Press "Enter" to skip to content

Stymied By Gates | IDBDR #3

July 19, 2019.

The night passed uneventfully - a cool breeze blowing off the lake, a refreshing relief from the heat of the day. Now technically in Mountain time, I'd set my alarm for the absurd hour of 5:30am to catch sunrise - hoping that I'd be able to catch a bit of light despite our position relative to the horizon.

It wasn't long, I was a bit too late even at 5:30am, and we've surely seen more dramatic sunrises, but it was still an enjoyable few minutes of color to see splashed across the sky. Plus, it was still early enough that I knew there were at least a couple more hours of sleep to be had once I climbed back into the tent, the moon still high in the early morning sky.

Having enjoyed our more leisurely start the day before, we stayed in bed reading until just after 8:00am when an engine-revving, tire-spinning, ruckus outside the tent caught our attention. Contorting ourselves so we could see out one of the side windows, we looked up the trail towards the main road to see a pickup precariously perched sideways, completely stuck as it tried to turn around. Seems that he'd started down towards our camp before seeing that it was occupied. At that point, he made the poor decision to turn around on the rutted, off-camber, road and was now unable to get the purchase necessary in order to free himself. Luckily for him, another truck just happened to be passing along the main road, and with the help of a rope that seemed much too small for the task, they were able to get him pulled out and to safety - at which point he sped off without so much as a "Thanks." Strange dude.

It was enough excitement to get us up and moving - probably a good thing given what lay ahead for the day. Breakfast was a simple one for us as we got packed up - cereal with fresh blueberries from our garden, enjoyed at the lake's edge.

Soon, camp was packed and we were back on the road, our half-loop around Anderson Ranch Reservoir complete, our route taking us through the small town of Pine - where we stopped to fuel up - before heading north into the mountains, where we played leap-frog with a pair of motorcycles we'd shared the pumps with a few minutes before - each of us enjoying the views as we wound our way up the IDBDR.

The game could have gone on much longer - each of us likely wanting to be out in front to avoid the dust - but @mrs.turbodb and I were soon distracted by a couple of side trips, allowing the bikes to pull far enough ahead that we wouldn't see them for the rest of the trip. The first was a short jaunt up to the Trinity Mountain warming hut - one of the nicest I've seen, sure to be a nice relief for snowmobilers out on a cold winter run!

Unfortunately, it was locked this time of year - so after a short investigation of the perimeter, we were back on the road and headed to our next - much longer - detour, just visible on the most distant mountaintop: Trinity Mountain Fire Lookout.

If you're running the IDBDR, this is most definitely a side trip that I'd recommend. In fact, I'd say it was one of the coolest places we ended up over the entire excursion - though now I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. First, we had to make our way up through the Trinity Lakes area - several roads to remote campgrounds and trailheads (that looked to be great getaways) leading off the side of the road. Eventually, we found ourselves at just over 8000', our path blocked by a locked gate, still two miles from the lookout.

Where was our ATV when we needed it?!

Undeterred, we decided that given the beauty of our surroundings, we might as well hike the two miles and 1500' to the lookout - after all, what's the point of an adventure through Idaho without actually seeing what it has to offer?

Oh, and it was immediately clear why the road was closed. I mean, with the right tools, these rocks could have been cleared, but as it was - no trucks were getting around.

As we steadily climbed higher, we couldn't have been happier to see our surroundings. At this elevation, it was still spring. Snow was melting into alpine lakes, everything alive under the warm summer sun.

Several switchbacks and 45 minutes later, we reached the top. The lookout was unstaffed but plenty accessible, and we spent a good amount of time taking in the expansive views.

As seems to be the case at many lookouts, we found a few other interesting tidbits as well. Two geodetic survey markers within about 3 feet of each other, and a calling-card from some World War II era visitors to the area, some 11 years before the survey markers were placed.

Eventually, it was our stomachs that pulled us away from this amazing place, the two mile hike back down to the Tacoma and lunch just as spectacular as they'd been on the way up.

As @mrs.turbodb prepped our sandwiches, I explored a bit around the saddle that had been the end of the drivable road for us. Wildflowers were out in their full regalia, and a bouquet was born.

By the time we'd wrapped up lunch and headed back down towards our primary route, it was a little after 1:30pm - a nearly 4-hour detour that had been worth every minute. And it wasn't our last detour - not even the last of the day - on this trip!

As one does, @mrs.turbodb had gathered several books about Idaho - it's history, geology, and several interesting back-country routes - that she was continually flipping through and reading sections out of as we made our way north. And, it wasn't long before she was reading the history of a small town - Rocky Bar - that was a mere 10 miles off our route. With a colorful gold mining history, this was clearly something that we didn't want to pass up, and so for the third time, we abandoned our primary objective and opted for the scenic route.

Even before we got to Rocky Bar, it was clear that this area had seen a lot of mining in its day. Mines dotted the sides of the road - some just old tailing piles, others with buildings and equipment still standing - at least for now. Naturally, the more interesting ones were worth a few minutes of our time.

And then, eventually, we reached Rocky Bar itself. Unsure what we were going to find - our books suggesting that there had been, but were no longer, any full-time residents - we pulled up to a "town" that consisted of a few run-down buildings, several dozen "no trespassing" signs, another family out exploring, and one grumpy resident who assured them that, "There's a lot of history, but I'm not in the mood to tell it at the moment."

