Monday, February 21, 2011
With winter and my contract with the Forest Service winding down, I found myself back in Idaho all last week, playing in the snow, driving in it, and dreaming of Hawaii and other sunny, snowless places. When I arrived in Boise Tuesday morning, the sun was out and the thermometer was pushing 60. As I waited to meet up with my Forest Service buddy (thumbs up for the buddy system), I opened my windows and the sunroof and knitted in the sunshine with some Blues & Lasers blasting over the speakers. After lunch, we headed up to Idaho City, then further north to Beaver Creek Cabin (the first photo above). We had planned on snowshoeing but it was so warm and the trail was so packed that we ended up carrying our snowshoes the half-mile to the cabin, where we found igloos and a snow cave from previous renters. I snapped my photos and back out we walked, and back to Boise we drove.
Day two was a gas-powered, two-stroke, noisy, wild weather-filled adventure. We got to go snowmobiling... at work! We drove to Garden Valley in the morning, then up to Crouch along the Middle Fork Payette River Road. At the trailhead, we met another Forest Service guy with snowmobiles and headed up the 11-mile groomed trail to Boiling Springs Cabin (the second and third photos). The road paralleled the river and with all the snow, it was just gorgeous. Two feet of snow settled on rocks and logs like pillows. As soon as we got there it started raining, then the snow started a few minutes later but tapered off pretty quickly. We ate lunch on the porch and watched the snow fall and the steam rise from the hot springs next to the cabin, then cruised back to the trailhead. I wanted to turn around and do it again! Back down to Boise we went. We stopped for gas and snacks in Eagle and heard thunder as horizontal snow started coming down. A few minutes later came the lightning and then pea-sized hail. It was pretty wild. Then it cleared up. Typical. A funny car wash misadventure followed, then that night, there was good beer and chili, one adorable kid and two cool dogs. It was a really nice way to wind down my time in Boise.
I woke to three inches of snow the next morning, thus beginning my snowy roads adventure for the remainder of the trip. I headed up to Banks, then Lowman. The roads were pretty good, save for the stretch of Highway 55 down in to Horseshoe Bend, which was extremely icy. The Banks-Lowman Road was clear and although it was still overcast, the low clouds had cleared out, allowing really beautiful views of Garden Valley. Once I got past Warm Springs, northeast of Lowman, the road became snowpacked as I passed over avalanche-ridden Banner Summit. Although I never actually saw an avalanche, I saw the debris piles on the roadside, six or eight of them. The snow was pretty deep as it was, but the piles were anywhere from 10-20 feet high. I wished I could have paid less attention to the road and more attention to the scenery, but when you're traveling solo it just doesn't work that way. I arrived in Stanley just about four hours after I left Boise - usually a three-hour drive - and found four more inches of new snow.
Stanley is a small town in the summer, even when tourism is at its height. In winter though, Stanley is all but vacant. I stayed at the Mountain Village Resort, the only place in town, and as soon as I got to my room and started shedding layers, I realized there was no wifi. I had planned on working all afternoon but couldn't without the internet. I reluctantly turned on the TV instead and watched senseless shows for a couple hours. I had brought no reading material and the only knitting project I had with me was at the point that I needed help. (It's my second beanie but the decreases sound scary so I need to go to Blazing Needles and have someone babysit me while I attempt them.) I grabbed a pizza and salad from one of two open restaurants in town, then hunkered back down with bad TV for the night.
Friday morning, I woke to another new inch of snow on my car, and several more in the forecast. I met up with two people from the Salmon-Challis National Forest and headed north to Cape Horn and the Cape Horn Winter Rental. Snowshoes and cross-country skis were strapped on, and off we trekked on the 1.5-mile "trail" to the cabin. There was a new foot of fresh snow, and in some places, it was almost like we were breaking trail. It was rough going here and there, especially for this out-of-shape girl, but the area was downright gorgeous (fourth photo). I shot an entire roll of film in my Banner and will get it developed soon. I can't wait to see how it looks. A few hours later, we were back in Stanley and off I went to Ketchum on my way home.
I stopped at the Stanley Ranger Station, in the shadow of the mighty Sawtooths (fifth photo) and finally caught a glimpse of them when the clouds lifted. I was in Stanley back in May but it was raining/snowing and I never got to see the peaks, so this was a special treat. I checked the road conditions over 8,701' Galena Summit and got, "Well, it's not closed." Good enough. Off I went. Normally it's an hour between the two towns, but this day it took me just over two. The road was entirely snowpacked and really icy in some places so I took my sweet time and snapped some iPhone photos along the way (sixth photo). I passed through Ketchum and stopped in Hailey for a sandwich and was gung-ho about getting home even though it was 5pm and I had another four hours to go on dry roads. I wanted to sleep in my own bed and be with my husband in my own house, but my plans quickly came to a halt a few miles south of Hailey. Highway 75, the only road between Hailey and Twin Falls/I-84 back to Utah, was closed due to a terrible car accident. I waited about an hour and watched the sun start slipping behind the mountains.
I ended up in Twin Falls for the night, which ended up being fine. I watched bad TV, drank some Pyramid apricot ale, and got some decent sleep before driving home in the morning. I ran into snow again over Sweetzer Summit, the last Idaho stretch of I-84 before it drops into Utah. The snow was flying horizontally and the wind rocked my car. I hated it, but pressed on. I got in line behind a slow semi-truck and happily followed it at 40 mph for about 10 miles. Then from Snowville, Utah all the way home, all I had to deal with was light rain. No more snow! Despite some treacherous roads and more snow than I wanted to deal with, it was an awesome trip. The first two days were the best but I attribute that mostly to the company I was with. The Boise National Forest - at least my experiences on it - kicks ass. And of course, I love Boise. This was my fifth trip there eight months! Not too shabby. Thanks USFS!