Friday, February 9, 2007

Forty in 48

Forty in 48
an Idaho Centennial Trail section hike
from Trestle Creek to McArthur Lake
August 3rd through 5th, 2006

This hike was a continuation of the July 4th weekend hike from Priest Lake to McArthur Lake.
Jerry and I had originally planned a hike from Landmark to Boundary Creek for this weekend of August 4th and 5th. One week before our departure date, he suggested returning instead to northern Idaho. Nick Abshire, our friend who had to back out of the Priest Lake hike due to a family emergency, was now available to hike with us. I gladly accepted this suggestion, for the chance to return to northern Idaho.

Thursday, August 3rd
We departed on Thursday morning at 5:20 a.m. from Jerry’s house. Nick drove his Chevy S-10 with a camper shell and I drove the Saturn. Jerry alternated riding with Nick and with me, changing vehicles during fuel stops. We stopped for lunch in the town of Worley at a small café where Jerry and I ate on our last trip. Our trip to Sandpoint took about 9 hours. We made a stop at the Ranger Station in Sandpoint to make trail inquiries. Lorna at the counter was very helpful and gave us a large document with many trail outlines. We inquired about the infamous FT453 over White Mountain from our last hike. She made another trip to the file cabinet and returned with another document of “discontinued” trails which were no longer maintained and were designated to be “returned to a natural state.” Jerry smiled and informed her that the trail was doing quite nicely in returning to a natural state. I added that it was “impassable by humans.” This helped explain a lot why we had so much difficulty in making our way across the ridge from Dodge Peak over to White Mountain and then in descending from White Mountain. Yet FT453 is still listed as official ICT. We also learned that FT67 which we planned to travel on in the coming days was well maintained and signed. Armed with this information, we drove north from Sandpoint to walk the first segment of our hike. On highway 2 heading north, a mile or two north of Sandpoint, there was farm on the east side of the highway. A large sign advertised, "Llamas for Sale," and I could see about 15-20 llamas grazing. I was wishing we could purchase a couple of them to haul our gear on the coming hike. Maybe someday…...

We parked Nick’s pickup at McArthur Lake at the spot where Jerry and I completed our last hike. We then rode in the Saturn and crossed over highway 2 to CR-3 and followed it about 4 miles north. CR-3 is official ICT. The trail that comes down from the mountains to connect with it, FT181, was reputed to be "difficult" to locate. Continuing past that turn, we re-connected with 2 and turned off on Twentymile Creek Road, road 9 (also FR408), and went up the road a ways to a safe parking spot. We were 7.5 miles approximately from the truck back at McArthur Lake. Jerry had plotted an alternate route so that we could avoid the trail section over Kelly Pass which Steven Stuebner’s book describes as difficult, if not impossible, to follow. Jerry had stated he wanted “nothing to do” with any more bush-whacking experiences, and I agreed whole heartedly. I was willing to go a few miles out of my way, in fact, to not have to repeat our White Mountain experience, especially in Grizzly territory. Our planned trail over FT67 would bring us down eventually to Twentymile Creek Road, which we would follow for several miles back to the car.

We set off road walking, without our packs. We each carried a drink bottle, and I had a walking stick. The 7 miles went by in about two hours as we maintained a brisk pace. It was a little uncomfortable walking south on Highway 2 with heavy traffic blowing by us, but the miles went by quickly and we returned to CR-3 which was a gravel road proceeding in a wide arc for several miles. It re-connected with Highway 2 and we were soon back at Nick’s truck. Our first segment of ICT was completed. After returning to the Saturn for a sack of trail clothes which I had forgotten, we proceeded back to Sandpoint, stopped for cold drinks and ice cream (chocolate shake for me!). Then we headed east toward Clark Fork. I was riding in the small jump seat in the back of Nick’s S-10, which was a bit awkward, but a small inconvenience, considering how long it would take me to walk the same distance! I craned my neck around to get glimpses of beautiful Lake Pend O’ Reille (pronounced Pond-o-Ray) along Highway 200. We turned off on Trestle Creek Road, a gravel road which we followed up the mountain for about 13 miles. We were surprised by the amount of traffic on this road, which was used by SUV drivers, ATV riders, and huckleberry pickers. We found a campsite near our starting point at road 1091, about another mile down road 275. There was a large group of car campers with several vehicles, tents, and trailer set up in an adjacent campsite. They didn't seem to be very pleased that we had showed up. A young man approached us from their group, and warned us that they had about “15 dogs” in their campsite. My impression was that they were trying to intimidate us to keep us from camping there. There was really no choice for us. We said that we would be careful of the dogs, and we proceeded to set up our camp. Jerry and I pitched tents, while Nick decided to sleep in his pickup bed to avoid having to pitch his tent. Some dogs came over to check us out. I only saw three; two of them were Pit Bulls, and the third was a Rottweiler. Great……

We started heating our dinners, using the tailgate of Nick’s truck as a table. I boiled water and heated a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup in the pot. Nick had refried beans and tortillas. Jerry heated a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. Dinner was satisfying for us all. When we were finished, the young man returned to our camp with one of the Pit Bulls. Two other scroungy young men came over; one of them had on a shirt with a Marijuana leaf and seemed to be the spokesman of the group. He said they were from California and were up in Idaho picking Huckleberries trying to make some money. He said they could get as much as $35 a gallon, but the berries were not yielding very well for them. That is my nice way of repeating his expletive filled, negative commentary on berry picking and life in general. He asked us if we had any “weed” we could share; we said……Ummmm…..No. After a time of talking with them for a few minutes, they departed and returned to their camp, saying they had to turn in so they could get up early and pick berries. They then turned up their music and made quite a bit of noise for a while. After they had left, I commented to Jerry and Nick: “I would look to your belongings, gentlemen.” I had an uneasy feeling camping next to this group of people. Fortunately we passed the night without having our throats cut or anything stolen.

Friday, August 4th
After rising early, having morning coffee and breakfast, and taking down our tents, we packed up and prepared to hike in earnest. Nick drove his pickup back to the junction with Road 1091 which would take us to Lunch Peak. Jerry and I walked the ICT from our campsite back up the road to where Nick had parked. Then we donned our packs and began the day. The first four miles ascended the road to the lookout tower at Lunch Peak. It was a large two story building which can be seen for miles. I took up my slow and steady pace as Jerry and Nick proceeded up the road at a fairly brisk pace, gradually pulling further ahead. After I had gone about 3 miles, I was walking along and heard a voice behind me saying, “Hello!” I turned around and saw that a hiker was coming up behind me at a brisk pace. He was a tall red-headed guy with a red beard in a sleeveless shirt and shorts, carrying a forest-green backpack and wearing a European-looking felt hiking hat with a yellow sweat stained brow. His name was Chris. He said that he had seen us passing his camp while he was cooking breakfast. The guy was moving to catch us this far up the trail. I told him that two of my friends were ahead of me, and we were following the Idaho Centennial Trail. Chris responded, “So am I.” I asked him where he had started from, and he replied, “I started at the Lochsa. Last year I walked from the Nevada border to the Lochsa, and now I am almost finished.” Wow! I had an instant admiration for Chris’ long distance capabilities. He pushed on ahead and I said I would see him at the top of the mountain. I felt comparatively slow and clumsy as I plodded along uphill, while Chris’ long strides took him quickly up the road. At his pace, I thought he might even beat Jerry and Nick to the top of Lunch Peak.

Before I got to the top of Lunch Peak, I met a family of bike riders coming down, a dad with his son and daughter, each dressed in helmets and cross-country riding garb and with bikes to match their respective sizes. The mom was trailing them in a pickup pulling an empty trailer. All waved at me and smiled as they went by. Fun for the whole family on the ICT! I was somewhat amused when I neared the top of the peak. I could see a Forest Service bathroom at a parking area. Bathrooms on the ICT, what WILL they think of next? Around the switchback was a locked gate as the road climbed to the actual lookout tower.

The lookout at Lunch Peak makes up for its simple appointments with a commanding view of the Kaniksu National Forest and surrounding mountains. As they say in the real estate business, it's "Location, Location, Location." This lookout station and others like it were used in the days when vigilance over the forests required human eyes on location. Satellite imaging and aerial surveillance have largely replaced the need for human observers. The Lunch Peak lookout now serves as a tourist attraction, and is available for overnight rental. As I approached the summit and the ground floor of the lookout, I noticed there was a sign on the stairway side of the building which said, "Access to renters only." I don't remember seeing a door on the ground floor; if there was one it was painted over. The second floor was the observation deck with a railed walkway on two sides, and glass windows on all four sides. The interior was bare save for a picnic table. Renters have to bring all their own bedding, cookware and essentials. The view from the top was, as expected, over-powering. To the southwest was Lake Pend O'Reille. To the east were the mountains which formed the border between Idaho and Montana. Below and to the southeast I could trace the path of Lightning Creek as it followed the valley contours on its way south to Clark Fork. To the west, the Selkirk mountain range which Jerry and I had crossed a few weeks earlier. And to the north we could see mountains which we supposed were in Canada. After a brief rest and early lunch at the top, we exchanged e-mail addresses with Chris and wished him well on the completion of his ICT quest. He only had one more week of hiking to go. How I envied his progress!

Jerry, Nick and I were ready to continue on our way north. Passing by the facilities once more, we met a group of day hikers who had parked their cars and were preparing to walk. A man and four ladies in their bright colors and new hiking gear made the three of us look like grizzled old mountain men with all our drab clothing, floppy hats, and sweat stained backpacks. Everybody had to make a pit stop before departing. I still had to shake my head at the notion of bathrooms along the ICT. What a concept!