Overhearing that, we took the cue and looked around a bit ourselves, doing our best to keep a wide berth in that area of town!

Established in 1863, Rocky Bar was founded after gold was discovered along the Feather River, which flows nearby. It quickly became the main settlement of the area, with nearly 2500 residents and serving as the county seat of Alturas County from 1864-1882. By 1864, there were 80 arastras working the nearby ground, when a twelve stamp mill was hauled by ox team from Omaha to Rocky Bar for thirty cents a pound. In 1892 much of Rocky Bar was wiped out by fire, but the town was soon rebuilt and mining continued, though with slower output - much of the ore having already been processed. Today, there are still a few summer residents but the old mills have been pretty much torn down. With the death of Charley Sprittles, Rocky Bar's last winter-time resident, the deep snows and wintry winds have this old camp all to themselves. (Southern Idaho Ghost Towns)

Much more quickly than we'd departed the lookout, we took our leave from Rocky Bar and got back on the designated route north. As had been the case so far, the roads were mostly good, gravel, Forest Service roads, and we made reasonably good time through the 93°F heat of the afternoon, enjoying the sights but stopping only infrequently given our reasonable tardiness at this point.

It was at this point that @mrs.turbodb noticed something on the GPS track that gave her pause. "Umm," she said as she looked over at me, "how wide is the truck?"

Knowing exactly why she was asking, I nonchalantly replied with, "Depends how you measure I guess, but something around 65- to 75-inches. Why do you ask?"

"There's a 50-inch wide bridge coming up." she said, looking a bit worried.

Of course, this was something I already knew, having put the route together a couple weeks earlier. Luckily, I also knew that this was simply an out-of-date waypoint from the IDBDR web site, the bridge having been rebuilt - and widened - in 2016, now "normal size" and no problem at all.

"Hope the river's not too deep then." I replied.

The widest 50" wide bridge in the world.

With only 35% of the day's route behind us at this point, you can imagine our joy when half-an-hour later, we were stopped in our tracks by a road closed sign.

We'd later find out that FS-385 - one that led through the town of Banner (and its mine) to Idaho's Highway 21 - had been closed due to washout in early 2018 and wasn't scheduled to open until at least the end of 2019. Awesome that the IDBDR route had no mention of it - or a re-route - on the web site.

Without cell service, and with BCN showing that the only re-route was to backtrack southwest - even further along Highway 21 - we noticed that if we buried our heads in the sand and headed east, Jackson Peak fire lookout was a mere 24 mile round trip away. Distracted as squirrels, we decided to go investigate.

So once again, we started our ascent. It was after 7:00pm at this point, and our hope was that - like Trinity Mountain - the lookout would be unstaffed, so we could camp at its base without disturbing anyone inside. Of course, that meant that we were also hoping that there would be no gate, keeping us from the top.

Nope. And nope.

A quarter mile from the top at a small saddle, the gate was locked. Luckily for us, there was an 1-truck sized pull out that offered a bit of shelter from the wind, and an easterly view of the Sawtooth mountains, and a wildfire billowing smoke near Eightmile Mountain.

We leveled out the truck and decided that before making dinner, we'd head up to the lookout. It was of course staffed - or at least, the windows were all open - but a few calls up of "Hello" went unreturned and we took that as a hint that whoever was inside wanted nothing to do with us at this early evening hour.

Their loss of course, we'd come bearing chocolate.

I took the opportunity - I think a bit to @mrs.turbodb's dismay - to climb a nearby radio tower, and snap a few photos of the lookout before heading back down to the truck to make dinner.

As our second night of tacos were prepared, and as the sun started to set, I took a bit of time to go explore a nearby knoll - the sun's rays casting an orange sparkle over the wildflowers, and a pinkish hue across the Sawtooths in the distance.

Score another win for our detours of the day!

Tacos with guac were consumed hastily - as tends to be the case after a long day on the road - as the sun dropped below the horizon behind us, an orange glow spreading across the sky. I'd waited to set up the tent while we cooked, hoping that the wind would die down a bit, and now that it had, I unfolded it and we climbed in.

We'd gotten a bit of LTE service here on the top of the mountain - enough to have read about the road closure 20 months earlier - and to do enough research to know that we could route out to Highway 21 for only a short distance - allowing us to continue on what looked to be a fun, twisty section just after Banner.

That information in hand, we read our books for a few minutes as the last of the light played over the landscape in front of us - the purple Sawtooths our last sight before we dozed off to sleep - our second day of the IDBDR now in the books, an extra day added by our off-route exploration.

The Whole Story


Check out other BDRs


  1. Jim
    Jim August 12, 2019

    Are these Forest Service gates with keyed locks? UJ

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 12, 2019

      That they are. The ones with a steel security "cylinder" around the locking mechanism. Why do you ask?

  2. Durwin
    Durwin August 13, 2019

    Fantastic pics and story (as always)!
    I'm anxiously waiting for the 'rest of the story'....

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 13, 2019

      Thanks! Might get one more up tomorrow, then next week ?.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *