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Two-and-a-Half Days in Idaho (Jul 2018)

July 1-2, 2018.

The previous 17 hours had been a whirlwind, but we were on our way. Headed east this time, towards Idaho - to a ridge above Garden Valley, where we were set to meet up with Ben @m3bassman, Kirsten, and their pups as well as @pizzaviolence and his family (at this point unknown to us).

But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. What about those 17 hours?

You see, 17 hours earlier we'd pulled into the driveway after completing the WABDR - a week of adventure that would not normally be quickly forgotten. But things were not normal - we'd planned to meet our friends in Idaho the next day, so before the engine was even cold, we were prepping for the next trip.

Already evening, we unloaded the bed and @mrs.turbodb was starting on cleanup - laundry, dishes, airing out @mini.turbodb's tent, etc.; while I stayed out at the truck to change the oil and rotate the tires. There is nothing like changing "holy shit that's too hot" oil!

Then, showers. Our first in a week. Even @mini.turbodb wanted to take one - a victory for us if there ever was one!

Cleaned up, we caught a few hours of sleep. Sunday morning we ate a quick breakfast and started reprovisioning the truck for the adventure to Idaho. We prepared dinners, and filled the fridge and dry goods box. And then we loaded up - it was noon, just 17 hours after we'd returned, and we were off!

As we headed east, mentally checking our lists, we wondered if we'd run into @Digiratus on the road. Mike was returning from McCall Idaho the same day, having attended @BabyTaco's wedding the day before. And then, as we neared Yakima, he popped up on the APRS - just a single beacon, but we could see him, still over 200km away, heading west on hwy 12. Unfortunately a few beacons was all the communication we'd have - Mike wasn't able to pick us up when we called him, and we were headed south at Yakima, our paths diverging.

We continued on through the day with only quick stops for food, fuel, and a quick photo of a beautiful Idaho sunset.

And then, 90km (as the crow flies) from our destination, the ham radio lit up - it was Ben, and he'd picked us up on APRS. We said some quick hellos and he made sure we knew our route, and we continued on into the dark - eventually off the highway and onto surface streets, and then to dirt. As we climbed the ridge, I pressed the skinny pedal, anxious to get to camp - a bumpy ride since we hadn't aired down either!

And then in the distance, lights - flashlights as it were - beaconing us into camp. It was 11:45pm and we'd made it. Everyone had stayed up to greet us, which was great - but we were all tired and were off to bed as soon as we'd deployed the tent.

The next morning we woke early, but not for sunrise. I've come to realize that while I love the length of summer days, it makes sunrise photography much harder than it is in winter, spring, and fall! Out of the tent, we explored camp (we could see Scott Mountain Lookout), ate a quick breakfast, and got to know Mikey, his wife, and daughter a bit more. And of course, Ben and Kirsten joked with us about our craziness - driving to their neck of the woods so soon after completing our last trip.

Before long we were all packed up again and ready to go - a couple days of adventure ahead of us, the long drive from Washington fading already.

We made our way back down the mountain and headed east through Lowman for fuel and then onto dirt again where we aired down. We weren't sure what we were going to find road-wise, but a comfortable ride is always nice, and ultimately we were all glad to have softer shoes the rest of the day.

Ready to go, we started our trek - first towards Feltham Point, then to Pinyon Point Lookout on what would be a beautiful day.

As we would for much of the trip, we worked our way through burned woods, past rocky outcroppings and along fresh mountain streams.

We climbed up through the valley's towards Feltham Point - our stopping point for lunch, marvelling at the green grasses, wildflowers, and views.

Eventually we made it to the top where Ben couldn't help but to put his tire up on a an old lookout footing "for me" to get a few poser shots of his truck. Naturally, we pulled right up on the edge for a few great shots of our own, and Mikey didn't end up with a bad view either!

As we wrapped up lunch and headed down the hill, Ben let us know that our next destination - the lookout at Pinyon Point - was one he was a bit worried about. At an elevation of 9,945 feet, there was a possibility we'd hit snow - something we all hoped to avoid. Until then though, we enjoyed the sun, dirt, and expansive views as we made our way across the landscape.

Our ascent was gradual until it wasn't. As we neared Pinyon Point our GPS's told us we were at a mere 6,500' - and across the saddle, through a devastated forest of burned trees, we could see where we were going to make that up - there were sawtooth switchbacks climbing steeply up the mountainside.

Ben and @mrs.pizzaviolence headed up, skillfully navigating the switchbacks with minimal backing (a point that @mrs.pizzaviolence was sure to tease Mikey about as we came down and signficant backing was necessary)!

In the distance, the Sawtooths.

Before long, we made it to the top. It was cool and windy, but we hadn't run into any snow - so far! The lookout itself was closed, but that didn't stop us from investigating and taking in the 360° views all around.