Our trail north was FT67. We had been promised at the ranger station that this trail was well maintained. Jerry and I certainly hoped so after our experiences along FT453 between Dodge Peak and White Mountain. The trail cruised along a ridge top for a couple of miles and we held a good pace. As usual, I fell behind Jerry and Nick, and then leap-frogged the day hikers a couple of times before they passed me for good. That's all right, I don't get points for first place but rather for stumbling across the finish line. We descended from one ridge to connect to the southern flanks of Mount Pend O'Reille. Jerry had considered a side hike to a small lake, Lake Darling, a couple of miles to the east, but we decided against it based on the distance off the ICT and the amount of elevation we would have to give up and then gain back again. Also, an early stop today would mean an extra long two days to come. We voted to continue on and make a long day of it. The water situation would just have to be dealt with as we went. I had begun the day with three full water bottles. Even with conserving I had already finished one bottle. It looked to be a long dry stretch ahead of us, but Chris had shared with us that he had heard a rumor of a water source on the trail "this side of" Calder Peak.

We kept watching the top of Pend O'Reille grow closer. I was dreading the climb up and over the top of it, but the ICT did not pass over the summit. It contoured around the western face and maintained a fair grade. As we came around to the northern side of the mountain, we could see distant figures high above us on the summit. It was the group of day hikers who had started with us. We were bucking a stiff wind at our altitude, and imagined that it must have been ferocious up on the summit. We waved at the little ant like creatures up there on top of the mountain and continued on.

After coasting along for a couple of miles over some unnamed ridges, the next mountain in the chain was Mount Willard. Its rocky summit and western cliffs drew closer. The trail appeared as if it would go close to the top of Mount Willard, but instead contoured around to the west staying well below the summit. A small side trail split off from the main trail and headed toward the summit. We by-passed that option and continued on the ICT. The trail then took an unexpected turn back to the southwest and then began to switchback down below the cliffs. I was uncertain if I had missed a turn, and tried to call out to Jerry and Nick. I couldn't hear a reply. I don't know if they heard me or even could have heard me with the roar of the wind. I continued on down the trail another half mile to a mile and finally saw the guys up ahead of me. It looked like they had stopped where there was water over the trail. I was glad to see the water, because I was now down to just a little over 3/4 of a bottle. It's always a relief to find water in the middle of a long dry stretch. Now we would not have to face a waterless camp tonight. The "stream" was more of a tiny trickle coming down the cliffs from Mount Willard above us. There were no lakes or ponds showing on the maps, so we figured this had to be a spring coming out of the mountain itself. It would probably have been all right to drink without filtering, but we filtered it all the same. There were no deep spots to place the filter inlet tube, so Nick used two of his bottles to capture water from the trickle. He would fill them and dump both in a collapsible bladder, and from this reservoir Jerry then pumped water into our bottles. They had already been at it for 10 minutes when I caught up to them, so Jerry almost had his bottles filled. I sat down and placed my empties in a line to receive ice cold water. In using two of his bottles to fill the reservoir, Nick now had to consider his bottles contaminated, which meant that he would be using purification tablets for the rest of the hike. Whether his bottles were actually contaminated from the stream is up for debate, but the safe practice in the wilderness is to assume that they are and purify. Better safe than sorry when it comes to Giardia.

Chris was miles ahead of us by now, so we assumed that he had already replenished his water. There were two mountains in the chain ahead of us to north. The first was Purdy Mountain. The second one does not have a name on my ICT map, but shows one peak of 6000 feet and then a larger one of 6500 feet.. As the afternoon became late we could see Calder Peak in the distance to the northwest. We descended onto a ridge that took us down to almost 5,100 feet in elevation. By this time we had already put in 14-15 miles, and the last two to three miles were tough going, at least for me anyway. The trail never goes where I think it will. I had seen a glimpse of the trail ahead climbing to the west below the summit of Calder Peak, and thought that I would be there within a half mile. The trail was instead routed around the northeast face of the mountain, and then switchbacked up the eastern face and around to the south, before it began to head to the west. Once I reached the top of the switchbacks, the afternoon sun was well on its way down to meet the Selkirks off to the west. I finally caught up to Jerry and Nick who were taking a rest break. I was winded and they were ready to move on. I dallied along the way for the last mile as I passed among many huckleberry bushes growing on the southern side of Calder Peak. I treated myself to several of the delicious berries. It became my dessert before the dinner that I was about to prepare. I finally reached the saddle where there was a Y in the trail. Jerry and Nick had stopped here and dropped their packs. It looked like they were preparing to camp. We had traveled 17 miles for the day.

Three trails converged at this intersection. I was ready to stop and camp, but thought that this large clearing looked like a natural animal highway for big creatures moving around at night. If bad weather were in the forecast, we would have also been exposed on top of this saddle, but we knew the general outlook was for good weather. If an overhead view of this trail intersection could be seen as a pie chart with 3 'slices' then each of us occupied one of the 'slices' adjacent to the intersection. Jerry pitched his tent on some deep grass on the north side; Nick set his tarptent up between some pines on the south side; I selected a site on the remaining third with some deep grass for my tarptent. None of our sites were ideal spots for pitching a tent but we were tired enough that we would make do. Once it was set up, the floor of my tent was suspended about 6 to 12 inches above the ground since the grass was so tall, but this turned into an advantage when it came time to lay down, as it provided extra padding, if a bit uneven and lumpy.

This being grizzly habitat, I had hoped we would eat in a location some distance from where we were going to camp. As often happens on a hike, we were too tired to move away from camp to cook. All we were doing was boiling water to add to our dehydrated meals, which don't generate strong cooking odors. Jerry and I walked down the trail 100 feet away to eat our food. Nick prepared his food and ate while sitting in his Thermarest chair right in front of his tent. We have never had bear visitors in the night on any of our hikes, even when we have been less than rigid in our cooking discipline. We did hang all our food from a tree to at least keep it away from where we were sleeping. It didn't take long before there were no sounds coming from our campsite except the wind blowing through the trees.

Saturday, August 5th

Our night went well, and the next morning we awoke to cooler temperatures. There was a bit of frost on our tents. We prepared breakfast and hot drinks. Our extended day yesterday made it possible for us to finish our hike today, although we were still looking at a 16 or 17 mile day to get to the car. Since we were heading in a predominantly downhill direction, this looked doable, we would just have to see how the water situation and our feet held out.

Leaving the trail intersection, we continued north on FT67 which began to drop almost immediately. We wound down switchbacks through the forest until we came to a bridge a mile later. This was the turn to the new bridge and new trail to Eagle Pass, the one that Chris said that he had heard about. He had planned to take this trail to connect with highway 2. The bridge looked to be almost brand new, with spare timbers lying about on the banks. The low amount of water in the creek did not look to be moving at all, so we decided to push on and look for another water source. From here the trail continued on into the forest. Not too far down the trail, I thought I could hear a far off howling. We stopped to listen and heard it again, the sound of a wolf howling, and then other wolves answering. A little while later we could hear the sound of a large animal crashing through the ravine below us. We couldn't see what it was due to the dense trees and brush, but it sounded to be about the size of an elk or deer. Soon after that we could hear the wolves howling again. Not too close, but close enough. Definitely gives you that '40 miles from Canada' feeling.

Soon we came to a stream crossing and decided to filter water. Jerry and I filtered water and Nick filled his bottles and added the purification tablets. The day was beginning to warm up and Nick and Jerry removed some layers that were no longer needed for the morning chill. Jerry had said we were linking up with a forest road, and I assumed that it was beginning at this stream crossing. However, we soon found ourselves moving through forest on a single track trail again. The trail itself was single track, but the forest clearing that the trail was built on appeared to be wide enough for a 4WD road. Perhaps it had been a road in the past and had been allowed to revert back to an overgrown state. We walked briskly along this trail in a generally northwest direction, crossing numerous small streams periodically. After about 2 to 3 miles the trail finally exited into a large gravel parking lot at the end of a wide, well-graded gravel road. This was FR408, which would take us all the way back to the car.

We stopped here to rest and eat an early lunch. We still had about 12 to 13 miles to hike by Jerry's estimate. We were figuring on about 4 more hours of walking. I was glad to be on a gravel road. The miles go by much quicker. After lunch we continued on. From this point the hike was basically a road march back to the car. Jerry's selected route took us in a wide arc from east to northwest to almost due west. It avoided the section of trail, FT181, that was mentioned as questionable in Stuebner's ICT book. As it turned out, we could have taken the newly cut trail to Eagle Pass, but we had parked our shuttle vehicle on FR 408, and the official ICT route would have brought us out miles south of the car. We can always go back some day and re-hike just the "official" route that we skipped, if we feel it is absolutely necessary to maintain a purist ICT hike. I am currently of the persuasion that we are on our own when it comes to the ICT in the northern part of the state, and will give myself permission to deviate from the official route if the benefits are remaining safe and "found." My primary goal is to hike an unbroken line of trail across Idaho from south to north.

To reach the road we had descended about 1,500 feet from where we had camped up on Calder Peak, which meant that the temperature was quite a bit warmer than the previous day up on the mountain ridges. I thought the day's climbing was over, but the road began ascending up to Twentymile pass. Jerry led us on a cutoff road that went up the mountain, avoiding a couple of miles of FR408 that snaked around up to the north and then back to the west. The cutoff road had a small barrier that said the road was closed due to a washed out bridge. That sounded formidable to a motorized vehicle, but we were foot-powered vehicles and feared no wash-outs. Of course the road had to go UP the entire way, but it was a good shortcut. The road was a narrow shelf that wound through a dense forest. The "wash-out" turned out to be about half of a curve that had collapsed into the ravine. It would have been trouble for a vehicle, but we simply walked around it on the remaining part of the curve. After a couple of miles we reached the top of the cutoff road where it rejoined FR408 near the top of Twentymile Pass. The upper end was also marked with a sign that said Road Closed. Jerry and I were making a habit of not reading the signs.

