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IDBDR Pt. 2 - Across the Snake River Plain

July 18, 2019.

Having arrived late the night before, we were not up early. We'd slept well next to the East Fork of the Jarbridge River just outside Murphy Hot Springs, and it was a little after 10:00am when we rolled into Jarbridge, NV - the official start of the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route.

Our first order of business was to fill up with fuel. I wasn't sure that we really needed to do this (it turns out we didn't), but I wanted to make sure we at least started off on the right foot for this trip. Plus, we'd filled up recently so even at $4.98/gal, the total cost wasn't all that expensive.

Having contributed our small fortune to the Nevada economy, we set out to look around this little gold-mining town - a town that likely now sees more BDR adventurers than folks looking for the shiny yellow stuff. It was quite the time capsule, and we soaked it in. A community park houses a bunch of cool machinery from the early 1900's including an old headframe - used to raise and lower miners inside vertical shafts, and this "one-lunger" - an old single cylinder engine, which legend has it gained 2 hrsprs when it was painted green with pink flowers.

The last bit of memorabilia we spent a few minutes at was much newer. It was a shovel - of the short-and-stubby variety - that had been enlarged a few dozen times, for what reason we had no idea. But, the plaques on it said that a bunch of offroad and 4x4 clubs had participated in it's construction, making us wonder - where were its beaver teeth? #NotBigEnoughForInsta

Our tour of the town behind us, it was time to start our trek north. Having driven the same road south just a few minutes earlier to get to Jarbridge, you might think this would be something we weren't exactly looking forward to. In our case, it was quite the contrary - knowing we were headed back, we hadn't really stopped on the way down - but we had gotten a few glimpses of the canyon, and it was super cool!

I mean, for geology goobers such as ourselves.

Add to that a bit of graffiti we found painted along the side of the river - and subtract out the "seriously, why would someone do that?" - and it made for a quite enjoyable start to the trip.

Soon though, we were out of the canyon carved by the Jarbridge River, and into what I can only call the flats of Idaho. It was just a few short weeks ago that we'd found ourselves in these same flats as we'd explored our way to Indian Hot Springs - and we figured that fact entitled us to make good time through this section.

Even making good time, there was a lot of flat - enough that we got hungry somewhere in the middle of it and decided that a lone tree along the side of the road for us to sit under was probably as good an opportunity as we'd get to stuff our faces with some delicious sandwiches that @mrs.turbodb whipped up out of the back of the truck - turkey (and the fixings) for me, and some sort of roast-veggie-and-hummus concoction for herself.

Oh, and freshly picked cherries. Yes, we were off to a good start.

Of course, we could only drag lunch out so long before it was back onto the flats, many of which we continued to recognize from our previous trip. But then - as we drove along the edge of the Air Force bombing range - a change. To the driver side (away from the range), everything was normal; to the passenger side, black and burned. Guess some of the runs got a little out of control sometime in the couple weeks we'd been gone!

We pushed forward, our speeds on these well-graded gravel roads never really dropping below 40mph, and I found myself wondering if we'd complete the first section of the BDR early, despite our late start at the beginning of the day. Over the next couple hours, we saw a few things here and there - an pronghorn, a water tower, even Sailor Cap Butte - but we started to joke that perhaps BDR stood for "Boring, Don't Run."

But, at those speeds, we eventually found our way nearer to Hammett and Glenns Ferry, where the landscape got at least a bit more interesting - some amazing sunflowers lining the road, the green of irrigation stretching out before our eyes.

And then - in the distance - a cloud of dust. Unsure what it was, we continued on. Eventually, the source became clear - dual combines churning through a field of wheat. Like any kid at heart, I've got a soft spot for big machines like this, and having never seen a combine at work up close, I couldn't help myself but to climb out of the truck to stand on top of the @Cascadia Tents RTT to snap a few photos.

The grin on the combine driver's face said it all - even with some weirdo standing on top of his truck, snapping photos - he too was enjoying the experience.

Now a little over 100 miles into our 1,250 mile journey, we fueled up in Glenns Ferry before heading north towards the start of what would be a very mountainous journey. But for now, we were still in the heart of farm land - the bales of hay enormous as they lay in the field soaking up the sun.

Slowly though, the scenery began to change. First, it was just to our west - the road a clear demarcation between the sagebrush and grassland. Then, as we started our climb, the surroundings got greener. "It's amazing how excited I am to see such a wimpy forest." I remarked to my copilot, chuckling.

Then, out of the corner of our eye, we caught sight of something we've only seen once before - and in much larger quantities: Mormon Crickets. There weren't all that many - maybe only five in a 100 sqft area - but they were much more active than the swarms we'd stumbled upon a year before as we'd headed from Idaho to California. Still, even with just a few, they were quite the sight to see. Imagine the fish you could catch with one of these monsters!

Finally in Idaho's foothills, we crested the edge of the canyon overlooking Anderson Ranch Reservoir. There, extending in front of us as far as the eye could see - blue. This dam and reservoir are used for power generation and irrigation of Boise Valley, but perhaps most importantly of all, these waters are teaming with Salmon. With a limit of 25/day per person, there are a lot of Kokanee to be had out of this lake.

Hopeful that we could find a place to camp along the lake's edge, we continued down to the dam - our only reservation really, that the same beauty that drew us to the lake would also draw other hoards as well.

Unfortunately, as we made our way north along the west edge of the lake, our reservations were proving warranted. At every access to the water, there were droves of people. Unlike us, they were clearly in it for the long-haul - campers, inflatable rafts, and all manner of water toys surrounding them and their children as they played in the shallows.

Convinced we were going to have to leave this gem behind, we continued on - until, to our amazement - we came upon a gem of a site with absolutely no one around. In hindsight, this was likely due to the access being steep and rutted - a couple groups of people who attempted the road after us getting stuck before noticing us in the camp site below.

For us, it was perfect. Well, except for all the kindling that the previous occupants had kindly left for us. PSA: this stuff doesn't burn, no reason to leave it in the fire pit.

Still tired from the previous day's drive, and glad to have a bit of shade next to the water, it wasn't long before we'd traded our Tacoma seats for some camp chairs and Kindles. This was definitely the right way to kick off a BDR!

And then, as we were reading and otherwise enjoying ourselves - a commotion on the water. In the distance at first, the churning made it's way closer - in spurts - until it was within 100 feet or so of our camp. Some sort of water fowl it turned out, were apparently hearding fish into the shallows and then pouncing - their efforts reaching a fevered pitch that churned the water into a rapid! Upon closer inspection, it appeard that there were only a few adults in the crowd, the rest of the birds all smaller - perhaps yearlings?

We too were getting a bit hungry at this point, and the truck was now in the shade - so we abandoned our books for the few minutes that it took to break taco fixings out of the ARB 50qt fridge (which was humming away on the house battery I'd recently installed) and get them assembled - with guacamole of course - into a feast befitting royalty.

OK, probably not really royalty.

As the sun got lower in the sky, we devoured the tacos and got the tent setup before heading back to our chairs to enjoy the show of light over the lake. First of course, it was that warm glow that comes with late evening, and then - eventually - the sky lit up with a bit of a show.

It was a nice relaxing end to our first day on the road. Little did we know as we climbed into the tent and squeezed in a few more minutes with our books, a cool breeze filtering off the lake - that with the possible exception of one other, it would probably be our most relaxing day.

Of course, that means there's excitement to come!

 

 

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