Let me tell you a story about my Idaho winter adventure which doesn’t include snow. I enticed my friend Jill to travel 500 miles North to share an Idaho winter wandering … there are phenomenal spaces and ‘Oh My!’ places almost every where you look. Our adventure started in Boise on their 130 mile hiking trail system Ridges to Rivers which connect the foothills to the Boise River running through the center of the valley. In the eastern skyline of Boise a beautiful cross draws your eye to a small mesa called Table Rock; and living here 11 years I’d never hiked the trail … so Wednesday Jill and I filled our water bottles, tightened our trekkers and started off from the trail head near the old Idaho Penitentiary. (The penitentiary, it’s haunted you know.) Urban hiking includes crowds, even mid-week, and we shared the expansive views from the top with quite a few others. So Table Rock, done that, don’t have to do it again.
Later that afternoon we turned the Escape north to explore Hell’s Canyon; a breath takingly steep walled canyon cut by the Snake River and accessible from only a few places; from the Idaho side you can drive through Cambridge, a small town with a few restaurants, gas stations, and a long history of ranching and logging or down the Klienschmit Grade a bit further north. It’s a hair raising, breath holding steep gravel road built by miners looking for a better way to move their ore and which has it’s own lore and mystique. It is a much more exciting way into the canyon but alas was still closed for winter. The other access is from the Halfway Oregon highway, which is also intersects the road to Imnaha and Joseph Oregon.
So taking the more sedate paved two lane through Cambridge we began … first wild life sighted: 19 turkeys all in a row rustling along the tree lined stream heading to the turkey orgy we passed a mile or so down the road. The fields are turning green and we passed Brownlee Reservoir about 50 feet lower than average (oh, how we’ve missed snow this winter!) then we crossed the Oxbow Dam to the Oregon side of the canyon meandered the final 22 miles down river to the Hell’s Canyon dam AND had the whole road and canyon to ourselves; such a change from the urban hike the day before. Solitude.
We stopped and backed up in the middle of the road to watch a lone mountain goat from his vantage point on a rocky ledge at the top of a 98% slope 700 feet up the mountain face. My camera would have only captured a white speck on the dark hillside so we continued down to the closed for the season visitors center, took some selfies and ate lunch watching the river thunder along below us.
Jill and I have been adventuring, hiking , fishing, and 4-wheeling over deserts, mountains, and rivers throughout the west and southwest for more than 20 years … and we’ve enjoyed some cool hot springs along the byways. We ended the Hell’s Canyon day with a soak at Historic Starkey Hot Springs (1904) recently purchased by Whole Foods who are bottling the spring waters (totally lovely tasting). The spring is open for a few hours each day during the week (adults only) and the rustic setting is a soul soothing way to close an adventure.
Next week? San Diego!!