Once we topped the pass, we knew that it was downhill almost all the way to the car. We could now see the Selkirks off to the west, and occasionally glimpsed highway 2 in the valley below us. Periodically we passed creeks that came down the hillside and under the road via culvert. At one of these creeks, we stopped to filter some more water. We were now seeing the occasional car or truck on the road. A couple of miles further down the road and we began to see the occasional house, or a side road marked Private Property. The road finally came alongside Twentymile Creek, and followed it the rest of the way down to the car. Jerry and Nick were perhaps 3/4 of a mile ahead of me by this point. I was still hiking strong, but just couldn't hold their pace. I passed an unusual pumping contraption set up in the creek, which was apparently pulling irrigation water for some homeowner along the creek. Finally, I rounded a last corner and could see a long straight stretch of road which led to where the Saturn was parked. Jerry and Nick were sitting on their packs when I get there. The time was about 2:30 pm. We were done.

After we were finished, we had to drive shuttle to go retrieve Nick's truck back at the road junction of Trestle Creek and FR1091. Jerry pointed out that we had hiked a distance of 40 miles in a period of 48 hours. Going back in my mind, I realized that he was right. We had begun on Thursday afternoon about 3 pm, when we road-walked seven miles back to McArthur Lake. Then we had hiked 17 miles Friday, and 16 miles on Saturday, finishing a little before 3 pm. 40 miles in 48 hours.

The discussion turned to food, and pizza seemed to be the order of the day. First we returned to Trestle Creek road and drove the long, winding ascent back up to where Nick's truck was parked. We again passed many vehicles and saw many berry pickers along the way. Now I knew where they could really find some huckleberries, but unfortunately they would have had to hike about 16 miles to the southern slopes of Calder Peak to get to them. Nick's truck was still in one piece and started when he turned the key.

We returned to Sandpoint and got the large Meat Lover's pizza at Pizza Hut. Jerry wanted to head for home but it was already 5 pm. Nick and I wanted to camp and then drive home on Sunday. We were a full day ahead of schedule as far as hiking. We had thought we would be finishing the hike on Sunday afternoon. The tough part was finding a place to camp in civilization, especially on a summer weekend. After several full campground signs, we finally happened upon an RV park south of Sandpoint. This had just what we needed and the campsites were only $7 each. The blast and roar of locomotives kept going all night. I felt as if I were back in Haviland, Kansas again. In spite of the trains, I slept reasonably well. Nick left early the next morning before Jerry and I awoke. He needed to visit a friend in Riggins on the way home. Jerry and I got going around 7:30 am and had a pleasant drive all the way back to Boise.

Around the Seven Devils ( seconds!)


our second loop hike around the Seven Devils,

July 11,12,13, 2005


Most everything went off according to plan. We left Boise at 6:04 am
Monday morning and got to the Windy Saddle trailhead at 9:57. We
walked 12 miles along the eastern side of the Hell's Canyon Wilderness
to Horse Heaven junction. Our intent was to climb up to the Horse
Heaven Lookout and camp up there, but we were spent after the final
climb up to the junction. I cooked my specialty boiled water for
Steven's dehydrated meal (Pasta Primavera) but was so nauseated that I
couldn't eat dinner. I just drank a cup of hot water. (BTW I need to
show a picture of my new stove to you is a Go-Torch alcohol
stove and weighs just 1.25 ounces! Works great!) Being too tired to
climb to the lookout, we found a place in the trees 100 yards from the
junction and set up the tent. The next morning I climbed up the trail
to the lookout to start the day. We could have stayed in the cabin,
which looked to be a prospector's type of log cabin. There was no bed
but we could have put our mats and sleeping bags on the floor. Maybe
another time. I took some video footage and then started back down
the trail. I had gone about 200 yards when I suddenly noticed that I
had nothing in my right hand....hmmm...what was I missing?
POLAMA!!!! I left it leaning on the front porch of the cabin!!!!!!!
I turned around to go back up. It was almost like the scene in
Castaway where Tom Hanks is saying "I'm sorry Wilson!!! You're OK"

POLAMA now safely back in my possession I started down the hill
again. I cut across on a game trail on the way down to shorten the
distance. Steven had the tent down and was waiting for me. Our goal
today was Echo Lake or Hibbs Cow Camp. We got a late start so the
morning sun was quite hot. After a gradual climb of about a mile, we
turned to the north and began to descend across some very rugged
terrain. The blow-downs that we had fought our way through, over,
under, and around last year had all been cleared away by a trail
crew. We were so relieved that we didn't have to go through all that
again. The trail is hard enough without them. It was a very warm
day. I struggled a lot with the uphill sections. However, the views
of Hell's Canyon and of the Seven Devils were spectacular. I sure
hope that the video turned out well. What it took us three days to
accomplish, I hope to (with the help of Storm Shelter Productions) be
able to allow each of you to experience a hike around the Seven Devils
through our eyes. That way you, too, can travel "Around the Seven
Devils seconds!"

Somehow we missed the turn to Echo Lake. I remember seeing it last
year, but we were coming from the opposite direction. We didn't
discover how far we had gone until we came to a trail junction that
said Hibbs Cow Camp. That was actually good news to us because we had
made it further than we thought. There was still a lot of daylight so
we pushed on. Soon we found another water source, so we tanked up
again and refilled our bottles. After another hour or so of marching,
we stopped at a rock out-cropping to cook our dinners. I was finally
hungry enough to feel like eating. We both had Beef Stroganoff, and
it was wonderful to feel the hot food going down my throat and warming
my stomach. The nausea is an effect of altitude on me that I just
have to accept if I want to keep doing this. While we were sitting on
the rock I kept studying the terrain and feeling as though something
were not right. We should be traveling across a flat ridge, and yet
we were continuing to climb. To the east was a stunning panorama of
mountains that I didn't remember seeing last year. We never got this
good of a view of the Seven Devils last year. Also there was a long,
flat ridge spread out before us down in the valley. After dinner, we
moved on, intending to make camp soon. We continued to climb and I
kept thinking, I don't remember this part. We realized we were out of
position when we looked down to our right and saw a lake. After
studying the map I believed that it was Bernard Lake and that we had
missed our turn to Iron Phone Junction. It was getting to be dusky on
our side of the mountain ridge and the skeeters were getting very
thick. At about that same time, Steven's pack broke a strap at the
bottom. Our exhaustion, the coming darkness, our wrong position, and
his misfortune all hit us at the same time. We were both very
discouraged. It was the low point of the hike. We turned around and
headed back down the trail, rather than continue going toward Bernard
Lake. We selected a less-than-ideal patch of ground to set up the
tent. After "landscaping" it with our feet, we pitched the tent in
like, two minutes, then placed all our stuff at the door. I told
Steven, we gotta move fast if we don't want all these mosquitoes in
there with us. They were absolutely swarming us in droves. I
said, "Ready? Go!" We zipped open the door, Steven threw his entire
pack inside, I threw my pack and my extras inside, Steven dove
headfirst into the tent, then I dove in, and he zipped the door shut
as soon as my boots cleared. Outside, we could see the mosquitoes
hovering around the mesh netting like several squadrons of Apache
helicopters. They wanted our blood. We were safe inside. I had to
make one very brief trip out to hang the food bag in a tree.

At first I didn't think I would sleep at all. The ground was very
rocky. My air mat helped but I couldn't get my body situated
comfortably. Finally, after we both took a Benadryl, sleep took hold
and we passed a fairly comfortable night. Things looked much better
the next morning. I studied the view out the mesh part of the door
and studied the map. I was convinced that we had missed the fork in
the trail and had taken the left trail that led to Bernard Lake. The
flat ridge I was seeing below us was where we were supposed to be.
And I had an undeniable reference point miles across the valley,
Heaven's Gate Lookout. That point is only 2 miles from Windy Saddle,
so I knew we were supposed to head in that direction. We had strayed
to the northwest. We COULD have gone to Bernard Lake and taken the
loop trail back to Iron Phone, but that would have been twice as long
as simply back-tracking and finding the correct trail. I shared all
of this with Steven when he woke up and that's what we decided to do.

With everything packed up, we found the fork about a half mile down
the trail. I studied the three-way intersection for a few moments,
realizing what I had done the previous evening. I walked by with my
head down and we didn't see the sign way off to the right leading us
to Iron Phone. Case solved. It was a relief to be back on the
correct path again. Steven and I had a discussion (mostly I had a
discussion with Steven) about how this was a good life lesson about
losing the path, then finding it again. Our exhaustion had fueled our
anxiety and made us feel "lost." Everything looked much better after
a good night's sleep and a bright new sunny day. We cruised along the
ridge to Iron Phone Junction. We were now at the high point of my
hike in the blizzard with Glen Liberty from 2 years ago. We descended
a rugged ridge down into the forest, and stopped at the next water
source to cook breakfast. We split the last remaining dehydrated meal
for breakfast (Chicken ala King with noodles). Good stuff. Ahead of
us was a 1000 foot climb up the other side of the valley. It took me
an hour to climb it, doing my turtle shuffle. After that it was
another 3 miles through the forest, a long traverse beneath some
cliffs, and then another hard climb up to the Windy Saddle trailhead.
We made it back to the car at about 3 pm. The ice cold colas and
Gatorade in the trunk were very welcome refreshments, and we knew that
big greasy hamburgers were waiting for us at This Old House down in
the town of Riggins below.

The Lord of the Rings, Napoleon Dynamite, and Star Wars move quotes were
flowing freely between us throughout the entire trip. Right at the end, I told
Steven, "You do not know do not know will
taste COW FLESH!!!!!" He raised his Polama Jr. and made the
appropriate ravenous Uruk Hai noises....



