Monday, June 27
My Walmart neighbor (the retired rodeo clown) tells me that since I’m heading north out of Twin Falls, ID, I need to stop at the visitor center and see the Snake River and bridge. When I wake up this morning their Bounder is already gone. Safe travels and happy trails, folks.
I’ve seen plenty of rivers running through plenty of cities and saw several waterways coming into Twin Falls and am not sure why he was so insistent about this one, until I park in the ample lot and walk to the ledge. Woah.
The Snake River Canyon was shaped by the Bonneville Flood, one of the largest to have ever occurred on Earth. About 17,400 years ago during the last Ice Age, Lake Bonneville covered much of northern Utah, and parts of Idaho and Nevada. As the lake grew in the moist, cool climate, it eventually spilled across one of its natural barriers at Red Rock Pass in southeastern Idaho. The flowing water quickly eroded away the loose gravel and sand of the pass, lowering the lake’s elevation by 400 feet as it released a massive flood that roared northward into the Snake River Basin.
It’s estimated that flood waters rushed through the narrow canyon walls at speeds up to 70 mph, moving huge boulders and gouging out channels along the canyon floor, deepening the canyon into what we see today.
The bridge is a favorite destination for BASE jumpers from all over, and I see a group of them with a camera crew preparing to jump when I arrive. Farther east along the Snake River are the iconic Shoshone and Pillar Falls that give the city it’s name. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to see them before I leave the area.
Crossing the bridge on highway 93, Twin Falls is quickly left behind among farm and ranch land. I continue north to a dot on the map called Shoshone, where 93 becomes 75. Past that, 75 intersects with I20 and I turn east. My destination is one the left.
Hayspur Hatchery is managed by the Idaho Fish and Game department. It’s a trout hatchery, but has a great perk – a free campground (donations encouraged) with a 16 day stay limit. And unlike other free camping options in the area, it has a great Verizon signal. This is where I’ll be through the 4th for the book launch.
The campground doesn’t have designated sites, it’s a field with a line of trees near the road, and you park where you like. Picnic tables and fire rings are scattered about, there’s a pit toilet and water spigot, and yes, a trout pond and stream for fishermen to enjoy. Trash is pack in pack out. It’s possible it’ll end up getting busy over the holiday weekend, but for now it’s quiet, there are maybe six other campers here.
Tuesday, June 28
In the morning I take a short walk down to the pond, it’s quite nice!
In the evening, I walk the short nature trail along Loving Creek. Hayspur Hatchery was completed in 1907, with water coming from both Butte Creek and Loving Creek. This stretch is actually a 1,610 foot man-made canal which returns water from the hatchery back to its original source, a project that took over six years of planning and digging to realize.
I haven’t seen a single chipmunk or ground squirrel at this campground, but there’s an amazing variety of birds. I hear their calls from the trees near the water. Grass grows tall in the shallows, the water is very clear, but it’s so late in the day that the sunlight reflects off the surface instead of piercing it to reveal the bottom.
The setting sun turns the hills around the hatchery golden, then orange. By the time I get back to the Casita, it looks like it’s been painted pink in sunlight. It’s after 9 pm, sunset is 9:20. At 10 it still won’t be completely dark.
Wednesday, June 29
Mountains, here I come! With the launch impending, this’ll be my last chance to escape the Casita for a few days. I’ll want to stick close to my computer starting tomorrow to make sure I’m available in case there are any problems.
Sawtooth National Forest is about an hour from Hayspur Hatchery, and I’m surprised by the number of towns along the way heading north on 75: Bellevue, Hailey, Gimlet, and Sun Valley. Most of them are touristy in nature, there are ski resorts along the edge of the mountains so I suppose it makes sense.
Past the NF boundary, the residences and businesses disappear and nature rules. I stop at the visitor center for some maps of hiking trails. I don’t have enough time to hike today, but will be prepared for next time. The building is neat looking and surrounded by aspen trees. The clouds growing outside the windows have me a bit concerned though. I left my solar panel sitting out when I left and while the panel itself is waterproof, the charge controller attached to the back of it is not.
Highway 75 winds up a valley of grass and sage, full of wildflowers. The mountains grow taller the farther in you get, and a couple of them still have traces of snow at the top.
I didn’t come here intending to look for boondocks, but when I see a couple campers hiding among the trees curiosity gets the better of me. I start driving down spur roads northeast of 75 that point to the Big Wood River, that’s where most of the dispersed spots seem to be. I find several along the stretch between Baker Creek Picnic Area and where the river crosses the road back to the southwest, including Prairie Creek Campground which is no charge and has pit toilets, and a dirt road labeled 167 on maps which parallels 75 and has a lot of open space and evidence of camping, good for large groups of ATVers. Online sources say Bakers Creek Road (162) has several dispersed camping sites with firepits, and some with picnic tables too.
The bad news is none of these areas gets even a lick of Verizon signal. The good news is it’s really gorgeous. My favorite is on an unnamed spur road near mile marker 145. It’s right on the river, there are a couple of pines around for shade but it’s open enough to get solar power, and the view of the mountains is fantastic. Ruts at the entry to the campsite warn that the ground gets soft when it rains, but today it’s just fine.
I think next week once the holiday is over I’ll drive up to this area to camp for a bit. It’s not a far drive down to Sun Valley for internet and it’s much cooler and more pleasant up here.
I do get in a bit of trouble taking a dirt road I later learn is 182, or Spring Creek Road. Like many Forest Service roads it’s a narrow one lane track without room to pass or turn around. It follows a tiny nameless creek up the side of a hill. No flat land for camping here.
Since I’ve started boondocking, I’ve gotten more familiar with dirt roads and more adventurous about where I drive the truck. Bertha’s tires are in good shape and she’s high clearance, but only 2-wheel drive.
Back in the fall of 2011 when I bought Bertha, I decided that 4/all wheel drive capabilities were not at the top of my priorities list, knowing that I wouldn’t be boondocking (at least not extensively, given that I had to make my living work-camping) for years and that 2-wheel drive vehicles are cheaper to buy and have slightly better gas mileage. The longer I boondock though, the more I think I’ll make 4-wheel drive a priority for my next tow vehicle.
I’m driving up 182, the road is getting steeper, the storm clouds are moving in and thunder rolls down the mountains. I arrive at a spot where a little spring comes out of the side of the hill and forms a puddle in a dip in the road. It’s not deep, but I worry about traction getting out the other side given the slope.
So I put the truck in reverse and back all the way down the mountain again. This is why it’s a good idea for boondockers to scout out camping areas before bringing their full rig. On the way back to camp I get a picture of the rain coming in. Luckily it sticks to the mountains (at least this day), and my solar equipment is dry and safe when I return.
* * *
I hope everyone’s having a great 4th of July!
Just a quick reminder that the introductory sale on The Little Guide To Dreaming Big ends tonight at 6 pm MDT (8 pm Eastern, 5 pm Pacific), so if you’re interested in the e-book and haven’t gotten it yet, you’ll want to act before then for the $3.99 price. Thank you everyone for making this such a wonderful launch!
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