idea how far away it is but a hot spring every three miles sounds awesome!
Well we have climbed to the top of the mountains, traveled another 20 miles over the other side and are descending again. Our optimism is fleeting because the road we are supposed to be turning on should have shown up already. We decide that if we don’t find it in the next 7 miles we will turn around, and drive all the way back down to Lowman and pay for a campground.
Luckily we find the road with only a few miles left to spare. Unfortunately the road has not been paved. I need to piss so we pull over, stretch out, and check the map. It looks like Atlanta is another 13 miles down the road. So we start descending at a snail’s pace. The road is in terrible condition. The washboard gravel feels like it is rattling the poor Escort into pieces. We stop and reconsult the map. This road might just be the demise of the car if we really try to take it all the way down to Atlanta. Reluctantly, we have to admit defeat and head back to Lowman.
After reaching the pavement again, the moon has risen above the peaks and is lighting the woods with a spooky white. The poor Escort has made its unhappiness known with a nasty rattle and whining. While we are descending back down into the valley in which Lowman resides, the car’s situation seems to be exasperated with every turn and brake. I make the diagnosis of a failing wheel bearing. He backs this theory up by relating that his brother had told him the wheel bearing needed to be replaced when he bought it. That was three months ago! I can’t figure out why he would embark on a 1400 mile journey without replacing a bad wheel bearing. Especially when his brother is a mechanic, and would replace it for a six-pack of beer. Now we just have to hope that it will get us back down the mountain, and then back to Crouch where there is a mechanic.
So we made it down and have arrived at Kirkham Hot Spring Campground. I set up camp and Mike makes dinner. Cold beer and hot chili; yum! Full and with camp ready for bed, we take some beers for a 5 minute walk down to the spring.
The moonlight makes the trail easy to navigate, even in my flip-flops. The night is already frigid cold and the steam rising off the rocks in front of me are a sight for sore eyes. Just feet from a raging river the pools come into view. The first couple are quite small but have a solid flow filling them from an eight foot tall shower. Maneuvering around a large boulder a much larger pool emerges. This is the spot! The sound of the raging river is slightly muted and the trickling hot water flowing into the moonlit pool makes for a totally bro-mantic setting. Despite being mammary-free, we still have a good long soak.
The beer is gone and I have reached sufficient prune status. Time for bed.