In the final weekend of March I found myself home alone with my wife and kids out of town. I decided this would be a good opportunity to go explore some of Idaho’s pristine campgrounds.
After consulting several maps I decided it would be prudent of me to find roads and a campground that were for the most part below 5000′, after my recent experience with an early spring off road ride. Looking at the weather for the weekend, it looked as if it would be clear with only a small chance of rain, and little chance of snow if I stayed below that 5000′ cap.
I decided I would check out the Boise National Forest, taking advantage of its close and convenient proximity to the Treasure Valley. I would explore the lower section of the forest just north of Boise.
I left home around 11:00 with a vague idea of my destination. As I left Parma,I quickly found myself traveling eastbound on Interstate 84 heading towards Boise. A rather boring stretch of highway that travels through the heart of the Treasure Valley.
I took the 57 exit which leads to Lucky Peak State Park, Gowen Road, and more importantly in this instance, State Highway 21. State Highway 21 is a north to south highway that starts in Boise and terminates 130 miles later in the small mountain town of Stanley. Highway 21 is classified as a scenic byway with its path primarily following the Boise River. Highway 21 begins in Boise at an elevation of 3000′ and steadily climbs to around 6250′ at its termination point in Stanley. There are often significant road closures on Highway 21 during the wintertime due to heavy snowfall.
I proceeded up Highway 21 for approximately 13 miles following its fast moving curves and smooth pavement. Immediately after crossing the Mores Creek bridge is Spring Shores / Arrowrock Road. The is a mostly dirt road that follows the north fork and middle fork of the Boise River past Arrowrock reservoir all the way up to Atlanta.
I turned down Spring Shores road excited to be leaving the pavement and to hit some dirt roads. The roadway is paved nearly the entire distance to the dam with several locations to stop as well as a boat launch at Mack’s Creek Park. As you approach the dam the roadway changes from pavement to a gravel road. While the roadway is graded and maintained it is recommended for 4 wheel drive vehicle with sufficient ground clearance. During my trip I found the roadway to be extremely rutted out with large tire swallowing pot holes throughout the entire roadway. While I was able to maintain a steady 25-30 MPH speed. I found most pickups and SUV’s had to slow their pace to around 10 MPH in order to successfully negotiate the sharp blind corners and deteriorating road conditions.
The impressively stunning views that can be had while traveling this road are nothing short of amazing. The huge rock faces that line the banks of the Boise River tower over the canyon below. The roadway itself offers motorcyclists a challenging and rewarding experience in trying to navigate its sharp, blind, switchbacks. With the ever present knowledge of a nearly perpendicular drop into the river should you fail to negotiate the curve.
I continued north traveling deeper into the Boise National Forest. The sparsely vegetated hillsides quickly turn into dense alpine pine forests as my elevation climbs.
The first of the more primitive campsites along the roadway is the Cottonwood campground, appropriately named after Cottonwood Creek which it lies adjacent to. It was nearly 12:30 as I passed by Cottonwood, so I made the executive decision to continue on and explore the other campsites farther north.
At this point I had only passed a handful of other vehicles most of which I assume had been spending there day in and about the reservoir. The roadway narrowed slightly and road conditions got slightly better with the large potholes becoming almost non existent. I passed by the second campground; Willow Creek. Willow Creek campground is situated right next to the Boise River. The campsite looked well maintained with only one inhabitant (a large travel trailer) at this location. I again decided to press on in hopes of having a campground to myself for the night.
The next campground I came across was the Badger Creek campground. The Badger Creek campground is a maintained 4 camp site campground. I pulled into the campground to find to my delight it was completely unoccupied. Badger Creek is also located directly against the Boise River. I parked my bike and hopped off to explore the area. Despite the sunny weather the temperature was still only 45 degrees. After removing my jacket I began to feel the cool breeze permeating through my sweater. I walked around the campsite and observed every campsite was equipped with a fire pit, barbecue table, and a bench. There was also a vault style toilet at this location. I decided this location met all of my qualifications for an overnight stay: vacant of any other person. I picked the campsite that was closest to the river.
Since it was only around 1:30 I decided I would get back on the bike and travel farther up the road just to explore and see what else was up ahead. The condition of the road remained the same aside from a little surprise I encountered about two miles north of my camp. I was traveling along a relativity smooth stretch of road at around 40-45 MPH when I observed a large crack in the roadway. The crack had been created by water running over the roadway. I braked as quickly and as hard as I could prior to making the crossing, trying to reduce my speed rapidly without completely compressing my front forks. I hit the crack with a tremendous amount of force. My feet were lifted from the foot pegs as my body was thrown against the handlebars. Thankfully the handlebars stopped me from being tossed over the top of the bike. I regained my balance and continued on, with my pride being the only thing damaged from the incident. I made the obligatory look around to ensure no one else had witnessed my little incident and rode on.
My next stop was the Troutdale campground about 8 miles north of Badger Creek campground. I arrived at the campground to find the campground was still partially covered in snow. There were many mature pine tress that created a large canopy over the campsites which denied the ground below the warmth from the sun. There were several established campsites that were equipped with fire pits.