And from the top, we spotted two places on our way down where snow covered the road. The first looked reasonable - I'd brought a full-sized shovel and Ben and Mikey each had a shovel of their own - Ben reasoned that with an hour or less of digging we could get ourselves through. The second drift was deeper but again, Ben was pretty sure we could cut the corner of the switchback to make it by.

So we started down again, but only briefly.

You see, that first drift that we were going to dig through in "under an hour," was 12 feet deep and could support the weight of a Tacoma. Granted, it was Ben's Tacoma - like him, the lightest of the bunch - but there was no way we were digging through. And, even if we had, the second drift was some 30 feet deep, with no ability to cut the switchback. We were done.

But Milo and Venice loved it!

Bummed that we couldn't continue through, Ben adjusted our plans for the rest of the day as we got the trucks turned around and headed back down the hill - the drive a bit quicker this time, Mikey and @mrs.pizzaviolence now a bit more experienced on this strech of dirt.

Oh, and I probably didn't mention the water crossing on the way up. It was shallow and fun, and on the way down I may have gotten a few drops on @mrs.turbodb.

From there, we headed out again towards Seafoam Lake. Initially, the going was fast and we got some space between the trucks to avoid the dust.

But eventually we got to less-well-travelled parts of the road and realized that this was going to be the roughest road Mikey's truck had seen - totally doable, but a new experience for his family, so a bit stressful. We took it slow as we climbed up the loose gravel/rock road, and in the end everyone made it just fine!

Even though it too was in a completely burned forest, Seafoam lake was georgeous - I can only imagine the spectacularity of this place surrounded by a healthy forest. We found a spot right next to the lake just big enough for our three trucks and got setup as the dogs (and later we) explored the surroundings.

Already evening, it wasn't long before we decided to get a fire going and start making dinner. Burgers for @mrs.turbodb and I, hot dogs for the @pizzaviolence gang, and steak and veggies for Ben and Kirsten; with the last two groups cooking on the coals.

Of course, that meant that we needed coals, so Ben and I set out to find a nice dry, low-bark tree to use for the fire. There were plenty around, so it was a simple matter of finding one the right size and then using the chainsaw to safely fall it.

Which is where things got interesting.

As I found the tree we were going to use, Ben asked "Where are you going to put it down?" I evaluated the situation as he added, "No pressure, hahahahaha!" As it turned out, the right place to lay the tree was pretty obvious, so we made sure it was clear, that we each had our exit routes, and then I notched and back-cut the base of the tree (an ~8-incher). So far, so good!

Then, I pushed the top of the tree the direction I wanted it to go and as it started falling we were both well out of the way. It fell exactly where I'd told Ben it would. But something was weird - it hadn't fallen how either of us had expected it to, and we were both perplexed for about 5 seconds - our brains evaluating what had happened at exactly the same time... The entire tree had fallen over - literally from the base, it's entire root system rotted away. There, 16 inches up from the bottom, my notch and back-cut still perfectly straight.

We started laughing. And then we wondered - "we're in a forest of these trees - are the ones around our camp just as rotten?" (We checked a few, and they seemed solid enough.)

Dinner waiting, we wasted no time cutting the tree into rounds and getting it split up for the fire. Crazily, when cutting one of the rounds, I apparently went right through a 9mm bullet, slicing the copper jacket and lead right in half!

Firewood ready everyone got cooking. And eating. And then s'mores. We enjoyed the fire into the evening, but we were all pretty tired - it'd been a long 24 hours for @mrs.turbodb and I, and some stressful roads for Mikey and his gang (and likely Ben and Kirsten too, since they were the ones who'd brought us all out here).

So it wasn't long before we decided to hit our respective sacks - another great day in the wilderness behind us.

And little did we know what magic was in store for the next morning...



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  1. George
    George December 30, 2022

    We camped at Seafoam Lake in '94. It was a beautiful, lush area back then. There were also a lot of old mining remains up there too. I assume that most of that got burned up with the fire. You could see some right alongside the road. At that time the trees were so close together if you walked into the tree area 10 feet and turned around you could not see camp. Easy to get lost for sure. George.

  2. Nick Turner
    Nick Turner July 28, 2023

    I camped at SeaFoam lake in the late 70s. On the road up from Josephus Lake there was an area by the road that had a handful of building most of which had been flattened by the winter snow. Were those still in evidence when you were there in the 90s? I saw some newer videos and the road was pretty well washed out and in much rougher shape.

    • turbodb
      turbodb July 28, 2023

      Hey Nick, We were there 20 years after the 90s, and I don’t recall any structures. In fact, it would surprise me if any remained, since, as i mentioned in the story, a fire went through there several years before we camped in the area.

      Crazy to hear that the road washed out, it was rough, but certainly passable without too much trouble in our Tacoma‘s when we were there.

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