Monday, June 19, 2017

The Grand Gallivant: A Weekend in Idaho

Last weekend, we had two days off to explore the area, and we wanted to try our hand at some proper four-wheeling. Since the canyon road is often busy on weekends, Billy and Kate suggested that we drive on a private road that a friend of theirs owns. Armed with a map, we both hopped onto a four-wheeler and took off down the dusty road under an unbroken blue sky (Zach driving, me clinging to him and trying not to fall off).

We rode up the side of a mountain (Zach would call it a hill) about two miles, glancing at the landscape behind us— we could see the Magic Reservoir twenty miles away as a skim of blue beneath a line of mountains. We drove till we came to a fence, then hopped off, crawled through the barbed wire, and took off onto a wild landscape of sagebrush hills.

We followed dirt roads and cow trails (and ran into quite a few cows as well) for almost an hour, trekking up and down the undulating hills, until we reached a hot spring that bubbled out of a white mineral deposit. (There was nowhere to bathe, but that was okay because the sun was glaring by this point and we were soaked in sweat.) Here we ate the chicken-pesto sandwiches I’d packed for us, then made the long trek back, admiring wildflowers along the way. Then we sped down the mountain on the four-wheeler, the wind howling by as if we were weightless.

Hot springs!

On Sunday, we got into our nicest clothes and headed to the Fairfield Community Church (Kate said the pastor bought honey from her and was super nice). After the service, we chit-chatted a bit with the congregation, then headed out for lunch at The Wrangler, a homestyle diner with excellent low-cost food, especially the blackberry milkshake, which was as thick as a St. Louis “concrete.” (Incidentally, Fairfield has another awesome restaurant that Kate took us to: The Cliff, a pub with amazing fish and chips.)

We tried to call our dads for Fathers Day, but the SIM card in our phone is acting up so we weren’t able to. Instead, we drove down the highway a bit and wound on a dirt road until we reached the Centennial Marsh, a huge wetlands preserve. Armed with binoculars that Billy had loaned us, we spent a good while bird-watching. We saw coots (with babies!), cinnamon teals, dozens of yellow-headed blackbirds (which I had never seen before), a ruddy duck (it had a blue bill, which is cool), and a couple of sandhill cranes (which look unreasonably huge when they’re flying). We also spotted an antelope with twin fawns!

With still most of the afternoon left to spend, we headed to the Solider Mountain ski area, where Kate had said there was good hiking. Sure enough, we found a trail with a fairly straightforward-looking map, and began hiking up the mountain, sweating profusely in the hot sun.

The trail followed the edge of a rushing creek, and we were shaded by pines and aspens with trembling leaves. I panted and struggled up the slope, blaming it on elevation as usual, but the air grew cooler and soon we saw patches of snow along the trail. To our right, the hill turned into a rocky ridge with dramatically-jutting rocks. Bright yellow flowers resembling daisies surrounded the trail. Zach said it reminded him of the northern California part of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Finally we broke out into the open, along a ridge that turned into huge glaciated peaks next to us. From this vantage point, we could look out across the Camas Prairie and see snow-capped mountains that were probably in Nevada. Talk about a view! 

Unfortunately, here the trail split into four different paths, and we spent a lot of time wandering around and looking at our not-detailed-at-all map before we finally decided that we weren’t adequately prepared to get lost in the backcountry (we didn’t even have our water filter, and were running low), so we just headed back down the way we came. The whole hike was probably eight or nine miles, maybe longer— it felt good to walk a long distance.

We drove home, cooked up some pasta and tuna, picnicked on the patio, then played darts until the first stars began to come out. It was a good weekend.


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