Crossing the Johnson


Landmark to Johnson Creek

June 17, 2006

"Let's walk in each direction upstream and downstream to see if there's a better place to cross," Jerry suggested. "The ford is here," I thought, looking at the blazes on the tree on the far bank of the creek. "The trail ends at this bank and begins again on the other bank, and besides, there is Johnson Creek Road, right over there! They put the ford here for a reason!" my thoughts continued. I was very tired, thirsty, and frustrated by this large liquid obstacle in our path. Reluctantly, I started heading upstream, but all I could see were more rapids as the creek bed followed the contour of the canyon bending away out of sight. I knew that further upstream lay Whitehorse Rapids, which were even more impassable. I returned to the ford and waited for Jerry to come back from his search downstream…..


Our day had begun at 6 a.m. Saturday June 17th, 2006. I picked up Jerry at his house, and we drove north to Cascade. After picking up his Suburban from the repair shop, and eating breakfast at a local café, we drove east on highway 22 to Warm Lake. As we climbed above the early morning fog of lower elevations we could see that it was going to be a beautiful blue sky day. By the time we got the Suburban parked on one end of the trail as a shuttle vehicle, and drove back to the road intersection near Landmark, it was 11 a.m.

From this road junction, the ICT turns north on road 414. The first two miles were not too bad on graded gravel road. We made fairly good time hiking along, with Jerry in his customary lead position, and me in my customary “heel” position; that is, a stride or two behind him and to the left. We began to climb gradually above 6500'. When the terrain turns uphill, the distance of my “heel” position increases quite a bit since I can’t match Jerry’s pace. When we stopped for a break, Jerry took a GPS reading that said we were at 7300'. We were confused by this until a group of riders on an ATV and dirt bikes came by and stopped to talk to us. They looked at our map and told us that the ICT was further below, so we had to backtrack almost a mile to get to a Y in the road which we had passed. This road was marked 414 B, and another signpost said that FT123 was 0.9 miles ahead. These numbers didn't match anything that showed on our maps, but the direction seemed right. We hoped that the locals had been truthful with us and weren't sending us in the wrong direction.

This trail was not maintained and seemed to match the description on my map of a "single-track trail." The trail descended through the forest and then took another turn, also marked 123. We were looking for FT075 or Burnt Log Trail, but the men on the road above had assured us that this trail was Burnt Log. We followed along through the forest until we came upon a stream crossing. Jerry pointed out a trail marker that I missed, since it was bent over and I had my eyes fixed on the trail. This marker said we were on FT075. That was reassuring to know.

We stopped for a lunch break where the trail came alongside Johnson Creek. We could see the road on the west side about 100-200 yards across the way. We knew from our topo maps that our trail was to roughly parallel the road and the creek for several miles, and we were heading almost due north which was the way we had to go. Things were looking better from our meanderings of the morning. Since I had run out of water, I filled my water bottle and added iodine tablets (my filter still needs repaired).

From this point we knew it was about a 7 mile stretch to make it to the ford across Johnson Creek. The trail climbed back up several hundred feet and Johnson Creek was further to our west. Along the way, I saw a survey marker that had a ¼ etched above the marking S13/S18.

When I relayed this to Jerry, he located a corner on his map (didn’t appear on my topo) where two townships, S13 and S18, met. This helped to pinpoint our location.

From the top of our climb we could see for miles across the wide valley below us. There were mountains and pine trees in all directions. Jerry commented wryly that the view of trees and mountains beat the sagebrush and desert any day. We had been discussing desert hiking versus mountain hiking. Even though I said that desert hiking had grown on me, as long as it was in the proper season, I had to agree with his assessment. These kind of sweeping views are a large part of the reason we hike.

Several miles further north and later in the afternoon, our footpath of a trail met up once again with a gravel road. A trail marker pointed back at the path we had taken and was marked FT123. Very confusing. We were in the correct location according to the topo maps and Jerry's GPS, only the road signs did not match. We continued north along the road, pausing to investigate a side trail that dead-ended. I found a tube of Mary Kay lipstick near a fire ring, evidence of past campers in this location.

Another mile or so further north, we ran into a major obstacle. We knew that our road was supposed to make a steep descent of about 1200 feet, to take us down to Johnson Creek and the ford that was marked on our map. The road, however, ended at a large pile of rocks. There were no discernible trails or trail markers that we could see leading away from where the road ended. We began following the drainage downhill, reasoning that if water could run downhill, so could we. Conditions on the mountain side quickly deteriorated into brush, tangled blown down trees, pine trees, rocks and boulders. Jerry and I kept track of each other by periodically calling out. We were spread out so we could look for a path or marker. As we were struggling along, I remembered an old joke. It would probably be considered as “gallows humor” but I was trying to keep a sense of humor about the way our day was going. I asked Jerry, “If a man makes a decision in the forest, (and there is no woman around to hear him), is he still wrong?”

We could hear Johnson Creek roaring far below us, and see evidence of a road climbing the far western slope. According to our topo maps, this was Log Mountain Road. We knew that Whitehorse Rapids and Johnson Creek Road (and the Suburban) lie below us to the west, and that the ford was ahead to our north. At a rest stop, we consulted the maps again. It appeared that the slope was funneling us over to the western face, when the topo showed the trail descending from the road straight down the northern point and veering slightly to the east. At that point, we decided to stop descending and follow the contour around the mountain to the north and then to the east.

Once we got around to the northern face, we were confronted with a more serious problem. The slope became extremely steep and looked perilous to descend. This pushed us further around to the eastern side of the mountain, which offered a slightly less steep but still perilous slope. All the way, we were fighting our way over, around, and through the tangle of trees, brush, deadfall, rocks, and sloped ground. At one point I said, "We have GOT to get out of this soon, before one of us gets hurt!" The thought of a broken ankle or leg was very much in my mind, for either Jerry or myself. I could envision how much more serious our predicament would become were that to happen.

We continued downhill, angling to the east, then to the west, then straight downhill to the north. As we neared the bottom of the slope, we knew that we were drawing near to Johnson Creek and the ford. Jerry went one direction, and I the other, in search of some sign or trail. I found both. I stepped onto a path that went west, and at the same time saw one of the familiar double hash blazes on a tree ahead. I went back and called to Jerry, who was already heading my direction. We were back on the trail. We hadn't followed it for very long before it brought us alongside swift-flowing Johnson Creek. And then we were there, at the ford over Johnson Creek.

Now we were faced with our biggest, but not our last, challenge of the day:


Jerry had been worrying about the ford all day, from the first time we drove along Johnson Creek road and saw the strength and fury of its rapids. I wasn't too worried about it. It was something I knew we would have to do, but first we had to get to it. Now we had arrived, and realization began to dawn on me. I spend hours in the Boise River each summer, tubing and swimming with the kids. The current is strong, the water is cold, and there are some deep places along the way. Johnson Creek, however, was flowing much more strongly with snowmelt and was considerably faster. I had resigned myself to getting wet, but Jerry was very reluctant to cross here. He suggested that we look upstream and downstream for a better place to cross. Once we returned from that search, he suggested that we travel further north to the next creek on our side which flowed down into Johnson Creek. The topo showed this to be about a mile away. The daylight was waning, and I was tired from our bushwhacking experience down the side of the mountain. I pointed to the west and said, "We are going to run out of daylight!"

"Let me give it a try here!" I pleaded with Jerry, and walked down to the bank. He looked me in the eye in a penetrating way and said, "…and what is the alternative?" He didn't say, "You're going to drown, you IDIOT" but rather he asked me a question. There was something in the way he said it and the way that he stared at me that gave me pause. It started my internal wheels, such as they are, to spinning. I thought, "uh…..drowning?"

I stepped into the water near the bank, over my ankles, and probed with my hiking staff to feel for the bottom and it went in over halfway. This was only a couple of feet out from the bank. It was much deeper than it looked, and was running very fast. Here on the banks of "the Johnson," I felt a great deal of respect for the Israelites who were commanded to cross the Jordan River, at flood stage, into the Promised Land. Their first step would have been off the bank in over their heads. Right now, I was wishing that the LORD would dry this creek up for Jerry and me to cross over to the other side.

I was frustrated, but I had to grudgingly admit that Jerry was right. Sometimes you have to trust your hiking partner to watch out for you. Jerry was watching my back.

We began plodding north along the bank, through the tangle of trees, brush, deadfall, rocks, and hillocks, we pair of honyocks. I was extremely thirsty, having finished my treated water from earlier. I had not stopped to fill it beside Johnson Creek. I stumbled on, about 50 yards behind Jerry. Finally, about a mile later, we came to Buck Creek. The prognosis was not much better here. The creek was flowing strongly, although it was not as deep as Johnson Creek. Jerry began taking off his boots. I was desperate for water, so I filled my bottle and added iodine. Jerry turned back from his first attempt to cross. I walked over to another spot, where posts with pink and black striped ribbons marked the ford. I plunged across, boots and all, planting my feet carefully. At one point the current gave me a strong nudge, but I managed to keep my balance and stepped onto the bank on the other side. I looked back, and Jerry had begun to cross again, although he was still trying the same location as before. I watched him struggle about two-thirds of the way and then freeze. He looked like he was very uncomfortable with the situation. I plunged back into the water and began plodding against the current to reach his position. I extended my hiking staff out to him, but he motioned me away so he could toss his boots up on the bank. They contained his camera and socks, and he wanted them obviously to stay dry. That being accomplished, he started wading across again. Before he could reach the bank, however, the current knocked him over. Down he went, pack and all. Fortunately, he was able to get up and climb out of the water.

Now we had to climb steeply up the other bank and locate Thunder Mountain Road. Jerry put his boots back on, and then put on his nylon rain jacket. He said he was freezing and needed to get moving. The evening air was beginning to turn cool, and we both knew that hypothermia could begin to develop in these circumstances. He began ascending the hill ahead of me. I struggled along, still parched and waiting the allotted time for my water treatment tablets. He waited for me above, and then said he was going to push on so he could keep moving. I was only wet from the waist down, and had not gotten my torso wet like Jerry. I knew what he was saying. He said he would keep moving, find Thunder Mountain Road, descend to Johnson Creek Road, cross the bridge, walk back to the Suburban, and come back for me. He wanted me to just follow along at my own pace and he would find me. I agreed and he turned to continue climbing. After only a few steps, he turned back around to me and said, "Here it is! This is Thunder Mountain Road!" I was very glad. He took off down the road, and a few minutes later I got to where he had stepped onto the gravel road. What a relief. Thank you, LORD, I whispered.

From here, it was about a 300 foot descent down the road until Thunder Mountain Road teed into Johnson Creek Road. I turned left and walked over the bridge over Johnson Creek. Crossing the Johnson had been a major obstacle, but this bridge put it all behind us. My water tablets had finally dissolved, and after a few minutes to let the ascorbic acid tablets dissolve to eliminate the iodine color and taste, I took my first drink in hours. It was a little silty, but it sure was refreshing to me at that point.

The Suburban was parked about 3 miles up the road from the junction with Thunder Mountain Road. I made it about two miles, keeping a slow but steady pace. It was about dark-thirty by this time, but I still had enough light to walk by. Whitehorse Rapids was running furiously along the left side of the road, and I could see how it had received its name. Envision the scene in the movie, "Fellowship of the Ring" at the Ford of the Bruinen, when the creek rises up to sweep away the Nine Riders, and the image of white horses can be seen at the head of the frothing breakers. That, in miniature, is a good description of the frothy white current of Whitehorse Rapids as it plummets over the course of a mile through a narrow canyon.

After a couple of miles of walking, and nearing the midway point of Whitehorse Rapids, I thought I could see headlights somewhere along the road off to the south. I was hoping that it would be Jerry. I walked on and did not see the lights again, and thought I might have been seeing things. Soon after, Jerry rounded a curve and pulled up alongside me. TAXI !!!!!!!! He could not turn around at this point on the narrow winding road, so he drove all the way back down to the turn-in at Thunder Mountain Road. The transmission on the Suburban was still misbehaving, and Jerry was worried that we might not make it back up the road. He turned around and we headed back toward Landmark. Thankfully, the transmission began working better and we made it back to the road intersection where the Saturn was parked. It was now 10:30 p.m. We still had to drive home to Boise, which took us until 1:45 a.m. Sunday morning.

With Bells on

With Bells On

Indian Creek Campground (Priest Lake) to McArthur Lake
an Idaho Centennial Trail section hike
June 29 - July 3rd, 2006

"It’s a sobering thought to realize that as you venture into the Selkirks, you’re entering ‘grizzly country.’ " ---Steven Stuebner, "Discover Idaho's Centennial Trail," page 113.

This was my first trip ever to the panhandle area of Idaho. Jerry and I departed Boise a little after 7 a.m. on Thursday morning for the all day drive north. I could write an entire volume on just the day's drive across the state of Idaho, with all of its new sights and scenery. From the town of Grangeville northward was all new territory for me. I followed Jerry's gray/blue Suburban throughout the day as we wound our way north along highway 95. In Moscow, Jerry took a short detour through the campus of Idaho University. He pointed over to some cows grazing in a field up on a hillside. They had some kind of curious circular ring, about 12 inches in diameter, stuck to their sides. Later when we stopped for lunch, he explained that they were *experimental* cows that had a viewing window installed in their sides so that the Agricultural students could observe the inner digestive workings of a cow. Talk about mooooving pictures! While we were stopped for fuel in Moscow, I saw my favorite kind of llivestock. A truck with a llong trailer pulled up in the gas llane next to mine. At first I didn't notice, but then I llooked over and saw that there was one llone llama inside the trailer. Its wooly coat and diminutive appearance made me think that it was an alpaca, a smaller member of the llama family. I mentioned it to Jerry and told him that we needed to take it along with us on our hike for its lluggage carrying abilities....

I found the lake country of northern Idaho to be very beautiful. Lake Pend o'Reille and Priest Lake are enormous bodies of water surrounded by mountains. We arrived on the east side of Priest Lake around 5 p.m. local time (Pacific time) about 11 hours after leaving Boise. The first part of our hike was a 4 mile section of blacktop road from Indian Creek to Hunt Creek. Jerry had previously completed the section of ICT from Upper Priest Falls, near the Canadian border, down to Indian Creek, so this was a continuation of that section for him. After traveling in vehicles all day, it felt good to be walking, and we covered the distance at a brisk pace. The road mostly stayed about 200 to 300 feet above the lake surface, following the general contour of the lake shore through thick forests which grew on the steep slopes. Below us we could see lakefront homes and boat docks, but only if we walked on the right hand side of the road and looked down the steep hillsides. If we walked on the left hand side, the houses were hidden to our view. With the walk completed in a little over an hour, our next task was to park a shuttle vehicle at the beginning point of our hike, then drive 80 miles one way to the other end of our hike at McArthur Lake. We stopped along the way at the city park in Priest River to cook dinner, and while there we saw a cow moose across the road. It was "dark thirty" by the time we drove through Sandpoint and north along highway 2 to McArthur Lake. We drove around on gravel roads in the dark, trying to locate the place where Forest Trail 453 would exit from the wilderness below White Mountain. We weren't really sure exactly where it was going to come out, so we parked the Saturn at a turnout off the road near the northwestern side of the lake. Then we returned over the 80 mile shuttle route in the Suburban, and parked at a place we had selected near the beginning of our hike into the Selkirks. This was a logging road which followed Hunt Creek. Jerry slept in the back of his Suburban, while I pitched my dome tent just on the other side of a locked gate, on a small Forest Service access road where we had parked.

FRIDAY, June 30th

After breakfast early Friday morning, we were ready to begin our cross-country trek. Today's destination was Hunt Lake. To reach the lake would require a climb of 3,000 vertical feet spread over a distance of about 9 miles, not all of which was on a trail. We first walked back down to the paved road from our campsite to the road where we had stopped walking yesterday, then went back up. Jerry spotted a young bull moose not far from where the "1/2" mile sign was spray painted on a large tree near the service road where the Suburban was parked. We hoisted our packs and began our hiking day in earnest.

In preparation for our hike through Grizzly territory, Jerry and I were carrying our bear pepper spray canisters. We also attached some bells to our gear. Jerry had a string of bells on a length of blue plastic fishing line which was attached to the back of his pack. I attached a bear bell with a velcro strap onto the food sack that I was carrying from a long strap suspended from my left shoulder. And each of us put a bear bell near the top of our hiking staffs, so that they jingled with nearly every step we took. In this fashion we proceeded down the trail for the entire 35 miles through the wilderness sounding like Jingle Bells. We would have sounded comical to the casual observer, but the wearing of bells or other noisemakers is a wise precaution when traveling through Grizzly country. Stories abound of hikers who have happened upon a Grizzly by surprise and been mauled or killed. We didn't want to be statistics. Bears (and other wildlife) find metallic sounds to be annoying and will move away, so we are told. I pondered aloud to Jerry whether *annoying* the grizzlies was really a wise thing to do? And furthermore, do we want to sound like a herd of delicious sheep while we are doing it?

We followed the logging road for about 7.5 miles. Once we had gained several hundred feet in elevation, we were able to see progressively better views of Priest Lake down below, and of Roothaan Mountain and Hunt Peak, above and to the east. The logging road came to an end in a large clearing. The trail continued on through a large boulder field. We followed the red spray painted arrows and red spots on the rocks as we climbed up, down, over, and around large granite slabs, chunks, blocks, and boulders. blocks. It reminded me of walking along a jetty that juts out into the ocean, except this one was much bigger and longer and climbed higher in elevation. This was an exhausting task which required about 2-3 hours to negotiate, until we had ascended another 700 feet to reach Hunt Lake, which was at 5813 feet elevation. Jerry had gone ahead of me, but was coming back to check on me as I neared the top of the climb. Just before we reached the lake, I took a very hard fall. Fortunately, I only got a small abrasion on my right palm and some small scrapes on my left knee. Three guys were already camped at the lower lake, but they had told us that there was another good spot next to the lake. Jerry was amused when I dove into the ice cold lake for the dual purpose of taking a shower and doing the laundry at the same time. I hung my shirt on a rock to dry, and I spread myself out on a large rock in the waning afternoon sunlight to warm up from my dip in the lake, before I started putting up my tarptent. One of the guys had told me they had brought elk steaks for dinner, which they were going to cook unless they caught some fish from the lake, which they did. There went our plans to minimize food smells from our campsite. Jerry hung our food bags from a nearby tree. We would try to be prudent even if our neighbors were not going to be. These younger guys camped at the lower lake were going to party that evening, but I was definitely not feeling like Mr. Socialite after our tough day of climbing. Early to bed and early to rise. I don't think they stayed up too late that night.


