May 26, 2019.
Parked in the wrong spot to catch sunrise, I slept in until the oh-so-late hour of 6:15am. But then, as I looked out the tent door, I noticed the fog over the valley and couldn't help myself but to get up and take a closer look.
And then, it was back to bed. Not because it wasn't a beautiful morning - in fact, the clouds had mostly vanished and the blue sky was spectacular - but because it was cold! 34°F according to my phone - not something I wanted to hang around in for a couple hours waiting for everyone else to get up. That afforded me two extra hours of sleep before we heard the rustlings of the rest of the gang exiting their vehicles - our cue to climb out of the tent for the second start of our day.
Really, we were in no real rush - there wasn't a lot of ground to cover, and Gage @BabyTaco and his gang were taking off around mid-day anyway - so we gave the sun a bit of time to partially dry off the tents, and we leisurely ate our breakfasts. For us, that meant instant oatmeal - something we've not had before on trips, and I think would be reasonably good given it's warmth if we'd gotten a less-sweet flavor than maple & brown sugar.
It was 10:00am - pretty much our average start time - we were finally ready to roll out of camp. Some last minute airing down of vehicles that were still aired up, and we staged ourselves to return to the main thoroughfare, which would lead us to a track Mike @Digiratus had put together.
The last two in the caravan, Monte @Blackdawg and I decided to make a quick stop - typical for us, I know - as we passed some old run-down log buildings on the side of the road. Looked like perhaps an old homestead with a main house and barn - left to rot as are so many similar structures on our trips. It's always fun to explore these, each one a little different - this one with some vibrant lichen growing on the shady sides.
Our stop lasted only about five minutes before we were back in the trucks and racing to catch up with the rest of the crew - approximately the amount of time we figured they would need to ditch a couple of the less capable vehicles and all pile into the 3rd gen 4Runner.
Everyone was climbing into the 4Runner just as we arrived, and after a quick conversation, we decided that we'd explore north to Corral Creek Road rather than head south along Eagle Creek, given that @mrs.turbodb and I had experience that the afternoon before, and since it might be nice to camp down by the Salmon River. With that, we were off - Mike in the lead!
It wasn't long - as is typical for us - before we stopped to take in the views. Running along a ridge, we'd already forked off of Corral Creek road - which was gated and locked - and were now following another road that might connect, if only there wasn't a locked gate somewhere along the way. Regardless, the views were some of the best we'd seen from Craig Mountain, a recent wildfire having cleared any tress that would have blocked the horizon.
We continued to tool along the ridge line road - enjoying ourselves and the abundant wildflowers - for another few miles before we ran into exactly what we'd feared - another locked gate. Probably to be expected in a reasonably populated area like this, but something we were unused to with many of our other travels; one of the benefits of exploring more remote places.
Our route blocked, we cruised back to the main road - nothing left to do now but head down Eagle Creek road - deja vu for Monte, Devin @MissBlackdawg, @mrs.turbodb and me.
Of course, the previous day we'd been bombing down the road, not really taking in any of the sights - today, just the opposite. With a first-time-offroad-stock-4Runner in the middle of the pack, we took it slow - picking good lines, being careful of bumps. It wasn't long ago that we were in that same boat; interesting to see how much has changed in such a short time.
Eventually, we once again found ourselves along the bank of the swollen Salmon river. Today however, we were with friends, enjoying the 75°F heat and bright blue sky overhead.
It was the perfect time for lunch, so we all found a nice little shady spot at a beach along the road and set about making our sandwiches. Well, three of the four vehicles did anyway... Gage, his wife, and their friends hadn't brought lunch - their plan to take off right around this time anyway - so as we munched on our sandwiches and apples, they bid farewell and headed back up to the top of the mountain.
It really was pleasant there in the shade, and we hung out for a good hour, chatting about this and that, watching the water flow by. It was definitely a slower pace than many of our usual trips - much less ground to cover. Eventually though, we got the itch to keep moving, and set out west along the Salmon River - a route we were familiar with from the day before.
As one does, we had a bit of low speed fun through some of the puddles that had filled up in the previous nights rain.
Memorial day is always a great time for trips - everything's so green. With Mike in the lead, there was a lot of stopping from Monte and I - at various points to take photos. Of the surroundings, and of each other.
Eventually, we got to a point in the road - perhaps only a quarter mile further than @mrs.turbodb and I had made it the day before - where it turned away from the river and up into the mountains. Gage had let us know it was gated just beyond this turn, so we used it as a good point to turn around and start the discussion about where we'd spend the night.
