The Long Haul South

Wednesday, Forrest picked me up from work and we hit the open road. After all of our planning it was a pretty surreal feeling to be leaving for real. Along the familiar road to Missoula, we even had a rainbow shine on our departure:

After a nice evening with Glen and Terry, we got up early and headed for Salt Lake. Between Butte and Idaho Falls, the temperature dipped as low as 12°F, reminding us how excited we were to be heading south.

After a long days drive, we arrived at Meghan and Eric’s house in Salt Lake City. And this time early enough in the evening to meet Zoe and relax over a couple of beers.

In the morning, after a coffee, we continued south to Moab. The sunshine felt so good! We reassembled the adventure train and then attended Robin’s school play. In the morning, it was time to get back on the road.

Although we’re really promising ourselves that we’ll move slower and travel less miles in any given day, we were on a time schedule to get to Maryanne and Seth’s rehearsal dinner. Despite the long day’s drive, we were able to snag some pictures of Sprocket crossing into his 32nd state, have some fry bread in Kayenta, and also make it to the rehearsal BBQ.

Wedding, Part 21: Impromptu Honeymoon

Headed out of Challis, we turned onto Morgan Creek Road headed for Shoup. We took our time on the gravel leading to taking pictures, looking at cabins, looking at animals, and enjoying the beautiful fall color.

F remembered “a little hole in the wall bar” downriver so we set out to see if it was still there. Eventually, we found it: the M-T Saddle Saloon. A couple of beers sounded like a really good plan so we walked inside and ordered ourselves a round. We sat down on some lawn chairs just off the porch and, as it usually goes, it took a bit for the patrons already on the porch to warm up to us. As they slowly did, we were bought a round of drinks (or two) as congratulations for our wedding.

It cooled off and I started to get sorta hungry. See, we’d been planning on going back up river to a restaurant to get dinner but instead we were having too much fun. We asked the bartender if they had a microwave we might use and provided our own burritos…he provided us with some chips and salsa to go with it.

As we ate, they encouraged us to stick around for the next night. Saturday night at the M-T Saddle is apparently potluck night. The proprietor whips up a big pot of chili and everyone contributes something. We weren’t really sure what our plans were so we tried not to commit one way or the other. Mike let us sleep in the van right outside the bar.

In the morning, we drove down river to the end of the road and dreamed about rafting “The River of No Return” someday. We stopped along the river so Sprocket could demonstrate his amazing jumping skills—we were duly impressed.

After the swimming, we checked out a new bridge over the Salmon. It lead to a hiking trail and we unexpectedly found ourselves on a 7 mile hike with over 2,600′ elevation gain. I was whiny and hungry pretty much the whole way but the view at the top was pretty awesome.

After our hike, we ate mostly unfrozen burritos and washed our feet in the river before heading back to the M-T Saddle for their potluck dinner. Everything was delicious and we were happy to relax for a couple of hours. Just before dark, we decided to press on upriver a bit to get a jump on our drive home the next day. F was also hoping for a milkshake dessert at the Shoup General Store but they were closed when we drove by. We made camp just a couple miles east of Shoup.

In the morning, we crossed over Lost Horse Pass and headed for home.

And thus ends, my internet friends, the wonderful 3Up Adventure wedding trip. We had a wedding completely filled with love, lots of playing in the desert, and even managed to get some adventure in on the way back home. Perfect trip.

Wedding, Part 20: Leaving Moab

Wednesday morning we were hoping to be able to climb Mt. Peale (the highest peak in the La Sals) but a fresh blanket of snow had fallen on Thursday and the weather wasn’t looking very promising. Instead, Blaze, Ezra, and Jolleen decided to start their trips back home leaving F and I relaxing on the couch with the History Channel’s series on the Presidents.

After a few hours of this though, F got restless and we decided to pack it up and go to Danette and Kirk’s for dinner. We packed up the van, closed up the rental house, and headed for Moab. Although Danette and Robin didn’t get home until late, it was still fun to have one more chance to catch up before we hit the road.

In the morning, F and Sprocket and I decided to head up into the La Sals. There was snow on the peaks and we felt sort of bad that Sprocket had been cooped up so much so we bailed on climbing Mt. Peale and stuck to hiking around with our pup. The colors were absolutely incredible and the crisp mountain air felt great.

Back in town it only took us a few minutes to make final departure preparations. We were a bit concerned about running into traffic in SLC so I browsed Back of Beyond Books while F dropped off our signed marriage license at the courthouse. Soon, it was time to leave for real. We made pretty good time on our way to Salt Lake, stopping in Green River to pick up a melon.

We decided that we deserved a treat so we hit up a little Indian food restaurant in the city. It tasted so delicious (now I want Indian food…). After dinner, we headed to Ogden to spend the night.

Up early in the morning, we headed north. As we drove through Pocatello, we decided we should go home via Highway 93 instead of the interstate. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), we were so busy discussing something that we missed our exit we intended to take and took a “scenic” route through the potato farms. We were pretty sad that EBR-1 was closed for the season but we stopped in Arco to take Sprocket’s picture with the USS-Hawkbill (aka “The Devil Boat,” SSN-666).