Our first hurdle of the day, and biggest hurdle of the entire hike, was to climb to the 6,500 foot saddle above Hunt Lake, which would lead us to the eastern side of the Selkirk range. Snow was still deep on the slopes of the mountain leading up to the saddle. To reach the saddle would require a combination of bush-whacking, rock-scrambling, and snow-walking. Jerry and I had studied the slope leading up to the saddle yesterday and planned where we wanted to cross the snow fields in order to minimize our exposure to the steep slope. We rose early Saturday morning and were on our way while the partiers from the previous night were still unmoving in their tents. Our progress was slow but steady through the tangle of trees and underbrush. We climbed at an angle that more or less ran straight toward the saddle. As we drew closer to the snowfields, we went up through a boulder field to gain elevation. We wanted to cross the steepest part of the snow at its narrowest point. Before we got to that part we chose to walk up through a snow field that was about 150 to 200 yards in length and about 4 to 5 feet deep. The snow was crunchy enough on top to get a foothold, but frozen fairly hard beneath. As we came within 200 vertical feet of the saddle, we came to the steep snow crossing. Jerry went first, taking care to plant his staff before each step and kick a step into the snow before moving the next foot forward. I followed in his footsteps, literally. He called back to me to be sure that I planted my staff firmly in the snow and that, if I started to slip, to be sure to hold onto the pole tightly. If one of us slipped here, we would have slid for many hundred yards down to the rocks below. As I neared the far side of the snow crossing, Jerry took a picture of me poised on top of the snow with the backdrop of mountains behind and Hunt Lake far below. He told me that the snow had melted and was eroded several feet beneath the edge where I was standing. I had to be extremely careful to plant my feet as I made my final steps towards the edge and stepped out across the gap onto the rocks on the other side. When I looked back, I could see what Jerry had been talking about. We were glad to have this snow crossing behind us. Although the slope was still very steep, we were climbing ever higher, getting closer to the saddle. Shortly after 9 a.m. local time, first Jerry, then I, struggled the last few steps up to the saddle and saw the spectacular view on the other side unfold before us. Jerry had been waving at someone below, and as I reached the top I could see that 2 men were climbing the snowfields on the eastern side of the pass to reach the saddle. They were Marvin and Les from Sandpoint. Both men were in their late 40's or early 50's and looked to be in good trim hiking shape. Marvin wore a bright red shirt and hiking shorts and carried a telescoping hiking pole. Les had on a green shirt and hiking shorts and carried a wooden hiking staff with a carved bear knob at the top, and he was also armed with a pistol in a belt holster. They had camped the night before at Fault Lake, which we were soon to pass, and were day hiking to reach the top of Hunt Peak. We rested for a while from our respective climbs and visited and shared information about the trail and about hiking in general. They had not heard about the ICT so we gave them the standard marketing schpiel. They then continued their climb up the ridge. Jerry joined them for a while, looking for a good camera view, while I rested and waited at the saddle. When he returned, we continued our journey. The ICT does not exist as an official trail between Hunt Lake and Fault Lake; it is marked on the topo map as a "bushwhack" but even that does not communicate the roughness of the experience. We found our own way down the eastern side, going through snow, rocks, and brush and crossing small creeks as we followed the contour lines down the mountain and tried to find the official trail, somewhere below Fault Lake. Stumbling along through the scree and boulders, we finally came to a ridge where we could look down on Fault Lake. It was very picturesque, a deep blue gem, surrounded by white slopes and with ice still at the edges and under the surface near the edge. It looked very cold. We crossed over Fault Creek near its origin point as it came out of the lake and finally picked up trail 59 on the other side. What a relief to finally be back on an established trail. The afternoon sun was hot as we began to descend, then storm clouds began to move in. Jerry requested that I find us some shade for a lunch break. I glanced up at the approaching clouds from the west and said that I just might be able to find him some shade soon! We stopped at a sparse bit of shade and sat down to eat a few bites. We watched the approaching clouds, and I wondered aloud if rain would arrive within the hour. I had no sooner spoken than a few drops of rain began to fall, and Jerry commented, "maybe not that long!" It sprinkled on us for a short while and then cleared off. The temporary cooling effect disappeared once the clouds had gone by and the sun came out again. It was now much more humid feeling. The trail began to descend and followed a ridge down through the trees. We knew were heading for the Pack River bridge far below. We could see the valley where the Pack River was located, and parts of the road upon which we would be walking later that afternoon far off in the distance. It was a descent of several miles and about 2500 feet elevation. We arrived at a creek crossing, tired and hot, and rested for about 20-30 minutes. We then walked another couple of miles, first going south to intersect the Pack River road, and then traveling north on Pack River Road toward the bridge and the river crossing. At the river, we filtered several liters of water and each cooked a meal. I was feeling very tired and drained. The climb to the saddle and descent from the saddle earlier that morning had really taken a lot of energy. We debated for a while about stopping or going on. Jerry had hoped that we would reach Pearson Creek for our second camp. It was another 6 miles from the point where we were stopped, and was about 1000 feet higher in elevation. Stopping sounded good to me, but I also knew that we were facing an extra long day tomorrow if we didn't reach Pearson Creek, and that whatever distance we gained today we wouldn't have to hike tomorrow. The combination of the hot meal and the rest had helped me to feel somewhat better, and we still had enough daylight that it felt like it would be a waste if we didn't continue on and rack up some more miles before the day was through. I said that I could go on, but I would have to go slow and steady on the climb. We made about another 4.5 miles up road 2605, Pearson Creek road, before Jerry called a halt in the late evening. He had found a side road that would provide some suitable ground for pitching our tents. It wasn't ideal, due to the tire tracks that we could see turning in from the side road. However, by pitching our tents up the hill and around the curve 100 feet off the main road, and by placing a stump in the middle of the road, we felt somewhat protected. At least I felt protected, since Jerry would be the first one to get hit by anyone trying to drive through our campsite! My tarptent fell over with me inside on my first attempt to get in, so I had to get out and make adjustments. The ground was very hard on this road, and I had to find a rock to pound my stakes in so they would hold the tent in place. By the time I got back in my tent and settled, I could hear Jerry's soft steady breathing coming from his tent. He was already asleep after our very tiring day.

SUNDAY, July 2nd

This was to be our most trying and most physically draining day of all. Both of the first two days had involved route finding over terrain that had no officially established footpath. We thought that route finding was behind us, but were to discover once again that not all ICT trails are what they are marked on the maps. We rose early and walked about 1.5 miles up the road to Pearson Creek. I was expecting something much bigger, but Pearson Creek was mostly a large pond on the left of the road and a steady flow coming from a culvert on the right hand side of the road. Jerry filtered several liters of water again. Here, I made a decision on water that would prove to be critical later in the day. We had been passing smaller creeks and springs on a regular basis during the past two days, and I decided that I would only fill 2 bottles at this particular stop. I didn't want to carry the extra 2 pounds of the third liter bottle during our strenuous climb that we faced up to Dodge Peak and then down and then back up to White Mountain. I figured that we would cross a water source somewhere up above and that we could refill there. Although this assumption was eventually proved to be true, it came much later in the day and after much more exertion than we had been anticipating, and caused some anxious moments for both Jerry and me. After an ascent up the western and northwestern side of Dodge Peak, we missed the turn going around to the east side of the peak. We started down a road and I started thinking we were heading in the wrong direction, to the north. We had dropped a couple hundred feet in elevation when I finally caught up to where Jerry had stopped. I asked him, "Does this feel like we're going the wrong way?" After studying the terrain and the maps for a few minutes, we decided that we had turned away from Dodge Peak and needed to backtrack. That was about a half mile detour. We found the correct road back where we had passed it, and continued the steep curving climb up to the backside of Dodge Peak. We rested near the top, then continued to climb. When Jerry reached the very top of Dodge Peak, he found the remains of the Forest Service lookout tower, and he also saw two moose. We had a fantastic view of the Selkirk Mountains and Chimney Rock off to the west. We could make out the saddle where we had crossed the divide. We also knew that we had missed our turn again, this time onto Forest Trail 453. Jerry found it a short ways back down the road, and we began to follow the narrow single track footpath through the forest. We made good progress for about a mile, then the day began to get difficult. It spiraled from difficult to tough, and then from tough to nearly impossible. Every time the path would come to a small hill, it would vanish. Then we would have to search for several minutes and pick it up on the other side of the hill. We found and lost the trail about a dozen times as we descended from Dodge Peak along the long ridge towards White Mountain. Finally, in the mid afternoon, we lost the trail altogether. The path that did descend took a turn that was away from the marked path on the topo maps and away to the north. We could see White Mountain ahead, and we could see a long ridge connecting to White Mountain to the south, and we could see McArthur Lake down in the valley to our east. The prospect of more bush-whacking was not very appealing, but the lack of a clear trail going in our desired direction left us with little choice. We spent a very long afternoon fighting our way through the tangle of trees, brush, rocks, and deadfall, as well as the steep angle of the mountain. I started running very low on water, and was now regretting not filling that third bottle. Jerry was getting very concerned about my water situation as well. As it turned out, our struggle to reach the other side of the long ridge and the slope of White Mountain brought us down into a ravine on the northwest side and to a small flowing creek. It was in the nick of time. I scooped handfuls of cold water over my head and on my face and neck as Jerry filtered several liters of the precious liquid into our bottles. Jerry told me, "Promise me that in the future you won't try to save weight by not carrying enough water!" I agreed with him, and left the creek with three very full one-liter bottles of filtered water. Although we were still faced with a tough climb and traverse of White Mountain, our outlook was now much brighter since we had refreshed ourselves at the creek and refilled our bottles. I noticed a marked difference in my energy level as we resumed climbing. We followed the contour of White Mountain around to the east and reached a point where we could see McArthur Lake below us. We were perplexed that we still had not crossed a clearly established path, as we felt that we should have done, according to both of our topo maps. It wasn't until AFTER we had finished the hike on Monday that we discovered the reason for the poor condition of the trail. Our experience on the ridge and on White Mountain was taking on the character of our previous hike along Johnson Creek. In the absence of a clearly defined trail leading us down from White Mountain, we decided there was nothing for it but to bail off the mountain in the general direction of McArthur Lake. We had followed the contour lines around the northern and eastern sides of the mountain, almost all the way to the summit, and had still not crossed the trail. I felt that if we walked long enough downhill we would eventually come out in the valley below. This was true, in a broader sense, but doing it with the daylight we had remaining this afternoon proved to be harder than it looked. There was no letup in the terrain or in the density of the forest undergrowth. The slope was steep, and the forest clutter was as thick and tangled as ever. We continued in a relentless descent, angling this way and that, until we were so deep into the forest below that we lost sight of our reference mountains on the other side of the valley. We could no longer see McArthur Lake, either, as a reference point. We just knew from the angle of the sun behind us to the west that we were proceeding in a generally eastward direction. At one point, the tangle of the forest and the angle of the slope got to be so intense that Jerry commented, "This has got to be the definition of insanity!" My misery at least had company in this endeavor. We struggled on through the rest of the afternoon and on into the early evening hours. The forest began to grow darker as the sun dropped below the summit of White Mountain, and still there was no end in sight. We found another small creek and filled our bottles again. I had already finished almost 2 bottles since our last water stop. Finally, I reached my limit. I kept thinking we would make it out that evening, even if we had to walk until 10 p.m. I was so tired that I finally told Jerry, "For the first time today, I am ready to quit! I have never dealt with forest like this before!" We were near another creek, so we knew we could refill our bottles in the morning. We were both too tired to cook anything, so Jerry found a place to hang the food bags after we ate a few snacks for our dinner. The slope did not lend itself to pitching a tent, so we basically made an open bivouac on the side of the mountain. I landscaped a small patch of ground near the edge of a drop off, and laid out my tarptent over my blue and silver poly tarp. I put my sleeping air mat and quilt inside, then crawled into the tarptent and draped the mosquito netting over my head and shoulders to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Jerry simply laid his mat on the ground, put on his rain coat and put the hood up, and curled up on the ground. He advised me to sleep with my bear spray close at hand. I had been sleeping with it close by for the last two nights, as I usually do in bear country. Here we were, sleeping on a hillside in Grizzly country. The night passed without incident.

