July 7, 2019.
It rained on and off through the night, but it was warm enough that the tents dried off quickly each time it did. And of course, cloudy skies meant no sunrise - and for me, more sleep!
Having circled the trucks in camp, things were reasonably peaceful save a single growl from Venice at some point during the night. The next morning, Kyle @KP907 noted that he'd seen a coyote just a couple hundred feet from camp - the likely impetuous for the verbal warning.
The on-again-off-again rain continued as breakfasts were prepared, and we all took advantage of a short break in the weather to get our tents semi-dried and put away before getting on the road just before 9:00am. As it turns out, our trip to the main road would be our last few minutes together - Mikey @pizzaviolence and Kyle and Nicole deciding to head home rather than continue on with the day's excursion.
That of course meant that it was time for a final group shot - a shot that shows one truck clearly doesn't belong - Ben having trained his fellow Idaho brethren well. #ka-chow fellas! 😛
Now down to three trucks - Ben and Kirsten, Will @willhaman21 and Angie, and @mrs.turbodb and I - headed to a pair of destinations that would be the perfect cap to this wondiferous trip: Livingston Mine and Railroad Ridge.
These were also the last two places that we'd visited on last year's trip, and if we're being honest, we had some unfinished business at the Livingston Mine. See, last year the mine had thoroughly creeped us out - our retreat initiated when a local resident scared the bejeezus out of Kirsten as they pulled into the camp.
This year, things would be different. and by different, I mean that Ben suggested I lead the way into the mine! Just fine by me.
The mine was quite clearly just as weird as it'd been the year before. The paint may have faded slightly, and there might have been an additional "TRUMP" or two painted here and there, but by and large it was unchanged. Including the cairn field - it's meaning still unknown, our imaginations racing.
"Any idea what the names carved into the rocks might mean?" I asked over the radio, followed by an evil laugh! (There were no names on any of the rocks.)
Last year, we never got any further than this - so as we pulled into what I can only call the parking area of the old mine, I was as curious as could be. And, as I pulled up to the front door of the main house, I had to admit - it was a little "off" - especially if you were named "Everett."
We'd hoped to get a tour at this point - so we all dismounted and gave the crazy-people-eaters plenty of time to descend on us - but in the end, no one showed up. Eventually - knowing that the mine was still private - we decided it was time to move on, and we made our way out the way we'd come.
Along the way, we noted the presence of a 2nd gen Tacoma. Left over from the last visitor, or a sign that the residents were pretty cool?
We continued up the hill - past the old mill - the beginning of our 3500' climb falling behind us; our snow-capped destination in the distance.
The climb - while high and fast at just over 7 miles - doesn't seem bad when you're doing it. I'm not sure why - perhaps the fact that the road is cut well into the mountain, or the fact that you're distracted by the views as you progress - but it doesn't really matter, because as you start to reach the top, everything changes.
Trees disappear completely. Mountain tops show themselves. It gets windy. And the smells are sublime - the wind carrying the scent of the tiny wildflowers quickly over the mountains summit.
But there's still 1000' to go!
So up we went, the highest road in Idaho, ours for the travelling. There would be - at least for a moment - no Toyotas higher.
And did I mention the smells? We weren't the only ones enjoying them. This little guy was too - at least, I'd like to think so.
From the top, the views were as spectacular this year as they'd been the year before. If anything, there was more snow, a sign that we were unlikely to get far exploring a Jeep trail that'd been impassable on our last visit.
And so, with one last hurrah, we pulled our trucks into position along an old mining road just off of the peak. Up on the edge, each one maneuvered just so, all three women deciding it was better done after they'd dismounted from the vehicles.
And with that, we headed back down. The last 24 hours had seen us on both of Idaho's highest roads, and now it was finally time to air up and move out. Our stomachs wanted lunch, our bodies wanted showers, and we were all ready to do it again.
We pointed our trucks west and parted ways in Boise - sure to meet up again in the near future!