I walked around the campground and found my way down to the waters edge. While I was standing by the edge of the Boise River I observed an apple along the shore. The apple was next to what had once been a small fire. The apple appeared to still be intact and not rotted. I thought it odd finding an uneaten apple in the middle of the forest. I walked over and picked up the apple. Carefully manipulating it in my hand, I turned it over to discover a perfect hole in the side of the apple. I brought the apple closer to my face to determine what creature had burrowed its way into the apple. As soon as the apple was 6 inches from my face I realized the creature was a pot smoking hippie who had been using this apple as a means to some marijuana. I laughed as I threw the apple into the Boise River. Never know what you might find in the woods….
Troutdale campground is about 34 miles south of Atlanta but I decided this was as far north as I was going to travel today. I got back on the bike heading south back towards my chosen campground.
After arriving back at camp I determined the best location to set up my tent. I cleared the location of any debris which would become little annoying irritants in the middle of the night and laid out my tent. At first I set up just the inner portion of the tent and left the rain fly in the bag.
Next I set up my kitchen on the barbecue table. My Jetboil stove and a small 8 inch cooking pan would be the entirety of my cooking utensils. My meal of choice this trip was two bratwursts, a russet potato, and, a sweet onion. I had picked up these items prior to departing on my trip spending a grand total of three dollars and twelve cents. One fifth the price I would have spent on a decent ribeye. I was so proud of my new found “frugalness” that I photographed my receipt to prove to my wife how thrifty I could be 🙂
I would find out later if my penny pinching would pay off come dinner time. The wind began to pick up and I decided to be safe I should put the rain fly on my tent. I grabbed the shock-corded tent pole that serves as the peak for the rain fly. I attached one end of the pole across the peak of the tent. I walked around to the opposite side and grabbed the tent pole. I leaned forward to attach the pole to the second connector and somehow manged to let go of the pole prior to connecting it. The pole, which was under a considerable amount of strain, sprung back at me with the force of an arrow being loosed from a bow and smacked the side of my face. I stumbled back surprised and hurt from the pain of being struck by the pole. I brought my hand up to feel my face and it came as no surprise when I felt a large welt along the right side of my face. I guess even a self proclaimed expert camper can make a mistake =^_^=…..
After tending to my latest wound I decided it was time to begin cooking dinner. In my haste to leave home I realized I had neglected to bring along any oil or butter to cook my vegetables in. Since my stove had two temperatures; sweltering hot or off, it was difficult to cook food rather than just boil water. Nevertheless, I decided I would try and cook the potato and onion in the pan then cook the brats afterwards.
I pulled out my trusty Kershaw and began slicing the potato and onion as thinly as I could. After both were prepped for the pan I turned on the stove as low as I could possibly manage. I added the potato and onion to the pan and began stirring them around trying very carefully to keep them from burning. I found the potatoes immediately stuck to the pan and began burning. The stove simply was too hot and it was an un-coated pan. I decided to add my brats to the pan now and try and cut my losses with the vegetables. As the brats began cooking I realized my vegetables would not be palatable by the time my brats were done. I decided to pull them out and eat them now. The onions were cooked nearly all the way through. The potatoes were another story, many of the slices were still raw while others were burnt to an impressively tiny crisp. I tried eating the potatoes and onions while the brats cooked and managed to consume nearly all of it. I decided to add a little water to my pan and cover it with my stainless steel plate in hopes of steaming the brats. I did this for approximately 7-10 minutes adding more water as necessary. I shut the burner off and removed the brats from the pan placing them on my plate. I cut into the first and found it appeared to be cooked all the way through. I made quick work of the two bratwursts.
I took my pan, plate, and utensils down to the edge of the river. I plunged the items beneath the water and instantly felt the shock of the icy cold water. I began scrubbing the pan trying to remove the grease and burnt potatoes left over. This was going more difficult than I had anticipated. Without soap, removing the burnt potatoes would be almost impossible. I used my knife to scrap off as much as possible and decided I would place the dirty items in a grocery sack on the trip home. I walked back up to my camp site and pulled out my folding chair. I sat down felling content to remain here for the remainder of the night.
As I sat I began feeling a nauseousness that increased with time. About thirty to forty minutes after finishing dinner I had the opportunity to taste it a second time… Not that it was great the first time, but it was exceedingly worse the second. After thoroughly rinsing my mouth out. I again sat down in my chair facing the river and pondered my situation. I was about an hour and a half from the highway and about two and a half hours from home. I could stay, try and tough it out and hope my condition improved, or tuck tail and head home cutting my losses. I sat there for another thirty minutes not feeling any better.
I eventually decided the best bet would be to head home. Better to be home regurgitating my last meal then alone in the woods. I packed up my tent and kitchen with incredible haste and quickly packed everything back on the motorcycle. I said goodbye to my temporary home and hit the road again.
Two and a half hours later and I was back in the comfort of my home. Frustratingly I had began feeling better about thirty minutes from home. Nevertheless, I was home and had enjoyed my ride through the Boise National Forest. I will, without a doubt, be back to try my hand at more camping along the Boise River!