MONDAY, July 3rd

What had seemed insurmountable at the end of the day yesterday worked itself out in the light of a new day. Through previous experiences I have learned where my personal limits of endurance are. Whereas on Saturday afternoon, I had been able to continue hiking after a meal and a rest break, last night I had known that I was at the end when I told Jerry I was ready to quit. We still had not found the trail and we were still somewhere up on the eastern slopes of White Mountain. Jerry suggested this morning that we drop down in the ravine to our right, where we could hear running water, then angle off to the left to follow the gentler slope of the ridge. I agreed, and after we filled our bottles and packed up, we continued our descent. We had only gone about 400 yards when Jerry suddenly called out that he had found the road! Once again, what had looked like a bad situation the night before had worked itself out following a night's rest and the dawn of a new day. That, and answered prayer for the LORD to guide our steps. The road he had found was an old logging road or old Forest Service road, and appeared to be in a fair to poor condition of maintenance. It was such a relief to back on a gravel road! We walked in a continuing descent for a couple of miles. At one point, Jerry held up his hand to stop me at a curve in the road. At first I thought that he had seen a bear. I thought of unholstering my bear spray canister, then he whispered "Moose!" He slowly got out his camera to take a picture. I slipped my hand over the bear bell on my staff to silence it, and eased my way forward to where he was. We could see a young bull moose on the trail about 50 yards ahead. At this point, the moose owned the trail and we waited to see what he wanted to do. He stared at us until first, Jerry, then I, took his picture. Then he meandered slowly away from us and disappeared into the forest. Jerry said for once he had gotten an actual picture of a moose instead of a "picture where a moose used to be 2 seconds before!" We walked on for another couple of miles and came to a set of gates. At the final gate, there were a number of "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs posted on the westbound side (opposite our direction of travel). We had come out of the wilderness on a trail that was supposed to be approved for ICT hikers, yet it was gated and posted for no access on this end. This explained the lack of trail maintenance and general poor condition of the trail on the ridge above. We finally emerged from the woods into the farmland below and we began to see some houses. We walked about another 1 to 1.5 miles along road 4A until we came to the Saturn where we had parked it on the northern side of McArthur Lake. It was about 9 a.m. local time when we got there. Our hike over the Selkirks was completed!

We had to drive the 80+ mile shuttle route again to get back to Jerry's Suburban over at Priest Lake. On the way, we stopped for a hearty breakfast in Sandpoint. After recovering Jerry's vehicle, we then drove up to Indian Head campground near the northern end of Priest Lake. We paid a $4 apiece day use fee so that we could go to the beach and take a swim in the lake, to wash up from four grueling days of hiking. The water was clear and cold, though not nearly as cold as Redfish Lake. I was impressed with the lake and its surroundings, and have determined that this would be a good area for future camping with the family. I already know I will be back to complete the ICT leg from Priest Lake north to the Canadian border.

From the northern end of Priest Lake, it took us 12 hours to get home to Boise, with stops in Worley for lunch, Moscow for fuel, and White Bird Hill for dinner at Hoot's.

During our lunch, Jerry showed me some information that helped to explain the difficulties we had experienced up on Trail 453 on White Mountain. He had stopped at the Ranger Station in Priest River and shared with them our experiences in trying to follow Trail 453 and in coming down from White Mountain. They gave him a photo-copied information sheet for that section of trail that said 453 was "infrequently maintained," "lightly traveled," "overgrown," and in rating of Hiker Difficulty it received a "Most Difficult" rating. Jerry also told them about the "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs that we had seen. The ranger told him that a private landowner had purchased a large tract of land adjoining the road from which we had exited the wilderness. This landowner had posted and gated the access points and would not grant the Forest Service access to their own trail! We had just happened to stumble blindly upon the trail and followed it down to where it exited onto Road 4A and in blissful ignorance did not know that it was posted "No Trespassing." Fortunately we came out very early on a Monday morning and no one in the houses we passed seemed to take notice of us. Stealth Hikers! The problem with this of course is that future ICT hikers will make the same mistakes that we made, unless the ICT route is changed. The ICT route is clearly marked on the official maps as following Trail 453. Steven Stuebner does mention in his book that Pack River Road can be used as an alternate route. Jerry and I agree with that statement and would recommend this alternate route.

While passing through Priest River, we also made a stop at a place called Huckleberry Delight. Jerry had been telling me about this place, and it sounded so good that I had to stop in to get some Huckleberry pancake syrup and Huckleberry jelly for Darla. Jerry got a Huckleberry Shake, which was the first purple milkshake I have ever seen. I arrived home at 3105 Eastgate Drive in Boise right before 1 a.m.

It's Hard to Soar with Eagles

It’s Hard to Soar with the Eagles, when you’re surrounded by Buzzards

an Idaho Centennial Trail section hike

from Bruneau Canyon Overlook to Hammett, section one

and from Bennett Mountain Road to Hammett, section two

April 20th - 22nd, 2006

Thursday, April 20th

We met at the Albertsons Express at 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Jerry and Nick were riding in Jerry’s Suburban, while I would be following in the Saturn.

We drove on I-84 to the town of Hammett. We left the Saturn here as a shuttle vehicle, parked beside the Hammett Valley Trading Post, after some negotiations with the store proprietor. The planned 4 days of hiking called for two major segments: northward along the ICT from the Bruneau Canyon Overlook to Hammett, then southward from Bennett Mountain Road to Hammett. Although I had done most of these trail sections, I still lacked the 15 mile segment of Brown’s Creek road which crossed the Saylor Creek Bombing Range. Jerry needed the entire 47 mile segment, although he had previously hiked the old route of Bennett Mountain Road all the way down into Glenn’s Ferry. Nick had also previously completed the old ICT route, but wanted to get a refresher hike and complete the new ICT route.

We arrived at the Bruneau Overlook at about 11 a.m., and after a look at the scenic canyon, we shouldered our packs and started walking up the road. The first 5 miles was a repeat for me. We paused for photos at the junction where the ICT turned north from the Overlook Road, and then started in earnest. When I had completed this section back in November, I had wished that I had my gaiters, due to the overgrowth on the trail and the stickers I had encountered. I recommended gaiters to Jerry and Nick, and so we all had equipped ourselves. As we hiked along, a pair of F-15 Strike Eagles arrived over the bombing range and made several ground attack runs over the target area. We were glad for the air show as we hiked along. We spooked a couple of different groups of white tail deer, and I spooked a large jackrabbit who started from the sagebrush, only a foot from my left side. He appeared to be the size of a small dog or cat, with large ears. We were to see many dozens of jackrabbits during the next few days.

We reached Hot Springs Road and the turn to Brown’s Creek Road at about 1 p.m., and stopped for a lunch break. After a short lull in the aerial show, more F-15’s arrived and began their simulated attacks on the bombing range. The next segment for our hike would cross the northwest boundary of the bombing range. I couldn’t help but wonder if the Air Force would send a squad of M.P.’s to intercept us as we crossed their territory. The ICT is officially marked across this section, but Jerry had spoken with the Mountain Home airbase commander a few years back, who had told him that he didn’t recommend for anyone to be hiking across the bombing range. The aerial spectacle continued off to our east as we started down the road. The F-15’s alternated between ground assault and air-to-air combat. It was all very entertaining. After yet another lull in the action, we saw a pair of A-10 Warthogs arrive and begin their bombing runs. While the F-15’s had made simulated bombing runs, we began to hear actual concussions in the distance, as though the A-10’s were dropping live ordnance on the target. We were 4 to 5 miles distant from the target area, so we never felt in danger, but the intermittent “WHOMPPP” of the bombs striking their targets was undeniable.