We had two choices - stay down here by the water, or head back up to the top of Craig Mountain and look for a site there. There were of course pros and cons to each choice - and as is usually the case, some peoples pros were others cons. Ultimately though, we opted to head back up - the biggest factor being that Monte and Devin had a long drive the next day, and anything we could do to shorten that would be a win for them.
So, it was back the way we'd come - this stretch of road an old friend after our two days of travelling its length.
Along the way, Mike made a pit stop at one of the many beaches along the banks of the river. The weather nice, we ended up spending a couple hours just chatting in the shade, enjoying the cool breeze off the river, trying to figure out if it was worth changing our minds and staying.
As we did, across the river, a Bald Eagle! Not just one, but two. And a nest. With a baby! It was a neat discovery, and the binoculars were out to give us the best view possible, a crow harassing the eagles for much of the time we were observing them.
Chatting on the beach, a thunderstorm came through, and we took that as our cue to pile back into the trucks and head up to camp. My worry - that rain here would mean cold rain there - not enough to keep us in the lowlands.
Boy, did it pour. Our windshield wipers on high, we were making our way back toward Eagle Creek when a group of young boys off the side of the road came running towards us - waving their arms - as we approached.
"These guys need our help." I said over the CB, not sure if Monte could see them through the downpour. Turns out, they'd been riding their ATV for the better part of the day with the chain so loose that it kept falling off. Finally, it'd gotten jammed between the sprocket and frame, and try as they might, they couldn't get it dislodged.
They needed tools, and boy, they couldn't have flagged down a better set of trucks. Monte was out right away - torrential downpour be damned - and while the rest of us stayed dry in our trucks, he opened up his OSK and handed over everything the boys needed to get themselves back up and running again.
Lucky kids, for sure. They had a long walk back up Eagle Creek Road if we hadn't shown up!
Crisis averted, we put the pedal to the metal as we ascended 4000' over the course of Eagle Creek's 12 miles. With Monte in the lead, I did what I could to keep up, the truck clearly much more capable than it was a couple of years ago when "fast" was still "pretty slow." Behind us, Mike did the same - pushing himself and his truck to maintain a consistent gap.
In the end, Monte was still a bit faster - and he'll tell you that he'd be even faster if only he had better rear suspension - but I think everyone was a bit surprised with how fast we followed him up that hill. "I think I could have kept up, but I didn't want to push it." Said Mike, as he rolled up onto our caravan a few minutes behind Monte and me.
Now it was time to find a camp site. We tried a few spots we'd seen earlier in the day, but the thunderstorm we'd experienced at the river had clearly hit the top of the mountain as well - everything was a muddy mess, water pooling everywhere.
In search of something that would be a bit drier, I recalled that the placed we'd ended up at the end of Corral Creek (or rather, it's offshoot) earlier in the day had a gravel pad, and that should provide us with the mud-free campsite we were looking for.
So, in a repeat of our morning's exploration, that's where we headed - arriving just in time to see a dramatic showing from the sun on a long bank of clouds in the distance as we setup camp.
It was nearing 8:00pm on this day of do-overs, and I was happy to see that my concern of cold rain was unlikely to come to pass - at least before we went to bed - the sky still cloudy, but clearing. It was going to be chilly, but chilly is much better than wet, thank goodness.
And then, as dinners were made and consumed, sunset.
It's truly amazing - the colors that are created by the last rays of the sun - under just the right conditions. Stunning really.
It being our last night, the campfire was long and large, all of us chatting late into the night about all matter of things - except trucks, we never really talked about trucks. We must be getting old, or perhaps our better halves stealthily steered the conversation in a different direction.
Eventually, the wood running out, we all made our way to our tents - with a 12-hour drive for Monte and Devin, the next morning would be an early one - especially given our plan for a group breakfast.
- - - - -
May 27, 2019.
I poked my head up at just the right moment to catch the early morning light on the horizon and a cool bank of fog below us in the valley; the moon still shining bright in the sky.
And then - the time still a bit before 5:00am, and in what seems to be turning into a tradition - I went back to sleep.
But, this was an early morning. We were all up by 7:00am, and got to prepping breakfast - Mike on potatoes, Monte on bacon, and me on eggs. In the end, it all came together in a harmonious feast fit for...a band of campers, enjoyed in the fog as it rolled up into our camp!
Fueled up, we knew things were coming to an end. Breakdown of camp was quick, as was our descent down the mountain. Fuel and tire filling was fast and efficient in Lewiston, and before long we were saying our "seeya's" and wishing each other well until we met again for our next adventure.
As we headed home through the Palouse - its hillsides a vibrant green reminiscent of Windows Desktop backgrounds - we'd completed two trips in one. And I don't think we could have predicted what transpired in either of them just a few short days earlier.
Thanks for reading - get out and enjoy!