An accidental detour. Adventure!

The drive up US-93 was really pretty and it looked like there was LOTS of exploring to be done on both sides of the highway. I’m sure we’ll be back here, jeep in tow, to explore some more (still haven’t climbed Borah Peak!). In Challis, we stopped at the Ranger Station to see how the fires in the area were going. While we waited at the drive-in at the bowling alley (yes, the drive in at the bowing alley) for our burgers, we decided we weren’t in that big of a rush to get home and we were taking the Morgan Creek/Panther Creek road to Shoup. I mean, it was only Friday afternoon, right? We had the whole weekend ahead of us.

Wedding, Part 1: Departure

I had planned on working Monday and then a half day on Tuesday before the wedding but things sort of fell apart when, on Monday morning, the office manager asked me if I was working a half day and then hitting the road. Right there my motivation to be in the office drained away. Since I’d sort of been given permission (I mean, she had suggested it, right?) I called F and told him I’d be home by 3 and we could go.

So happy we have a van for all this stuff

When I got home, he had the van all ready to go. We put the hitch on the front of the jeep, hooked it up, put the bike on the back of the jeep, and hit the road.

Adventure train

We made a stop in Missoula to hit up Costco, Walmart, and Albertsons for the fresh ingredients and food for the week. The Costco Polish dogs for dinner hit the spot! It felt really good to get back on I-90 and feel like we were on our way “for real.” Monday night we made it to the truck stop in Butte, filled up both the van and the jeep, and crawled into our cozy Sprinter bed.

Sunrise over the Continental Divide

Tuesday morning we were up way before the sun and it started to crest the mountains just as we were passing (back) into Idaho. We made good time down to Salt Lake, fueled up and grabbed lunch at In-N-Out. The haze we’d driven in through most of Montana and Idaho seemed to still be surrounding us but we hoped that in the next few hundred miles it would dissipate. As we descended into Price we were disappointed to note that the haze was still following us. Reaching I-70 I was elated to be almost there but really sad to note that we could barely see the La Sals.

Fall color along Highway 6
Coal seam on Highway 6 descending into Price, UT
Highway 191 heading towards Moab

Once we arrived in Moab though, the smoke didn’t matter at all—it felt so good to finally be there! We drove to Danette’s house where we washed the van and the jeep and just finished as she and Robin pulled into the driveway. We got to catch up and discuss our plans for the wedding and relax with a beer or two before heading to bed.

Priest Lake

After work on Friday, Forrest, Sprocket and I headed for Priest Lake. (About 2 hours to our northwest.) Robin, a work contact turned friend, had invited us up to spend the weekend at his lake place. We didn’t have any plans and it was a new place to visit so we were more than happy to accept his invitation!

Friday, we arrived at the lake and spent most of the afternoon relaxing on the deck and chatting and went out for dinner. We all called it a relatively early night so we could get up early on Saturday to head for “the Upper Lake.”

We didn’t get quite as early of a start as we would have liked on Saturday (but then, who does when they’re on vacation?). Forrest and I were up early took a walk with Sprocket before we returned to the house just as Robin was waking up. The three of us enjoyed some coffee and the newspaper before getting down to the boat about nine thirty.

The sun was shining and it was beautiful! We did sort of a “tour of homes” along the shore as we headed north towards the upper lake. By the time we got to the entrance of the “thorofare” (the passage connecting Lower and Upper Priest Lakes) I was down to my bathing suit enjoying the sunshine.

At the Upper Lake, Sprocket swam (and swam and swam); we ate our lunches; Forrest, Sprocket, and I went for a walk; and we all just generally enjoyed the sunshine. The upper lake is fairly quiet—there aren’t any roads that approach it and motorboats aren’t supposed to tow skiers or tubers up there—which was a nice change from the lower lake. After a few hours up there, we returned down the lake. After we unloaded the boat, Forrest and I (and SP!) went for a swim. The sunshine felt so good!

We spent the evening, as evenings on the water are spent, looking out over the lake before gorging ourselves on some steak, salad, and corn all of which were topped off by a huckleberry cream pie!

We had such a great weekend out on the water. Thank you so much to Robin and Patty for being awesome hosts. All three of us had a great time!

Sorry. I don’t have any pictures. I didn’t bring the new camera and the batteries in the little one died…and someone (me) hadn’t put new spares in. So no pictures of the lake, SP riding in the boat like an old pro, etc. etc.

Avery Trip

A couple Sundays ago, it was predicted to be in the mid-90s in the Silver Valley so we decided that we needed to go find somewhere to be on the water. We set off in the jeep for Avery. Instead of going the usual way via Wallace and Moon Pass, we headed south directly out of Mullan.

Stevens Peak

After attaining the ridge on the south side of town, we dropped down to Moon Pass briefly and then took Slate Creek Road to Avery. The road was mostly in good shape but there were a couple of washouts to keep the drive interesting.