The road in this section appeared to be well-maintained, if not well-traveled. We did notice that some of the ICT white markers were laying on the ground, their posts broken off near the ground. They appeared to have been deliberately run over, although the perpetrator of such an act was a subject of speculation on our part. There is no shortage of thoughtless people who will ruin a good thing when they see it. The lack of signs did not hinder our progress. We came across an area, as a large sign had warned us, of a fenced off area and red boundary signs, which were “red flag” areas of the bombing range, not to be entered on peril of life and limb. I said “I’m not going to cross over and find out” to which Jerry jokingly replied, “Well…..I am!!!!” and he jogged over across one of the red triangle markers and danced around, waving his arms and shouting, “Here I am!!!!” It was quite comical.

At one point, we were being followed by about 7 or 8 buzzards. They were not circling directly over us, but were flying around about 200 yard away from us. This led to many jokes about the buzzards waiting for us to drop along the trail, or waiting for an F-15 pilot to crash in the desert.

We would periodically rest at the side of the road, while the distant thunder of the jets practicing provided our soundtrack music for the afternoon. One of the buzzards swooped above us. Jerry said, “No, we’re not ready for you yet” and Nick added, “Come back tomorrow!”

The road continued sloping gradually downhill toward the Snake River plain off in the distance to the north. We had hoped to make at least half the distance from the Overlook into Hammett. Even with our late start, we had covered about 16 miles by 5 p.m. By the map we reckoned that we were not far from where Brown’s Creek Road would come out on a two-lane gravel section which headed straight north. I had told Jerry that we would have a harder time finding a campsite once we were walking along farmer’s fields and past the front yards of farm houses. Nick and Jerry, walking ahead of me, found a wide grassy area alongside the road, where there was plenty of room for setting up camp. The grassy area was criss-crossed by numerous narrow trails, which later we found out were made by a large family of jackrabbits. This led to jokes about Peter Cotton-tail, and the “bunny trail.”

This location was our camp for night 1.

Friday, April 21st

After a windy night in the low 40’s we awoke to another blue sky day of sunshine.

I was a little stiff from the knees down, as were the other two guys, but overall we felt fairly good and well-rested.

Today’s objective was to reach the town of Hammett, and then to shuttle vehicles. Our planned camping for tonight was at a location that Jerry knew of along Bennett Mountain Road. We were car-camping tonight, so I knew that I had several “luxury” items in the trunk of my car, including firewood, a Coleman campstove, and a bigger tent. I was looking forward to camping in comparative luxury to the Spartan fashion which is a necessity dictated by an ultra-light back-packing style.

Our nine mile walk into Hammett was fairly routine. We started about 8:30 a.m. and arrived in Hammett right at noon. The wind was blowing from the east at a blustery 20 to 25 miles per hour. As long as we were walking north, the going wasn’t too bad, but when we turned to the east it was like walking twice the distance we actually traveled.

When we reached the end of Brown’s Creek Road, we stopped for a rest. I celebrated my completion of the 15 mile section which closed a large gap for my ICT quest. I could now boast of an unbroken line of ICT from the Nevada border all the way to the Middle Fork of the Boise River at Willow Creek campground, just east of Featherville.

Here the ICT turns east and follows Idaho highway 78, a two-lane paved road, for 5 miles into the town of Hammett. I had previously walked this section as a day-hike, back in November of 2005. Jerry and I were out of water, so we planned to filter water from the Snake River, which we would cross in the next 1.5 miles.

Once we reached the bridge, we went down the embankment to the edge of the mighty Snake River, which was nearing flood stage due to the run-off from this year’s heavy snowfall in the mountains. Jerry’s filter plugged after the first bottle was filled, due to the silt and sediment in the water. It was quite a bit more cloudy than the average stream in the mountains, which we are accustomed to filtering our water from. Fortunately, after cleaning the pre-filter on the end of the inlet tube, Jerry was able to continue filtering. My bottle was now filled, although the water was a bit on the cloudy side, not unlike tap water that comes out of the tap highly aerated. We know the filtration process is safe, so we were not scared to drink it. I did use some of Jerry’s Crystal Light Raspberry and Lemonade drink mix to help cut the “river taste.”

We ascended the bank to continue our walk. An Idaho Department of Transportation (IDOT) truck had stopped on the bridge above us, and a work crew was placing signs at the far end of the bridge. As we began our bridge crossing, one of the workers greeted us. He was very friendly, and said, “You guys must be hiking the Idaho Centennial Trail? I just saw a special on that a few weeks ago.” It was nice to have someone recognize our activity as something legitimate, and not just view us as a bunch of homeless vagabonds wandering the highway.

The remainder of the road walk into Hammett went smoothly. It was terribly hard walking into the face of the blustery wind. I managed to stay up with Jerry and Nick until about a mile west of town, when I finally dropped back to a slower pace. I caught up to them as they entered the city limits. We walked the final few blocks as a group, and I quickened my pace so that I could be the first one to reach the Trading Post. ‘

After retrieving the Saturn, and buying sodas from the convenience store, we were on our way back to the Overlook to retrieve Jerry’s Suburban. It felt strange to be driving along at 55 mph over the same road which we had just recently traversed on foot. When we reached the Overlook, Jerry was dismayed to find a flat tire on the left rear of the Suburban. I said that this is becoming a tradition for us, to hike and then change flat tires, recalling our adventure in 2005 near Murphy Hot Springs on the ICT. After the Indy Pit Crew finished changing the flat tire, we were off to the giant metropolis of Bruneau. Fortunately it was Friday afternoon, and the Jumbo’s Sinclair service station was open and had a mechanic who could fix the flat tire. We dropped off the tire for repair, and went across the road for a meal at the Bruneau Café. Nick ordered a breakfast omelette, Jerry had a ham-n-cheese grilled, and I had my customary large greasy hamburger with all the trimmings. Mmmmm. Perfect for after hiking long distance. Then we returned to get the tire. When we entered the Sinclair station again, I was surprised to find a pair of farmers sitting at the front counter, speaking to the guy at the cash register. One of the farmers was holding a Winchester rifle. My first thought was “am I interrupting something?” He didn’t appear to be robbing the store, but the sight did give me pause.

The remainder of the day was down-time from hiking. We drove to the town of Glenn’s Ferry, then headed north and west to reach Bennett Mountain Road, which is a good two lane paved highway for the first 15 miles. The road climbs gradually all the way to the base of the Bennett Mountain ridge. Then the road climbs more steeply, until the pavement ends and the gravel begins. We passed the ICT marker signs where we would begin our hike tomorrow. Jerry led us to a bridge where Canyon Creek crosses under Bennett Mountain Road. We pulled off in a large parking area to the right, along the south bank of the creek, which was flowing strongly from snowmelt run-off. This was our campsite for night 2. We were all sore and tired and ready for a relaxing evening. As I mentioned previously I had brought some extras for car camping, knowing that we were going to be at this location on night 2. I told Jerry that I had wanted to pack chairs, but didn’t think there would be room in the trunk of the Saturn for all our packs and my camping gear, as well as folding chairs. He grinned mischievously, and opened the back of his Suburban. I didn’t realize what he was doing in there, but a few minutes later I came around the front of his Suburban and saw that he had taken the back seat out and placed it in front of the fire ring. We had seating for our campfire! Nick set up his Therma-rest folding chair with his air mattress. It was nice to vegetate in a real chair in front of the fire pit, with the relaxing sounds of the gurgling, rushing creek. We spent a very comfortable night 2 here at this location.

Saturday, April 22nd

My part in the hike was now mostly done. I had already done the entire section from Bennett Mountain Road down into Hammett in the previous year. My role today was support in shuttling vehicles and placing water drops for Jerry and Nick. I also wanted to hike the two mile section of old wagon trail which I had helped Leo mark last year. I wanted to see what the finished product looked like, and also wanted to re-visit this very remarkable section of ICT. After we packed up our camp, I led Jerry back to Hammett along the ICT, which is drive-able for at least 15 miles of the 20 mile route.

The first road we turned on from Bennett Mountain Road was Alkali Road, which would connect over to Wilson Road. Before we reached the ICT markers which came in from the road to the north, I came across a yellow diamond sign that said "Water Over Road Use Caution." One of the creeks crossing the road, which was normally very low flowing, was over the road. Great..... but I was driving the Mighty Saturn..... I plunged forward into the water, which I judged to be not that deep. About three-quarters of the way across, the front end of the Saturn struck a submerged rock amidships. The car lurched and I gunned it. The front tires dug in and pulled me up and over the obstruction while the rock beneath made sickening thuds and bumps. Steam came up from beneath as water splashed up into the hot engine compartment. The Mighty Saturn came out on dry land. I hoped that I hadn't done anything damaging to the front end (no damage has been found to date). Jerry of course had no problems clearing the rocks in the Suburban.

The water crossing incident behind, there were no further obstructions or water crossings the rest of the way into town. We placed a gallon of water near two of the intersections, for their use later that day. Jerry parked the Suburban at the Hammett Valley Trading Post, and then I drove them back up to Bennett Mountain Road where the ICT turns south. I walked two miles with them down the old wagon trail section. It felt good to see the finished product from our trail work of last year, and to hear Jerry and Nick’s reactions to the impressive views and rock formations along this section. When the trail crossed the creek below and the trail turned south, I said my goodbyes and left Jerry and Nick to continue their hike south, while I returned the two miles up the cliffs and back to the car. Then I returned to Boise, with a stop for hamburgers at Wendy’s in Mountain Home.

Later, on Sunday evening, I received e-mails from both Jerry and Nick, telling me that they had completed the entire twenty mile route all in one day on Saturday.

Jerry had this to say:

Just a quick note to let you know that we made it back
........... early. It started looking like a wet,
windy night was in store for us, so we took an hour
break, then walked out Saturday night. Feeling a lot
better today than I would have expected! What a first
hike! 45 miles in 3 days! Thanks for the company, and
let me know if your ready to do another the weekend of
May 20th.