Slate Creek Meadows

Once we got to Avery, we had lunch at Avery Fly Fishing Company right on the St. Joe River. After we’d finished our lunch (and our ice cream cone), we headed up the North Fork of the St. Joe to try and find a place for Sprocket to swim. Along the way, we found a nice deep hole where he could get some swimming in. I even got in the icy cold water for a bit. (Forrest described it as “snow three hours ago” and watched from his rock.)

We made our way back to Mullan via Bullion Pass and Taft, Montana. It had been a long day but it was really nice to spend it together.

Sunset From Stevens Peak

Despite living directly below Stevens Peak for a year and a half, I’d never been to the summit (F hadn’t been either until just a couple weeks ago). Last Wednesday, after our Pulaski Tunnel hike, we took the jeep out for a ride.

The road wound up the ridge just to the west of the peak and popped out in the beautiful subalpine meadow. (I’m so glad we have peaks just high enough to have these meadows. They’re so pretty!) The road ended just below the summit and the three of us headed up to watch the sunset.

We’re not surrounded by the glorious mountain peaks that exist elsewhere in the west but we could glimpse the Cabinets and the Scotchmans off in the distance as well as look down at Stevens Lakes and Lone Lake. The sunset to the west was gorgeous and the full moon rising to our east wasn’t half bad either! (The mosquitos on the other hand were horrid.)

Lovely ending to a Wednesday, don’t you think?

Pulaski Tunnel Hike

Trailhead

Yesterday I told you all a little bit about the Big Burn of 1910 (I just found this Forest Service website with tons more info). One of the heros of the Big Burn was Ed Pulaski. Pulaski was a ranger for the young US Forest Service when the fires broke out in August of 1910. He was in charge of a crew of about 150 firefighters on the divide between the Coeur D’Alene River and the St. Joe River.

When the fire cut off Pulaski and a group of about 40 men, Pulaski decided the only feasible option for escape was to flee for Wallace. It became evident that Pulaski and his crew were going to be cut off before they were going to make it to Wallace. Using his knowledge of the area he lead his crew to a mine shaft where they huddled under blankets wet in the creek and waited out the firestorm. Four of the men died during the night but Pulaski’s thinking (and his threats to shoot any man who tried to leave) saved the lives of 42 of his crew members.

Pulaski Tunnel Reconstruction

On Wednesday, F, Ezra, and I decided to hike the trail to the Pulaski Tunnel. In 2010, the tunnel entrance was restored to appear as it did following the fires. The Tunnel overlook (the trail doesn’t go to the mine entrance) is two miles from the trailhead with about 800′ feet of elevation gain. We hiked up stopping at all the interpretive signs and on the way back down mixed some huckleberry eating and some running.

I’m glad we finally hiked the trail since we’ve been talking about doing it since we moved here. While it was a nice short hike in the trees on a warm day, I’ve read most of the history on the interpretive signs and without getting up close to the adit, it was somewhat disappointing. (The huckleberries were NOT disappointing.)

Fires of 1910

We hiked the Pulaski Tunnel Trail yesterday. I’ll have a post up about that soon (tomorrow?) but in the meantime, here’s a primer on what happened in Idaho and Montana on August 20 and 21, 1910.

In the summer of 1910, the entire Pacific Northwest was exceedingly dry—the first forest fires had started burning in Montana by late April. Fires burned throughout the summer but remained mostly small and isolated. Many of these fires were caused by lightning strikes but more were also related to the train traffic crossing the very dry mountains. Fire crews hired by the new US Forest Service (it had only been founded five years earlier) battled the small fires alongside 4,000 Army troops although many fires were left to smolder in remote drainages. (The troops sent to the Coeur D’Alene Mountain region included the all black 25th Infantry, Company G, the “Buffalo Soldiers.”)

Source: The Spokesman Review

On August 20, 1910, high winds hit the region and whipped many of the small smoldering fires into a giant fire that encompassed huge parts of Idaho, Montana, and Washington. Eventually, more than 3 million acres burned in the Bitterroots and surrounding areas. In addition to the 7.5 billion board feet of timber that burned, half of Wallace burned to the ground and the Montana towns of Taft, De Borgia, Haugan, and Henderson were completely lost.  The fires killed 87 people including 78 firefighters.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

There were some happy endings:Mullan & Avery survived thanks to backfires lit by volunteers. Ed Pulaski (the inventor of the pulaski firefighting tool) saved 40 of the 45 men in his crew by hiding in an abandoned mine tunnel (more on him tomorrow). The Forest Service’s importance to the West was cemented (although it would increase their adherence to a “total suppression” philosophy for decades to come).

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Sometimes, when I’m reminded of the fires, I think of being down in these narrow valleys as winds blow flames around, I think of the descriptions of the sky glowing red, I think of the firefighters out attempting to halt the progress of the blaze without the support of helicopters and roads, and I’m flabbergasted they even were able to try.

 

Highly Recommended Reading: The Big Burn by Tim Egan

Related blog post: 1910 Fire Commemoration

Sources:

The Forest History Society: “US Forest Service History, The 1910 Fires

Spokane Spokesman-Review: “Forest fire, the largest in US history, left stories of awe, tragedy.”